Friday, January 22, 2016

A day in the life...Homeschooling with six children ages 10 and under

This is our 5th year of homeschooling. It is January now so we are already half way through our year.

B - 4th Grade (Just turned 10)
W - 3rd Grade (age 8 - only 16 months younger than B)
Q - Kindergarten (Just turned 6)
Miss Ruthie - "Pretty School" aka Preschool (age 3)
D & E - Baby School (ages 28 months and 23 months)

People often ask me how I do it. Some days I wonder the same thing. The truth is that the Lord has equipped me for what He has called me to do. I have to remember that on the tough days.

The first week of each new school year I struggle to find my rhythm. That first week is tough. We are all trying to figure out our new curriculum and schedule. We have to be flexible and patient with one another. It takes several weeks before the flow of the day feels right.

I thought last year was tough with two babies. Those two babies took 2 naps a day last year. We were able to accomplish a lot of school work during those naps. This year they only take 1 nap and they get into everything!

The success of our days depends on my attitude. I set the tone for the whole house. I have learned that I cannot do this job without relying on the Lord. Relying on my own strength will end in tears for me and my precious children. I have also learned that knowing when to take quick breaks is crucial.

I have been trying to take photos off and on over the last week or so. I know I can't photo document one day very well. I wouldn't have time to get everything done. For this post, I am going to recount the events of one day.

One day a week we attend a co-op where our children take various courses. Last semester some of the courses included Art, P.E., Science, Math Games, Junk Drawer Engineering, a Literature Course, Spanish, Lego Engineering, Music and more. Our spring semester starts again soon and we are all looking forward to it.

We also get together every other week with my sister and her kids. We are doing the same science course so we do experiments together. 

I am going to share about a day when we are home.


EJ wakes me up, "Honey, your coffee is ready." He is a good man. I head to the living room to snuggle up by the fire (he has already tended to it this morning) and drink my cup of coffee. EJ is headed out early today so I kiss him goodbye. He is catching a flight to Dallas, purchasing our new van and then driving it home. 

I sit in the quiet, warm living room drinking my coffee. I put oatmeal in the crock pot last night so I grab a bowl. It is always a good idea for me to eat before all my little ones wake up. Once they are up, I am so busy meeting their needs it is hard for me to take care of myself.

The kids start waking up one by one. The first one up picks the cartoon we are going to watch so we can stay quiet and let the babies keep sleeping. This morning it was Strawberry Shortcake.

I prepare bowls of oatmeal for the older 4. They like it with some honey and a few chocolate chips. Yum! The babies are still sleeping so I sneak off for a quick shower. I quickly put on my home school mom uniform: Comfy t-shirt, leggings and Uggs with my hair up in a messy pony tail. Of course I have coffee, there is always coffee.

I hear my babies. I know they aren't really babies anymore but I still call them that. I prepare their bowls of oatmeal, plus sippy cups and bananas. I change their diapers and get them settled in their high chairs to eat breakfast.

I get a few chores done while I direct the older kids. I will send two of them to get dressed while the other two brush their teeth. Too many kids in one area and there is bound to be fussing and fighting. Soon the babies are done eating so I clean them up and get them dressed for the day. I usually throw something in the crock pot at this point but tonight we are going out so I get a break.

The kids bring in wood from the shed for our wood burning stove. I wish I had a picture of the parade of children bringing in pieces of wood. The little ones so proudly carry in small pieces.

Time to start school. I set W up on the computer. He will do Math (Teaching Textbooks 4) and Typing (Typing Instructor). Meanwhile B is working on handwriting (A Reason for Handwriting). He will also complete a project in our Science Notebook (Apologia Anatomy and Physiology). On Tuesdays he also creates a flashcard for our vocabulary word. We are learning Greek and Latin root words. (English from the Roots Up) When they are done, they switch.

