Friday, January 23, 2015

My homeschool day-in-the-life with a 5-year-, 3-year-, and 10-month-old

Ever wondered what our days look like hour to hour?

(Probably not, unless you're a grandparent, but please indulge me.)

One of my favorite blogs, SimpleHomeschool.net, does a series every January featuring a day in the life of each contributor and his or her children. I have really enjoyed reading these the past few years, so I decided to create my own. So now, if you want to know what's up within these four walls at a given time of day, you might have a pretty good idea. (Special shout out to my mom, who used to keep tabs on my college class schedule!)

Though no two days are ever the same, here's a pretty typical rundown, using yesterday as an example.

(PS: I'm adding a lot more detail here than the SimpleHomeschool posts... But I don't have a word count to adhere to!)



8:00am

My phone buzzes me awake, and Susie stirs. Yes, the baby is in bed with us. (We love it!) I silence the alarm and lay back on the pillow, hoping for a few more winks. We are late risers because of this co-sleeping situation, and I can't complain. Tim wakes up when Susie starts gurgling and flings an arm in his face. Ten minutes of snuggling and tickling the baby ensue, at the end of which Peter has wandered in and perched on the side of the bed. He tries to worm his way in between Susie and me, and when things get too rowdy I bite the bullet and force us all to get up.

8:15am

I take Susie to her room to change her diaper and dress her, pulling up her window shade and turning off her white noise machine in the process. All the bedrooms need this morning treatment, which adds an element to our getting ready time (I often come upstairs in the afternoon to find rooms still dark and whirring). I notice the relative absence of fog today, but also the dearth of frost. Though I like snow, it's nice living in the PNW where bitter winter cold is relegated to storybooks.

I opt to dress Peter downstairs in front of the propane stove (feeling very Little House on the Prairie- it may not be 40 below but it still feels good!) and make use of the clothes I folded and left downstairs in the hamper the night before. Linnea wanders out of her room and I remind her to get dressed, etc, before coming down to breakfast.

We used to dress after breakfast -in fact we have done since before Linnea was born - but with a baby who takes a morning nap, I've been trying to tighten up our morning schedule and get more done. It's working okay so far, and makes getting getting to the "school" part of our day quite a bit easier, as I don't like doing school in our pajamas. (Saturdays anything goes!)



9:07am

We are eating breakfast, some leftover apple bread from a friend, and milk, but I pull out the pb and honey when the older two complain that they don't like chunks of cooked apple. I often make eggs, waffles, pancakes, or French toast on weekday mornings, as well as weekends, because we tend to eat lunch late, and we all love those foods. But I'm shortening my breakfast prep where possible to get more done before Susie's nap. So far, I'm ambivalent. My goal of sitting down by 8:45 is too ambitious, I don't like to rush, and we no longer have time for a morning devotion. But it is nice to have extra time to clean up, and read or play with the younger two before lessons start at 10.

10:05am

We are mostly ready for lessons, with teeth brushed (I put out duplicate toothbrushes and toothpaste in the downstairs bathroom for this purpose) and Linnea getting out her reading materials while I play half a game of Candy Land with Peter, and attempt to read a board book to Susie. She isn't really at an age where she likes to sit on my lap, but after many months of dropping the ball, I am trying to read at her level more regularly. (The transition to chapter books with Linnea has spoiled me!)

Peter busies himself with Lego creations, but asks for help with various other activities while I attempt two 20-minute lessons of reading and math. First, Linnea and I review phonogram cards, and then I introduce a new one. We spell words using the new sound "ng" with letter tiles on our magnet board...ring, song, hang, rang, sing, hung. She is making rapid progress but starts to sulk if things get difficult, especially when she doesn't want to take the time to sound out a tricky word. But she breezes through the new information, and has fun with an activity in which we cut out matching pairs of mittens, read the rhyming words on back, and them try them on a cut-out kitten. I am thankful this activity is speedy. Peter needs help with a matching game, Susie needs to nurse and have a diaper change, and the clock is ticking toward nap time, so I mentally file the fluency page from the lesson for the next day, and tell Linnea to grab a sticker for her progress chart. She and Peter play together while I take care of Susie, and then it's on to math.



We fly through some basic review and complete most of the lesson on adding one fact cards. We will save the worksheets for tomorrow. It has been a deliberate mental change for me to not go completely by the book, but a necessary one: by choosing to limit our lesson time, things are easier on the baby and preschooler, and Linnea and I feel a sense of accomplishment even if we don't complete an entire lesson. She is becoming more flexible about skipping things, while I've taken more liberties based on her learning needs, as my homeschooling confidence has grown. So, the time limit ensures we keep academic work in its place (not that we don't ever go over by a few minutes to finish an activity - we do!), which is simultaneously satisfying and freeing. It's only kindergarten, after all, and I see learning experiences throughout our day -- in setting the table, learning to pedal a bike, asking questions about volcanoes, looking up birds on the Cornell Lab or Ornithology website, playing outside, talking about this spring's garden, pointing out countries on the wall map, making dinner, and whatever else we find ourselves doing in a given day. Kids are naturally inquisitive, so I try to explore their interests outside the book work as much as possible.

