Friday, February 4, 2011

SEEKING BALANCE {in the School Day}

The School Room. Lydia's Kindergarten desk and calendar pictured on right. A table open for those who want to craft or do something that takes space under the window. Egg crates hold dittos and things we need to access easily for our 5 girls(Toddler to 8th grade).


Dear Rebecca,

I was wondering if I might ask for some input (again).;) We homeschool our boys (two oldest) 60% of the week and two days they go to a sort of co-op, classical homeschool support school. On the three days I am home with our 4 children, ages 10, 7, 4 and 1, I struggle a bit to spend any quality time with my girls who are the youngest two. Obviously the baby requires attention from me but I have not been able to do things regularly with her like reading, play, etc. My 4 year old would also love more time with me but it is all I can do to read for a short time and then review phonograms with her. Sad. I often feel a bit stressed getting through our assignments, often not much before 4 p.m. and then feel like I had several missed opportunities with my girls.

I'd so appreciate your thoughts on how I might organize the day to also spend time with my 4 and 1 year old. What things are you doing with your younger two to teach them and nurture them?

Thanks for your gift of helpfulness that you so readily share with others.



Hi Kim!
You know, I think we all struggle from time to time feeling like we are failing in our effort to juggle everything. I know that Mama's ache when it feels like certain children aren't getting as much time or attention as I would like. I have sought the Lord myself over that issue from time to time. And He is so creative!

Here are some things that have helped me:

1. Realizing "Quality Time" does not always mean sitting down. Children love to be needed. They love to help Mama cook a meal, set the table, pull weeds, clean the bathroom or fold the laundry. It is fun (and play) for little ones to help Mama.
2. A Tea Party can take Five Minutes. A tea pot full of apple juice and a bowl of popcorn at a child sized table is elegant to a 4, 5 or 6 year old. Special moments do not have to be elaborate, and they don't have to take long. Just being willing to carve out five to fifteen minutes- look her in the eye and ask her about her favorite things- is worth so much to a little heart and to yours.
3. Realizing Quantity Time is Valuable. I have heard it said that quantity time is more valuable than quality time and I think there is something to that. The Deuteronomy 6 passage that we homeschoolers often hang our hat on says: "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." ~Deut. 6:7 You are so blessed to be home with your children!

The process of disciplining/ teaching God's commands takes quantity time. It's precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little (Is. 28:10). Just being aware of your role at home, guiding and directing your little ones back to God's Word all throughout the day is ministry and doing good to their souls.

I file the girl's completed schoolwork in binders. Each girl gets one binder for the Elementary years, one for the Middle years and soon to be added- one for the High School Years! To keep it easy, I just have wallet sized photos printed at Costco and place their picture on the binding.

4. Having a Daily Schedule/ Routine Really Helps. I find if we start and end the day with a specific schedule then I am able to fit more in than without it. I don't do well thinking on the spot, so spending a few minutes once a week to fill in my schedule works well for me. Without it, I am simply facilitating school work. I don't think our schedule is impressive, but I'll share a bit of it with you in case it may help:


- Chores and Individual Bible time

- Meet for School

* Three fun songs with hand motions (I made a song schedule I just loop through it; find it here);

* Read a character/ Bible story (Right now we are using this)

* Memory Work (Working on the Shorter Catechism with the three older girls and small memory verses from our Bible story- above for the two little ones)

* The little ones break off and have their jobs while the older ones do their Daily Paragraph Editing with me- Lydia (6) works on a Rod and Staff Workbook and Hailey (2) is given a simple task like linking beads are something small to play with. That takes 10-15 minutes and when we are done and the little ones put their things away, they get a miniature candy.

* Read History aloud to everyone (I edit out sections that teach about false gods). The little girls usually have a coloring page to work on while I read and if they are quiet they get another miniature candy when we are done (yes, I reward them with sugar. I know, it's terrible but they love it!)

*Then we break off: Older 3 girls work on their Math and English while Lydia, Hailey and I go downstairs to prepare lunch.


- During lunch Faith reads her Science work to all of us (it's from Answers in Genesis and always interesting)
- After lunch is Bible (New Testament)

- Clean up
- Exercise

- Return to school work (a middle child, who has a break in their schedule at that time, will take a turn to read to Hailey before her nap and I work with Lydia on her reading lesson); this is when the girls will finish other lessons- Spanish or Typing etc.

- I may do a SWR Spelling Lesson with the middle girls or I may have them do a Sequential Spelling lesson (self directed) so I can answer an e-mail or pay bills

- When Hailey is alseep, and we are done with our school work, we can read some other book aloud or do some other job that may be needed. This is a good time to cuddle, have a tea party etc.


