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Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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spring herbs + tales of Benjamin Bunny

a small lesson about finding God in the ordinariness

the medicinal properties of garlic and honey

Burke, bathed in light on his 11th birthday

a brief study in early sports medicine, illustration and copywork

busy hands, doodling and practicing cursive

Olive, at sunset on her 7th birthday

 The Martian and a welcome break from Latin

endless amounts of time scraping paint

afternoon read-a-loud, led by Burke

focused, independent math work

an owlet resting just over our shoulders during dinner

Olive’s introduction to Jenny Wren and The Burgess Bird Book for Children

practicing compound probability

sleepy morning reading practice

regular fires in the backyard again

more images #cloisteredaway_homeschooling

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The quietness of this space and the fact that I am writing about March in mid-April speaks loudly to the busyness here the last several weeks. March is rarely quiet in our home, as Spring’s arrival brings much energy and many TO DOs. We celebrated our two March babies at the beginning of the month with simple family dinners, desserts, and balloons. On a whim, we opted to stay home for spring break this year and re-paint the house instead. With combined efforts, we estimated the scraping, repairing, and painting to take an upwards of two or three weeks–ha! Four weeks later, we’re still in the scraping phase. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the time it takes to scrape paint. The children are helping with the work (when appropriate), and since this project stretches beyond their typical responsibilities, we decided to pay them for a bit of it, offering them a different sort of education in business, budget, and economy. We hope to empower each of them with entrepreneurial spirit and also the wisdom how to manage such things.

In terms of our studies, I have felt the need for more focus and steadfastness in light of all the chaos of our environment, part of the other reason for quietness here. These sort of large home projects tend to distract me, diverting my attention and sending our school days spinning in disorder. For now, I’m learning how not to chase rabbits. March is a climatic point in our academic year. Enthusiasm begins to wane and the lessons somehow become more concentrated with newness and complexity. It’s easy to look for distractions, whether in home projects or online work. Instead, I have sensed this clear need to nurture order and routine with the kids, holding firmer boundaries of time. Looking back, I’m grateful for the levels of peace and focus it brought to our home, even in so much undone-ness.

The kids and I have been reading journey narratives aloud together: Pilgrim’s Progressfirst thing in the morning with poems just after breakfast, and The Wingfeather Saga, at the end of the day just before bedtime. Although this wasn’t initially intentional, I love that we are experiencing the journey of an individual in one and the journey of a family in the other. They’ve offered such great fodder and rhetoric for our daily living about choosing the difficult and straight path, about individual and family identity, about purpose. I highly recommend both for older children (and adults). Although these beginning/closing reading periods do require a discipline of sorts, they are so grounding for our routine, a soft beginning and end to the day together. On a side-note, when my children seem more quarrelsome or nit-picky with one another, reading aloud can also be a balm of sorts, a practical way of calming and bonding them. So can play time outdoors.

As for specific studies in March, Olive and I still mostly focused on her reading fluency. Each week, she had one practice story or nursery rhyme, which we used for spelling and reading often taken from Reading Lessons Through Literature. She also practiced a bit of math daily, which seems almost intuitive for her, and she’s quickly moved ahead. She loves numbers. We also began The Burgess Bird Book together at the end of the month, aiming to read a chapter a few times a week. She copies a sentence from it or from another picture book we’ve read aloud 2-3 times a week. The rest of the time she plays, mostly pretend and often outdoors in a fort she a Blythe made in our bamboo.

Blythe and Burke finished their study of Galen (a physician to four Roman emperors) and the beginnings of Western medicine this month, and we loved learning so many new things about the origins of medicine, from how travel and education impacted Galen’s learning, to how he studied the body in an era before autopsies were permissible, and so much more. We’ve been loosely using Beautiful Feet’s History of Science study for their science/history this year, and although we’re moving slowly through it, we love it! They’re also both practicing grammar and writing with their independent reading three-four time a week (My Side of the Mountain and Heidi for Burke in March; The Secret Garden for Blythe in March and April), which I feel more disciplined about for them as I’m walking through Latin studies with Liam now. As a short encouragement, a firmer grasp of language early on opens so many more doors to understanding language later.

