Friday, June 24, 2016

The Last Day of Our Year

Today we celebrated our final day of the school year with our first trip to the beach of summer.  The weather cooperated beautifully (and you never know if it will in Maine).  I sat at the water's edge, keeping watch over Little B and the others, thinking that even splashing around on a lake is part of an education.  And I prayed that I would let this sweet, so-very-short season of summer have it's way.

I wrote a post about a month ago, talking about the many things that have made this school year a truly great one.  I'm glad I wrote that post, because I have found myself in several crises of faith since then, battling the homeschooler's constant enemy- the enemy of "Am I doing enough?"  I reread that post and remember the reason why I do what I do.  It reminds me of the things that are most important to me. And that we had a wonderful school year.

Tonight we fired up the brick pizza oven and ate outdoors. And then we made s'mores in the oven for the first time (perfection, really).  As everyone licked their fingers and wiped melted marshmallow from their lips, I asked them to think about the things they were most proud of this school year, areas where they had grown or matured.  The conversations we had were priceless.  Mister has difficulty seeing his strengths, but with some coaching, he was able to name some.  Josh and I shared our observations as well and you could see him swell with pride.  Brown-Eyed Girl had a list of four things and it made me so happy to know she was proud of herself in these areas.  Because she should be. She has made huge strides this year.  Hearing all the talk about her siblings, Petite kept saying "What about me? What about me?"  And we were happy to hear her thoughts and share our own with her, and to see her smile with pleasure as we praised her. 

Homeschooled kiddos rarely get recognized for their hard work in tangible ways.  Much of what they do is only seen by mom, maybe by dad, and maybe their siblings.  While I have always wanted to have an end-of-the-year ceremony for friends and family, it just hasn't happened yet. Taking this evening to wrap-up our school year, at least as a family, with encouraging words and the first s'mores of summer, was a good thing.  I pray, and I believe, that this will stick with my kiddos.  We are so very proud of them, not just for their hard work, but for the young people they are becoming.  They are precious and priceless to us.

And though they didn't tell me what an a-mazing teacher I am, Brown-Eyed Girl asked me a simple question that made my whole homeschool career worth it.

"You're still going to read to us this summer, right?"

Of course they are thrilled to put away the school books, but they love to have mom read to them.  And that fills my heart with joy.

Yes, oh yes, I will read to you this summer. I have more books to read to you than I will be able to! I promise.

Welcome, you lazy days of summer.  I will try hard to savor you while you're here.

And just because it makes me happy, I want to share all the books I read aloud to the kids this past year (or listened to via audiobook).  These are just the chapter books. There are many more books I read to them, including biographies, tall tales, poetry etc.

Gone Away Lake
Strawberry Girl*
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic
The Sign of the Beaver*
The Birchbark House
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch*
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (for the 3rd time)*
The Hobbit (audiobook)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond*
Calico Captive
Johnny Tremain (audiobook)*
Toliver's Secret
Three Go Searching
Ben and Me
Ramona Quimby, Age 8*
Ellen Tebbits
Stuart Little (audiobook)
The Cabin Faced West
Bound for Oregon*
Henry Huggins (audiobook)*
By the Great Horn Spoon*
Matilda (audiobook)*
Caddie Woodlawn

It is too hard to pick favorites as all of these were wonderful, but I have starred a few that really did stand out.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Going Strong (But Still Counting Down Our Days!)

I've been thinking how I usually have a whole plan for next school year by now.  Here it is May and I don't! This makes me happy and I'll tell you why.

Next year isn't going to be better.

That's usually the motivation behind all my New Year's homeschool planning (and purchasing!).  It's this idea that the current year has reached it's peak of enjoyment. We are tired of what we are doing, and next year will be way better because we'll be studying something new, or using a new curriculum.

"Next year will be better!" so many of us are thinking as we slog through the final months of school.

 But in my discontent, my boredom, or more likely my weariness, it is so easy to forget :  each morning I have a new day with my kids. I don't have to muddle through til next school year to have a great school year NOW.

