January 16, 2019

Our Homeschooling Day with Ages 8, 6, 4, and Baby

This has been quite a different year in our homeschool since I documented our day last year. A new baby in May and two kids doing lessons instead of only one has stretched me in a lot of ways. This is how our days are looking lately.

6:30 AM

I wake to the sounds of twittering birds. It is actually quite a peaceful way to wake up. It sure beats the blaring alarm clock I used for many years in high school, college, and graduate school. I only wish my husband would have suggested this phone alarm sound years ago.

I nurse the baby in bed with me and then he goes to Daddy who dressed him and then returns him for another nursing session if needed before taking him to the kitchen to get breakfast ready. On the way out the door, he tosses me my watch so I can't ignore the time. Can you tell I'm having a hard time waking up these days?

7:00 AM

By this point, I've dragged myself out of bed, hopefully, showered to really wake myself, but sometimes just thrown on some clothes.

I visit my 4-year-old daughter who has been awake for some time in her room. She gets dressed and I say good morning to the 8-year-old and 6-year-old boys who are making their way downstairs. They recently moved out of the bedroom near ours that they shared with their sister up to the large open room that forms our second floor.

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7:15 AM

By this time we are at the table and sitting down to breakfast prepared by my husband. Sometimes I make breakfast the day before and he makes coffee and dishes out the food, but lately, he has been managing this meal all on his own and we are all grateful.

During breakfast, we have our simple morning time that includes reading the same poem every day for a week, plus covering some "school" lessons like composer study, artist study, and Bible reading, plus other books from a variety of subjects. Right now, we are reading The Wonders of Chemistry by Archie Frederick Collins (as a free ebook), Grammer-land by M.L. Nesbit (as a free ebook), Japanese Fairy Book by Yei Theodora Ozaki, and Underground by David Maccauley.

Sometimes we do a MadLibs, usually the 4-year-old leaves early, and always my husband feeds and changes the baby. We all clear our own spots from the table and the kids enjoy a few moments of free time before we get ready to start our formal lesson time.

8:30 AM

We aim to start our lessons at 8:30. I like starting early because it means that we can get done before lunchtime and, more importantly, my husband can be there for the first 30 minutes or so to run interference with the baby and preschooler. This mostly looks like him taking a shower and getting ready for work with the baby and then reading a book or two to the preschooler.

We follow what I call a "strict homeschool schedule" although it isn't particularly strict. I use the term strict because I assign each subject a particular time period and I aim to keep it to that time period, including setup and break down. However, sometimes a particular lesson takes less time and things often take a few minutes longer to finish up. The most important part is that it sets boundaries for the lessons to keep all of us accountable. The lesson you love is not going to be cut short and the lesson that isn't your favorite is not going to stretch on. And we are going to get to all of them--even the ones that are hard or not my favorites!

This is our current schedule:

Today, we started a few minutes late. And, one child had a mini-meltdown at drawing time. Art is not our family's strong suit and sometimes the frustration of not being able to create on paper what you want to is painful. The outburst is a little painful to all of us! My husband is ready to leave and he knows that it is a sensitive moment, so he gives me some encouragement and is out the door.

The unhappy child tries again and gets even more unhappy. Dealing with our emotions in more constructive ways is a journey for this child and as it has also been my journey, I can relate. We'll both keep working on it. Meanwhile, I just have him change his lesson to the next one to short circuit this drama over a drawing. So while one child continues his drawing, my other child listens while I read his current recitation aloud to him to memorize.

Charlotte Mason really had it down when she suggested this technique of switching to a new lesson if the child cannot maintain attention. I find that it works well even if the reason for the inattention is emotional. He calms down and we take our scheduled 15-minute break.

After the break, one child practices his recitation while the other tries his drawing with a little higher level of support from me. Helpfully, my 8-month-old baby is feeling pretty independent today and he is happily playing nearby. This time the drawing turns out more to my sons liking and I can tell he is proud of his work. I can't help but wish the process would be easier though! Maybe next time.

We move through our lessons smoothly with a few minor interruptions. After several months of this schedule under our belts, it works pretty well.

Homeschooling takes up a good deal of my energy each day. And there is precious little of it after the baby gets his share! However, the beautiful parts of this education--the living books, folk songs, nature study, handicrafts--buoy my spirits daily.