Liam, Burke, and Blythe are both closing another level in math, and I’m beginning to take a bit of time for quick review a couple of times a week, feeling out for soft spots or holes in concepts. We use Saxon books, which although admittedly a bit boring, thoroughly spiral through concepts again and again to build a stronger foundation. Math is an area in which I feel the least intuitive and I wanted to make sure they really know it well.  At the back of levels 5/4 and up is a “supplemental practice” which is great for the purpose of review. On a side note, unless you have a child who loves worksheets, I recommend a different curriculum for the little years (grade 3 and younger), something more playful and artistic like Waldorf or Montessori methods. By levels 5/4 (4th grade math), my children have been ready to transition and learn more discipline about book work.

Liam moved into a weekly Challenge A class with Classical Conversations in January, an unplanned move for our family, one which merits a blog post all of its own. This spring he’s been working through sketching and memorizing systems of the body, memorizing and sketching the geography of the Eastern hemisphere, learning logical fallacies, writing persuasive papers, translating Latin verbs and nouns, and beginning pre-Algebra. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it–even though sometimes he doesn’t want to do it. He is still twelve after all. Wink.

Here’s the books we read in March. I included a list of our favorite picture books (mostly Blythe and Olive) we read aloud too.

MARCH BOOKS

Liam| Crispin: The Cross of Lead | The Wingfeather Saga: The Warden and the Wolf King | The Martian | The Fallacy Detective 

Burke | My Side of the Mountain | Galen | Heidi | Calvin and Hobbes

Blythe Galen | The Secret Garden | Ivy and Bean #6Aesop’s Fables | The Picture History of Great Inventors

Olive | Little Bear stories | Burgess Bird Book for Children (RA) | various beginning readers  

Picture Books We Loved | Ike’s Incredible Ink | Sorry! | Good dog, Carl | The Curious Garden | Miss Rumphius | Island Boy 

Family Read-a-loud | Prince Caspian (audiobook) | The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness | Pilgrim’s Progress 

Myself | All the Light We Cannot See | Teaching From Rest | New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 | Simple Matters

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We’ve never used a formal science curriculum over here. Instead, we’ve learned more through reading about and observing the natural world. My children will tell you it is one of their favorite parts of our days. This year, we have primarily focused on anatomy, and each has created their own body book (an idea inspired by my friend Kirsten).  We took a break from anatomy for much of March and April, as we spent more time preparing for our garden and working in the yard. As my children grow older, I’m more aware of how our school work ebbs and flows with our life work and seasons. I’m noticing patterns, more of which I hope to plan around better for next year–but that’s a different topic. Thus far, we have read about the circulatory, nervous, and digestive systems. As we are turning back to our books this week, we’ll aim to complete the respiratory, skeletal, muscular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. (Yikes–that’s a lot.) We’ve taken more unanticipated breaks through this study, but the nice part of homeschooling is not being in a hurry, or limited to a particular schedule, to complete a project. And so, we gather our resources and begin again.

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reference books | During our study, we’ve used many books from our local library in addition to the books we own. We’ve referenced everything from science encyclopedias to early readers, adapting as we go. I’ll usually browse several books ahead of time, to choose the ones that might work the best for us. We take turns reading and usually have several books open at once for visuals. Some of our favorite references this year have been The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, a neatly organized and detailed reference, and The Way We Work, by David Macauley, a robust and cleverly illustrated reference. We’ve also used simple readers we’ve collected over the years at used book stores or during our library trip, such as Usborne books, Let’s Read and Find Out Science series, The Magic School Bus series, and sight word readers.

projects | When possible I try to include a few projects or experiments since, like most kids, my own children love making or playing with ideas. This year we’ve done a few projects, such as taking our pulse/heart rate, identifying our senses by using a blindfold, or crafting a brain replica with clay.

