Living Stones Academy

Educating by atmosphere, discipline, and life

How do I do it?

on September 7, 2012

This question cracks me up. I get it all the time. I have 5 kids ranging in age from 4 months to 7 1/2 years old (3 boys, 2 girls). I homeschool, I’ve quit using convenience foods (canned and boxed), I bake our bread and experiment with canning (lightly, I have all the equipment but haven’t done it in a while), my husband recently was diagnosed with fibromyalgia . . .and usually people only see the 5 kids in tow when they say, “Wow, I don’t know how you do it”, then often add, “I can barely keep up with my 2.” It makes me wonder, how I do what exactly? How did I conceive and birth them? Because that’s really all I’ve done. They are only seeing me for one minute in public. I know much better, that I am barely doing “it” daily. I will say that my husband and I have had an alteration in our hearts and minds over the past couple of weeks and doing much better. So I guess now I can only say, “With God’s help.” Because at least now I feel like we’re “doing it”, whatever “it” may be, and actually doing it well only with God’s help.

So what does “it” look like? Right now, school. And instead of taking over my day, as it used to, I’ve allowed that to be a fluid process like everything else in our lives. I have to stay teachable, stretchable, and moldable, or we’re never going to survive as a family.

So school is the “it” I’m describing here.

I have a plan. I have a definite schedule. But although it’s laid out in an ideal way, I have finally learned not to be bound by the ideal. It is instead now a checklist or guidance for me.

For instance, here’s the actual plan:

6am: on my own, shower, dress, read Bible, plan day

7am: start diapers (I use cloth, so each morning I wash a load), eat breakfast, prep kids breakfast

7:30: kids eat

7:45: Bible time with kids (usually using the “Put On” book from

8am: task time (training my 4 year old in chores, the older two do theirs, I nurse the baby, do some work, etc)

9am: school starts with Basket Time (idea from other homeschool blogs); this is for family subjects like Hymn/Art/Composer study, poetry and literature, character training, nature study, etc

10-10:30: I nurse the baby and work with (read “play with”) my toddler, the older ones do independent things (puzzles, coloring, self-teaching things like the Palette and penmanship work, etc)

10:30-11: Preschool time with the 4 year old, others play with toddler or do more independent pursuits

11-11:30: reading lesson with 7 year old, others play

11:30: lunch, I do tasks and/or eat (we all know eating is optional for mommies)

12-2: rest time (excuse me while I laugh . . .ok done now), tasks, computer time, nurse baby, etc

2-2:30: snacks, review school time

2:30: workboxes for everyone

From there, once done, we play it by ear. Nursing the baby, reading to a toddler, get dinner ready, have dinner, one bath/shower per night (each child has their own night).

This is the ideal plan.
We’ve done this a total of 0 times this week, the first week of school.

Yes, you read that right: 0. Now, normally (read: last month), that sort of “failure” would immediately discourage me and burden me, and we’d end up way behind. Instead, it’s been freeing to realize how much we’ve accomplished each day in spite of this. And we’re not behind at all.

For instance, on Monday, I got through all school work with all kids, though totally out of order (per my schedule), and I was relaxed enough to cook dinner.

Wednesday, not only had I managed to do all school with everyone, but we had a 2 hour outing midday, and I managed to fold all the laundry (putting it away is another matter, but I take what I can), AND we had a movie night watching “Jumanji” and part of “The Black Stallion” (finished that up tonight).

So what does “school” look like? For those that still think it’s extraordinary. ๐Ÿ™‚

Caleb, my oldest. A self learner (thank you, God, for giving me at least one!), he loves to get out his globe and atlas and compare the two. I dare you to find another 7 year old who can point out Iran. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I take no credit except for this: one day a few weeks ago (mid summer), we took the song by They Might Be Giants, “The Alphabet of Nations”, and found all countries mentioned. We used the atlas first, and I showed him how to use the index and read the map key. So on top of already knowing his continents, he can point out now 26+ countries accurately. All because of a song on a kids cd that he’s been listening to for over a year, and an atlas and a globe and 15 minutes or so with mommy. His other subjects:

Reading: he knows enough now that I hand him a book–either his official readers/textbooks “On Cherry Street” and “McGuffey First Reader”, or the Bible or a random book in the house–and have him read a text. Any word he doesn’t know we write in a book or on a wipe board. When he’s done we go back and play with that word: find what word family it belongs to (if any), learn a new phonics rule, practice spelling it, etc. This is the most time intensive subject any day. On some days I’ll simply let him practice reading by reading me a story, something he loves to do.

Penmanship: I give him something to copy and he copies it. We go over it and talk about what looks “neat and tidy” and what doesn’t. That’s all of 5 minutes. Some days he simply does fine motor skill exercises with no actual writing (I just bought “Operation”; that was penmanship today, and he did fabulous).

History: I’m reading about the Middle Ages with him and Isaac. Just story books, some discussion, explanation, crafts, etc. This week it’s been fairly light, just reading and talking. Our spine book right now is “If You Were There in 1492”. I had planned out something different for him, but since we intend to go to a Medieval fair in October I thought I’d switch it up a bit. When we return to his plan he has various storybooks we’re going to read for a mixture of Canadian, Mexican, and world history. I’m considering have Isaac (my 6 year old) as part of that too.

Math: wherever and whenever it comes up. I’m serious. We have no textbook. Ok, we DO, but I’m not using it. We have an abacus that he’s learning to use. Doing science the other day we incorporated math when we read the fact that 3 babies are born every second. We figured out how many that is in a minute. He now knows his 3 times table. Another day we read, “How Many . . .is 1,000”. The following day we made popcorn and showed how 350 kernels, not popped, made barely 1/4 cup. Once popped, they filled up 3+ bowls! So my only goal is to each day incorporate math learning into something. Today he used a self teaching toy we have and that’s it. Checked it off the list.

Science/nature study: this is going to be trickier, and I do have a plan. But I’m also taking their lead. I’m not going to force a unit on astronomy when they have this sudden fascination with the human body. So I found a book at the library and am using that as a springboard to look at other books. We’re reading, building models, drawing, etc. That’s it.

So that’s my 2nd grader (if you want to call him that). ย My first grader isn’t much different. For reading, he was really struggling. The ONLY reason I started teaching him last year is that he wanted to so badly; I didn’t want to start yet. Sure enough, he’s having a rough time. We barely got through half the lessons in his curriculum. So instead I took a step back. We have a set of sight words that we practice with. We have letter cards that we do phonics games with (I say a word and he has to listen for the sounds and pick the right letters based on the sounds). That’s it, we play. Math is the same as for his brother, as is science (although his all around fascination is with dragons and dinosaurs, so we go back and forth with him) and penmanship (he’s not copying letters yet, just practicing using writing utensils).

My preschooler and toddler: this is the easiest. We play games. Each day I have a different focus. It’s either letters/phonics, colors, shapes, motor skills, or numbers. Yesterday my preschooler and I played “Candyland”. Today the toddler and I played with a sock sorting set from Lakeshore learning, then with lacing buttons, our focus being to use only red socks and red buttons. There, done. Just give them educational activities and involve them in family lessons and they’re covered.

So really our days are about hitting the bullet points but in no particular order. They are also about priorities: I know it’s not detrimental if we didn’t hit on our science lesson for the day–for crying out loud, they’re just kids! We’re trying to keep it about Charlotte Mason’s ideal, that “Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas”, and that is also a discipline. As long as we keep filling their plate with ideas, and that we are talking and communicating and loving our children, they will learn and grow. That’s how real it is right now. ๐Ÿ™‚


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