Monday, August 26, 2013

Evolution of a Homeschool Schedule

This post needs little explanation.  It is simply the last three years' schooling schedules that I wanted to make available for any homeschool moms who are looking for ideas:)


This was when we had six kids and were in the infant stage.


This is the adjusted version for May and June but very close to what we did all year.  Earlier in the year, Ransom was still taking a morning nap from 10-12.  And, before Feburary, Timmy wasn't here.


This is what we are currently doing.  It's a bit of a change from the previous two years.

This year, I decided to create a schedule that will help us get schooling done before lunch.  This has been a much needed breath of fresh air.  However, it does mean having my 2 and 4 year olds up during all of school.  So, it's a bit more of a challenge.  I am able to have down time while the littles sleep and the older kids have quiet reading/play.

I have placed a star every hour or so on my column to remind me to adjust laundry:)  We don't do every part of this schedule perfect every day, but when we are able to stick to it, everything gets done including housework and laundry.  And that makes for a much more peaceful home.

With MFW we adjust things so that we do Bible every day, History on Monday and Tuesday, Science Wednesday, Art and Music on Thursday, and then on Fridays we do read aloud, notebooks, projects, nature walks, and timeline.  This seems to work best for logistical reasons in our home:)

In September, I will have one child in a monthly afternoon literature club and we will have PE two afternoons a week.  This was another reason for my desire to get everything done in the mornings.

We also do quick breaks as the kids need them.  Sometimes they may go jump on the trampoline, scooter around the back porch, climb a tree, or play pirates on the slide.  And, we usually munch on a protein snack mid morning as we work.

How has your schedule changed over the years?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Overcoming the Fear of Dyslexia

"profoundly dyslexic"

The words echoed inside my head as if everything else in life had suddenly abandoned me to this phrase.  And, the rushing title wave of fear threatened to overtake me in that moment.  As I sat listening to the reading therapist go on and on about strengths and weaknesses, appointment times and schedules, I heard little more.

"profoundly dyslexic"

I left her office feeling rather numb that November afternoon.

Dyslexia?  To my knowledge we had no dyslexia on either side of the family.  I had graduated with honors when I earned my B.S. in Education.  Peter earned a B.A. in History and went on to earn a M.A. in Government and a J.D..  I was struggling to believe that our child could have dyslexia.

But, I knew it was true.  It just made perfect sense.  We had used a strong phonics program and it hadn't worked.  I knew there was something deeper.

I was looking for answers but this was not the answer I wanted.  I was hoping for a quick fix but it was not to be. 

It took a few days for the tears to wash away the numb feeling inside me.  Then I did what every mother would do.  I began to research how to help my child.  But, the fear still threatened to paralyze me as I wondered about the future. 

I immediately enrolled this child in intensive one on one therapy for the next six months.  It was incredibly expensive but we had just moved and were expecting a new baby soon (in addition to homeschooling three other children and corralling two preschoolers).  I knew that I would not be able to help right away.  .

We were now on our way but I still needed my Abba Father to take away the fear and replace it with peace and hope.  He began to show me that this child was His creation.  This new diagnoses was no shock to my loving, heavenly Father:)  My child was not broken but perfectly made by a loving creator...every.single.detail...for a specific purpose.  I had to release the child that I expected and celebrate the amazing, talented person that this child is...a gifted child who has dyslexia.  Dyslexia is not something wrong.  It's everything that is right about this child.  It's what gives this child an incredibly high intellect, musical talents, artistic abilities, and technical/problem solving skills.  Watch for an upcoming post on the gifts of dyslexia:)

Over the next months, I began researching dyslexia.  I needed to hear success stories, understand what dyslexia is, how to teach my child, and learn to celebrate this new phase of life.  So, after putting many, many hours into research, I thought I would make a list of the resources that I found helpful for anyone who is just beginning this journey.  It's a journey of celebration and not fear!  So, if your child has just been diagnosed with dyslexia, rejoice.  Your child can and will do amazing things!

 Just for fun:

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
Dyslexia 101 by Marianne Sunderland
Brain Integration Therapy by Diane Craft

Susan Barton has a number of helpful videos and articles at brightsolutions for understanding dyslexia...and what it isn't.  
Dianne Craft offers helpful instruction for brain integration therapy to open blocked learning gates.  She also has some great nutritional ideas to balance kids' systems.