If you are interested, you can find the resources we use for 1st-grade and 3rd-grade here.

11:00 AM

We usually wrap up our lessons around 11. Then the kids wander off to play, practice piano, or I corral them to do some chores. Sometime before noon, I'll slice them some bread and cheese and they'll make their own sandwiches. Then we sit down together while I feed the baby and read a little bit from our two lunchtime books. Currently, we are reading Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and The Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld, both Christmas presents I bought used from Thriftbooks.

Today though, my 4 and 6-year-olds want to play outside in the bitter cold a bit because there is a light coating of snow. I make them grill-cheese sandwiches which they pack with fruit into a paper bag, "like they are going to school." So we skip our lunchtime books in favor of outside time for at least some of us.

12:30 PM

Lunch over, the baby goes down for a short nap. His napping schedule is a bit all over the place recently, but he sleeps well at night so I can't complain! My 8-year-old often practices piano at this time and sometimes he does some more work in his math curriculum because it is a true passion for him.

Today we were supposed to meet friends at the library for our twice-a-month math games meetup but they are under the weather, so we stay home and play individual logic puzzle games together at the table. The baby joins us soon after a too short nap.

2:00 PM

With cold temps keeping us indoors and four children to spend time with me all day long (and one to sleep with me all night!), I need our daily quiet time to keep me sane. So we separate into different parts of the house with books, audiobooks, games or toys. I nearly let this habit go at the beginning of the school year, but I'm so thankful that we revived it! Only the four-year-old doesn't look forward to it every single day, but recently she's been listening to an audiobook of The Wizard of Oz and really enjoying it. My 6-year-old also listens to an audiobook while the 8-year-old reads.

Meanwhile, I do a few chores, prep dinner, and care for the baby. I often read, write an email, or chat on the phone with my mom or a friend. Today, because the baby is wide awake, I let him crawl around me and play near me while I read a little of my light book I'm re-reading for fun. I also try to do my MUTU exercises. Getting my core and pelvic floor back into shape after 4 kids is no joke! You can find more about my story of pelvic organ prolapse and recovery here.

Eventually, rest time sort of ends after about an hour. The kids do chores and we clean up the house a bit. I work on dinner.

4:35 PM

My husband gets home about this time after he leaves work at 4:30 and rides his bike home. I cannot tell you how much I love that we were able to choose to live so close to his workplace!!! It makes a huge difference to all of our lives that we can see him so much.

We eat an early dinner around 5 PM and I grab some solo time with my computer in our bedroom with the door locked. This is when I find time to request library books, set up homeschooling events, pay bills, and shop online. My other son practices piano. The rest of the evening is spent reading, playing, tidying, and caring for a baby.

Tonight is different than usual because I head out around 7 PM for the bimonthly planning meeting of our local homeschooling support group. This is only the second time I've left the baby at home with my husband while I go out in the evening for a meeting.

8:45 PM

I walk in the door to the baby screaming for me, but the good news is that he just woke up a minute before I walked in. I say goodnight to the boys; my 4-year-old daughter is already asleep. I nurse the baby while my husband and I catch up. Then we watch some British Baking Show before going to bed a little after 10 PM. I typically go to bed a bit earlier, but I'm always keyed up after I've been out in the evening. Thus ends a typical day.

When I don't have an evening meeting, I am at home at bedtime for hugs and kisses, but my husband is the one who reads the night books and brushes teeth and tucks everyone in. After the four-year-old goes to bed at 7pm, I nurse the baby to sleep. Then my husband and I catch up while the boys play together until their 8pm and 9pm bedtimes. Lately, my husband and I are reading The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) by Robert Jordan aloud to each other in anticipation of an Amazon show in the works. It is slow going but we are having fun with it!

On Wednesdays, the kids attend an open swim at a pool nearby and then I drop them off for a few hours at their grandmother's house while I enjoy quiet time with the baby. On Tuesdays, that same grandmother takes one of the children for a few hours for much-loved one-on-one time with her. On Fridays, we finish lessons and then jump in the car to attend a local all-weather playgroup in the woods with other homeschoolers.

