School at Home

Today I attempted to do an actual school day. I spent some time last night doing lesson plans, wrote up a schedule, and prepped some projects. My plan looked something like this:

8:30 am- Pancake breakfast

9:00 am- Calendar, days of the week, months in the year

10:00 am- Science: Read Kingdom of the Sun, start solar system project

11:00 am- Reading: sight word flash cards, lesson in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, reading from Pinkalicious book

12:00pm- Lunch and play

1:00 pm- Art: Nature Journaling feathers found in the backyard

Since nothing with three young kids ever goes as planned, I didn’t expect our day to either. The baby didn’t sleep well last night, which means I didn’t sleep well, so when my older girls wanting to come in and snuggle in my bed for a while this morning I wasn’t going to budge on account of a schedule. It was at least 9:30 before we were eating our pancakes. We got around to the calendar and a project on the months by about 10:30.

The baby went down for a nap and my 3 yo got involved in some coloring, so we managed to move on to science right away. We read Kingdom of the Sun and started an art project on the solar system. We will add to it as we continue our study of space and our solar system.

Once we finished with science it was time for lunch, which dragged on far longer than I’d hoped and involved a lot of cajoling and deal-making, followed by an extended bath time because the weather was too rainy to play outside. Once bath time was over it was about 3:00, at which time I put the two younger girls down for naps. My 5 yo and I then got down to some nature journaling and painting, followed by flash cards and a bit of reading from the Pinkalicious book she’s been working on. By this point it was after 5:00, so I decided to skip Teach Your Child so I could grab a quick shower before the little ones woke up.

I honestly didn’t expect to get as much done today as we did, and I’m really pleased with how the day went. I was worried that if I pulled back on the number of organized groups we do in a week and opt to stay home, that we wouldn’t actually get anything done but I’m feeling confident now that with a little planning ahead we can actually do this. For now I think the key will be planning only 4 subject areas per day and only 2 “school”days per week.

 

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Simplifying, Part 2

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On Friday we set out for a seal walk with our science co-op at a beach about an hour from home. We had a stop to make along the way so we arrived few minutes late, just as people were turning back due to the strong winds blowing sand in the kids’ faces. We’re all still sick, so I decided we’d skip the seals and head somewhere inland and away from the howling wind. We found a local wildlife refuge and decided to check it out. I don’t know if it was the cold weather, or because it was a Friday afternoon, but we were the only ones there. We strolled around looking at the animals and played inside the nature center when we needed to warm up and have a snack. We had such a lovely time and I realized that one of the things making it so lovely was that it was just us. I couldn’t remember the last time we had gone out and done anything by ourselves.

The homeschool community where we live is amazing. There are so many wonderful groups and co-ops available to us and always so many great events going on, that I find we’re always on the go. Every day is a rush to get to at least one, if not 2 or more, activities, our breakfasts are usually rushed and our lunches bagged, so we rarely sit and enjoy those meals together. The rare days we do have home, are then out of necessity spent cleaning and doing general life and house maintenance. Instead of playing nicely together while I clean, the girls fight and whine that we never do anything together, which leaves me standing there with my mouth hanging open trying to explain that we are always together and haven’t had a day at home in weeks. Instead of seeing these rare days at home as an opportunity to play with their toys and each other, and to relax and enjoy having a slow day at home, it seems they don’t know how to unwind from our busy schedule and don’t know what to do with their energy.

One of the reasons I had decided to homeschool because I didn’t want us to have a rushed and busy life. I didn’t want our lives to be booked solid and to be constantly rushing from activity to activity. I wanted to be wild and free, at least for the early years, to be able to wake up in the morning and say “hey, it’s nice out, let’s hit the park,” or, “I just feel like playing with legos today, let’s just stay home,” and having the freedom to do it. And yet, here we are. Looking at my calendar now I can see we are booked every day this week, and have backup activities in case something falls through. We are certainly not living the spontaneous life I had imagined. And the constant business is doing nothing to curb my daily anxiety.

It’s hard to find the right balance of activities and down time. My oldest has just turned 5, so at the moment we don’t do a lot of sit down lessons, but I know that time is coming soon. My goal for this year had been to find the right village for us, out of all the possible groups and families that are in our vast homeschool community, and we did that, but  that doesn’t mean we need to see them every day. I think what we need now is to scale back our weekly activities and spend some time reconnecting as a family and figuring out our homeschool flow. We tend to be a less-is-more kind of family and lately we’ve been running on a more-more-more kind of rhythm. Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and I’m ready to spend a season hanging in the backyard with the chickens, reading stories under the cherry blossom tree.

There Were 5 In the Bed…

It’s been a rough week. We’re all sick with nasty colds and coughs, no one is sleeping well, and everyone is extra needy. There have been no less than four people in our bed every night. I know for some people the family bed is the norm, but not for us. My husband works long hours and does not sleep well as it is, and anyone who’s ever shared a sleeping space with a child knows how much space a tiny little human can somehow take up, so bed sharing on a regular basis just doesn’t work for us. Once they begin sleeping through the night, usually around 12 months for our kids so far, they’re moved into their own bed.

