As I work with homeschooling families, I am well aware that everyone does this differently, and most families do it differently as seasons and circumstances change. If you were to ask me each year I would give you a different sequence and a different focus for most of my kids. But since I was asked today, I will tell you how it was done today.
I wake at 6:00, take a bubble bath and read in the tub. Then I dress, start laundry, make muffins and my husband’s lunch. The older two children wake at about seven and turned on a CD of biographies of famous individuals from history as they stay curled in their blankets in bed, until I called them at 7:30. They come in to the front room with their blankets and curl up again while I begin reading to them about trouble in the Balkans and the assassination of the heir to the throne to Austria. We pull out a map and see the changes that occur to this region of the world. Then we read 1 Nephi 18, as the little ones tumble out of bed and join us on the floor, we discuss the reasons behind disrespect to parents and cruelty to others. This discussion takes longer than usual and we decide to skip our novel for the day. We try to read a chapter from a novel each morning-currently from “Gulliver’s Travels.” A book that is not feeding the discussion bucket as much as I like books to do.
Then it is time to eat. We sit down to breakfast and I pull out the self-portrait of Picasso. As the children eat they look closely at this painting and then I hide it. I ask the four-year-old to tell me what he remembers about this painting, then I ask the six-year-old to add anything, then the nine-year-old and last the eleven-year-old adds his details. I then turn the painting around and the children see where they got it right and where they missed a detail or two. I then add this painting to the other three of his we have already studied. I ask the children whether it is harder to study Picasso or Mary Cassatt. Is it better or worse for a painter to constantly be changing his style? After this discussion we turn to poetry and I pull out the card box and turn to the next card in each child’s section, and have the children recite a poem they have previously learned, starting with the two-year-old and moving around the table. This month we are all learning the same poem, and each child then recites as much of “How Doth the Busy Bee,” as he or she can. Some get confused with the previously learned Lewis Carroll spin-off, and everyone is impressed that the four-year-old has almost all four stanza’s down. I then read a poem from American history and the children are excited to hear it has the same rhythm as the poem they are learning.
After breakfast today the older two children watch the next lesson in Excellence in Writing-they love the teacher, who uses humor and inflection superbly. They note the next two dress-ups, the because clause and strong adjectives, and they write a keyword outline on Washington. Instead of moving straight into their first drafts, I briefly explain how to give a speech from a keyword outline and they take turns giving one to Brennen and me before going on to their first drafts. During this time Brennen reads a chapter to me, and I then read to him about the Revolutionary War, while he finger knits. The younger two children are building train tracks on the floor. Brennen then wants to do the division board on his own.
The older two children finish their papers and move on to their required work. Kamron does a math lesson in Saxon, then picks which two books from his list he will read today-“Oliver Twist,” and “The School of the Woods.” He must write a summary using the writing dress-ups he has learned so far after he reads and then he is free to study what he chooses. Aubrey is working through an online math program, called ALEKS, and then she chooses to read and write about, “All-of-a-Kind Family,” and “Nature Reader 5,” but only after telling me what she learned about the brain and how it learns stuff from your senses. She asks me to correct her spelling after she writes her paper on it, and I wonder if my child who hates to be corrected asks just to see if she can shock me.
While the older two are working, I sneak in a few minutes of work time, and I respond to emails. Then Logan asks for a new activity, and I glance at my clipboard to see which activities I have not yet introduced him to and we settle on learning about weights with the scale and the knobbed cylinders. Sethie wants to match baby and mother animals, and Brennen chooses to do a dot-to-dot with numbers through 70. After awhile Sethie wants to cut, and then do playdoh. Brennen moves to studying pop-up books, then making his own story about a snake and creating a couple of pages of pop-ups about it.
Pretty soon Kamron is done and wants to do a music class with the little ones. Aubrey asks for a sewing lesson. After this, I do a puppet show of my impromptu version of “Little Read Riding Hood,” with a reversible doll and silks. Kamron gets most of the irony and subtle humor I throw in and as we move to cleaning up for lunch he can’t stop talking about a few of the phrases I threw in, until the other kids get it too.
Lunch is time for recalling all they have learned. I ask questions about what they have read and I write short notes on their study logs. We all clean up and then it is my time to work. I have packages to log in, two reports to write, emails to answer and a run across town to drop of some supplies to a family who needs them asap.
While I spend the next three hours on this, Aubrey reads an American Girl book, and then dresses her doll and does her hair, while listening to history story tapes from Your Story Hour. Kamron builds forts with the younger boys and then plays checkers with Brennen. Seth has several bursts of crying and wanting to hit, because he thinks all cars and trains are his and Logan picked one up to play with it. I stop my work to explain and convince Seth that he can’t take a toy from someone else, and then I use distraction. I set up a train track with “two circles, please.” When he is involved I head back to my room to work.
Soon it is four-thirty and time to do chores and dinner. I sort through my chore cards and pull out the ones that most need to be done. The children pair up and I hand out the cards. One child has a melt down, and a discussion of fairness and hard work in life follows. After this child finally accepts what needs to be done chores continue. I fold laundry, oversee, and grab a homemade dinner from the freezer. This I have bought from a woman who is a great cook, as my time is limited now. After an hour Dad comes home and the children are mostly done with chores. The table is set and we all sit to eat together. Tonight the children want to know how Dad and I met, and why I would date someone four years older than me-that is so old. Then the conversation turns to the coming baby and my daughter asks, “So how did the seed get to mom’s egg anyway?” Dad tells her when he kissed me that is what happened. I tell her I’ll talk to her later when it is just she and I as the boys aren’t ready to hear all about it yet.
Dinner clean-up, baths and a wrestling match follow. Then I take the three younger boys into their room for story time. They all want “Uncle Wiggily,” then we read the next chapter in Famous Heroes about Lincoln. Brennen reads three stories to us from a Bible Reader, then Logan reads the first story in the book to us again. He almost has it memorized, which makes him feel great to read it. The boys take turns saying prayers, and they want me to say prayers with them too. Then they all want to pick the tape tonight and a squabble breaks out about who gets to pick, which makes me laugh, because they all want “Alice in Wonderland.” I tuck them in with their tape on and visit the older two kids. They are listening to the history tapes again. Aubrey is painting “a girl with a watering can,” and Kamron is building a triple-decker rock monster mansion out of legos. I tell them twenty minutes until lights out. Then I settle down to check emails, put in an order for work and read, while talking to my husband. Logan, our night owl, comes in to tell us that in the Alice story there is broken glass. He comes back to say she keeps growing and shrinking. After the third time, I take my computer and park myself in front of his door, until he stays in bed long enough to fall asleep. All the kids are finally asleep. Time to crochet one line on my current project to put my mind to rest and then prayers with my husband and sleep.