Homeschooling

A New Academic Year & A New Schedule

It’s the start of another school year for us, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

This year, however, we have a more complicated schedule as three of our children are being homeschooled (The Eldest, Child #4, and Child #5), two of our children are attending a Catholic Montessori grade school (The Twins), and the other two (Child #6 and the Baby) are just. plain. busy.

So, how do I manage it all?

With a good schedule and a lot of grace.  (And coffee, of course.)

Our New Schedule

Some of you may be curious as to how my day now looks, so I’ll break it down.*  Maybe you’ll glean an idea or two that might work for you.  Maybe not.  All families are different and have different needs, after all.

6:00am

Wake-up!  My husband and I still pray the Morning Office and end with about twenty or so minutes of silent prayer.  The three oldest children set their watch alarms and join us at 6:30 for a few minutes of their own silent prayer.  This time ends at 6:40 when the coffee maker beeps to signal that it’s ready for us, at which point I run for the kitchen and thankfully pour myself a big mug full.

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My lovely coffee pot with my favorite chipped mug.  My mother gave it to me.

6:40am

The older children commence Early Morning School, which consists of math facts, Latin, or handwriting.  The Eldest, however, does Saxon Math with my husband.

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The Twins working on a little Math and Latin this morning.

The only thing different about this time is that the two children attending the Montessori school must practice their piano in the morning, after their school work.  They only put in fifteen minutes each, but this is important because after being confined in school all day, who would want to sit down at a piano when getting home later on?  Not these boys.

While the older children are working on things that do not require my help, I sneak in a few minutes of computer time and then get ready for the day.

7:45am

My husband and The Twins leave.  The rest of us eat breakfast and commence Morning Time.  This looks pretty much the same as it did last winter.  While the children eat breakfast, I read the Mass readings and then we recite our poetry.

Right now The Eldest is back to working on a Shakespearian soliloquy, Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be.”  We had started this one earlier in the year, but had to take a break to memorize The Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron for a program she’s involved with called. Catholic Schoolhouse.

Catholic Schoolhouse is a group of students who meet once a week and do some really awesome stuff.  (How’s that for an explanation?)

The little children are working on the Ten Commandments and the 46 books of the Old Testament.  A few years ago I came up with a jingle for it, to the tune of Jingle Bells.  It’s linked it below.  (It’s certainly not professional, as I simply sat down one day and recorded with talking babies and banging toddlers in the background.)  Feel free to use it, if it’s helpful.

 

You’ll notice that the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are missing.  That’s because the children already know them in order, as the law books.  You might also notice that I moved 1 & 2 Maccabees to follow the history books.  I wanted to impress upon the children the 4 kinds of books in the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophetic.  As a former teacher of the Old Testament, I found it helpful to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of writing.  All the other books are in order, however.

9:00am

After breakfast clean-up and piano, it’s time for Mid-Morning Prayer.  I moved this time up a bit, because it seemed to flow a little better with the baby’s schedule.  Remember, during all this busyness, I’m somehow nursing and caring for a baby and a 2-year-old.

During this time, we’re singing two hymns and learning a new prayer penned by St. Therese.  We finish this time together with a review of all our Latin vocabulary.

9:30am

The Eldest works on her Latin from Classical Academic Press.  Child #4 does Math and Spelling.  Child #5 sits down with me, and we learn to read.

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Who doesn’t love kindergarten?  Lots of coloring and learning of sounds.  I use Seton for phonics and Bob Books for fun.

11:00am

Lunch time!  This year I have to have a longer stretch of time here because The Eldest participates in an online class on writing through Schole Academy twice a week, which happens to be during lunch.  But this class has been wonderful for two reasons:  1.  She loves it, and  2.  I don’t have to do a single thing for writing and rhetoric anymore.

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Here she is, “attending” class, with her headphones on, to block out all the background noise.

During lunch we still listen to audio books from Audible.  Currently we’re enjoying Tan’s The Story of Civilization Volume 1, as we’re studying the Ancient World in history.