I have to admit, I love having my girls snuggled up asleep next me. Whenever my husband travels for work we have sleepovers, it’s become our special tradition. Their little jammies and soft breathing, it’s just the sweetest thing. And I love the excuse to let them sneak in on the rare occasions when they’re sick or have bad dreams.  But there are five of us now. And this week there are five of us with runny noses, headaches and coughs that keep us up all night. The baby is comfort nursing all night long. I can hear the girls coughing away in their room, and at some point in the night I hear the little footsteps coming across the hall ready to snuggle up in our bed.

Last night I lay awake, in the very center of a 5 person sandwich, thinking about when I was a kid and used to sneak into my moms bed when I wasn’t feeling well or had had a bad dream. My mom’s bed was a magical place. It was enormous, this vast sea of cozy blankets and pillows, and I could creep in and curl up on one side unnoticed until morning. She had a small tv at the far corner and my brother and I would watch Fraggle Rock and You Can’t Do That On Television and pretend that the bed was a boat and the blue carpet beneath was shark-infested waters that we were each trying to push the other person into. Whenever she’d go out at night I’d camp out in her bed with popcorn watching Nick at Night and trying on all her clothes and jewelry. Her room was the ultimate safe place for me and her bed was the centerpiece, and I remember how comforting it was to be this tiny little person in this great big bed. I want my girls to have that feeling. I want them to know that they can always come in and snuggle up if they need comfort or company. I want them to know that my room and my bed, and essentially my world, are never off limits to them.

All of that being said, and all of that being true, there is still another reality to co-sleeping with three sick children: it’s hot, it’s cramped, it’s loud, it’s smelly, there’s always a foot or a fist jammed somewhere unpleasant, and I “wake up” with a crippling set of aches and pains. I say “wake up” in quotes because I’m pretty sure I never actually slept, though I did google the lyrics to Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow as well as all the songs from Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. Despite three cups of coffee, I was a real beast today and we were all getting no each other’s nerves so we packed it up and headed out to the library to stock up on enough books to get us through the rest of this winter (my choices are pictured below). I’m charging my book light and getting ready for another long night, but fingers are crossed that we all get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling better because we’re scheduled to go on seal walk with our science co-op tomorrow and I do not want to miss that!!

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Simplifying, Part 1

I’ve recently been trying to find ways to dissolve some of the daily chaos in my life. I’ve been cleaning out closets, trying to stick to a routine, trying to figure out all the little areas where I can make some changes so each day runs a little more smoothly around here. With three kids age 5 and under, it’s always going to be a bit hectic, but I found my anxiety level was about through the roof and we were all suffering because of it. Life with an infant is hard. Life with three kids is hard. What were some things I could do to make life a little bit easier on myself?

At some point I had gotten it into my head that my husband expected a fresh cooked meal every night. He’s never said such a thing. He’s not only perfectly happy with leftovers, he’s a wizard at making leftovers taste even better than the original dish. But at some point I had decided that if he had to be the one to go out to work every day and make the money for the family, the least I could do was have a fresh and delicious meal on the table when he came home each evening. As a homeschooling family, our lives are busy. We have clubs and co-ops almost daily, lessons to be done at home, and a house to maintain. Running around every morning trying to figure out what to pack in the lunch bags for the day, making a shopping list so we could drop in to the grocery quickly on our way home in the afternoon, trying to come up with at least 2 nights meals at a time while getting everyone out the door, food was beginning to become a major area of stress for me and no matter what I bought or how healthy I thought I was going to be any given week, by the time I was done feeding the kids or packing their lunches, I ended up just grabbing at quick snacks I could eat in the car. My energy was low and my anxiety was high. I needed a change.

I started asking some friends what they do to make food shopping and cooking a little easier on themselves and the number one answer was making a weekly meal plan. So simple. Why hadn’t I thought of that? So I started making a weekly meal plan and shopping on Sundays when I would only have to bring my youngest to the store with me and the other two could stay home with my husband. Then I decided to kick it up a notch. For the passed few weeks I’ve not only been planning out all of our meals and snacks for the week on Sundays, I’ve also been shopping for all of the food online and paying for it. All I have to do is show up at my grocery at my appointment time, park in a designated spot, and someone brings all of my bags out to my car and loads them up for me. Yes, there’s a $10 charge to do this, but I figure I used to spend at least that much on impulse buys while strolling the aisles, especially when the kids were with me.

Not only has this taken a huge amount of stress out of my daily life, but I find we all eat much healthier because of it. I also spend more responsibly and waste a lot less food. I love cooking and baking, and I love cooking and baking with my kids. With less on my mind during the day, and my life a little more organized, I find I now have more time and patience to bring my kids into the kitchen and get them involved in the meal prep. This week, for instance, instead of buying a box of granola bars from the store, we baked a batch of granola bars together. The girls had a great time getting messy in the kitchen, were so proud of what they created, and the results were so much tastier and healthier than we’d been buying from the store.

My next major stressor to be tackled: my wing-it style of homeschooling is. not. working. Time to revamp my homeschool style. Stay tuned.

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Peanut Power Protein Bars from the Eat Dairy Free cookbook.