This 2015-16 school year, I returned to my roots, so to speak. Our first five years of home schooling were spent doing unit studies.  The next three years I purchased an all-in-one curriculum with all the subjects planned out for me.  This  year I really wanted to study American history with the kids, in depth and for as long as we wanted to.  I already had so many great books, it didn't make sense to buy another all-in-one package.  I was a little nervous to take back responsibility for planning, but also really excited to do so. (I like being in control! I am an INTJ  homeschool mom!)

So this school year has been one of meandering through American history, utilizing the notebooking method, and lots of wonderful read-alouds to make history come alive. It has really been a great year. Even with a baby in the house.  Yes, I am pressed to get it "all" done every single day, but I am also learning to slow down.  I don't have boxes to check in an Instructor's Guide. I'm spending much more time on the Revolutionary War than I expected.  I'm not cramming information in just for the sake of a syllabus.  We are savoring our studies more.

I'm not anxious for next year. Because this year is good. And I'm glad it's not over. There is so much more I want to do with the kids.  There are sooooo many books I want to read to them.  We won't get everything done that I had planned, but I am glad. Because that means we get to do it again next year (and all summer if we want!). I plan to just keep going with history and keep doing what we've done.  Next year won't be better, because this year is great!

These are a few things that have helped me slow down and enjoy our days more this school year- they are at the heart of what I really love about  homeschooling:

1) Lots of reading aloud.  I've read so many wonderful books to the kids this year, mostly complimenting our study of American history.  The benefits of reading aloud are incredible, but more than that, we all just love it. It is what brings me the greatest joy in our homeschool. I love  running my finger along the shelves in our library and seeing how many of the books we have read.  Lots!   I love when the kids beg for another chapter. I love when they are eager to find out what our next read aloud is.  And we have learned so much history through The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, Bound for Oregon, and biographies by the D'Aulaires.

Side note: If you love reading aloud, or want encouragement to read aloud more, please check out Sarah McKenzie's Read Aloud Revival blog and podcast! You will be inspired!

2) Togetherness.  I am occasionally blown away that I have four children.  And I am even more blown away when I see them all interacting together, playing, laughing, teasing, provoking.  I love that we are all home together, every single day. I love that my three school age kids get to watch their little brother grow up.  I love that he gets to watch them and learn how to do practically everything.

Now you know we have crazy days. You know there are days I want to quit.    This isn't a walk in the park. But we're all here together. And it's one of the best things about our year.

Mister is an amazing big brother, and loves to help out with B.

3) Time off.  Instead of trying to cram our required 175 days in as soon as possible, I have allowed for time of.  Josh and I took a trip in November and that was a welcome week off.  Holiday breaks, of course.  We took a family vacation in early March.  We may take more days off before our 175 are complete.  Because having built in breaks has kept us going strong instead of fizzling out.

4) Days out of the house.  As my kiddos have gotten older, their craving for friend time has increased, and I have purposefully built more days into our schedule to get us out with friends.  This is hard for me sometimes, because  I am a homebody and I really hate interruptions in our schedule. But it means so much to the kids, and I love the time with my mom friends as well. Roller skating days, MOPS meetings, and co-op are appointments on our schedule to look forward to.  We all need those!
I need excuses to escape the ever-present laundry pile- because in the grand scheme of life, laundry is pretty small, even if the pile is huge!
 5) Letting go of some crazy ideas, like "We need to finish the whole curriculum before the year ends" or "We need to do every subject every day".  Where do these strange measures of homeschool success come from? I'm daily trying to put them to death and we are all the better for it.

6) Holding to my values, my  ideals.  I wholeheartedly believe homeschool is the best way for my family, even on my worst day.  I have faith that it is making my children, and me, into the people we are intended to be.  More and more it feels like the road less traveled, but I'm also learning to stop trying to run other people's race and put  my energy into running MINE.

7) Education that is a mile deep vs an inch deep.  We are taking as long as we want on a subject.  We are diving in, reading from more than one resource, getting more than blurbs, feasting on one person at a time, one moment in history at a time.  We have had so many wonderful discussions as we have done this.  Recently, as the Constitution came up again, and as I read more of what it states, Mister asked me, "Is there anyway that document can be destroyed?" Oh, what a great talk we had about how the principles, and governing laws, that our nation was founded on have been under scrutiny and constant interpretation. We can't possibly touch on every topic under the sun.  Every education will have gaps. But because I'm not trying to keep up with a preplanned teacher's guide, we have time to chase rabbit trails and go deeper into  our studies.

