Saturday, May 23, 2009

Homeschooling--Part 2

In response to the comment on my "Homeschooling" post from a Mommy in California: "How do you get housework done?"

Before Ethan was born, I had no problem getting housework done because Caleb took a long afternoon nap every day and also went to bed at 7:00 pm every night. Then for the first couple of months after Ethan's arrival, I didn't do much in the house at all. One year ago, when Ethan was 2-months-old, we moved into a new house. At that time, I set up the cleaning rotation that I am still using now: I do one “major” housework item during naps every day…Monday is trash & dusting, Tuesday is cleaning all floors, Wed is deep-clean kitchen, Thu is bathrooms, Fri is laundry, and then I alternate through other needed jobs on the weekend. I also frequently get Caleb set up doing something like playing with play dough and then load the dishwasher or get the mail while he is playing. Grocery shopping, play dates, library trips and other errands are done in the morning during the hour or two before lunch, and I try not to go more than one place in a day. I do most of dinner preparation during afternoon nap and just add the heat before Daddy comes home. Cleaning up is done all throughout the day, because I'm the kind of person who is perpetually putting things away as I move through the house.

I shower and get ready for the day during Ethan’s morning nap while Caleb is watching his daily TV. And I usually have time either to lay down or read for about 30 minutes during afternoon naps as well. Also, we usually clean up the stuff from one activity before going to the next, and Caleb has to help. I do dinner dishes while Daddy is giving the boys their bath. No one attempts to straighten up the play room until just before Caleb goes to bed, and sometimes we just go to bed and leave all the toys out.

The only thing I feel bad about is that Ethan is just sort of absorbing things and is not being directly interacted with as much as I would like. The other downside is that my house is never completely clean (by nature of the rotation), but it is also never completely a mess :)

Thanks for your interest, Jessica!

Friday, May 22, 2009


Those of you who know me well know that I have always been a big fan of homeschooling. I have known so many homeschooled kids who were mature beyond their years, well-grounded in their faith, and only minimally influenced by popular culture (even during their teenage years). On the other hand, Marcus has not known many homeschooling families and does not have strong feelings one way or the other. So we are both keeping an open mind, watching Caleb and Ethan, and regularly re-evaluating what type of education will be best for them. The decision for kindergarten will be largely based on what school options we have for Caleb, and the learning preferences and social needs that we observe in him at that time.

All that being said, I am a teacher at heart, and I have been "homeschooling" Caleb for over a year now. Each month, I make up a curriculum (adapted from the previous month). It is actually more a "play guide" than an academic curriculum, but it is very helpful to me because it helps me keep our play focused on constructive, learning-oriented activities. The frequent transitions helps avoid monotony, though I never interupt one thing to start another. When one activity is losing momentum, whether it's been 10 minutes or 45 minutes, I let that come to a close and we start something different. I check off everything we get to each day, though frequently a play date or an extra outing will cause us to skip one or two items each day. I stay very flexible with the routine, and we never follow the exact order all day. Everything is geared toward Caleb, but Ethan participates as much as he can, because he wants to do anything that Caleb is doing. (All of the below is in table form on my play room wall, but blogger won't take tables so it's in a list here.)

7:00 Devotional & Breakfast (read a Bible story, pray and practice memory verse)
7:30 Imaginary Play (story game, role playing with people/figurines)
8:00 ABC’s and Numbers (identify, count/sort items, phonics)
8:30 Critical Thinking (puzzles, board game, card game, science experiment)
9:00 Educational TV (Caleb watch video, often in Spanish; Ethan naps)
9:30 Creative Time (draw, color, paint, play dough, cut & glue paper)
10:00 Music (sing songs, listen to music, play toy instruments)
10:30 Read Books (3-5 picture books)
11:00 Errands & Lunch
1:00 Nap & Post-nap Snack
4:00 Outside Recreation (ride bike, walk, tumble, jump, dance, play outside)
4:30 Sports (throw, catch, kick, score goals, dribble, shoot, bat)
5:30 Dinner & Bath
6:30 Build w/ Daddy (Tinker Toys, train set, Duplos, blocks)
7:30 Help With a Chore (pick up toys, load dishwasher, cooking w/ Mama)
8:00 Books & Bedtime
I'm recording this for my own family record, and also in case any of you out there have a 3-year-old who you are trying to "homeschool" :) By the way, Mimi, that is a Highlights magazine that Caleb is looking at in the picture. He LOVES those things, and we read the whole thing from cover to cover every day for at least a week after it comes. Final disclaimer: you all should know that this whole thing went out the window for about three months after Ethan was born.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Surf Trip