Here are a few keys that I learned in the process.
*Dyslexia runs in families.  This means that we may see it again in other children.  All the more reason for me to become proficient at teaching according to these new methods.
*There are preschool warning signs.  This makes me happy that I can watch for them and sad that I didn't know them years ago.  I was a classroom teacher and surely missed out on helping many children because of my lack of knowledge in this area...not to mention missing it earlier in my own child.
*Dyslexia is simply a brain that processes language differently.  My child will read the word "woods" as "forest" visualizing each word before saying it when reading aloud.  That is pretty amazing!  And, it explains why the process may take a bit longer.
*Dyslexics can compensate by memorizing an amazing number of words which can mask what is going on inside.  Because of this, they can sometimes read at a higher level than where they would test.  But, when they are given nonsense words, they will not be able to sound them out using phonics.

*I received no compensation of any kind for any information in this post.  This is just me sharing:)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quiet Book Car Edition

One after noon as I was scrolling through Pintrest, I came across one of the cutest ideas ever for keeping little boys' hands busy while sitting still and quiet (for us this would be mostly during church).  It is a little quiet book with matchbox cars and a little road on which to drive them.  With six boys in the house, we do cars!  Here is a picture of the open book.

So, I went to Joann's with my 50% off coupon and teacher discount card to see what kinds of cute automotive fabrics I could find. 

I decided to go with a red truck fabric and a gray background that I felt complimented it well.  Now, I am not a perfectionist when it comes to sewing projects and with most types of projects I like to use no pattern or make my own.  This project was no exception.  I cut two rectangular pieces of gray fabric that were the same size to use for the background.

And, with my grandmother's machine in front of me and my daughter sewing away on her little machine, I began to stitch this gift of love for my little boys.  

I cut the red truck fabric the same width as the gray fabric.  I folded it in half (vertically), pinned it to the bottom of one of the gray pieces, and stitched around the sides and bottom making sure to leave the top open.

Next I stitched vertical likes about two inches apart ( I would do 2.5-3 inches next time) to form pockets for the cars.  I decided to stitch the road onto the gray instead of adding a seperate piece of fabric here.  I did a loose zigzag stitch for each side of the road.  Using pins, I marked off one inch segments and made a tight yellow zigzag for the dashes down the center ever other inch. 

 I cut out the shape of a car, added two black buttons for wheels and stitched them to the other piece of gray fabric so that it would be on the front cover.  Then I placed the two pieces of gray fabric right sides together, pinned in the red piping, and closure strap.  Next, I stitched around leaving a small space open for turning (just like making a pillow).  I decided to add a loose top stitch in red for a finishing touch.  Now, I just need to add some Velcro to the strap to keep it closed.

Here is a picture with the cars in the pockets.  This folds up nicely to carry in my diaper bag for a great quiet activity that is always with me:)

 I'm really happy with the way this turned out.  I have the supplies to make another just like it but am thinking I may add more pages with other quiet activities like buttons, zippers, etc..  Any suggestions for the other pages of my next quiet book?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Large Family Organization...Laundry

Oh the dreaded laundry!  It is not at the top of my list of enjoyable activities.  I will also admit that the only laundry that I enjoy folding is the little baby clothes.  They are quick, easy, and cute:)  But baby laundry soon gives way to toddler, child, and teen sizes...and smells. 

I would like to say that the laundry process in our home looks something like this.

But honestly, it looks more like this.

And, sometimes it feels a bit like this.

So, I thought I would post here on the evolution of the laundry process in our home.  Yes, it has evolved over the years!

When Peter and I were first married, I worked full time.  He was in school full time and working part time.  Those were the days when I could clean the house and it would stay mostly clean for the week.  During this early phase, we did laundry once a week.  And, funny enough, I thought it was quite a chore...haha.  I continued doing laundry once a week with the birth of our first and second children.  I would do a dark and light load of  "baby" clothes and it didn't really add much to the overall chore.

When our third child came along, I started doing laundry on two different days. One day for the kids and one day for everything else.  I would separate dark and lights for the kids laundry and then do the same for our laundry.  This worked well until our fifth child arrived. 

With seven people in the house, I needed a new system.  So, I decided to do a laundry rotation and choose a different category for each day.  So, one day I would do the older boys' laundry, the three littles on another day, sheets another, and so forth.  I still had room for a catch up day...or two:)

When our sixth baby arrived, we decided to switch to cloth diapers.  That would be two babies in cloth as our fifth baby was not potty trained.  Yeah.  This made an immediate impact on the laundry.  I then started doing a load of diapers each night and hanging them to dry over night.  This was, of course, in addition to the other many loads of laundry. 