And there you have it! Lots of books, lots of time at home, and a few screams and tears that I edited out for the sake of focusing on the positive :-)

Truthfully, this is a difficult season for me as a mother. I'm still adjusting to life with four children! The last time I had a baby, my oldest was four. At that time, we were able to eat leftovers a few times per week and everyone was in bed by 7pm. Now I am cooking 6 times per week and have kids that stay up until 9pm. This is hard for an introvert, but I know I will adjust. I can already see it happening.

Also, homeschooling with a babe in arms is a new endeavor for me. I've never taught a child to read while I have had a baby to care for. I've never tried to homeschool more than one child at a time before. But good planning and realistic expectations are keeping us moving in the right direction. Plus, I already know that the winter makes me feel crazy and that my brain fog and lack of "productivity" will eventually improve as the baby gets older.

Let's just say that I'm really really thankful that this is the year we are taking a Florida vacation in February! And that I won't be adding another 6-year-old first grader to our homeschool until 2020!


  1. I hope this season becomes more joyful for you over time. It really is challenging to have all young ones at home.

    I remember. :)

    In reading this post, though, I see lots of boundaries and familial support that must be helping you so very much. I'm glad you're not alone.

    And, boy! Do I ever understand about art breakdowns! I've got a couple of perfectionists of my own.

    1. Yes, the perfectionism is real. Luckily, I'm a recovering one myself, so I can relate. And it is always so hard to tell what is just being down in the dumps because of the weather or what is more related to homeschooling or life! I am never a happy camper in January and February. At least now I can recognize it and I can just go easy on myself this time of year.

  2. It's really wonderful that you live so close to your husband's university. He seems like a really helpful guy - making breakfast, etc. :) It's also wonderful that the kids have a grandmother who lives close by and they can see her each week. Art is not my strong suit, either. I hope you guys have a wonderful time in Florida!! You've probably already heard of the trilogy, but if you haven't, we just finished the second book this week - Chains, Forge, and Ashes. We are looking forward to the 3rd book (we are definitely left hanging at this point), but we are taking a break to read The House with the Clock in its walls because we are planning to get the movie from the library in the near future and wanted to read the book first. :)

    1. Yes! To living close and grandmothers. I grew up only 90 minutes from where we live now, so my parents are nearby, and my mother-in-law moved to our same town (from another state) a few years ago. I remember the years when she did not live as close, and this is much better--for me and the kids! And thanks for the book recommendations. I had heard of that series, but our library only has the last title of the trilogy. I'm going to have to see if I can interlibrary loan them because we are also studying the revolutionary war period.

    2. That is odd that your library would only have the last book of the trilogy. The library in Lewisburg has all 3 so I don't think you'll have trouble getting them through ILL. I know once that Lewisburg library had books 1 and 3 of a series but not book 2, and when I requested book #2 through ILL they actually just purchased book #2 when I pointed out that they owned the other two of the trilogy. So who knows, maybe if you mention that your library has #3 but not 1 or 2, maybe they'll buy the other two. My in-laws live an hour away, and I am grateful that it means my kids get to see some grandparents more than just a couple of times a year (which was my experience as a child as my grandparents lived in other states). My parents had planned to move close to us, but then my mom died in 2016 and those plans were foiled. I miss her! My dad remarried and moved farther away. We have toyed with the idea of moving closer to my husband's job (which would also put us closer to his parents), but there aren't as many opportunities for kids in that area and especially considering we homeschool that is really important. Oh and if you are looking for a book recommendation for yourself - I loved Fall of Marigolds. It was suggested on RAR. :)

    3. My library will totally buy the rest if I ask, but I did something I never do . . . I bought book number 1 on a whim! I had a free book credit from Thriftbooks and I was placing an order of All About Reading early readers for John so I just got the first one. I want to read it ASAP! And thanks for the recommendation, I placed a hold on it from my library. I'll let you know how it goes.

  3. Adjusting to life with a little one is definitely a challenge! I am glad that you have a schedule that works for you. When kids have an idea of what is expected and what happens next, it definitely helps with the flow. We love lots of books and lots of time at home as well :-) Some of the best ways to spend the days in my opinion!

  4. I love to hear how you are making your schedule work for your family, and how you're able to nurture your little guy even in the midst of a bit of his emotional turmoil. :) Home education is about so much more than the school work...it's all that parenting and emotional development and relationship, too. I often say that homeschooling is easy, parenting is hard. ;) As a mom of 5, I can also relate to the challenges of figuring out life with new littles...persevere by grace!


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