Written by Pam Barnhill
I woke at 4:30.
No, I don’t do this every morning — not at all. But there are a number of mornings each month where I wake early, my thoughts whirling in my head, and I know it is futile to lie there and try to go back to sleep.
My first stop is the coffee pot and then I tiptoe upstairs and start to work. The thoughts won’t even let me have quiet time first thing.
My husband is the first to arrive. He is newly semi-retired and he cracks a joke about us being old and not able to sleep. He recently came home from his day-job to help me with the business and the kids. He still moonlights as a National Guard officer and that keeps our family hopping sometimes.
By the time the first boy stops in for a hug around 6:30 I am halfway through my to-do list for the day and feeling like a champ. If only I didn’t need sleep. Every day could be like this.
Around 8 a.m. I go in to wake Olivia, our oldest. She is not an early riser like the boys. In fact, she is the exact opposite. It is harder than ever to get kid-free time around here.
The boys and dog head off for a walk to the park with Dad while I get dressed and chat with some team members about work for the day via a phone app. Every few minutes I stick my head in to make sure Olivia is moving in the right direction.
Great! She is breakfasting and reading. Moving along she actually does her handwriting and math too. Yay, for older kids.
The boys return around 9:00 and we spend a few minutes doing chores — tidying the living room and bedrooms, emptying the dishwasher, and starting a load of laundry — before beginning our school day about 9:15.
We start with Morning Time
Morning Time is everyone’s favorite. Today it will be a little shorter than yesterday, but we begin with prayers.
I light a candle and we go around the table naming everyone we want to pray for — a deacon at our church on the first anniversary of his wife’s death, my stepdad who recently had surgery, far away friends, and “all the dogs in the world” (that last one so we don’t have to name them individually).
We recite a litany of prayers because Thomas is preparing for First Communion this year and Morning Time is where we review the ones he needs to know.
From there we move on to memory work. We start with “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The big kids will be reading that in co-op later this semester.
From there we move onto a collection of memory work from math, Latin, science, and other subjects. As I play the memory work on my phone the kids sing or recite along while they draw or play with kinetic sand.
After memory work, we read a poem from our Middle Ages Morning Time plans — Thomas Hardy’s “A Cathedral Façade at Midnight.” I show the kids a picture of statues on the outside of European cathedrals.
I know they don’t “get” what the poem is talking about, and I resist the urge to explain. We talk for a few minutes about the personification of the moon in that poem and they really enjoy that part.
Finally, I read about half of You Wouldn’t Want to Work on a Medieval Cathedral and save the rest for tomorrow. We were excited to make some connections between the book and our IEW writing lesson from co-op on Tuesday.
We end Morning Time by blowing out the candle (today was John’s turn) and singing “The Doxology.” Normally there is a flurry of tidying the table, pulling out books, and stalling as our table work begins. They plead and we actually begin the day by listening to our audiobook of Adam of the Road for a literature class. It buys them some extra drawing time.
I sneak away and finally get in the quiet time I missed that morning. I spend a few minutes reading Scripture and my current book (an advance copy of The Read-Aloud Family — good stuff).
Next is table work
This is the time of day when each of the kids is working on more independent subjects. I try to finish with the 8-year-old first. My logistical secret is to get him done and off playing so I can focus on the other two. It works some days better than others.
Today goes pretty well. He does Math-U-See, All About Reading, All About Spelling, Song School Latin, and steel drum practice. I am at-elbow or directly involved with many of his subjects. When he wants to, he can be done and gone in a little over an hour.
While we are working, the other two kids are at the table doing their independent studies. My 10-year-old does Math-U-See, All About Spelling, All About Reading, and handwriting. My oldest does Math-U-See, Phonetic Zoo, piano practice, A Sentence a Day, and handwriting. Together they do IEW, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, literature, and science for co-op.
So table time is a dance between working with the kid who needs me to teach a lesson and simply being there and available as they work independently. I make it a point to stay engaged during school time and not wander farther than the laundry room or a quick trip to load the dishwasher.
Late in the morning, Olivia heads off to the kitchen to make a lunch of quesadillas and applesauce. I love having someone else who can do that while I finish up the day with her brother. The kids eat while I read science to them.
Play and work
Finally, we are done around 1 p.m. Normally we would head off on Thursday afternoon for a playdate at my friend Jessica’s house. I enjoy that time to unwind and chat with a fellow homeschool mom. Since Jessica lives on a quiet cul-de-sac the kids have free reign of the neighborhood to ride bikes and play. Today Matt takes the kids and drops them off without me since I am under a deadline for work.
I spend the afternoon working on book launch tasks for Better Together, my new book about Morning Time, and I prep for my weekly Instagram and Facebook Live videos. Meanwhile, Matt gets the kids from their playdate and runs them to dance and Ninja Gymnastics.
Fortunately for me, I remembered to thaw an extra pasta and cheese casserole I made a couple of weeks ago as part of my proactive homeschooling plan. I put it in the oven about 5 p.m. All I have to do is throw a salad together about 6 p.m. and dinner is done.
The evening is dinner, baths, bedtime routines, and then some TV with Olivia. She and I are binge-watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I am glad — that’s all I have the energy for.
The great thing about homeschooling is that every day is different. Jessica has already texted me asking if we would spend tomorrow morning at our local nature park. (Temps in the 60s with sunny skies? Ummm, yes, math can wait.) Tomorrow afternoon is our bi-weekly family cleaning session. Different days keep it all fresh.
The rewards of homeschooling are getting to spend your days as a family, experiencing the moments when wonder and learning collide. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
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