Written by Mystie Winckler of Simply Convivial
Even though I grew up homeschooled, homeschooling my own children is more work than I imagined it would be.
It’s not so much the teaching or the tutoring or the reminding everyone five times a day that they have a checklist to check. What gets me is the emotional rollercoaster caused by a house full of children growing both physically and intellectually.
Learning is hard work. Sure, we have a good time and love our good books, but sticking with a math problem until it’s correct, having to revise a paragraph again, and turning to the checklist when you’d rather turn to Legos is as difficult for the kids as laundry and meals and toddler meltdowns are for me.
We’re on the same journey, my kids and I, learning to walk the path of faithfulness rather than the path of momentary ease. Together, we’ll grow.
And this morning is a Monday. Up and at ‘em and back to it.
I pat myself on the back for swinging myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m., although my alarm went off at 5. Normally I’d go out for a walk first thing, but there’s ice on the ground and snow in the air, so I just get dressed – with an extra layer – right away.
Downstairs, I see I am not the first one up. My 7-year-old is sitting on the couch, reading Redwall. I smile, give him a hug, get a glass of water, and make a cup of coffee.
Coffee in hand, I head down to the office – where I can close a door – and read for awhile.
When I come out to fill my glass again, the 7-year-old is cutting paper into small bits at the crafting desk. By the time I return, the 9-year-old has joined him and they’re chattering away. I remind them to keep the volume down before 7, then shut myself back up in the office for fifteen or twenty more minutes to take care of email and a few other online administrative tasks.
About 7 I emerge and find the kids all getting their breakfast – today it’s toast. My husband is making a pot of coffee, for which I am grateful. I give hugs and directions while pulling out the math bin and filling the kids’ clipboards.
After breakfast, everyone does morning chores. We try to be done with breakfast and chores by 8, but in the dark and cold of January and February, it’s usually more like 8:30 – we’re all just a little slower.
This is the time of year I am grateful for year-round homeschooling. I prefer to make hay while the sun shines – our days are more energetic and productive when the sun is up before we are rather than after. When the days are short, so is my energy. Eggs and another cup of coffee do help.
The snow does not deter my teen from taking his morning walk, but everyone else (except the 4-year-old) grabs his or her clipboard and starts with math. I am still reminding the 4-year-old that her chore (unloading plastics and silverware from the dishwasher) is not optional.
Later than usual this morning, about 8:40, I turn on our Morning-Time-cue song over the house speakers. Andrew Petersen sings “Little Boy Heart Alive” and we meet up at the table with Memory Work binders and coloring supplies. For the next half hour we sing, recite Scripture and poetry, repeat catechism and creed, sing, and then I dismiss them with a benediction.
Our Morning Time is short (shorter this year than it’s ever been) but potent, setting the tone for our day and reminding us all of what’s ultimate.
Cup of coffee in hand, I tell my 11-year-old that he’s first for Monday meeting.
For the next hour-and-a-half (I never think it will take this long, but it always does) I do a “brief” weekly overview meeting with each child (not the 4-year-old). We go over last week’s work, move assignments that still need attention to this week’s checklist, fill in assignments for this week, look over the calendar together, and complete “pay day” for weekly chores.
Years ago, I received one piece of advice from older moms over and over again: Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.
In other words, if you don’t check the work, don’t assume they’re doing it at all, much less doing their best. Our Monday meetings ensure that even if I miss checking on the lists and work during the week, we’ll go over it together regularly enough that forgotten and sloppy work doesn’t fall through the cracks. We all need accountability.
As I’m cycling through the children’s one-on-one meetings, piano practice is a near-constant background. Four children in lessons means nearly 2 hours daily of piano practice. When the weather is nice, I’ll often pop outside and walk up and down in front of my house to “get steps” during at least one practice session, but the weather is not nice, so I do my best to ignore the constant noise and carry on.