While the older boys are busy working, I call the middle two to the kitchen island. It's time for Kindergarten and "Pretty School" as Miss Ruthie calls it. We have been studying the letter E this week. Each week has a theme to go with it. E week has an Elephant and the theme is "I will not forget what God has done for me." We learn biblical truths to go along with our phonics. (My Father's World Kindergarten) We have been doing various phonics, math and handwriting activities all week. We are also learning to count and write up to 100. We are also learning our days of the week and crossing off the days as we go. We sing little songs to go along with these activities. We also read scriptures to go along with our theme. Some days we do an art project but not today. Today we finished up with a story called Oliver about an elephant. Here are some photos I have taken over the last few weeks.

During our kindergarten time I am also assisting the older boys when they need me as well as keeping the babies busy. It is a balancing act that works pretty well most of the time. 

When one of the babies is super fussy I put him on my back or on occasion, I put one on my back and one on my front. They tend to calm down while I finish up those last few tasks with older kids.

Hold on everybody. Something smells. Alright babies, who is poopy? I find the culprit and take him to the nursery for a diaper change. All done. I head back to the kitchen to wash my hands and resume Kindergarten. "Mom, someone hollers, this baby smells poopy too!" Off I go back to the nursery. Clean diaper number two. Wash my hands again and get back to Kindergarten.

Kindergarten is done and the older boys are almost done with their tasks. It is snack time for all of us. I eat every three hours or so and so do they. We work out well together. I have to keep my blood sugar stable or I get crazy grumpy. We call it "hangry" in our family. You never want the momma to get hangry. That is a bad scene.

This morning snacks consisted of apples, oranges, pita chips and hummus. There were also a few panda puffs thrown in there and I noticed that Miss Ruthie pulled out some Salami too. She is allergic to dairy, gluten and eggs so we have to be creative with her diet. B grabbed a little bit of lunch meat too. He is like me, I need protein with every snack and meal. I ate some cheese and meat and had another cup of coffee with cream.

While B is finishing up his typing, W is doing a vocabulary review of all the root words we have learned so far. I want to start reading with him but the babies are just too fussy. It is too stressful for both me and W to try to yell over the chaos while I teach a new reading concept and listen to him read to me.

Better put more logs in the fire. I am becoming quite the pioneer woman. The truth is EJ does all the hard work, I just keep the fire going. This fantastic wood stove heats our whole house.

B is finished. It is time for a break. The older ones put their socks, shoes and sweat shirts on. I put these items on the babies who are squawking loudly. They are worried they will get left out of this outside experience. It is too cold for the younger ones to be outside. They play in the shed. There is plenty of room to ride their trikes around and bounce balls. The older two run to the mail box for me and then head off to play on the hay bales. 

I keep an eye on the younger four while I also file away the Kindergarten work from this week. I put away all their supplies as well. The house is a wreck but I can't really deal with that right now. I need to put last night's leftover sweet and sour chicken and rice in the oven to warm up. While I finish prepping for lunch, the youngest four come inside and watch a video I just love called "The Letter Factory". It is a cute movie that teaches the sounds the letters make.

The little fellas are so done. They are hungry and tired. I get the youngest four set up with lunch. 

The older two really want to play outside for a bit longer. You can't blame them. They love to be outside and there is ice to play with right now. 

I clean the babies up, change their diapers and set them in their cribs with books and toys.

The older boys and I eat while the babies play in their cribs. Miss Ruthie and Q keep themselves busy with a birthday party for "deer deer" and "China baby". It looks like a pretty awesome party.

Time to clean up this crazy, messy house. Clear the dishes, clean off the table, sweep the floor, and all toys back to where they belong. 

I should do the dishes too but we need to move on with nap time and school time for the older boys.

I tuck all these cuties in. Thank you Jesus for nap time. Q plays quietly in his room but he often falls asleep too. 

