Today’s guest post comes from another large homeschooling family. Alison and Paul have seven children, five boys and two girls. Alison is also one of 17 children so she has plenty of experience with large families! They were gracious enough to share what a typical day is like at their house.
We don’t run strictly by a clock anymore. I believe that one of the greatest blessings of our homeschool has been finding and establishing our own family rhythm. On the flip side I confess we rarely make it to church on time, or anything else for that matter, but when we do arrive there are smiles on faces because we did not let the ticking of the clock beat us down.
It served us for a season. The main reason I let it go was that we moved and I couldn’t find a good spot to hang it – by this time however, I discovered it was no longer essential, that our own rhythm had taken charge. I’ll go back to the schedule board if we ever need to but for now here is what a typical day at home may look like, keeping in mind there are variations on a few specific days of the week which include field trips, homeschool group, drop off classes, grocery shopping and a morning to do a deep clean together.
Paul works from home and he is the first one up. He takes advantage of the rare stillness before anyone else is up for personal scripture study and exercise. Even though he’s home with us, a full work schedule keeps him busy in a sound proof office upstairs. But it is always a treat to have him pop in on us for a water break. When I need a little break (or quick escape from the noise) I may pop in on him. Paul always offers a little pep talk or good laugh before moving me on my way back to face whatever chaos is happening below.
Back to the mornings. The rest of us are up by the time light fills our windows, between 7:30 and 8:00 am. I am usually nursing the baby George (1 year old) in bed and a few of the younger ones are either jumping or cuddling around me. The older boys are wrestling and laughing about their dreams in their room but a quick call out has them racing to get their place in line at the bathroom. I’ll put the baby in his crib with toys or in a bedroom with older siblings so I can take a quick shower also. With only a few minutes to myself, I have made wash and wear my “new look”, if I get a few minutes in front of the mirror later I may apply a bit of make-up because sometimes I need that kind of pick up mid day. I make my bed because I know if I don’t, I can’t expect my children to do it either.
Everyone knows what they should be doing for “morning routine” but depending on the day it may require a little (or a lot) of nudging. After caring for their own needs including grooming, personal prayers and making their beds, the older three have additional responsibilities. James (11) helps Henry (2) get dressed, carries down the pile of dirty laundry then works on breakfast. William (9) lets the dog out, gives him fresh water then empties the dishwasher with Peter age 7. Their room (there are 4 of them together) should be picked up for the most part.
Lately the girls, Maryanna (5) and Clara (4) have been heading straight down in the their pajamas and get right to coloring, I am still pondering on the solution to that. No matter how clean their room is the night before they are quick to make another mess of it before breakfast – clothes, toys and books everywhere! Again, just writing this post has been helpful in my awareness of this disruption, and awareness is the first step to consciously training our children.
When Paul calls us we gather for family scripture study.
It starts with kids jumping on the couch but they are usually tame by the time we finish singing a song together. We read a few verses each, the younger ones (even baby) repeat best they can what is read out to them and Paul always gives a few of his own thoughts on what was read. We sing another song and then kneel together for family prayer. After “amen” the kids are usually jumping on the couch again and then invited to the table for breakfast.
It helps to start breakfast the night before, it helps that we rotate through the same breakfast menu each week but the biggest help is assigning my most capable helper, James (11) as “breakfast helper”.
The girls are in charge of setting the table and it is William’s job to bring the Latin/Greek root word cards, fish oil and probiotics to the breakfast table as they are all a part of our breakfast routine. We pray over our food but before we do that we recite a scripture, the same one everyday for month that we may not just memorize it, but allow it to become part of us. “Root word of the day” is selected by William and whenever the root is spoken in a word out loud everyone cheers or screams (just like they did on the old show Pee-Wee’s playhouse).
Not everyone is happy about the fish oil, probiotics and vitamin D oil but we’ve been doing it long enough that they take it quickly.
From there we move to kitchen clean-up, everyone holds their kitchen job for a year so it may be fully mastered.
At this point the younger and older children split into separate rooms. The older boys work independently on math, grammar, typing and drawing practice. James prefers to work at his corner desk.
William has claimed the small space behind the couch as his “office”.
Peter sometimes joins in with the older boys in the “homeschool room” but he is welcomed back to the “toddler room” at any time, it is his choice to either study or play and is just reminded there are separate rooms for both. His study includes facts practice, handwriting, drawing practice, and journal writing. Sometimes he gets through it all and some days he chooses just to play with the younger ones. I do not encourage or discourage either choice recognizing he is still only 7 and his transition into full time study will happen gradually just as his maturing will also. Here he chose play.
I really do not offer or force any real school training before age 8 – all the numbers and letters come through play and just through the joy of it. The older boys were very quick with reading and math and pursuing it has always been part of their “fun”. The same has not been true for the girls but I’m am trusting my gut in not forcing them into reading and math. Instead they are free to explore through play.
In the “toddler room” there is available coloring, cutting, books, toys, blocks, puzzles, play-dough, an old type writer, a large wooden doll house and always music. I use music to help set the tone of the play. Sometimes I direct the activity and sometimes I let them lead. Here the girls are working on their Valentine’s (my directing).
Here they are tracing, decorating and cutting out letters (their idea).
