Welcome to a day in our lives at Blessing Farm!
I am going to share with you an average day here...not one of the best, but certainly not one of the worst. At our best, we all work together like a well-oiled machine, getting up early, laughing while we make something delicious for breakfast and put dinner in the crockpot to be finished around six pm when Hubby gets home, smiling at each other as we complete our schoolwork and our chores, exploring new ideas and fun activities eagerly after lunch, all the while offering sweet words of encouragement throughout the day as we tackle the hardest tasks and work towards a common goal of learning, living well, and loving each other. At our supreme, ultimate best, we go on an interesting field trip, to a club meeting, or participate church activity or ministry, working hard or learning something out of the ordinary, appreciating the flexibility and blessings that come from being able to homeschool.
At our worst, I wake up grudgingly because I've had difficulty sleeping due to a migraine that was not relieved by sleep, but rather worsened. The kids, of course, not feeling poorly at all, get up at their usual early hour and happily play loudly in their room. Tex, being the kindly soul he is, will often gather them together and take them to the living room to watch Signing Time or another learning video. Once I am up, I will get the kids on task while I sit and supervise from the kitchen table, feeling guilty that I am not accomplishing what I had hoped for the day, praying that my medicine will work this time and take away the hurt.
Ladybug will generally step up to the plate and help quite a bit, signing the other little ones onto their online work (I wrote all the codes in her spelling book) and helping make sure they are doing whatever is listed as "next" on the list I made to handle days like these. Tex makes sure the outdoor chores get done, and even volunteers to load the dishwasher so the sink will be empty (that always makes me feel better). After schoolwork is done and lunch is eaten, we will trek upstairs to the master bedroom and find a movie (or documentary) on Netflix to watch that is related to our studies at the time and watch it together, snuggled up in the chairs clustered around my desk. Dinner will be one of the Stouffers meals I keep in the freezer for times like these, and Hubby will be on his own putting the kids to bed. He will probably tell them (or read them) a story, say prayers with them, then fall asleep on the floor next to them because he was up at four am...
So here is an average day, one somewhere in between the ideal and the tough...not amazing in accomplishments, but a blessing nonetheless.
7:30 am Cowboy is usually the first to wake up. In fact, he is often the one who will wake everyone else up because he wants someone to play with! Sometimes he is up at 6 am, and others it is a decent hour like 7:30 (I am not a morning person). We are working on getting him to find his box of books (there is a reading chair in my room, and we put a box of easy readers by it) and read quietly at least until the clock says 7:30. I usually get jumped on by each of the little ones, hugged and kissed and "Good Morning"-ed thoroughly, then finally roll out of bed around 7:30 or 8:00 am (if my night was bad). I ask one of the kids to pick a color of the day (they take turns choosing), and they each go to the stackable Rubbermaid bins and select a shirt, go find pants or a skirt and other necessities, and get dressed. By that time I am dressed, and will supervise the girls' hair brushing and possibly braids or something fancier, if we are in that kind of mood. I never did get too creative with my own hair as a kid, so sometimes the girls and I find videos on YouTube that teach us how to do nifty hairstyles.
8:30 am The kids are all eating at the table and it is time to read the Bible selection of the day from Long Story Short, this year's devotional. We are finished by the time they are done eating their cereal (we do cereal here most days, saving the fun stuff like muffins and pancakes for the weekends when Daddy is home), and while Tex is outside feeding the animals, I set up the kids on their computers to do a portion of their daily work (since it is a computer work day and not a book work day using their lapdesks...we alternate days of book work and days of computer exercises/drills). We don't have a set-aside classroom (our house is small), so we wind up being spread all over the house. When the kids are doing computer work, though, I like to keep them fairly close at hand so I can supervise. We currently have a netbook which Ladybug uses (usually sitting at the center island in the kitchen), an old desktop Cowboy and Firefly share (at the desk in the boys' room downstairs), and Tex has a laptop we purchased using money from his educational fund (he works at the dining room table). Cowboy and Ladybug do Mathletics/Math Rider and Reading Eggs for math and phonics/reading, and also use Big IQ Kids for spelling and US geography. Firefly does Click n' Read Phonics and Ooka Island. They take about an hour and a half to two hours to do this (allowing for problems and and taking turns on the computers). They come to me or help each other as the need arises.
