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).
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
- 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.
-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.
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?