- Dinner
-The younger girls hear Mama read a Bible story and each of the three of the younger girls get to pick a short story (A little Rod and Staff book, A Little House reader, A chapter or two from the Vision Forum Beautiful Girlhood Library etc.) while the older girls do a quick clean of the Living Room and kitchen.

- Then I do a Bible study with the 2 older girls. We are doing an Elizabeth George study that includes a workbook and DVD.

It might sound like a lot, but it isn't. Many items take minutes, but routines make me feel like specific things that are important to me get checked off my mental list- for example we sang together; we did a memory verse; I read solid character material to them and Bible. These things didn't take long, but they happened.
Another note about the evening schedule. The goal is to start early- sometimes even at 6:30 or 7 with the little girls, so that I can get spend time reading without being rushed and get through everything soon enough to have some quiet time in the evening before I hit the hay. We are good moms, we are there for the kids all day, but in the evening it is good to say good night and have quiet as well. Balance is healthy.

and finally,

We're teaching the older ones to help in various ways to minister to the younger children. One way they serve is with weekly puppet shows on character topics- because I know that I just can't do it all and it is good for the older ones to be needed as well! : )

5. Busy schedules aren't for everybody. Some families seem to thrive on busyness. Our family does not. A couple of years ago a classical co-op was beginning near us and I was asked to join and be one of the teachers. One of the reasons I declined was because I did not feel that our family would do well going back and forth for the benefit of just a couple of us. One of my friends tried it and after the first year, she pulled out. She felt like she never saw her children. Other friends have remained with it.

My point is simply this: If something is not working for your family it's ok to stop. If we are overly busy for one reason or another and we don't feel that we have the time to see our children, it is likely that we are also missing opportunities to tie our hearts together and to guide and direct their character.

JC Ryle once wrote:
"We live in days when there is a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools rising on all sides. We are told of new systems, and new books for the young, of every sort and description. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go (in reference to Proverbs 22:6), for when they grow up to man's estate, they do not walk with God."

He went on to say,

"In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out this mighty question, 'How will this affect their souls?'"

Sometimes we feel like this question of what is best for our children's souls is just one more thing to worry about, but in the end I am sure we'll be convinced it was the only thing worth worrying about.
I am not here to tell you your schedule is too busy or this co-op is not the best thing for your children's souls, but I would encourage you to ask the question. Because what does it profit us to gain the whole world- even the whole academic world- and lose the soul?
Richest blessings dear Kim.



  1. I wish I had your wise words whispering in my ear when I had a little Zeke and Sadie running around. Instead, I Captian Your-Guilty making my head ring. Even with older ones these are still important reminders.
    PS: Love the schoolroom. Beautiful!

  2. What about time with dad? When does that happen?

  3. Dana- thank you my friend. Yep- I've met Captain You're Guilty myself- too many times. So helpful to remember that God does not give us a spirit of fear. : ) Did you notice we have Faith reading Science at lunch? I got that idea from you!

  4. Oh, LOVE how nice and organized your school room is. All those wonderful supplies. swoon! Inspired to add some more shelving in our "craft" area of the play room. (My boys attend a private school in our town)

  5. Dear Anonymous- Thanks for your question. That gives me the opportunity to share that this schedule is abridged. It simply highlights how I am tackling the instruction and direction of multiple aged children (4 school aged- K to 8th grade, plus a toddler).

    I would also like to say that my intention in posting this is simply to "show my cards" and create an environment of sharing within our community. It is not to say we have the perfect schedule. : )

    With that said, I will share that our family has a bit of a backward schedule right now. By that I mean to say that my husband works nights, so our day may be a little backward compared to others. It plays out in this way: the kids set their alarms and we wake up early, do chores and start school while he is still asleep. We want to squeeze in as much as we can before he wakes up, so we can spend time with him when he is awake. Likely, much like your family does during the day so you can spend time with your husband at night.

    We connect when he gets up in the am (and often ask him a bunch of questions while he still is half asleep)- poor Tom. : ) Once we are done giving him his hugs and connecting, then he goes off to read his Bible while we go back to school.

    Still in the morning (before lunch) he teaches math to the girls. I am no longer in charge of that subject (hooray!) so he meets with them and explains their math assignment for that day. This takes a big load off of my shoulders. (In return I mow the lawn, pay the bills and do other tasks that he might otherwise need to do).

    Lunchtime is our dinner, so it's a full meal and we connect there as well. When it says we do Bible after lunch- that's when Tom does Bible with us. We talk, visit, play etc. after lunch and we don't start our exercise, nap and continuation of schoolwork until he leaves for work. Our afternoon is likely much like your evening time.

    This schedule also doesn't share what I don't have much time for. For example, I can't seem to juggle all of my household responsibilities and spend much time on-line. So lately I try to log on long enough to find out prayer requests; I update our prayer board and log off. I'd love to do more than that, but I can't seem to fit more than that in to my day.