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body books | This year, we’ve used the simple primary composition notebooks found in office supply stores to create our body books. The primary one is set up with partially ruled/un-ruled pages as shown. Next year, I’ll move to using the Strathmore notebooks, as they’re a little larger. Each lesson, my children sketch and color an image pertaining to the day’s reading. They then illustrate, label, and write a bit about what we’ve read together. The boys enjoy creating their own sentences, so after they’re finished, we look for spelling and grammar corrections. They record their misspelled words in their spelling notebooks, which become a part of a future spelling lesson. For the girls, I still rely on the narration/dictation/copywork model. We talk about what we’ve read. They give me a sentence or two, which I write and they copy. It’s a little advanced for Olive yet, but like most youngest children, she wants to do what everyone else is doing.

making mistakes | You’ll notice Liam still struggles with spelling, but he understands the concepts and how to create clear, concise sentences, as does my left-handed Burke who still struggles with letter reversals and capitalizing mid-sentence. In earlier years, I tended to correct them along the way, often seeing their mistakes as a reflection of my poor teaching–especially if it’s something someone else might see. I’m sharing the imperfections here so you see, no one is perfect, especially not this mother. Be patient with yourself and your children and try not to control the learning process, combing for results. I’m learning to move them forward in certain areas, while returning to basic skills in other areas over and over until they master them. That means Burke still does simple handwriting exercises and Liam is still in earlier spelling years, even though they both read voraciously far above his years. We repeat again and again, knowing it will catch one day. These mistakes are a part of life, a part of our body. They do not make any of us failures.

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Reading was (and still is) one of the more intimidating parts for me of teaching my children at home.  On one hand, like so many other parents, I want my children to LOVE reading, not just know how to do it. I want them to enjoy the large varieties of stories and characters and ideas within books and, of course, to glimpse the freedom and gift of the written word. As a home-educator (especially if you are new), it doesn’t help the intimidation factor that reading often feels like the litmus test for outsiders looking in, “so  is (____) reading yet?” And of course, we all know or have met the children who are reading Don Quixote or something like it at age three (insert shock and awe). While I’m always impressed by these prodigious children, I have never experienced it. In their four and five year-old years, my own children always seem to be the ones running away from lessons. They say things such as, “do we have to practice reading today?” To those of you facing similar questions, keep at it a little each day. They’ll get there.

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Although there are several wonderful reading programs out there (and if you’re using one that’s working, stick with it!), All About Reading  is one of my favorite resources for so many reasons, including its multi-sensory approach, organized materials, manageable lessons, beginning readers, and pre-made consumable activities. I began using AAR with my oldest daughter, Blythe, when I realized how much she wanted more hands-on activities during her lessons. I ordered level 1 and we both immediately loved it! She loved the paper-cutting, coloring, and gluing mixed in with the more formal reading and decoding–and of course, the sticker chart too!  I, on the other hand, loved how that these activities were already organized and ready to use, that the lessons were manageable in length and easy to follow, and that there were leveled readers which naturally integrated with the lessons.

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Still, perhaps my favorite parts is the word/phonogram card organization, which easily sorts between what has been mastered, what needs review, and what is for future lessons. In other reading programs, I always felt confused about that line separating mastery and review. In this program, we review the same cards each lesson until they can say the word or phonogram without hesitation. Plus, I’m learning the rules and phonograms right alongside my children. I guess, in short, I love that All About Reading has everything I would have wanted to create on my own but don’t always take the time to do. Instead, I follow the simple 20-30 minute lessons! My one criticism is that the program can get pricey, as you have to purchase a new level each year (on average). As with any curriculum there are creative ways to offset these expenses or re-sell when you’re family is finished with it.

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Since moving last spring, I haven’t found a place in our school room for my magnet board–something we’ve always used for our spelling and reading phonogram magnets. Fortunately, I have a moveable alphabet on hand that I have used during the pre-K years with all of my children. The kids have always enjoyed building words and playing with the letters. Right now, we’re using it for our reading and spelling lessons. We use all of the concepts from All About Reading with these wooden letters. The only difference is my girls have to recognize the letter teams on their own, instead of seeing them together on a single magnet. This hasn’t caused any trouble thus far, instead it forces them to recognize associations through repetition, much like words on a book page.