Now  I confess, I got the latest CBD homeschool catalogue in the mail the other day. And I did flip through it and circle some items in black Sharpie.  But I'm not thinking too long and hard about next year. After all, there are new mercies for me each day -for marriage, mothering, and home education too.  No need to wait til next year to do what we really want to do, or to scrap what isn't working and choose something that does. (Early on in our year I chucked Apologia's Human Body book for their book on flying things- and we've only done the first six chapter on birds- because we love birds! No guilt!

How bout you, homeschool moms.  Have you planned or even  purchased curriculum for next year yet?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Baby B Turns One!

It's been such a sweet year here at the Mathews'.  Baby B join us a year ago, March 6th, a little after nine in the morning. Our fourth child, my first c-section,  our second son.  He has been such a gift from the Lord to our family.  I have known in my head that children are a blessing from the Lord, as the Psalm says, and of course I have felt it too, but Baby B has really planted this belief firmly in my heart, even since before his conception.  Since that promise that I was going to have another son. (Somewhere I have written about that!)

Baby B has changed everything!  With siblings that are 12, 10, and 6 years older than him, he has brought the joys of babies back to the house... but we experience it in a whole new way because now we experience it through our older children as well.  To see their joy as they watch him grow and learn, to see their interactions with him, it is just priceless.  It sounds silly, but sometimes I feel bad for my oldest two because they only  had Josh and I to adore them (They were close in age.   They are best buds but they didn't adore each other!) And Petite got a little bit better deal because she had Josh and I and the oldest two to adore her. But Baby B gets the best deal because he has five people in this house who constantly adore him!  It totally disproves the whole argument that you have to divide up your love and time and resources more and more with the more children you have.  This house just totally overflows with love!

Now, it totally overflows with laundry too. And toys. And garbage that needs to be taken out. And crumbs and dust, too. And noise. Lots of noise. In fact, I would say Baby B proved some other cliches true for me.  I am now the mom with mountains of laundry. My oldest two do their own, even. But I constantly find myself with a pile of laundry that needed to be washed, folded, or put away four days ago.  Maybe longer.  I am always wondering where it all comes from and how on earth four people can create so much of it!  I have been conquered by laundry.

 I've also fallen prey to the "I can't get anything done!" cliche.  I used to manage the house pretty well, educate the kids within reasonable hours, find time to read for my own enjoyment or watch a movie, and read bedtime stories to Petite.  Now, Me Time is something I have to prioritize to 15 minutes or so while Baby B has his afternoon nap.  Despite all that is left undone around the house, I have to force myself to take this break. Because it will all have to be done again tomorrow, anyway, and I need a moment. But this is all new to me.  I never totally understood the whole "I can't get anything done!" complaint from moms. I just thought "Hey, get off Facebook".  Now, I realize it may be more than a Facebook addiction :)  It might be the incredibly busy job of running a home and managing a family (and maybe a job too!).  I had always heard that after three children, you could handle anything.  Hmmm... maybe after four?

It has been a new level of exhaustion.  I have never slept so well (even though Baby B continues to wake up in the night to eat).  I sink into a chair and stare into space.  My brain isn't empty, but it goes blank.  Read a book that takes focus?  Hardly! I get why moms start reading mindless, predictable Harlequins (though I don't recommend it.)  I am on my feet most of the day and I'm usually going strong til about eight o'clock.  But then my Super-Mom cape gets ripped off and I'm ready for everyone to just go to bed.

So all of this sounds like motherhood rocks, right?

It sure does.

These kids are such gifts.  They are priceless.  It is such a joy to watch them grown and learn.  What a blessing to watch Baby B this year as he began to smile, to roll over, to crawl on his belly and then his knees, to take his first steps, to shake his head no, then yes (why is no first???), to clap his hands, to say mama (first!) and dada (second!)  and kitty (third!).  How fun to see him dancing to the music we play, to hear his giggles and outright laughter as we tickle him.  His life is irreplaceable.  We wouldn't be the Mathews without him.

We celebrated Baby B's big first birthday with a small family party.  There were gifts (of which his favorite is the toy cell phone!  He wouldn't put it down and freaked out when it turned off!).  I made a chocolate chip cake which he devoured with gusto.  He was just as adorable as ever.

