Cooking, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

The right tools for the job

This evening, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and happened to look around at the beehive of activity at my house.  I had both ovens going with food for dinner.  I was using various pans and Pyrex dishes for meal prep.  There was the immersion blender for mixing milk, and the spoons made of various materials for stainless steel and non-stick pans.  After we eat, the dishes will go into the dishwasher to get clean.

My husband and son-in-law were outside with the weed-whacker, mower, and tiller in use as they cleaned up the lawn, and prepped three grow-boxes for the corn and beans to be planted tonight.  Three loads of laundry are on the clothesline drying.

Downstairs were the washer and dryer helping me complete the days laundry.  (I don’t hang underwear, socks, towels, or wash cloths on the line.)  My daughter is teaching her five boys.  Some academics.  Some cleaning skills.  And sorting as she goes.

None of this would be possible without the correct tools for the job.  No tiller would mean a full day of amending and mixing soils before we can plant.  No immersion blender could result in lumpy milk.  Doing laundry with modern appliances just doesn’t bear thinking about at all.  And without the ability to plan and the correct supplies, raising and teaching children is tough!

We don’t have the “ideal” world of years gone by in which to rear a family, but we don’t have to go plow the “back forty” with a horse and plow either.  I will take the 21st century anytime!  I will use my curriculum, my scriptures, and lots of time talking with the young ones as I use the wonderful tools at my disposal!  We are so blessed!

Home and Family, Parenting

Sleep? I’ve heard of that.

I have decided being tired is a constant state of being.  As a high school student, I worked like crazy to get a scholarship to college. At the university, I took classes, worked on campus, and enjoyed social time with my friends.  Somehow sleep wasn’t on the priority list.  There would be time for that later.  When I left school to get married, I thought things would settle down and sleep would become my friend.  Enter an unexpected (but welcomed) pregnancy and motherhood.  While I would never trade any of my children, I will admit that I had no clue how tired you could be until I had my first baby.  Three more came within the next six years.  Tired became a normal state of being.  What have learned through all of this?

I have learned you can be tired because you have well-behaved, well-cared-for children who are a joy to you and others, or you can be tired because your children are out of control and you are always running after them.  Good kids DO NOT fall from the sky.  Some are easier to teach than others, but they all require time, effort, focus, and patience.  I had four highly gifted children.  They simply didn’t require much sleep. (I have since learned that trait is common with giftedness.)  My daughters have gifted kids, and one of my grandsons also has additional challenges.  Sleep is a friend whose visits are way too few and far between.  Spend time with your children regardless of how tired you are, and the joy in your life will increase exponentially.

Naps are your friend if you have multiple children.  Sleep only comes when you can actually take the time and lie down, so give yourself permission to lie down.  We had quiet time each afternoon during which the kids could read, sleep, or play quietly in their rooms.  Mom got a nap.  Dinnertime was much more pleasant after we had all taken some down time!

My eating habits affect how well I sleep, and how well I function when I am awake.  Sugar eaten immediately before bed will keep me up for a while longer.  Chips and salsa or popcorn is a better snack.  Too much processed food during the day messes with my entire body.  Cooking from scratch and using fresh ingredients make a remarkable difference in how I feel.  My body expends less precious energy processing food if I am careful about what I eat.

Have a bedtime routine for your children and for you.  We had baths, prayers, and story time each night so that the children could unwind and get ready for the idea that it was time to stay in bed.  If sleep didn’t come immediately, that was okay.  They could read.  But they knew bed time meant they were to stay in bed.  I am the last one down.  I take time to watch something calming on television, read my scriptures and pray, and do a final quick tidy of the main living areas.  Then I head to bed and read a bit more.  Taking time to wind down allows my brain to let go of the stresses of the day and sleep will come more easily. (Yes, I have read everything I could on improving sleep habits for me and my children.  Didn’t work.  I have decided to let it be.)

One of the hardest, but most helpful lessons I learned is that complaining and focusing on how little sleep I got depleted my limited energy than anything else I did.  Once I accepted the reality of living on bits of sleep as they came, I was happier, enjoyed my children more, and felt more capable in all areas of my life.  Instead of expending energy on the negative, I learned to enjoy the small victories and give thanks for what I do have.

I am still tired (now its fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue), but that’s okay.  I am also highly blessed and if I had to pick from life’s challenges, I can’t think of anything I would trade for more sleep.  Life is good.

May your sleep be blessed!


Routines vs. schedules, part 2

When my children were at home, I think everyone’s favorite part of the academic day was “group time.”  We would gather for our morning devotional, pledge, and work on as much together as differing ages and such would allow.  Here is a very general outline of what it entailed.

Group time:

Poetry-No big plan.  Just pulled a book of the shelf and read one or two poems.  Sometimes they were nonsense; sometimes they were a more serious work.  Nothing morbid/too deep for early learners.  Not everyone will love poetry, but everyone should be given the chance to hear it.

History reading-A passage from whichever book we are currently using.  This was often accompanied by a book with great illustrations/photographs to help the visual learners.  Often they would color a picture as I read.  (Dover coloring great resources for this.)

Character or ethics study-We would discuss manners, courtesy, heroes, or whatever Mom felt she needed to address in a non-confrontational format.  Sometimes I would use a picture book or fable.  Sometimes we would pull things from the scriptures or history.  A VITAL part of our school day!