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:: learning :: phonetic, multi-sensory approach to reading

:: time :: 20-30 min, 4 days/week

:: matierials :: AAR materials, magnetic board or moveable alphabet

:: lesson :: I meet one-on-one with each of my children for their reading lessons (one of the reasons I can at times be inconsistent).  Where we meet depends on what we’re doing that day. Both of the girls enjoy snuggling and often want to meet on one of our beds. We just bring the moveable alphabet with us (as shown). I follow through the directions written in the manual, usually beginning with reviewing old phonograms and words and then reviewing a previous concept. Then I introduce the new material. Sometimes we finish the step within the 20-30 minute window, if not, we return to the same spot the following day. I find shorter lessons are better for everyone involved. ;)

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When I was pregnant with Liam over a decade ago, I walked into a local baby store planning to itemize a few things we would need. I had expected the process to be easy. I would enter the store, write down a few favorite items, and leave. Instead, I was paralyzed. In each category from breast pumps and bottles to monitors and carriers, I discovered several options, each touting some award they had won or the latest technology or the best safety ratings. Overwhelmed, I promptly turned and left the store. I had no idea what I needed.

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I felt similarly when I first entered the word of homeschooling and had to begin choosing curriculum. The vast variety of options and styles buried me. Really, I get it. Curriculum varies because homeschoolers vary. We all have different goals and styles, but when you’re first beginning, it can be too much, even enough to send you packing out door. It’s one of the reasons I have tried (sporadically) to share the resources I use here, to give you an idea of what we use and how we use it. Before I continue, let me first tell you: you don’t need to outfit a full classroom to begin homeschooling. Over the years, we have accumulated a library worth of books from used book stores and gifts, but we began with a very small cabinet containing art supplies, reading and math curriculum, handwriting paper, and a chalkboard wall. It can be that simple. What I share below is in the context of my own children who now run the breadth of grammar school–Olive (age five, Kindergarten) to Liam (age 10, 5th grade). To save money, I have bought several gently used curriculums via homeschool classifieds (craigslist for homeschoolers) and also keep my ears open for local book fairs, especially the ones where parents have tables to see curriculum they are finished using. I also try to keep a mental tab of supplies we need and list them on our chalkboard wall, so when family or friends ask about birthday or Christmas gifts, I can refer to it. These are helpful tips because if you haven’t noticed yet, the tab to homeschool can rise as quickly as baby necessities (which every parent knows you don’t always need anyway).

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With that said, using curriculum offered me a concrete point of reference, a stepping stone into confidence as a home-educator. Over the years, I have learned how to teach complex math and grammar concepts to my children, how to correctly pronounce letters or organize them to spell a word. I have learned about the elements of shape and the parallel histories of different religions and cultures. Although I leaned heavily on teacher guides with my oldest, I do less now for my younger ones, using what I have learned to lead or direct our days. I have a very eclectic approach to education. I began staunchly in the classical camp and have over time borrowed methodologies from Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and even a bit of Waldorf. This is the glory of home-education: it will and can change shape in different seasons of life. We currently rely heavily on what Charlotte Mason referred to as “living books,” books that teach you through interesting narration, like the Burgess Bird Book or the Story of the World (see more book ideas via Ambleside). Inspired by classical education, I memorize tons of facts, poetry, and Bible scripture alongside my children each year using Classical Conversations curriculum. We use several different types of manipulatives (concrete things that represent abstract concepts) whenever possible as Maria Montessori encouraged. We do limit our technology usage, which is becoming more and more difficult as my kids get older–let’s talk more about this another day–and try to spend as much time as possible outdoors when it’s not August in Texas. (wink.)

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Since I regularly get questions about the curriculums/books we use each year, I thought I mights share a few with you here. I hope you see this list in the context above. Honestly, there are several wonderful choices out there. This is currently where we are:

READING // When my boys were learning to read, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This reading program was both economical and easy to use without planning. The first 20 lessons or so are quite simple and give the child a sense of progression and accomplishment. Although it does teach phonetics, it’s not in the linear approach most reading lessons use. It trains the child to read with the phonetic symbols, which can sometimes be confusing for parents. It is a great program, and more importantly, it works! With my busy-bee daughters, I switched to All About Reading, which complemented the spelling program we were already using and gave them color sheet or cut-and-paste activities with each lesson. They love it. The program uses a mixture of memorization of phonograms, pre-made activities (your child can cut and paste), and leveled readers. The downside of AAR is it’s a tad expensive, as you have to buy each level as they progress (on average one level per year). Also, for children (or parents) who don’t enjoy pre-made activities, you may find this curriculum cumbersome.