Of course it is bittersweet to have my baby no longer be a baby, but a toddler.  We are going to try hard to call him Little B now that he isn't really Baby B.  :)  But then, maybe one more year of Baby B :)

The Lord has given me a Scripture verse for each of my children, a verse to pray over their life, a verse that has been so encouraging in times of difficult parenting.  The verse usually comes as I am just reading through my Bible on an ordinary day. Until today (March 7th), I hadn't been given a verse for Baby B.  Every once in a while I'd remind the Lord that he needed to give me one.

Today, as I finished up the book of Deuteronomy, I received my verse for B.

"Of Benjamin he said,
'The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders."

Deuteronomy 33:12


And Happy Birthday, Baby B!  
Here's to a sweet 2nd year of Life!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy New School Year!

Hello new school year!  Wow and wow.  Look at that! This is my ninth year teaching my kids at home!  When Mister was four, it all began.  (If you do the math it won't work out to nine years.  That's because we held him back a year, but that's another story, which I have actually blogged about).  I can honestly say that this is the best thing I do with my life. And the hardest thing too.  I mean, being a mom is hard enough, but to add teaching on top of it?  Wow and wow. But I am so thankful I get to do this.  I have the amazing support of my husband and family and friends.

So I always like to give a little blurb about everyone in our little school family.  Here goes...

That's me.   The wife, the mom, the crazy lady who signed up for homeschooling nine years ago.  Actually, I knew I was going to do this before we even had children!  Cra-zy.  I think I knew of homeschoolers growing up and they were the matching homemade outfits kind of homeschoolers.  We are not that.  (But it is totally cool if you are!)  I really don't want to be known mainly as homeschoolers, but as a loving family. And crazy. Cra-zy.  Family descriptive word.

So I'm feeling silly, but I'm mostly serious. I'd like my kids to raise their hands, I'm that serious. But instead I try to deal with the loud and the interruptions.

You should know that I love coffee.  If I forget my afternoon cup of delight, something just doesn't feel right.  Not physically, but mentally.  Like I am incomplete.  And then when I realize I haven't had my coffee yet, I'm the happiest mom ever because that means I'm going to have a cup of coffee.

It's the little things, friends.

I've said it before, but I'm positive I'm from England.  I just love everything British (except Downton Abbey. Sorry, friends.)  Give me a rainy day and I will shine.

I believe it's a woman's prerogative to change her hair color. Often.

I love to read, but I'm in some kind of mental fog right now when it comes to literature.  I think it has something to do with my kids.  Maybe.  I'll get back to you on that one.

My favorite book in the world, ever, is To Kill a Mockingbird. And I just haven't been able to read Go Set a Watchman yet.  Maybe when the fog clears.

I love Jesus. And one of the best things about loving him, and one of the hardest things too, is being so different sometimes.  Not just different from people who don't care about Jesus, but sometimes different from those who do.  It's an adventure following Him.  I can recommend no better life.

And here is Petite, my sweet little first grader!  Today, after her first day of school, she said she was just so excited about school! And the first grade! And everything! And she was just dancing the whole time she said it. I  need this little bundle of crazy joy.  She has such a sweet and soft heart toward Jesus.  She still loves Minnie Mouse, but she loves anything pink and girly, too.  She'd wear a dress every day if she could.  If you see her wearing a skirt over jeans, it's not a religious thing, I promise you. It's just her.

This is Brown-Eyed Girl, and wow, has she grown up in a  year!  She is looking more like a young lady all the time. And that is both precious and scary.  She is still a little girl at heart, and I'm so thankful for that.  She loves Pokemon plush toys, and any other stuffed animals she can get her hands on.  She loves to sew and makes some amazing creations all of her own design.  She loves to read and write and works hard to do a good job in school.  This girl is a gift, something really special.

And now for Mister, my poor guinea  pig child.  You know, the one you test everything out on first.  His first few years of school, I was a bit of a Nazi. We made some good memories, but I pushed a little too hard.  He's my dreamer. He wants to do something BIG and I can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do with that because after all, He is the one who put that desire in my boy.  This kiddo is sweet and sensitive, a faithful friend, and a goofball, too.  He loves to do a gazillion things, but right now he is into making comic strips, building a paintball course in the back field, and karate.  He's a good kid.  You can't have him cause he's mine.