11am

Time for Susie's first nap. I settle Peter in the front of the house with puzzles, books, toys, and games, while Linnea heads up to her room to play dolls, make cards, do handwriting exercises, or whatever she fancies. I kill the lights in the family room/dining room and kitchen, turn on a CD, and strap Susie in the ergo. At 10 months old she still sleeps best in the carrier. For a while I tried nursing her to sleep in her room, but I was never able to lay her down to sleep, and a desire to be aware of what the others were doing changed my approach. So I'm back to walking and bouncing, with the plan of reading my bible and catching up on a few blogs on my phone while Susie snoozes for an hour. I also use this time to send quick texts, reply to a couple emails, or make online orders/ pay bills from my phone. I can't do much else. Linnea and Peter, meanwhile, are separated, following an incident with scissors last week. (It was not a huge catastrophe...but I no longer leave them unsupervised.) As he always does, Peter wanders in with a hopeful look on his face: time to come out yet? I motion him back to the living room with a new stack of books, bounce a little longer, then ease myself onto the couch, where I almost fall asleep sitting up.

11:58
The phone rings and wakes Susie. Her prescription for more ranitidine (an antacid) will be refilled at the pharmacy. She could have used another 20 minutes, but I am hopeful that the medicine will calm these turbulent nights she's been having.

12:45pm

Kids are out, rest activities are put away, I read a story and make lunch: a smorgasbord of reheated leftovers. Linnea informs me that sometimes she gets tired of having pasta for dinner and then for lunch. I give her pea soup instead. We make a big mess at the table, which I plan to clean up later, along with the breakfast dishes. It's nearly 2:00 when I've found our library bag to pick up our holds, a friend's son's outfit we borrowed and washed to return, and made a note of the few items we need at the store along with Susie's medicine. I get all the kids in the car and dump trash and recycling into the cans before taking them down to the street. We pull away with an hour to do all our errands and be back for Susie's afternoon nap.

3:17pm

We pull away from the grocery store, somehow having completed everything, and I am ready to nap myself. I would prefer to play outside with the kids instead of running around, and sometimes we do, but this window is our biggest for away from home stuff, and about half the time it's spoken for.

Park on another day

3:38pm

All our stuff has been dragged into the house including the big library kit on Spanish and our bag of extra books, and the couple grocery bags of odds and ends we picked up along with the prescription. Both big kids are settled with new books and activities, and by now it's late for Susie's nap, but she still needs something. I hope she will fall asleep nursing on the couch. Mid nurse I realize the chicken curry I hastily threw into the crock pot after lunch needs water, and I carry Susie into the kitchen and fill the measuring cup. Back on the couch, Susie squirms, so into the ergo she goes, and I bounce her to sleep again.

4:28pm

Peter has been coming in once again, but it's time for Susie to wake up. Linnea comes downstairs and we gather for a quick snack, leave the dishes, and head to the living room for story time. Peter is interested in a book about earthquakes and Linnea picks out the Spanish version of A Pocket for Corduroy, which I haven't read before, even in English. I botch the pronunciation on some unfamiliar words, but finish the book, translating as I go. Linnea has been interested in some Spanish instruction, so my plan is to make her and Peter some vocabulary worksheets with pictures they can color in. This kit has several picture books in both languages, which wasn't really what I had in mind, but they think it's neat anyway. I wonder where in the attic my college Spanish grammar book could be.

5:20pm

Susie is restless and it's time to clean up for dinner. I set rice to cook on the stove and the big kids clean up toys (slowly, with many interruptions and reminders to keep working) while I tackle the kitchen and dining room. The day's dishes and crumbs have been waiting for me, along with a couple pots from leftovers we used up at lunch. I load the dishwasher, run it, and set out paper plates for dinner. This isn't our norm, but after a major pre-dinner cleanup it's nice to have that much less to do later.
Susie alternates between playing on the floor and in the playpen. I eye my to-do list for the day and notice I never did the laundry. Oh well - something had to give.