Drill-3×5 cards are a must for the way we schooled.  Classical education requires foundational concepts be memorized, and flashcards are one of the easiest ways to do that!  States/capitols, presidents, phonograms, Latin and Greek roots, scientific facts, you name it.  Younger children often memorize more quickly than older ones, so this can be a great time for them to shine!

Memorization work-Poetry, scriptures, music, quotes.  Fill their bucket with the words and images of those who can help them in good times or bad.  What will they sing as they watch the sunrise over the mountain for the first time?  Whose words will come to them as they face the next mountain?

Literature reading-Picture books.  Chapter books.  Great literature is sometimes best shared as a family.  Some books we read for fun (see blog on our favorite read-aloud books).  Some we read as part of our academic studies-and for fun.  If your children have a hard time sitting still as you read, try allowing them to color, or build with legos, or dance.  If they are kinesthetic, they will learn more that way!

Hands-on activities-If you are going to make a mess, you may as well involve everyone!  Try to have something for each child to do so that they can all contribute.

Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix-The above list is in no way comprehensive.  Add life skills, other academics, or whatever you feel would benefit your own children.  After all, you are the Mom!

Once group time was over, everyone needed to finish their individual lists.  I have included the subjects I assigned for each level.  (For more information on learning levels, check the archives on this blog.)

Individual work for discovery learners:

Penmanship/copy work

Oral narration

Basic grammar study


Hands-on math and science

Science collections

Reading-with Mom or individually

Learning games

Art or music

Scripture study

History, math or science bio

Chores with an older helper

Individual work for analysis learners:

Penmanship book with quotes or poetry



Hands-on activities

Reading for history, science, literature, etc.

Grammar study

Logic study

Vocabulary/syntax study

Current events


Art or music

Scripture study

Latin or other language study


Individual work for application learners:

Upper level mathematics

Continuing logic study

Writing, writing, and more writing

Reading, reading, and more reading

Prep for the SAT/ACT

Great literature

Primary source history

Real-life experience


Home and Family, Homeschooling

Routines vs. schedules

“How did you schedule your day?” seems to be a burning question for many people, and is asked often whenever I teach at a convention or support group, or check my email.

Rule #1- I didn’t have a schedule.  I had a routine.  Having a schedule sounds too much like a public school (9:00- math, 9:30-reading, etc.), and set me up for failure.  That didn’t mean my days were a free-for-all.  I chose to be in charge, rather than the clock calling the shots.

Here is how things often looked when I had four kids at home.  This is a very general idea, and does not take into account appointments or classes that did work on a schedule.  You get the idea.

8:00-9:00: Everyone up and tidying bedrooms (Getting dressed was often optional.  I do some of my best work in my pajamas!).

Breakfast together around 9:30.

Group time for the family came next.  This included our morning devotional, pledge, and any academic studies we could do as a group.  This time together might take as few as 30 minutes, or could last for two to three hours.  It varied by the day and was generally influenced by whether or not a great discussion was started.  (Beware of allowing a “need” to keep to a schedule interfere with addressing those things your children are interested in delving into in greater detail.  If you need to adjust some of your curriculum for a new, burning interest-by all means, adjust!)

Individual school lists were started when group time was over.  Anything on their lists not covered during our time as a group needed to be completed by them individually.  Each child had their own list.  Some would finish before lunch, some after-depending on their ages, and how motivated they were that day.  It was also often determined by how long we took during group time.

School time was scheduled four days a week.  (We would study history two days, and science the other two.  Other subjects were done each day.)We found you could cover a great deal of ground in four good solid days of studies.  I could then use the other days to shop, deal with doctor appointments, work on gardening, canning or other food preservation projects, sort, or catch up on whatever else I needed to do.

That was the daily routine-most of the time.  Some days called for something else.  Wednesday mornings were story time at the local library. Friday was our shopping day.  Sunday involved church, family time, and a complete change of pace.

I found that this routine worked well for us because life is full of changes, twists, turns, and unplanned events.  Having a routine helped to allow for those changes without feeling derailed.  On days when the kids were sick, we read more books and watched a bit more educational television. When it was just too lovely outside to remain indoors, we packed a picnic lunch and had a day of nature study, or worked on the garden, or went to the zoo.  First snowfall of the season?  Time to brush off the shovels, build a snowman, and then learn to make cocoa.  Learning to be flexible helped us accomplish the highest priorities, and still retain a bit of sanity.  Too much rigidity can be maddening!

If life threw a major curve-ball, we tried incorporate it into what we are doing.  As I have schooled my own over the last two decades, we faced unemployment, heart surgeries, military deployments, moves, miscarriages, and other real life events.  When they happened, we went through them as a family.  No job?  We all found ways to save money and contribute (economics and life skills).  Child in the hospital?  We studied the heart, and learned about convalescent care (biology and health).  Grandma and Grandpa moving into a new home allowed us to serve, and to work on our organizational skills.  Remember- life’s challenges are opportunities to show your children how to keep going in spite of what is happening around you.  They are not an excuse to fall apart or derail family goals.  Major emergencies (heart attacks, appendicitis, etc.) may require we drop and run, and then regroup in a few days.  If you can view all of these things as learning experiences and preparation for life, it can enhance your time with your children, rather than overwhelming you.

And on those days when it is all just too much, give yourself permission to break out the games,  bake cookies, and enjoy the day!