9:00 am Tex is back from feeding and gets started on his Bible lesson and computer work. He has a workbook for Bible. He is studying Revelation this year (his choice). He uses Khan Academy for his math, has the cd-rom version of Apologia's Physical Science Text, and uses Owl and Mouse for World Geography drills. I will finish up chores such as starting a load of laundry, unloading and re-loading the dishwasher, and getting dinner in the crock pot while I supervise and help where needed. Oh yes, I can't forget to mention that half of my time is spent keeping Boo, who is two, out of trouble. LOL.
11:00 am As the Amigos finish their work, they ask for something to do. Depending on what day of the week it is, we have different general ideas for what to suggest. There's Musical Monday (piano lessons or composer study), Talented Tuesday (art suitcase or art lesson online or by dvd), Writing Wednesday (writing suitcase), Thinking Thursday (math manipulatives and games), and Fun Friday (bring out the creative learning games and tools). They play with these things until it is time for lunch, which is sometime after noon. We aren't real firm on that time. Sometimes we get caught up having fun and completely forget to eat until someone notices their tummy growling. I know, that is so bad.
1:00 pm-ish Lunch. Usually PBJ served with raisins, carrots, grapes, apples, or whatever else happens to be available. Sometimes they request meat and cheese sandwiches, but not often. They are creatures of habit. Tex usually goes for the leftovers from the night before. I still haven't adjusted my quantities from when Bubba still lived here, and he ate a lot! The kids read books at the table, or look for objects on the I Spy placemats I made them, or just talk with each other. Sometimes, if it is warm, they will eat outside and play outside when they are finished.
2:00 pm Time for Boo's nap. The other little kids either continue to play outside, or they come in and do puzzles, play a game together, read books, or make some sort of crafty thing on their own. Sometimes I will have an activity planned that supports our history, art, or science studies. Sometimes (if it is raining or otherwise dreary and uninspiring and there is something that needs doing without the involvement of three energetic little helpers), I will let them watch an educational video, like Signing Time or a Bible show. We try to limit television, but some days you just do need that extra helper (Madame DVD player, that is). Tex works on his history, English, and vocabulary (all in printed books) independently. He comes to me if he needs help with anything, or to show me what he has completed. He keeps his work in a folder and has a marker board on which he writes his assignments for the week. I usually use this time to work on a project around the house (like organizing my closet or cleaning out a cupboard), or I will read with the Amigos, and sometimes even do a fun activity with them (like drawing or baking bread). On days when we "do" history (which is not consistent with the little ones right now), this is when it fits in.
4:00 pm Boo wakes up from his nap. The kids are ready for a change of pace by this time and take advantage of the opportunity to play Legos, play dress up in the girls' room, or dance to the classical music that is playing in the kitchen as I do more chores (laundry, dishes) or work on dinner. The kids pick up their toys when they are done. I have a rule of "one thing out at a time, put it back, get another thing out." They don't always follow it, but we are all a work in progress. Sometimes the girls will help me with making dinner (they love helping make fluffy biscuits). Other times it is Cowboy who wants to help. They have to take turns because all of them in the kitchen at once is chaos! (it's a tiny kitchen). They all help tidy up a bit, so the house is nice for Daddy when he comes home. We are working hard on responsibility, diligence, kindness, and helpfulness this year. Our mantra for this month is "If you get it out, put it away!" (rule number 14 of our family rules). If the weather is nice, we will go for a nature walk or work in the garden (or on the barn) for a while. If it is not so nice out, we might use this time to do something crafty, like crocheting or work on a sewing project, or work on a household project. It just depends.