And I can't forget this little bundle of pure sweetness. We have a new student this year!  Baby B is almost six months old and learning like crazy. It just amazes me to watch babies develop and grow.  What a gift that this kiddo gets to grow up with his brother and sisters around all day, to learn from, get spoiled by, and play with.  This makes me so happy.  Look, it makes  him so happy!  There are always loving arms to hold him and that is a good life for a little guy.

Happy Back-to-School to all of you, friends!  These are precious years.  Here's to savoring them!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What Makes Me Feel Good About Our School

At one point late last school year, I jotted down a list of the things that make me feel like our school is successful.  I so easily focus on all the progress we need to make, and all the areas where I feel like I am blowing it, or completely inadequate, but this list was to center me and remind me that this homeschooling gig is not a total failure.

As I prep myself for the upcoming school year (First Grader!  Fifth Grader! Sixth Grader! and Baby!), I'm reminding myself of what I wrote.

What Makes Me Feel Our "School" is Successful
AKA- What is Really Most Important to Me
AKA- What Gives Me Joy

1. Reading lots of wonderful books aloud- chapter books, picture books, biographies, etc.

2.When these books get into our heart and mind and make us feel and think.

3. The children doing lots of pleasure reading.

4.Natural writing- letters, stories, comics, drawings, journals.

5. Practical work- chores, helping a sibling, tying shoes (though this is not my strong suit when it comes to teaching)

6. Outdoor play and activity!

7. The appreciation and practice of art and music.

8. Kindness. Contentment. Good attitudes.

9. A math curriculum that teaches itself so I don't have to (or very little teaching from me!). Thank you Teaching Textbooks!  We may never be a math family and that's okay.  We will, however, survive it.

10. When my kids care about what we're learning  Which won't always be the case, but it's lovely when they do.

This list is word-for-word out my planner.  Next Friday I will be childless, except for the baby, and I will have a day of prayer and planning for the 2015-16 school year.  Some challenges are ahead, including some therapy for some learning troubles, and the math stress that doesn't seem to want to go away.  Oh, and a baby who doesn't always like to nap.

Friends, could you pray for me? Pray for my kiddos?  As I seek the Lord about his priorities for our upcoming year, pray that I hear Him. Pray that I rest in Him. And pray that we would strive for his measure of success and no one else's.

And please, this is really on my heart, leave a comment about how I can pray for YOU as you get ready for the new school year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bye-Bye 14/15 School Year!

Here we are again. The last day of school. Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Our last day of co-op, using air dry clay to make sculptures.
How many times have we been here?  Gosh, this was my 8TH year of homeschooling!  How is that even possible?  I remember so vividly plunking Mister in a chair at the dining room table and beginning this journey, with Brown-Eyed Girl alongside, ripping the pages out of books and climbing all over the table.

Then along came Petite, but we just kept plugging along.  She would mimic Brown-Eyed Girl as she made the sounds of the alphabet. She would pad around in her blanket sleeper all day, stealing writing implements and coloring on walls (and sofas) while I tried to teach her older siblings.

And now there is Baby B, just three months old, but already getting earfuls of astronomy lessons and Shakespeare stories and Bob Books while he nurses contentedly.

Everyone seriously fights over holding this little guy.  He's our biggest school time distraction.

I have those moments when I realize how many more years I have left of this, and I panic.  I wonder how on earth I am going to teach higher math (computer programs!) and another child to read at the same time.  I worry that I am not able to devote enough time to each child to help them with the things they struggle with or enhance the things they are good at.  In fact, when I look too close at our homeschool, and even our family, I tend to worry A LOT.  Every year, more is demanded of me as teacher-mom and my children as they advance in their education.  And of course it multiplies with every child that joins our family.

More and more, I realize how much homeschooling is going to cost me.

And I don't mean just homeschooling. I mean the path we have chosen to take in general, and in specifics, when it comes to raising our family. Homeschooling them is just part of it.  But there is so much more.  This is about doing life with our kids.  Walking along the way together.  Inviting them into our world and joining them in their world.  Forging the two together so that we are close.