And that’s enough for today!

 

 

*Care to see how my day looked last winter?  Click on “A Day in the Life Series” in my tag cloud on the right.

 

Homeschooling

Summer School

We never actually quit doing school; we go all year round.  Why?

  1. The children get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives them something to do.
  2. I get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives me something to do.
  3. It’s fun to learn new things with zero pressure.
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These two love Summer School.  They just show up and look cute.

What do we do for Summer School?

There are a few things that never go away, no matter what the season, which I call Early Morning School, Morning Time, Piano, and Mid-Morning Prayer Time.  These things work well for our family and provide a nice structure to the day.  That’s not to say that we can’t break from them if something comes up, but rather, they are there to guide us.

Early Morning School is that time before breakfast wherein the children will just pick on each other if there’s nothing to do.  So the night before, I lay out a math facts sheet and a handwriting sheet for my 2nd and 4th graders.  My 6th grader gets a math facts sheet and then works on her typing skills.  None of these things require my assistance, which is good, because I’m usually nursing a baby and drinking my coffee.

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Here’s the cursive handwriting book my 4th graders are using.  It’s got lovely photos.  It’s Seton.

Morning Time is that time during breakfast when I read the Mass readings aloud and then we recite our poetry.  I’ve said it before, but I like doing these two things at the breakfast table because the children are more likely to listen as food is in their mouths.  Right now we’re working on Paul Revere’s Ride.  We do it every summer, leading up to the 4th of July, when we’re feeling very patriotic.

Piano also never ends in the summer.  We keep right on with lessons.  The four older children must play through each of their songs at least 3 times after breakfast.  I tried once making them play for a certain amount of time, say twenty minutes a day, but found we were terrible at keeping track of time.  But for whatever reason, playing a song three times was easier to do.  (And I find that the ones who like playing piano will continue to play on.)

Mid-Morning Prayer Time happens sometime in the morning when I call everyone together, and we sing a hymn and offer a prayer for our intentions.

All of these things are further detailed in my Day in the Life Series, which you can find on my sidebar under “tags,” if you’re curious.

The only other thing that I’m consciously doing for school in the summer is grammar with my three boys.  We are using Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series.  This takes about twenty minutes, then we’re done for the day.  I don’t have anything “scheduled” for the afternoons.  After all, one must have time to splash around in a kiddie pool and climb trees.

Any questions?  Just ask.

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 3

In Part 2 I left off with Mid-Morning Prayer.  This is actually the second time during the morning when we all gather together, and so some might call it “Morning Time,” which would make for two Morning Times for our family.  Well, whatever you want to call it.  Here it is.

10am Mid-Morning Prayer

At around 10am, when the children are done with their school, which I mentioned in Part 2, and I’ve checked and graded it, I call them all to the living room for prayer.  We begin with a hymn, I ask for intentions, which are often very sweet, we pray a short prayer like the Memorare, and then we close with a hymn.  That’s it.

For example, during the Christmas season we sang Good King Wenceslaus, because it’s their favorite and also O Tannenbaum, because we’re German, and it’s fun to sing in a foreign language.  (Well, maybe we’re a bit pagan too?  A whole song glorifying a tree?  That’s not a hymn.)

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Child #5 drew this picture of our family singing.  I guess we’re missing a few people?  And who’s that angel supposed to be?  Her?  Ha!

Today we sang Good King Wenceslaus for both the opening and the closing because the boys love all those verses about kings and pages and fierce blizzards.  They’re obsessed.

Before I let them all run off to their next task, however, we do a review of everyone’s Latin vocabulary.  Sometimes we play Latin Around the World, but most days, I call out the English, and they shout back the Latin.  And yes, it’s shouting because they all want to be heard.  Sometimes this gets to be very loud and chaotic.

10:15am More School

At this point, the Eldest takes the two youngest children and disappears.  Glory be to God in the Highest.

Then I commence Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press with Child #2, #3, and #4.  They all ardently insist that this is their favorite school to do.

