Written by Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae.
To understand why this year looks different, I need to take you back in time.
In November of 2014, I was suffering from the infamous Homeschool Burnout. School was taking longer and longer and there was no separation between the teaching hours and the mommy hours. I was either grading papers or chasing my kids around to get them to correct their work.
My kids were forced to live with their spiral-eyed teacher 24 hours a day. “Mom” was the nice lady who only came out on weekends.
Before I could get all seven kids enrolled in boarding school, we hit upon a solution: A Mother’s Helper.
I still believed in the IDEA of homeschooling, but the implementation wasn’t sustainable or healthy for the relationships in our home.
There was simply so much volume, I couldn’t focus on the things I actually wanted to do with my kids.
In addition, my daughter was slated for major surgery later in 2015 and we knew I’d need some back-up to keep school going while we helped her through the long recovery.
I put a plea out on Facebook and found the perfect tutor to join our motley crew. It took time to get her trained and up to speed. But the effort we spent was definitely worth it.
My morning starts at 7 a.m. My husband and I do the morning shuffle for coffee and Bible reading. Then I head to the basement for a workout at around the same time my kids appear downstairs for breakfast.
They handle breakfast themselves, which gives me time to pull myself together before we jump in with both feet. We start school at 9 a.m. Sometimes the kids are already seated at the table, half-way through their work for the day. Other times, I have to round them up with The Bell.
Mrs. Jennifer walks in the door at 9 a.m. I assemble the crew for what we call “Convo.” I open us with prayer and then I do some of the things that I never seemed to have time for before.
I also use Squilt to give us all some music appreciation. (We laugh a lot. Once, my entire crew “conducted” Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and fell to the ground during every decrescendo.)
If I run across a fun video or activity during my internet time, I save it to show the kids at Convo. No day looks the same, but if everything falls apart afterward, I know we spent 30 minutes learning together. It’s the best part of the school day.
While I do convo, Jennifer checks any book work the kids have already done or things she didn’t get to the day before. At 9:30, we set the kids loose to work on their books: spelling, handwriting, and math.
Jennifer gets my 3-year-old settled with “Puffin Rock” on Netflix in my room while I dole out spelling words or try to remember 4th grade math. Jennifer joins me and we tag in and out with whatever child has needs.
At 10 a.m., the toddler gets moved to educational games on the iPad while Jennifer begins shuffling my early readers through their phonics. I meet with my 9- and 10-year-olds. I get 30 minutes of focused time to teach Latin (review here) and Writing & Rhetoric to my elementary students.
Having this uninterrupted block of time lets us actually finish all the fun curriculum I buy and also lets me know how much they are learning. They have my undivided attention and I’m teaching the stuff I love to teach!
After a snack break, we send the younger kids upstairs to play and I meet with my 11-year-olds while Jennifer finishes phonics, some learning therapy for the 6-year-old, and takes care of grading all the workbooks.
It took some time for her to learn my standards for checking work, but now it’s probably the BIGGEST time saver she offers us. She hunts down kids who don’t finish their work (I always back her up, of course) and then lets me know if somebody needs more instruction from me or my husband.
Meanwhile, I get to look my 11-year-olds in the eye and discuss their history, as well as do some Writing & Rhetoric. We’ll often talk a bit about their other subjects, just to make sure I know what’s going on and what they’re into.
Before Jennifer leaves, we have a little extra time to make sure kids are getting their co-op homework done.
One of the kids fixes lunch (there’s a chart to tell them whose day it is) and we say goodbye to Mrs. Jennifer.
By then, the workbooks are finished and checked. I can take off my teaching hat. *takes a bow*
After lunch, the kids have some school they do on the computer (history and Latin for my big boys.)
Because I am gone so much for doctor appointments and physical therapy with my daughter, I had to compromise and let the kids do their history online this year. History is my favorite to teach and to study, but removing that one subject from my to-do list has freed me up to be the mom my daughter needs me to be this year while she heals.
And it keeps me sane, which is good for all my other kids, too.
I handle my other jobs in the afternoon: teaching for Brave Writer, planning the co-op classes I teach, and other admin issues associated with running a large family. I try to check the kids’ progress with history over dinner – if they can narrate to me what they’re studying, I’m confident that we’re on the right track.
After dinner, it’s chores, reading, and Family Worship. And then we all fall into bed and do it again the next day …
Keep in mind, I’m often not home during school hours because my daughter has doctor appointments. Having Jennifer means that the school routine carries on at home and my kids accomplish the basics – and it’s graded – without me.
Some days, I show Jennifer my to-do list and say: “Just roll with me, here,” and then we work together to accomplish whatever extra project is on our plate. She may shake her head and smile, but she’s up for the adventure.
Part of homeschooling is routine, and part of its beauty comes with having the flexibility to let Life roll through. I’m so grateful we were able to plan ahead for Adventure and still keep the lifestyle we love without sacrificing relationships or my sanity.
And that beats boarding school any ol’ day …