6:35pm

Getting the kids to the table is like pulling teeth, and I am up and down getting water cups, bibs, napkins, and serving spoons. Often I have the older two help with setting the table, and Linnea puts the napkins around, but it seems I'm always forgetting something. I field complaints about the kind of curry I'm serving, and the sauce touching the rice on Peter's plate, and it being too hot. Finally everybody is eating and I pop up once more to grab the salt and pepper. The recipe I found online is disappointing, but I keep my thoughts to myself. Susie gobbles it up, Linnea claims she's done in about four minutes, and Peter eats only rice. There are tears about the rice, and it gets all over his hands and chair and pants and socks. Susie starts to fuss and I wipe her off. Just as I am setting her down with Linnea in the playroom, Peter comes running in, trailing rice on the carpet. I send him out and pick up the grains while on my hands and knees. Back in the dining room, with Peter crying again, I mentally vow (like I always do) never to make rice again (but it's so quick, and tasty, and everyone eats it, so I know I will). It looks like it has snowed under his seat. I strip him down and wipe him off, then opt to leave the dishes and the rice trail until later. We all retreat to the playroom.


Not every night is bath night!

7:47pm

Tim is at a meeting, so I herd the kids upstairs a bit early to get ready for bed. It always takes longer with one parent! I change Susie into her jams with a fresh diaper, then plop her in her crib to help Peter. We haven't started potty training yet, so he gets a diaper, too. I remember Susie's meds are still in the diaper bag, so I bring her downstairs with me to grab them. Linnea needs several stern reminders to get changed. Dawdling has started at a young age. With Susie on my hip, I help Linnea and Peter brush and floss. They argue over who gets to stand on the step stool. I feel like a contortionist bending and stooping with 20 extra pounds in the crook of my arm. Since we're on well water, everyone gets fluoride in one form or another. I wrestle Susie's toothbrush from her and she yells, then we all go to Linnea's room to read the bible and say bedtime prayers.

8:20pm

Wishing Tim were here to help, I remind myself not to rush or get frustrated. Linnea and Peter have jumped into the bed and are being silly under the covers. They are so cute I snap a few photos with my phone, wishing the camera weren't so lame. They are always blurry. Then we read the story about Jesus walking on water. When it's time to pray, Linnea recites the Lord's Prayer. Peter says part of it along with her, and when it's his turn, he surprises me by reciting nearly the entire thing without help. I congratulate him and quietly give thanks for the small blessings of the day. Finally, I pray, and we all kiss and hug goodnight.

Best friends!

Linnea keeps a light on to page through a few books, while I take Peter to his room and tuck him in. He whimpers when I close the door, so I grab him a book, too. Tim should be home soon to say goodnight.

8:34pm

I settle with Susie in her rocking chair to nurse, which she'll do for 15-20 minutes. Then I'll rock her another 20 or so before laying her down in her crib. I text with Tim and find out he hasn't left yet, but should be home around the time I put Susie down. I begin writing this post after a little reading online. When he does come, he sticks his hand in the door for a quick wave, then checks on the kids. A few minutes later, Susie cries when I try to put her down, so Tim comes to take over.

9:14pm

The rice is still there. I finish clearing the table and wipe it; by then Tim is back downstairs, and all the kids are asleep. He takes the broom from me and then sees what he's agreed to: "Ugh, rice!" But he sweeps it up anyway. (Thanks, honey!) After straightening the kitchen, I measure sugar for the plum jam I've been meaning to make all week.

10:04pm

I'm still stirring plums and sugar at the stove, but they'll be finished any minute. The fruit, which I'd frozen after picking from our trees last September- and one in town I got permission to forage from - was extra juicy after it thawed, so the jam is taking longer to jell. Once it's done, I wash a couple of jars in hot soapy water to store it in. I won't be canning it since that's too much work for me right now, and I want to use it right away. Tim plays his guitar and drinks a beer in the kitchen, and once my work is done I enjoy the bit of jam that I scrape from the pot on half an English muffin. Then I throw in a small load of laundry and decide my work for the evening is done.

Jamming in January

10:47pm

I've just settled on the couch for a rest when Susie wakes up. Tim offers to put her back to bed, but I'm so tired, I call it a night. I'll nurse her again to soothe her and then will hand her off to Tim in bed so I can change and take my contacts out. But while I nurse her, he starts texting me hilarious phrases in Spanish using some translating tool. He'd heard about the Spanish books during a phone call with Linnea at dinner, and is inspired. I stifle a laugh when I crawl into bed, and fall back on the pillow, thankful to rest at the end of a good, but long, day.

2 comments:

Dana Cooper said...

Wow, Cam. I was exhausted by 12:45pm.
Thanks for the great detail… I love being able to picture what's going on inside your cozy home!

marypsiaki said...

Thanks Cameron. Sounds just right, and nice to have that all recorded. If you can't live without rice, you might try a dog!