MATH // Saxon (if you’re interested in Saxon curriculum and are new to it, here’s a brief Saxon placement test to know which level to begin with). Right now Saxon is 20%off here. We began with Saxon after it was recommended to us several times in the beginning. We switched to Teaching Textbooks for a year, which was easier for me (and a really fun curriculum), but I realized I didn’t keep as close an eye on where my son was, meaning I didn’t know how to review the concept in the same way TT did. We switched back to Saxon the next year. Other recommendations: MathUSee

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SPELLING // All About Spelling (Blythe). This program is multi-sensory and wonderful for younger spellers, but can become tedious for older children. I’m using Phoentic Zoo this year for both of my boys. It’s an auditory approach to spelling and begins with older elementary age students. They have a placement test also if you’re interested and unsure where to begin.

HISTORY // I have used the Story of the World for years and love it. More importantly, the kids love it. We have learned so much, even though we’ve progressed slowly through the four volumes. I love the curriculum’s flexibility for ages and time. You can easily adapt it to your family’s needs or just listen the audio. You can read more of how our family uses this curriculum over here.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetSCIENCE // We have never used a formal science curriculum. Instead we read tons of library books, create occasional experiments, and take plenty of nature walks, especially in the cooler seasons. Several years ago, my in-laws gave our kids these Character Sketches, read-a-loud nature studies/stories that teach a Biblical principal and where that principal is illustrated in nature. This is fairly conservative curriculum and directs a lot of teacher direction to the father, which would be ideal but doesn’t always work in our family homeschool routine. Just so you know. (Wink.)

HANDWRITING + KEYBOARDING // I’ve used Handwriting Without Tears from the beginning at the advice of a dear friend who is also an Occupational Therapist, and I’m so grateful. I love it for so many reasons and have included it in several of my preschool posts. If you’re interested in HWT and want some ideas of where to begin, I wrote out what you’ll need here. Also, HWT introduced a new keyboarding program this year I plan to try. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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ENGLISH GRAMMAR // In the early elementary years, I have used First Language Lessons and at other time they have simply memorized parts of speech, lists of prepositions and irregular verbs via Classical Conversations’ curriculum. I’ve also led an English grammar and writing class, called Essentials, through a local chapter of Classical Conversations for the last four years. This year our family is taking a break to give some room in our budget and routine. I plan to use the grammar curriculum with both of my boys still this year because I’m so familiar with it. Unfortunately, it’s such an intense and differently structured program, so CC prefers you’re apart of a campus to use it.

WRITING // In the early elementary years, once they can easily write their letters, my children do tons of copywriting and dictation. Sometimes I have used a formal curriculum like Writing With Ease, but in recent years have leaned more toward pulling sentences out of our current read-a-loud or a recently read poem. The kids often practice dictation with their independent reading (having to summarize what they read in a chapter) or during our history reading. This year, the boys and I will use one of the Institute for Excellence in Writing‘s Theme-based writing, most likely this one.

THE ARTS // I’ve always admired artists and really try to encourage my children’s natural love to doodle and explore color and form. This is perhaps the hardest area to cover on a budget, since most art, music, dance lessons can be expensive. If you have something to barter I recommend trying to do so. If you want to introduce your children to these areas yourself, here are some of my favorite resources: Drawing With Children, The Story of the Orchestra, Can You Hear It? A Child’s Introduction to Ballet, A Child’s Introduction to Poetry, Discovering the Great Artists, and this series of piano books.