Today no one needed math help, for which I am grateful – that is not my best thing. During my 9-year-old’s Monday meeting we added spelling copywork to her spiral notebook. Now she brings today’s work to me to look over; I have her rewrite two words where her handwriting was sloppy.
It’s nearly lunch time and my just-turned-9-year-old announces that she’s done for the day. We look at her checklist together. Math page? Xtramath? Read your Bible? Spelling? Read to the 4-year-old? Piano practice? Yes – she’s done with her list for the day. History, science, and other “read aloud and then narrate” subjects we do as group time on Tuesdays and Thursdays with friends.
The 11-year-old appears, claiming to be done and asking if he can make lunch.
While he cuts apples, I look over his list. He has several weekly tasks which he can choose when to do; he’s done his daily math, typing, piano, and Bible reading, apparently choosing not to do any of his weekly tasks today. His choice. He’s had enough painful Friday afternoons to know it’s better to spread them out – time management lessons are best learned by experience.
After a lunch break the 13-year-old does another half hour of work, completing a logic lesson and his history reading, but leaving the written history narration for Tuesday.
I’m not sure where the afternoon goes. Legos are involved, as well as play time with neighborhood friends out in the snow. I spend about 40 minutes writing, but after folding laundry, answering 4-year-old questions, settling squabbles, answering a couple emails, cleaning a bathroom, texting one friend and Voxing another, suddenly it’s time to make dinner.
It’s dark now. My husband corrects math pages (more gratitude!) while I make dinner. One child with some math errors is in the same room, so they do a quick math tutoring minute (or ten) as my husband helps him figure out his mistakes.
Another day in the books.
The trick to consistency is finding that right balance of work that challenges but doesn’t overwhelm.
It takes trial-and-error and a cheerleader-smile in the face of everyday complaints or slumping shoulders. Sure, they want to slack off when they can; so do I.
Together, though, we’re facing each day with increasing faithfulness, developing perseverance and character through mutual accountability, knowing that it matters and we’re maturing. That’s success at the end of the day, not a 100% math score or a perfect first draft.
Our work as homeschool moms requires attention and responsibility – working hard and helping our kids through their hard work – but there’s no more satisfying life than a life of growth lived together.
In what ways do you find yourself growing with your kids each day?
A lovely day. Thanks for sharing.
This is so helpful, thank you for sharing!
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You are one busy mama! I like your Monday meetings. That’s smart.
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A busy Monday morning for sure!
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My favorite kind of Monday mornings. 🙂
I love the Monday meeting idea. I may ad that in during my next block to see if it helps us keep accountable. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for commenting, Sharon! The Monday Meetings have really helped me stay on top of where everyone is in their work.
Reading your post this morning was a breath of fresh air to me. We have some shuffling to be done and iv’e just felt so overwhelmed. I’ve come to the conclusion that I nee to allow my children more time for independent work and pull back from feeling like I need to be right by their side for every assignment. Kind of liberating. I’d be curious to see some of your checklists and what you consider daily and weekly assignments 🙂
Here are two posts with examples of some of our checklists:
Wow it sounds so “ideal” and smooth….something to shoot for….I struggle with hitting a slump around 1pm….any tips to help with that? Encouraging post, thank you!
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I get that slump too. I recommend handing the youngest off to a big sibling and taking a 20 minute power nap! Followed by a cup of tea 🙂
I definitely hit an afternoon slump! That’s why we work to be done by lunch, because then I am not trying to teach or make others be productive (or myself) then. The afternoons are random hodgepodges.
I have 7 kids so I definitely identify with your feelings here. The hardest thing about homeschooling for me isn’t the academic stuff, it’s the emotional and growing stuff – the everyday life with kids and their struggles. 🙂
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Thanks for sharing. This is so helpful as I begin to take the desire to homeschool my 2 and 4 year old, and turn it into more of a concrete and achievable plan. I’m feeling very overwhelmed by where to start and what to use.
I am growing in my flexability. I too grew up homeschooled and finding teaching to be a totally different animal 🙂