Now, with nine people in the family, we have a slightly different rotation.  We have several different laundry baskets in the family closet and the kids know where to put their dirty laundry.  So, one of the morning chores (currently Wesley's jurisdiction at 6 years old) is to take the correct basket to the laundry room.  This way, the laundry is waiting for me first thing.  The older boys have two baskets (light and dark) as do the little boys.  Abby and Timmy have their own seperate baskets and each usually takes just one load.  I divide the day's laundry into light, dark, and do separate loads for Peter's work clothes.  Adding in the daily load of cloth diapers, I do between 3-5 loads daily.

Here is our rotation:

Monday - 3 little boys
Tuesday - Abby and Timmy
Wednesday - big boys
Thursday - Dad and Mom
Friday - towels and sheets
Saturday - catch up

When it comes to folding laundry, the older three kids fold and put away their laundry independently during their afternoon free time.  I really just praise them for their work and don't require perfection.  Which sometimes means not looking in their drawers...haha.  Their folding will come along with maturity.  My purpose in having them fold is to develop a good work ethic and character not to have them become perfectionists.
I am teaching my four and six year old boys to fold laundry so the three of us work together to fold the little boys' clothing.  It's a good time chat with them about whatever is on their little minds.  The plan is for me to fold other laundry during my scheduled time each afternoon.  But, if a day gets too busy, I just do it that night or the next day.  This lets the schedule support me and not enslave me...something that took me years to learn:)

So, that's how we get our 15-25 loads of laundry done each week. How do you get the laundry done in your home?

Monday, August 12, 2013

On Character and Idols

I have come to the conclusion that the older we get the more we realize our shortcomings.  I would say that I have become more wretched over time but I believe that I have always been as wretched as I am right now.  As a teen and young adult, I thought I had it pretty much together.  Ha!  I look back and laugh at my young, over-confident pride.  And, I smile when I see it in the generations after me...especially in my children:)  I know that God will work in their lives in His timing as He has mine....removing one layer at a time.

Peter and I have just completed yet another parenting study at our church.  It's just one of those areas where we want to always be learning and growing.  As we are stretched to learn more, I am realizing just how much there is to improve in my parenting skills.

We were talking in this parenting class about idols in the context of sibling conflict.  In that moment of conflict, what is the child's heart worshiping?  What is the most important thing?  What is the thing they want more than obedience to God. THAT is the idol.  We can tell where the heart is based on actions.  Simply breaking up the fight does nothing to develop character in their hearts and lives.  They are upset because something has taken that place in their hearts and lives...that place designed to be perfectly filled only by the God of this universe.  But the welling up of anger is a sure sign that God is not on his throne in their hearts.  Wow.  As I listened to the teaching, I couldn't help but think of the areas in my life that anger me...a mess to clean, a child interrupting, a job left undone by another family member.  The list goes on and on.

I am still pondering, several weeks later, the things I have placed on God's throne in my heart and life.  That perspective is the one that I need to keep...always.  If a mess is making me angry, am I worshiping the idol of laziness or comfort?  What is so important that I would become angry?  I am definitely not angry as a result of a heart that is worshiping God in that moment!

I have been making a mental list of those things and working to remove them and replace God to his rightful place in my heart.  But, it's so hard, isn't it?  I'm doing great and then all of the sudden a toddler screams in response to the teasing of an older sibling and on my way to correct the situation, I trip over shoes left out and then it happens.  That idol begins to rise in my heart.  And, unwilling to knock it off the throne, I speak angrily to a child.

It sure is easy to sit back and marvel in disgust at how the Isrealites worshiped idols.  Isn't it?  I mean, God had just set them free from the bondage of slavery and there they were worshiping idols.
But, isn't that very much what we do in our lives every day?  God has set us free from the bondage of sin and we turn right around and worship idols.  I know it's true in my life.  *sigh*

 (Picture from

It's a journey that I know will continue for many years (longer than 40 years...quite possibly forever) as God peels back layer upon layer in my life and removes idol after idol. 

So, each time that I have a talk with a child about what his/her heart is worshiping, I also search my own heart.

As parents, what kinds of idol worship have we demonstrated for our kids?  It's time to tear them down!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Four Keys to a Successful First Day of (Home)School

Well, it's that time of year again.