I don't often think of what I would be doing if I were not homeschooling my children.  I don't often dream of what I'll do when these years are over.  Perhaps it's because I know for sure that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  And I love it.  While also knowing that I'm not just preparing my children for what comes next, but myself as well.

Last night, as I poured my heart out to Josh regarding some concerns I have about the kids, I admitted that this is so much harder than I ever thought it would be.  It's not just motherhood, it's taking on the kids' education as well. It is huge.  Yes, I do get it when people say, "I don't know how you do it!" because it is daunting.  And it's not just two kids close in age, it's another one four years behind and another one six years behind her.  It's reading challenges, math fear, test anxiety, and kids struggling to sit on their butts.  It's my whole life invested in them, not my own career.  But I just as readily say to those moms who are developing their career while pouring into their kids, "I don't know how you do it!"

There is no Easy Button for this.

He's got the whole wide world to explore.

But now it is summer. And it's time for me to let go just a little.  Let the kids have more screen time than I like.  Try to put aside the worries about what they'll forget and what we still need to work on.  It's time for the beach and for sun tans. For bike rides and ice cream cones. For summer read alouds and reading whatever I want, too.  It's time for a little rest.

We had a great year.  God was good.  He was ever faithful.  The story isn't over yet.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How on Earth Do You Homeschool With a Baby in the House?????

Photograph by Pleasant Trees- Photography by Felicia.  Many thanks for capturing this special
homeschooling moment with the five of us!

At a recent OB appointment, the nurse asked me if this was my first baby.

"Oh no!" I replied. "I have three at home.  Eleven, nine, and five."

"Oh, well at least they are in school." She responded.

I didn't bother to correct her.  I chuckled to myself at all her words implied.

Kids are hard work. (Yes they are.) You've already got three, and now a baby too. (That's above the average by two) That's not going to be easy.  At least three of them will be gone all day.

I really wasn't offended.  Of course, the truth is that my children are not in school.  They are at home with me all day. We home school.  Even though this method of education is becoming more and more popular, the norm is that most children enter daycare early in life and then proceed from there to preschool and kindergarten in some sort of public or private school.  This is not an unloving decision, by any means, on the parent's part, it is just the natural course of things.  My choice to keep my children home is still something that is considered unusual.  No one ever assumes you homeschool.

Admittedly, I am starting this piece before baby number four arrives.  We are just two weeks away from that blessed event!  But it certainly has crossed my mind- how am I going to do this? I have children in fifth and fourth grade, a five-year-old in kindergarten, and an infant perking in my womb.  Once he makes his great escape, he will no doubt be quite attached to me and my breast and I'll be relegated to a lot of chair time feeding him.  So how on earth will I continue to homeschool my older three children, and do it well?

Yes, it does occasionally make me panic.  But in general, no worries.  Many mamas have gone before me in this venture, and what I am constantly reminded of is that the home school and the brick-and-mortar schools just can't be compared as far as effectiveness and purpose.  Indeed, the goal is to give children an education. But what an education is takes on a whole new meaning when you choose to homeschool.  For us it has, anyhow.

I remember when I had Petite, my third baby.  My older two were only six and four, so were in their early days of homeschooling.  Yet very important years. Mister was reading, Brown-Eyed-Girl was just beginning to learn her letter sounds.  I remember being tired the first few weeks of Petite's life. She was born in late August and we had started our school year a week or two before she was born.  After a short hiatus, we picked things up again.  I don't remember things being too crazy overall, though I'm sure we had our days.  What I remember most clearly about that school year was our very last day in May.  Petite was about nine months old.  I was working with her big sister on letter sounds and we were saying "e-e-e-e" together, the soft "e" sound.  Suddenly, little Petite starts parroting us.  "E-e-e" she gurgled.  We all three looked at her in surprise. And laughed and laughed, joyously!

Truth is, my children had such an amazing opportunity to watch their baby sister's first year unfold because we were all home together.  They saw her learn to crawl and walk, to start making sounds, and grabbing things.  They would occupy her and play with her on the floor while I got some things done.  They experienced her first phonics lesson!  What a rare opportunity, full of moments that could never be duplicated.  They would have missed it all if they were in their separate classrooms in a school away from home.