Back to work. B and W know that we have to take advantage of nap time. We can all focus on our work without being distracted. It is time for spelling and reading (All about Spelling and All about Reading). When I need to listen to one child read, the other child often plays with a Rubik's cube or draws, then they switch. Now it is time for bible and history. Our core curriculum is Creation to the Greeks (My Father's World). We are in Joshua right now. We have also been learning a lot about Ancient Egypt. This week we learned about King Tutankhamen. We review our vocabulary words and then we read more from our science book about the cardiovascular system. Their Auntie texted me a video about CPR to go along with our science. I share it with the boys.I just love the resources we have available to us. Some days we do hands on projects to go along with our learning. We build models, do science experiments, visit museums, write to pen pals and watch documentaries. There are so many ways to learn. We chose to use My Father' World as our core curriculum when our big boys were little. It is the perfect mix of Unit Studies, Classical Education and a Charlotte Mason approach all taught from a Biblical worldview. We add in our own language arts, math and this year I chose a different science course than they included. We tweak our curriculum choices to meet our needs. It is the beauty of home education.

I better put more logs on the fire. This cozy living room makes me want to snuggle up and fall asleep but we need to complete our tasks.

Next thing I know, I hear little ones waking up. I change diapers again. I let everyone have "tablet time" on their kindles while I put away all the school books and file away their projects from this week.

I email the adoption agency. Is there any chance all our documents (Dossier) are headed to China today? The answer: Not yet. They are waiting for one more document. I try not to be sad. I know the Lord has it all planned out. I just want my baby home. She is working on school in China while we work here. I can't wait until I am reading books with this sweet little girl.

Next up is snack time. Peanut butter bars do the trick. The big kids can fill up their own waters but the babies need sippy cups refilled.

Now it is time to get ready. Daddy is on his way home with our new van! We are all so excited! I pack the diaper bag in anticipation of him arriving. I realize that I still haven't done the dishes. I get those done and instruct everyone to get their shoes and jackets on. I haven't gotten shoes on the babies yet when Daddy pulls up. Technically, E has shoes on, he put Miss Ruthie's pink cowboy boots on himself. Everyone runs outside.

We get car seats in place (Isn't that the most awful task???) and take the new van out for a drive. We need to grab some dinner so we head to a tasty Mexican Restaurant. We enjoy our dinner. We get back in the van with 8 full tummies and head to Papa and Grandma's house to show them the van and take them for a spin. Our little drive is cut short when we hear, "I have to go potty!" from the back row. We head back to Papa and Grandma's after a short drive. The little one goes potty and then loads back up. We say goodbye and head home.

It is passed bedtime now. They all had showers/baths last night so tonight we are just throwing on jammies. Except for the older ones, they like to take a nightly shower. We put jammies on the babies and brush their teeth. We sing songs to them, pat their little backs and pray over them. Off to dream land for those two. Now it is time to get the older four into bed. EJ tucks all the boys in and I tuck Miss Ruthie in.

EJ loads more wood into the stove while I go take care of some laundry. I wish I could tell you that my few minutes in the laundry room caught things up but that would be a big fat lie. Hey, at least these loads are clean and ready to be folded. 

Finally, we settle in on the couch to watch our current favorite drama on Netflix (Person of Interest). Sometimes we exercise together at this time but tonight we are both tired from a long day. I grab my computer and start working on this blog post while we watch.

One child comes out for a drink, another child comes out to go potty, then another child needs to potty too. Wait, this child needs a drink as well. Finally they all settle in and go to sleep. We watch our show and enjoy the time without anyone needing us.

It is getting late now and tomorrow will bring another busy day.

EJ loads even more wood into the stove so we can have a cozy night.

We fall into bed and EJ prays over us before we crash out.

I don't know what time it is when I feel a little three year old body snuggle up next to mine. I share my pillow a bit and we both fall back to sleep. I have only been parenting for ten years but I have learned that this season is short. They won't climb into our big bed for safety and comfort for very long.

Soon the sun will rise and we will start again. One day at a time, by the grace of God we are doing it. I know I won't regret it. This assignment is hard but wonderful.

Another day begins, I will teach them all about God's big world right here in the Barn House. It is a sweet season. There is no where else I would rather be.

I thought you might enjoy these outtakes from our home school day...

(it is never a good sign when your students are trying to escape)