“I could never do that!” exclaims one woman.
“You must have so much patience!” cries another.
“How DO you do it?” asks a third.
So, from this very normal, not necessarily patient person, comes a description of my home school day…
My day begins with my coffee. Usually, my telecommuter husband brings it to me in bed. (If you don’t have a telecommuter husband, you could bring your own cup back to your bed. It’s a wonderful habit.) This is my time of reflection. I drink, look out the window, talk to the Lord, and read my Bible and/or my home decorating magazines (no computer). Basically, it’s the only time of day I’m alone and relaxed. The important thing is, I get that time. When I don’t, things don’t go as smoothly or as peacefully.
I rise, and hopefully, the girls are up! This year, I am determined not to wake anyone. Each girl will use her own cell phone or alarm clock and wake up on her own. One of our family’s main issues is being late, and this is the year we will change that! My girls are old enough to remember to get dressed and brush their teeth. Somehow, certain ones still need to be reminded to make their bed and pick up their clothes from the bathroom floor. Reasonable neatness is our morning goal, not perfection.
To get everyone going, I might prop their bedroom doors open and turn on some peppy music. I either put out cereal or make a hot breakfast, depending on how busy our day is.
I put on an outfit I like (even if it’s a workout outfit), and fix my hair and makeup. None of that takes a long time, but if I feel I look good, I will be in a better mood, and we all know our moods are passed on to our families! I put on a squirt of perfume or body spray, too. Now I feel like a together mom, and can face the day!
We eat breakfast together and then begin story time. I have done story time on and off through the years, and I find that as long as you read from an exciting, age-appropriate book, the children do not tire of it. One way I plan to get the girls downstairs on time this year is to begin reading exactly at 9:00. If one is late, she misses that day’s installment in the story (and yes, I will be hiding the book in-between so no one can peek!) Some of our favorites have been Farmer Boy, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, and Mama’s Bank Account.
My husband has “gone to the office” (at the front of our house). Depending on our level of noise, has inserted headphones into his ears and turned up his music volume, and sat down to work. We will be in and out of the office all day, and he is very patient. The desktop computer is right next to Dad’s, so he can monitor whether teenagers are checking their advanced math problems or peeking at Facebook. (He’s not that great at noticing… after all, he is concentrating on his own work!) Still, it’s nice to have him there. Life with all girls can get dramatic at times, and he is the voice of calm.
We do any subjects that we have to do together first. We really don’t have that many, but this year, my senior and my freshman are doing Bible together. We will be going through the Epistles, with assignments given by my husband. All three girls are attending or plan to attend Christian colleges, so we try to do structured Bible courses that also count as high school credit. Hubby helps with Bible and art. We use our children’s interests for electives… eldest (now in college) counted her piano and guitar lessons as high school credit. Middle girl spends as many hours at the ballet studio as she does in school, so ballet will be on her high school transcript. Youngest girl is an aspiring artist as well as horseback rider. More electives, plus P.E. We also plan to do a course I’m calling “Appreciation of Fine Arts” this year, using Harmony Fine Arts as a starting point, and adding art and drama for the youngest and ballet for the middle, along with field trips to a play, art museum, and/or professional ballet.
Next, the girls work independently. Each has a list. I use the inexpensive “Cat in the Hat” lesson plan book from Michael’s. With my 40% off coupon, it’s about $6.00. Middle girls’ lessons are at the top, and youngest at the bottom. (When I had three in school, I divided it into three sections). There is a grade book in the back, too.
I have tried having set times for each subject. With older girls working mostly independently, this simply does not work and ends with frustration. Better to let them work at their own pace, especially when we add in activities for each child. This year will be a challenge, as middle girl’s ballet lessons will be M-Th at 2:00. If she gets a job as planned, that will also complicate our day (see why I can’t have a set hourly schedule?). While they work, I am doing housework, checking e-mail, or exercising… returning often to the school room to check progress and be available for questions.
We have done school at the kitchen or dining room table, but I love the set up we have now. My husband made the girls each a beautiful desk from plywood. These desks can be set up in our guest room (which is a school room when we have no guests). As you can see, the different personalities of my two school-age children are reflected in their desk organization!
When school work is finished, the girls check the day’s chore list. I have the days’ chores written out, such as “vacuum downstairs… unload dishwasher… empty wastebaskets” etc. The girls divide the chore list by two or three (depending on whether eldest is home from college) and choose the chores they want. Eldest usually helps on her own, without being told. (Ah, the blessings of adult children!) The chore list is such a habit that the girls hardly even think about it. I put it in the same place each day, with a pen to check off jobs once they are finished.
When we have something to do during school hours, such as drama club or ballet class, things are changed up a bit. Youngest may bring her math in the car and do it on the half-hour drive to drama. Or she may do all her work when she gets home. Middle girl may accompany me and, after we drop youngest off at drama, we may drink coffee at Barnes and Noble while she does her work. I look for little ways such as this that I can “treat” my children and give them a break from the daily routine.
Our afternoons consist of free time if there are no scheduled lessons. I do have one that will stretch to fill the time she is given. Sometimes her school work is not finished until dinner time, or even later. However, if she has an activity to look forward to, such as ballet class, she gets it done sooner. Can you tell our day often revolves around ballet? Middle girl has a goal to be accepted into a dance ministry. This requires much sacrifice of her time and ours, but we do the best we can to encourage our girls in their God-given dreams. All of them want to go into fine arts… one into music, one into dance, one into art. I wonder why we do geometry and pre-calculus when the only math they’ll need as musician or dancer is to count to 8!
In the afternoon, I catch up on phone calls or housework, take a shower if I have exercised that morning, and once in a while take a blessed nap or just rest on my bed with those home decorating magazines and a glass of iced coffee. I may plan my lessons out further (never more than 2 weeks at a time). One of us starts dinner. My husband and I (and that wonderful eldest, when she’s home) take turns driving middle girl to ballet until she gets her license, and with this year’s schedule, the parent staying home will cook dinner. I don’t know if I’d rather stay home and cook, or make the eighty-minute round trip drive and be cooked for. Both sound good! When it’s my turn to drive, I use the time middle girl is in ballet class to grocery shop, since we live so far out of town. Almost all my errands are done while carting the girls around and waiting for them. This gives me more time to stay in my favorite place… home.
Evenings this year will be different, as we’ll commute to ballet before dinner, not after. We may have some more leisure time on our hands! We have a couple of tv shows our family likes to watch on one of those channels that shows pre-recorded episodes. My favorites are the “fifties tv” shows. (Hubby is often still in his office, working on grad school or his second job, a personal web design business… but sometimes he will bring his laptop into the living room while he works on homework. After all, it is art school! =). Youngest and I also like to read together. Right now we’re reading Millie’s Reluctant Sacrifice from the character-building Life of Faith Series. We get into our pajamas and cuddle up and get into the story. Since our girls are older, they usually go to bed around the same time we do. Our goal is to have youngest in bed by 9:30 (she’s 13), and the rest of us by 10. Rarely do we make it… but we try. Since we avoid the school bus and morning commute, we usually get a good night’s sleep anyway.
As you can see, most often, we school at home with books to read, papers to write, and math problems to compute. I keep a traditional grade book and our girls get report cards at the end of the year. We take just a couple field trips a year, and they consist mostly of an art museum or a performance. Sometimes we do something just for fun, like the zoo. I keep it simple and low maintenance as much as I can, and it suits our family just right.
~Written by Kim A., The Daisy Muse