With the younger ones focused and productive I can sneak in some laundry, check in at the computer, peek in on the older boys or call a friend while I nurse the baby. If I’m not disrupting a great activity I’ll have the younger ones draw a picture in their composition book and they will either dictate a few sentences or I’ll allow them to try to compose it on their own.
When things start “getting out of control” I know it is time to let them go for free play either inside or out, that is usually around 11 am. But sometimes we use that time to work on large messy art projects together.
We continue our free play until the first child suggests they are hungry and sure enough it is just around 12:30 pm.
Peter is my lunch time helper, and we try to keep it very simple, sometimes eating leftovers. It is also Peter’s job to bring the blue gospel art kit box to the table. We take turns selecting which picture and story will be shared.
Sharing stories aids in meaningful discussion and reins in the usual noise and chaos of several children gathered around a small table. Keeping lunch simple allows for quick clean-up.
After clean-up is reading time. Each child is paired with their “buddies” (thank you Duggars for that idea) and they read together. James reads to Henry then puts him down for a nap, Peter reads to Clara then sets up some toys for quiet time in her room.
Everyone has their own special spot for quiet time. Quiet time is sacred. It lasts 2 hours and everyone is free to either read, rest or work on a project, quietly. This is easier said than done, it takes consistent training. It is especially hard for ages 4 through 7. When they creep out of their spot I direct them to quiet activities in the basement.
The noise starts to gradually escalate but we know quiet time is officially over when Archie our dog starts hopping and whining around in request for food – that is usually 4:00pm and by then all are in need of some physical release so I send them outside. If I am lucky I can pass baby George over to Paul for 15 minutes and walk the dog all by myself, sometimes singing to my favorite play lists along the way. On especially draining days I may end my walks with a rest flat on my back in the snow. Both of these activities fill me, just what I need before hitting the most challenging hours of the day.
We eat dinner around 6 pm so dinner prep should begin by 5 pm. I don’t know what it is about dinner making time that always turns into wild time. Our kitchen is small so besides baby George on my back, only William, my dinner helper is allowed in the mix of hot stove and chopping veggies.
By this time the house may look like this:
Everyone has a specific zone in the house that they are in charge of keeping tidy. I call out for everyone to attend to their zones before dinner and if they really do it right, post dinner clean up is always a lot smoother.
Dinner is fun because Paul joins us, we talk about what happened in our day and sometimes he’ll share an interesting article with us. Sometimes we’ll go around the table to offer our “two petals and a thorn” from the day – two good things and one bad thing and that is always insightful for me.
When dinner is through the younger ones are lured upstairs by linking together in a train. The older ones clean up and are rewarded with a later bedtime. We are still working on bedtime boundaries and reward the children with extra stories on the evenings where there is little resistance. Most evenings however we spend too much time chasing them into their jammies and reminding them their bed is not a trampoline.
Then all that is left is time for one book, one song and one prayer with each child. More than the songs and books I cherish hearing their prayers because that is when I really hear their heart. Bedtime seems to go on and on because it is hard to slip away from so many sweet hugs, kisses and thoughtful child insights. Sometimes Paul does the tucking in, sometimes I do and sometimes we do it together. Sometimes I fall asleep on their floor during the process.
Meanwhile the older boys are downstairs finishing up their school work, playing on the computer, reading or working on individual projects. During this time Paul will review their schoolwork. Sometimes Paul will also treat them to watching a ball game or playing a board game together.
I usually retreat to my laptop or sewing machine when the chance finally arises. Though the older boys don’t need tucking in, I like to hang out with them and chat a bit before sending them on their way. I know they need this too just by the way they hover over my sewing machine or laptop. Again, it is hard to finally give into the clock and enforce heads to pillows because some of our best bonding and thoughtful conversation comes at this time. But even big boys need their sleep and I know no matter what time they are in their beds, they are usually up talking and laughing way later than they should. But nightly slumber parties are among the many joys of growing up in a large family.
Once all the children have been shushed countless times and the house is finally quiet – maybe 10 pm, Paul and I can catch up. We sometimes do that over a 4 ft. high pile of laundry to fold or a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Working together without distraction is where our best talking happens. It is actually quite funny and making all sorts jokes about the happenings of the day gets us through the leftover tasks.
I always say I’ll get myself to bed by 10:30 but in the end there is usually something other sleep that catches my attention until 11:30 or midnight. That is when I usually hear George is up and wanting to be nursed again. So I nurse him and finally go to sleep myself.
So that is a pretty honest average day in our home. Looking at it this way has been tiring in of of itself. But what I am taking away from it besides the need for more morning discipline for the girls, is realizing fitting all the “stuff” and tasks in is easy, the hard part is fitting our hearts into what we do. So on days, as it happens in homes with many children, where nothing seems “to get done”, I’ll remember it is not what gets done that will make a difference in my children’s lives but its my heart as I give it, day by day, that will grow them into exemplary, happy people.
Thanks again, Alison! It was fun to see the similarities and differences we have in our days. I love that each family is unique, finds what works for them, but the basics – prayer, scriptures, and love are all there.
Tomorrow’s post . . . Chores
Heart of the Matter has partnered with 16 of the most inspiring, lovely, and just plain awesome bloggers in the homeschool community to bring you 10 days, 160 posts full of resources for those starting out, burned out or need new ideas.
Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.
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