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The Eldest.  Her Latin is on the right.  The next 3 children all use Song School Latin on the left.  These are all from Classical Academic Press, which is the best place ever for curriculum.

When Latin is done, Child #4 disappears, and I help Child #2 and #3 with the remainder of their school for the day, which is usually Math and Grammar.

Then it is my favorite part of the morning:

10:45 am Outdoor Recess Time!

While the children are frolicking around outside, I fold the first load of laundry and put the second load in the dryer.  Then I start heating up leftovers for lunch.

And that’s enough for today.  Stay tuned for Part 4.

 

Book Review, Homeschooling, Motherhood & Parenting

Mere Motherhood: A Book Review

Are you exhausted?  Overwhelmed?  Feeling inadequate?  Did you yell* at your children today?

Have you ever heard of Cindy Rollins?  She recently wrote a book, and I think it’s the best thing that’s been written on homeschooling and motherhood in a good, long while.  I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t put a book down.  It took me about 24 hours to read.

And yes, I know I’m interrupting my series “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Don’t worry, I’ll continue with Part 3 later this week.

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Cindy Rollins.  Queen of Morning Time.

Her book is called Mere Motherhood.

Top Ten Reasons Why This Book is Worth Reading:

  1. Even though Cindy did not enjoy being pregnant, and feared labor and delivery, she had nine children – 8 boys and 1 girl, plus a few miscarriages.  (Birth stories are never boring to read about.  Click HERE for my mother’s account of me.)
  2. No, Cindy is not a Catholic, but she greatly esteems Stratford Caldecott.  (This man was a genius.  You should read him too.)  And she quotes Mary Eberstadt and Josef Pieper and G.K. Chesterton.
  3. She loves the Bible.
  4. She thinks everyone ought to thank God for Catholic hospitals and their pro-life stance.
  5. Her boys blew stuff up.  And started fires.  And wrecked 7 cars.
  6. She thinks Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the best poems ever written, which it is.
  7. She admits that she’s made mistakes, like trying to live on a old decrepit farm, infested with rodents.
  8. All kinds of animals make an appearance in her memoir – rats, snakes, bats, mice, hawks…these things are also never boring to read about.
  9. She once wore jumpers, until her daughter pointed out that they’re not very fashionable.
  10. She takes on tough issues like puberty and spending too much time on electronic devices.  (Mea culpa.)
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If you need a good book, I highly recommend this one.

If you’d like more on Cindy Rollins, I’d recommend listening to her podcasts done with Pam Barnhill.  There are three of them: Episodes 1, 27, and 43.  They’re all great and can be found by clicking HERE or on Pam Barnhill’s website, which I’ve linked on my sidebar.  Once you’re there, click on Podcasts, then on Morning Basket.  Rollins also does podcasts for the Circe Institute, if you’re interested.

*If you yelled at your children, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Click HERE for a post on that.
Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2

Hello Dear Readers!  Welcome to “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 2.”

But before we begin, remember that the following routine is just what works for our family.  Of course your routines and daily schedules will be different, as your families are different!

8:15 am Breakfast

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The Toast Master.  He makes the toast every morning.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again.  One of the best decisions we’ve made was to Eat Breakfast Like a Prison Camp.  It works well for us.  Everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning, except Saturdays and Sundays.  (Saturday is generally oatmeal, and Sunday is cold cereal, which the children think is the best thing ever.)  I like this arrangement because it’s not stressful.  There’s no complaining because the children know what to expect.

While the Toast Master is doing his thing, Child #4 sets the cups, Child #5 sets the napkins, and I am putting the first load of laundry in.  Then we’re ready for action.

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Mmm, peanut butter toast, again.

Morning Time

After Meal Prayer, I read the Mass readings of the day while the children eat.  This is the beginning of what some call “Morning Time.”  If you haven’t heard of it, check out Pam Barnhill on my sidebar and look for podcasts with Cindy Rollins.  Rollins is the Queen of Morning Time, and later this week I’ll post my review of her great book, Mere Motherhood.