    Each family has their own priorities and no one can do it all, so we make the choices that seem to work.

    I hope that helps.


  6. Tickled Pink Talk- just before each new school year WalMart and I think Target start selling those supplies at crazy prices- glue bottles for .10; packs of 3 glue sticks for .25. That's when I load the shelves!

    They also sell Composition books for .25 and I'll just buy a whole box (display holder and all) to keep in our school room.

    Blessings to you!

  7. Yep. Caught the science at lunch. Glad I could give you an idea for a chance. You've given me so many! And I am eager to see the schoolroom in full! :)Looks like you were busy in there!

  8. Thanks so much for the bit lengthier explanation in your comments. When you mentioned leaving while the girls did math, I was desperate to know WHERE you found such a self-taught curriculum! Ha! :) I find that our Saxon math takes a large chunk of my morning.

    Your Bible-centered homeschooling day and beautiful organization are inspiring. SO lovely!

    I'm new to homeschooling with four youngsters, ages 21 months to 11 years, and I'm actually growing anxious to put this first year "on the books" as I am eager to implement a few changes. Right now, I'm working on faithfully finishing what we have started. A bit too prone to fresh starts, that's me. :)

    Right now I find that much of my day is spent re-directing and training our youngest, a 21-month-old at the height of the dismantling, emptying, tossing, and messing stage! I know it passes, but yikes! It frequently feels like homeschooling in the midst of a tornado.

    Blessings and thank you.

  9. Thanks for visiting :) Saving sauce jars for more art supply storage already and going through my attic for shelves that I know are up there somewhere.
    Blessings to you too!

  10. D- That's funny. I think the same about you! Hey- you and your family should come over for dinner one of these days and you can see it in person! ; )

    Amara- Hooray! You are a new homeschooler! How exciting! Listen- you can shoot me an e-mail anytime if you want to talk about things. In fact, I wonder if your learners would be helped by the Dive DVD that goes along with Saxon? E-mail me your Saxon levels and I'll see what I have. I may be able to loan you something that could help:

    Gabi- Can't wait to see what you do!

  11. Inspiring as always!!! I liked how everything is available for the kids to just grab. So I rearranged. heheee One of my favorite things to do. It has been so handy. I don't have to look for my math shapes, blocks. They are all out. YEAH! I will have to take a picture and post it up! ;-)
    Hibernating from the snow-
    Kelly :-D

  12. Fun Kelly- I want to see it! : )

  13. Thanks so much for your kind response! We do own the Dive CD for Saxon 6/5, but my daughter repeatedly commented that she *just loved* when I taught her the math lesson. :) Since we are homeschooling with emphasis on relationship, this seemed like a sweet request.

    You did inspire me to create a craft cart, of sorts, and it is already keeping little hands busy. Your beautiful, bright spaces are so organized-looking and encouraging. I'm going to keep working on that!


  14. How do you mean when you say that you edit out the parts that teach about false gods? I don't understand the sentence.

  15. Well, I guess I can't write a post on our schedule without having mine de-railed! Illness, doctor appointments and so on... all remind me that I should say even schedules do not stay on track at times. : )

    Amara- so very sweet. I would not want to turn away a precious request like that either! :)

    Anonymous- When I say that I edit out sections that teach about false gods, I mean that I simply skip portions of the text that go into detail about false religions. I did not want to share a link without giving a true picture about how I use the resource.

    God warned His people several times about learning about false religions. For example, in Deut. 12:30 it says: "take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?" And in Jeremiah 10:1: "Do not learn the way of the nations..." in the context of idol worship.

    Because of these and other verses, I just choose to err on the side of caution. For example, I will read about India, but I will not go into the details of Hinduism.

    There are other items I edit from this resource as well, for example when we were told about how the Assyrians treated their prisoners of war I elected to tell the children they were known for thier cruelty and not that they skinned their prisoners alive- just my personal preference. ;)

    Blessings to you!

  16. Wow! You're room looks so nice and clean! I love it!

  17. Those white shelves you have on the wall...I'm really curious to know where you got those, and how you mounted them on the wall! I SO need something like that in my house. We have very limited space, and our "school room" is also our kitchen and dining room! Any way I can get some extra storage without taking up floor space is great! I really like those bookshelves!

  18. Thanks Confessions- so sweet. It isn't always clean of course- being productive can be messy! : )

    Aneesa- those are simple white cabinets (from Home Depot I think) installed in the wall. We didn't have any main plumbing or electrical there- just attic space behind, so my husband mounted them and then we insulated around. A little catch- we had the benefit of doing that before sheet rock walls were installed because my husband built our home, so he had a good picture of what was there. Hope that helps! : )

  19. You have the prettiest home school room I think ive ever seen!! I LOVE IT!