Now to go and organize our school area. Here’s a preview just above. More images coming soon. ;)

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In every case, the remedy is to take action. Get clear about exactly what it is that you need to learn and exactly what you need to do to learn it.
– Miguel de Cervantes

When I first stumbled into homeschooling, my dear friend Amy introduced me to Handwriting Without Tears’ products and songs, something she had used for years working as an OT in local elementary schools. I’m forever grateful as it has provided a common thread for all of my children to share and has taught me how to teach my children handwriting. Naturally, I now want to pass on these tools we’ve loved so much to help other young homeschooling families on their own journeys. That said,  I know the HWT website can be difficult to sort through. So instead of just referencing the sources, I’ve shown the real products we’ve used (and enjoyed) in our home the last five years with the appropriate links for the website. In our home, I store all of the non-jarred items in the top section of the photo in that clear plastic bin (from IKEA); this makes for quick access during our mornings and easy storage when we put it away. The bin also helps make the tools more portable to grab if we’re heading out-of-town or more likely — to the backyard.

{things to note}

+ I forgot to include the I Know my Numbers booklet Blythe is coloring in the first picture. This give kids extra work with writing and understanding numbers.

+ The HWT crayons and chalk bits are not necessary, as you could use alternative ones from a store. Their tiny size and the double-sided crayon is what makes those products unique.

+ They also make Touch & Flip alphabet cards (not pictured or linked because I already had sandpaper letters).

+ The teacher’s guide has changed since I purchased my own, so the picture in the link won’t match the image above.

+ If you can’t afford to buy everything at once, start with the wood pieces, laminated wood piece cards, chalkboard, Mat Man book, and the student book. I often make copies of the student book, so they can work on a letter more than one day.

+ Pay attention to the videos on the product pages. Each one will give you a sample lesson using that particular product — so helpful if you have no experience using this curriculum.

Good luck!

I’ve had several requests to post a “day in our life,” and it actually surprised me how difficult it was to log a full day’s activity! But I did it, even though this day happened two weeks ago. Let me first say, I’m not sharing this to give you the secret ingredient to home-education (not quite); instead, let’s all apply the lesson we learned from Po and his dad in Kung Fu Panda, “the secret ingredient is you.” Your kids need what you have to offer, and we all offer and need something a little different; activities/curriculum/schedules that work really well for one family may seem impossible for another. But regardless of where you are on this education/parenting journey, everyone needs encouragement, and often, I find observing someone else helps me out of our own family (or personal )ruts in routine. So on that note, I hope you find a nudge or a cheer for you here today, and if you have some ideas to offer from your own family’s day, please share in the comments! The events below happened as written; however the pictures are pulled from several different days since most of these activities we do regularly. I linked to the specific materials I use.

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6am: Mark’s alarm goes off. After several minutes, we muster ourselves out of bed and turn on the lights. Mark jumps in the shower. I finally decide to fold the two baskets of laundry that have been littering my room for two days. I get dressed for the day, then force myself to gather the dirty laundry always accumulating in our home. I start a load.

7:00 am Liam’s up and making himself breakfast. I begin making coffee and the usual eggs, spinach, and tomato breakfast. The other kids meander out to join us. When the boys finish, they sneak off to their beds to read. Soon after, I get the boys back out of bed to begin their morning routine: make their bed, brush their teeth, and put their clothes away (since I had finally folded them). They’re disgruntled. Olive’s already scaling the drawers to get herself dressed, and Blythe joins her, choosing what clothes they will begin their day in (because we all know they’ll finish the day in something else). Have I mentioned the laundry around here?

8:00 am We listen to our CC memory work while the older kids help unload the dishwasher; I play with Olive. We recite our memory work together using many of the “tools” their tutors gave us in class. When we finish, the kids fill their water bottles and head back to the school room. They play with Legos and color until I get back there. I make my coffee, check my email, and skim news articles.

9:00 am Liam and I alternate reading a story from the Children’s Illustrated Bible aloud; we all talk about the story together. Some days there’s no application (especially since we’re in the Old Testament right now), but today we read about Elijah healing Namaan of leprosy. So we spend some time talking about healing, and God as our healer. We each speak at least one thing we’re thankful for this morning (we recently started writing them down in a journal — shown above) and next talk about the people we know who also need healing. Then we each pray out loud, together and informally (meaning kids on the floor, in our indoor swing, at the table coloring).