The time when...
*school supplies are set out in the front of every store
*parents fight the crowds with a supply list in hand
*children's wardrobes are spruced up with new school clothes/shoes...or uniforms
*parents and children meet the new teacher
*children wait and hope that their friends will end up in their class 
*facebook, twitter, and instagram are flooded with "first day" photos

All the business and stress leads up to a day when kids are dropped off and mom goes back to her normal routine of homemaking or career building and things are more peaceful after a busy summer schedule.

But, in the homeschool world things can play out quite differently.  In our home we school year round taking just a few weeks off to wipe the slate clean for the new year.  We don't usually have to fight the crowds for school supplies.  Wardrobes aren't the same priority when you can do school in your pjs and there really is no need for backpacks and lunch boxes.  But on the first day of school at home things really kick into high gear.  The first day of school can be overwhelming for the mom who will be teaching several different grade levels with a nursing baby and/or a few excitable preschoolers running around. 

So, for all of those homeschool moms who will have a very busy first day of school this year, I want to give you four keys that I have found to unlock a mostly successful first day of HOMEschool.

1. Make a Schedule....just do it.
I know, I know...I can hear the groaning.  But, one of the keys to success in any area of life is having a written plan.  A schedule is nothing more than a written plan for your day.  There are many different types of schedules with different levels of detailing.  On my schedule, I have everything that I would like to accomplish on a daily basis and time for working on long term projects.  I recently heard a schedule described by Heidi St. John over at The Busy Mom as "the training wheels for your day".  It is not your master and you are not a slave to it.  I really like this description.  When the going gets tough, you can always leave the schedule but if there is no written plan things are likely to be left undone.  When this happens extra work (and stress) can be heaped on the next day.  The times that I have tried to school with no schedule or just a skeleton of a schedule, I have experienced more stress from things being undone and piling up than I have from sitting down creating a schedule and letting it guide me through my day.  So, have a written plan!

Here is my schedule two years ago.  It changes a bit from year to year but some of the essentials that work well for us remain the same:)  I used Managers of Their Homes to create my schedule but any schedule is better than no schedule.

2. Start before the first day or take it one step at a time.
Aside from a written plan, I do believe that this is the single most helpful thing I have ever done for a successful first day of school at home.  And, it is so simple:)  Rome wasn't built in a day!  Easy does it...really. 
The week before our "first day of school" we go ahead and start getting back into our school year schedule. I start by getting everyone (especially baby and myself) back into the bedtime, wake up, naps, and feeding routine.  The kids practice getting morning jobs done efficiently.  This just seems to take time in our home.  And time is abundant without the extra pressure of a full day of schooling ahead of us.  So, I can peacefully help those who are struggling with their morning routine.  Some years I have started the morning schedule one week and then added the afternoon the next week.  However you choose to ease into things, take it one step at a time.  This one simple key eliminates so many issues on the actual first day of school for us. 
* Next year I intend to start my Jr. High student a week before everyone else as he will begin doing more independent work.  This way I can devote as much time as necessary to ensure his success before adding in the other kids.

3.  Train the littles.
This is high on my list of priorities before the first day of school.  The week (or two) before that anticipated first day, I start sitting down with my toddlers and preschoolers at different times throughout the day and playing the games that I intend for them during school times.  This gives me the chance to teach them the appropriate way to play with and clean up the games, puzzles, and art (you know...without throwing pieces all over the house and painting the walls).  It also gives me the opportunity to see how well each of these items will work for that child and the chance to put away the items that just for independent play.

4. Begin with exploration, fun, and laughter.
On the actual first day of school, my kids are always curious about new books, notebooks, computer programs, note cards, supplies, etc.  So, we do very little "school" on the first day of school...although they do learn a great deal;)  Since there is no reason to hit the ground running, I let them have a chance to thumb through things and become familiar with each book or program during the time when they will be doing that subject.  They can also ask all of those 100 questions:)  I look for any project, art, experiment, or kitchen fun in the first few weeks of our MFW curriculum and plan on that for our afternoon school time (when we usually do MFW).
One year we painted t-shirts that had our school name and verse on the back. 

Last year we went on a field trip for our first day of school.  The second day is available here
To add to the fun, we usually have a special breakfast and then a protein snack mid morning to keep them going (actually we do the protein snack pretty regularly throughout the school year).  Lastly, remember to find opportunities to laugh throughout your day.  It might seem obvious but I find that I can become so focused on the details that I forget to laugh with the kids.  Learning is fun!  So, creating a love for learning takes precedent over any one lesson in our school. And sometimes that means leaving my lovely schedule:)

These four keys have unlocked a more successful first day of (home)school for us the last few years. 

What things do you do to unlock success for your first day of school?