5:00 pm Tex, who has usually been reading or doing something with his computer (like playing chess or learning programming) for the last hour or so since he finished his work (he could probably finish his work sooner if he tried, but he can be distractable), heads out to feed the animals again and put them up for the night. If it is nice out, we will all go and pet the baby pony and brush the horses. Some days I give the kids rides or a riding lesson on the horses in the evening. Occasionally, Tex will babysit the kids so I can ride alone, and that is always nice. The kids like to help herd the chickens into their coop and look for where they laid their eggs (we let them free range during the day...it cuts down on the number of eggs we get since we don't always find them, but we feel they are healthier and have a nicer life). I often head back in early to finish up dinner and clean up Boo, who usually manages to get pretty dirty outside (go figure) while Tex finishes up outside with the Amigos.
6:00 pm The Three Amigos set the table for dinner. Even Boo tries to help by choosing the place mats. I turn on classical music (whoever is our spotlight artist of the month...December's was Tchaikovsy) and light a candle (anything that smells like a bakery). I am going for the "calming" effects of warmth, soft music, and comforting aromas. Tex usually helps me "plate" the food and serve it. If Hubby has gotten home (he works for the Navy and his hours are not regular), he asks the kids what they learned that day. They all love to tell him what they have been up to. They say the sweetest, cutest things. That's one reason I keep a family journal. If I didn't write the cute things down, they'd be forgotten.
7:00 pm Clean up time. Everyone helps do a fifteen minute pick up of the house. If it is a bath night, they little kids get in by twos to take a bath (little girls, then little boys or vice versa). Then they get their pajamas on, brush teeth, etc. As often as possible, I read them a few chapters from our read-aloud book as we snuggle up on the couch together. Tex and Hubby sometimes use this opportunity to play a game of chess in the dining room, but I know they are listening to me read because they laugh at all the right parts...
8:00 pm Daddy tucks the Amigos in, says prayers with them, and falls asleep on their floor. Really. This is what usually happens. I spend about fifteen minutes to a half an hour finishing up household tasks, tidying up, and setting up for tomorrow. I like to know the house is tidy when I head upstairs for the night. I tell my mom that my house is clean for over half the day...of course, everyone is sleeping at the time...LOL. Sometimes Tex and I will watch a show on Hulu together once everyone (including Hubby) is in bed. Other times, Hubby stays awake and we visit for a while. Still other times I work on some bloggy thing, read, sew, listen to a sermon, or prepare an activity for the next day (it really depends on how my head feels). My only real quiet time each day is after the kids are in bed, so you won't find me in bed before midnight most days. I love to read, so I cherish those quiet hours.
There you have it. We do have activities outside the home on certain nights. Tuesday is Chess Club and Hubby usually makes it home to take Tex. If he can't make it, I pack up the Amigos and we all go to the library for an evening of fun (5-8 pm). Alternating Wednesdays, we have friends who come over and join us for the Bookmobile that comes to our house around noon. The Amigos are starting Awana at church on Wednesdays, too, so that will be a busy day. On Fridays, instead of making dinner, we order pizza and watch a movie together. We've seen some great family movies that way. We really appreciate Netflix (since we don't have cable). We have a membership to the local nature museum and try to get over there once a month. Saturday is our work day/fun day (it depends on what there is to get done). Sunday is church and relaxing together.
I suppose you can go to any number of blogs and be impressed by the amazing array of exciting activities those "super moms" come up with (I am always impressed, anyway)...and on any given day, you might stop by our house and find us in the middle of any number of creative and challenging activities. But the norm around here is pretty ordinary, not incredible. And you know what? After living life on the fast track for years with my older kids (co-ops, homeschool groups, activity clubs, enrichment experiences, frequent field trips), I am quite content with our ordinary ways these days...in fact, I find that ordinary days are a real blessing. Maybe when the Amigos are a bit older we will jump back on that fast track for a time, but for now, we are just appreciating the small, day-to-day, ordinary blessings of our simple homeschooling life.
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