I read a chapter out of the Story of the World: the Middle Ages (sometimes we don’t make it through a whole chapter, but we did today). The kids listen about the kingdom of the Franks while they color & build with Legos. Olive, who has been laying on the floor with her blankie and pillow pet, heads to refrigerator. We stop for snack time.

10:00 am I send the kids to the backyard to run while I switch over laundry, chop some oranges, and grab cheese sticks. We eat our snack outside, and then play Red Light, Green Light and Mother May I.

10:30 am We head back to the school room again. The boys practice handwriting (I’ve already torn out their sheets ahead of time) and each picks four lines of poetry to copy from any of our children’s poetry books (one, two, three, and any of this series). After they finish, they enjoy free time in their room. Meanwhile, I sing about, read Mat Man Shapes, and build Mat Man with the girls, which works until Blythe corrects Mat Man’s mouth (Olive had placed the small curve wood piece down like a frown) upsetting Olive who then screams and tears Mat Man’s hands. The girls end up in time out, and I put Mat Man away for the day. Everyone reconciles, eventually.

11 am I set Blythe up to work on a phonics folder game. Liam reads out loud to Olive while I work through a Math lesson with Burke. I give Burke his math fact sheet and worksheet to finish on his own, and move Liam to the kitchen to begin his math lesson. Olive and Blythe play dress-up together. I fold clothes while I help Liam. I check Burke’s work and hand him and Liam clothes to put away. They play outside again. I sit down with Blythe for a spelling lesson and give Olive some color cards to sort.

12:00 pm The kids are climbing in our trees while I make lunch. We eat outside again (The weather’s been so fantastic here!) and spend time exploring a wooded lot nearby.

1:30 pm Olive goes down for a nap. I have a spelling lesson with Burke. Liam draws at the table, until it’s his turn for spelling. Burke and Blythe return outside again to finish working on a rope swing they (and Liam) had begun a few days ago. I call Blythe in for reading; Liam joins Burke.

2:30 pm “Rest time” for everyone. We each find our own quiet spot with our book(s) for 30 minutes of reading alone/30 minutes of quiet activity on your own. (We’re still working on this.) I make myself a second cup of coffee, grab an old sheet, and head to the backyard for my quiet spot. Instead of reading, I have to finish up my lesson plan for my Essentials class.

3:30 pm I have to wake up Olive (which usually means she’s screaming or kicking me). She hates being woken up, but I can’t have her sleep longer than two hours during the day or it starts to affect her bedtime. The kids are ready for a snack again. I let them make their own this time. And I wrap up my own work.

4:30 pm The kids “clean up” the school room while I wash the day’s dishes. They begin chasing each other around the house, so I send them outside again while I gather dinner.

5:00 pm Mark’s home from work and outside with kids. Kristen & Tim arrive with Shepherd  for dinner.  I shred zucchini to make “noodles” for her homemade red sauce (grandmother’s recipe). We throw together some veggies for a salad and eat!

6:00 pm We eat dinner. The boys wrestle in the backyard, then play on the computer for 30-45 minutes. The babies and Blythe are playing dress-up, chasing each other around the table and out into the yard. We (adults) try to have conversation.

7:15 pm We begin our bedtime routine: baths/showers, PJs, brush teeth, and read aloud.

8:30 pm Lights out for the kids. I head to the shower and get ready for bed.

9:00 pm Mark and I talk briefly, recapping our day and discussing any plans for the upcoming ones (you know, romantic stuff). He takes an important phone call, and I sit down to write.

10:00 pm Mark heads to bed. I’m enjoying the quiet stream-lined thinking too much and continue writing.

11:00 pm I make myself go to bed. Lights out.

Everyday is different. This day didn’t include any errands, appointments, or playdates, and for the most part it went pretty smoothly, unlike this morning when Olive cried the entire way through Blythe’s spelling lesson because I put her blankie in the wash.  Or the morning she painted herself, her doll, and the hallway floor with nail polish. Or the day Burke split his leg open and had to get stitches. Or the days I get too distracted by the computer or phone calls. We all have those days. This just happen to be the one I recorded.