That is what I most look forward to when I think of homeschooling my children with another baby in the house, over five years later.  The memories that will be made, the bonding we will all have, will be irreplaceable.  The education they will receive just by having an infant in the home will be invaluable.

I don't doubt there will be days I want to pull my hair out, lock myself in my room, or cry right along with the baby.  But I know how extremely special these days will be to all of us.

So... I've got the will and the heart for this, but practically speaking, how on earth will my children continue to get an education?  The academic part, that is.

One of the major things I have done this school year is move toward handing off some of the essential subjects to electronic curriculum.  I started my son on Teaching Textbooks math, a CD-ROM program, at the beginning of the year. It includes all the lectures and solutions for a full math year.  I just this week started Brown-Eyed-Girl on the same program.  I also recently discovered the free online program Xtra Math, which helps kids memorize their math facts.  Each lesson is about 5-10 minutes, and tells the kids when they are done.  I also purchased Rosetta Stone's new online reading program for Brown-Eyed-Girl at the beginning of the school year.  She is a slow-to-warm-up reader, and I felt that I just wasn't methodical enough in my teaching.  This was the best $99 I spent this year because her reading is steadily improving, and she is also getting instruction in spelling and other reading elements such as homonyms, syllables, synonyms, sentence structure etc.  These computer based programs still require my help at times, and definitely need monitoring for progress and to make sure they are truly doing the work, but they have taken a burden off my shoulders in these essential subjects.

So often, advice to new homeschoolers is to focus on the three Rs.   Don't worry about science and history and art etc. But for me, those are the things I want to focus on!  The three Rs are the tedious subjects.  But of course, they are the foundation that needs to be built strong.  I have a lot more confidence that my children are getting that foundation now that I have passed math and some reading instruction off to a methodical electronic program. And there is definitely progress!  This  has also allowed me more time to spend with my up-and-coming reader, to make sure her foundation is being built.

As for science and history and literature, I still head these subjects up, doing lots of reading aloud and discussion with the kids.  We are following loosely the My Father's World Rome to Reformation curriculum.  So our history this year began with Ancient Rome and will progress through the Middle Ages and age of exploration.  We use several different resources, but my favorite history resource is The Story of the World by Susan Weiss Bauer.  We actually have this narrative of history for children on audio CD, so we take advantage of our time in the car to get history lessons.  We are using Apologia's Young Explorers Astronomy this year, another text that I read aloud to the kids and then they do the notebooking activities that come with it.  We are also listening our way through The Chronicles of Narnia series on audio book when we are in the car, and we are all loving this!  Again, employing electronic resources is a life saver, and a great use of time in the car!

And of course, I am always reading a book aloud to the kids.  This is one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling, and also another family bonding time.  We've built so much"history" together just by sharing these stories.  With a nursing baby, and all the time I'll be spending in a chair, reading aloud will continue to be a major part of our homeschool.

Another fact of life I have come to embrace this year, is that our school day may take ALL day.  We will rarely be done by noon, and shooting for that only causes me and the kids stress. With each new school year, the work load increases on my children and on me.  With each new child, it does too, of course.  I have learned to become so much more flexible with our day.  While trying to keep everyone on task and doing productive work, I'm also giving them some freedom to take a break when need be.  We don't allow any television, video games or fun computer time until at least four o'clock and then, only when all their work is done.  I'm trying to place more responsibility in their court, and recently implemented the ideas in this blog post about using a simple notebook to assign work.

Flash forward:

Baby B is now two weeks old.  We took a week off from school and picked it up again this week.  On Monday, B had his first check-up with the doctor.  Grammy came over to watch the older three, and they worked on their to-do lists from their notebooks (mentioned above) while I was gone.  Later, we read from the Bible and our current read-aloud, The Door in the Wall.  We finished up the Mars notebooking activities while B  was sleeping.  The following days have been similar.

The kids' doctor is very supportive of home education, and she rightly said to me at the baby's appointment, "You make it work because it is important to you."

I don't consider the work I do here at home any easier or more difficult than the work other moms do.  It takes discipline to get up every day and do the thing you have committed to do and do it diligently. Although the dynamics in our home have changed, of course, with the arrival of a new baby, and there will be days that we don't get it "all" done, education will continue to be one of our top priorities because, for us, it's more than books, it is a lifestyle.