I have chosen to use breakfast as our Morning Time for two reasons.  1.)  We are all naturally gathered together anyway.  And 2.)  The children have food in their mouths, so it’s generally quieter.

After I read the Mass readings, we do talk about them, but only briefly.  Then I eat my food, and we finish with our Poetry.  The children are always memorizing something, and most of the time, I have them all do the same thing.  We just finished John 1 for the Christmas season, and now we’ve moved onto “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.

After all the children have had a chance to recite, they put their dishes away, and we break up for the next part of the morning.

9:15am

At this point the children brush their teeth and take turns at the piano.  (Child #2 and Child #3 have usually finished their piano before breakfast.)  And I sweep the upstairs floors and switch out the laundry for a second load.

One-by-one, as they finish piano, they come back upstairs and begin Round Two of school.  The Eldest works on a Science workbook from Seton, a little history reading from RC History, and Latin from Classical Academic Press.  (Classical Academic Press, by the way, is now my favorite place for curriculum.  More on that later.)

Child #2 and Child #3 commence Spelling and Phonics from Seton.  Child #4 works on Math, also from Seton.  Child #5 “plays” with Child #6, which means, that Child #5 is supposed to keep the Toddler busy and distracted enough so that she’ll not destroy everything when my back is turned.

And during this time, I pull aside Child #3, my slow reader, and have him read to me.  Then Child #4 reads to me.

Then I pour myself a stiff drink* and get ready for Mid-Morning Prayer Time, which I’ll detail in Part 3 of “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  Stay tuned.

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*Just kidding about the stiff drink!
Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 1

I might be a Crazy Fool.  After all, I have 6 children under the age of 12, I’m a Catholic, I homeschool, and I’m pregnant.  Goodness gracious!  To most in our culture, I am a crazy fool.  Why would I do such things?

The short answer?  Because my heart is full of love.  The long answer?  Uh, I don’t have time for that because I have 6 children under the age of 12, and I homeschool.

In any case, I was asked if I might elaborate on what a Typical Day looks like in my household, and so today is Part 1.  The other parts will come over the next week or so.

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This is where it all begins.  Note the candles.  Everybody likes candles because they’re fun and potentially dangerous.  We probably need more.

6:00 am

BEEP!  The alarm goes off, and my husband and I roll out of bed, grab our Liturgy of the Hours, and begin the day with prayer in the living room.  We do this in the semi-dark, with just a lamp and a few candles.  Why?  Because there’s something mysterious about flickering candlelight, and it’s cool.

We have 45 minutes set aside for this.  The first half is prayed aloud with Morning Prayer.  The second half is spent in silence.  During this time the children are also waking up, and slowly they join us.  They grab a blanket and crawl up on the couch in silence.  I’d like to think they’re praying too, but probably, they’re just zoning out.

So as not to worry when this time is up, and for very practical reasons, we program our coffee pot to be done at 6:45.  When it beeps, we’re done.

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Coffee’s done!  Let’s get this party started!

6:45 am

At this point, many things happen.  Of course my top priority is the coffee.  So, I grab my cup and head to the computer for a half an hour of work.  My husband, Blessed Saint That He Is, commences Math with the eldest.  (I hate math.  See HERE for that one.)  Children 2,3, and 4 begin handwriting and math facts.  Children 5 & 6 wander around and mess with stuff.  You know, like tear books off of shelves.

7:15 am

My husband showers, I shower, and the older children finish up their Early Morning School and begin their next task.  Child #2 makes the toast.  (Click HERE for an account of that.)  Child #3 practices piano.  Children 4 & 5 set the table.  The Eldest finishes her math.  And the toddler?  Uh, she’s busy wrecking something else.

8:15 am

Breakfast and Morning Time.  Stay tuned for more on that in…A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 2.

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“Quick, Mom’s not looking!”  Mom from the other room yells, “I heard that!  Get back to work!  Somebody get that baby away from the bookshelf!”*

*Hmmm, Yelling?  Guess I should reread my post about that…