Well, the title of this post is a little misleading because I'm not actually going to talk at all about the surf trip that Marcus went on with his dad and brother to Lima, Peru. I'm just going to talk about what me and the boys did to amuse ourselves during the nine days he was gone. Marcus left from work on a Friday afternoon and returned the following Sunday night around 11:00 pm. The first five days he was gone, I filled up our days with play dates and outings. I got together with almost every good friend I've made since moving to Birmingham during those five days. We were hardly ever at home, which was a good thing, because it didn't give us much time to miss Daddy. The hardest part of the day was after I got the kids to bed...I was so tired from the day but reluctant to go to bed alone, so sometimes I just fell asleep in Caleb's queen-sized bed with him. Several nights I talked to Marcus on the phone to hear about his Peruvian adventures, though I was usually too busy with the kids to talk much, and we eventually resorted to emailing when we were free.

On a side note, it's amazing to me what a huge difference those two hours before bedtime that Marcus is home makes in my outlook. It is something to look forward to all day, and it makes the hours between naptime and his arrival go so much faster than if there is nothing new between nap and bedtime. When he gets home, he is so "present" with the boys...playing, talking and involved, and I am allowed to mentally check out of babyland, make dinner and enjoy listening to their play. Well, going so many days without that, not to mention the long Saturdays and Sundays, was a challenge.
Anyway, after five days of frenetic coming and going, the three of us hit the road for an (alleged) 6-hour car ride to visit my parents in Searcy. The trip there was miserable, complete with whining, crying, stalling DVD players, spilled drinks, not sleeping, and more whining and crying. I told Marcus after I arrived that I was never coming back: he would have to fly out and drive us home. (Fortunately, three days of relaxing at my parents house dulled my memory of the trip and I did pile us all back in for the return journey on Sunday.) We had a good time at Nana & Papa's. Nana, a former elementary school teacher and current school counselor, had brought numerous activities and toys home from her school to enjoy with Caleb. Probably Caleb's favorite activity was painting rocks, but he also thoroughly enjoyed the magnets and paper clips, puppets, sand timers and piles of books. Caleb knows that time with Nana means that for a few days, he will have as many books read to him as he desires. Don't get me wrong...I read to him alot at home, but now that he enjoys books that take more than 15 minutes to read aloud, I rarely get time to read more than 5 or 6 in a day. With Nana and me in the house, he probably gets closer to 20 books in a day, which is much closer to his desired quota. He LOVES his books! The only downer about the weekend was that Ethan decided (while we were in Searcy) that morning starts before 5 am. The three nights we were there, he woke up at 4:40, 4:10, and finally, 3:15 and DIDN'T GO BACK TO SLEEP until his morning nap! That made for a weird sleep schedule and a tired Mommy, but it was just for a few days, and it's definitely worth it to deal with a temporarily messed-up schedule for the pleasure of being with family.

Well, all in all, we survived the surf trip better than I expected we would, and all four of us were more than happy to be reunited a few days ago!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


First of all, I'm so sorry to those of you who frequently check this blog...we have just been so busy that posting keeps getting put off. Then I feel like so many things have happened and there is just no way I can catch up, but I guess I should just start somewhere :) Three weekends ago, we took the boys camping for the first time. It was a blast...even more fun than I thought it would be. It was actually a group camp-out that we planned for our church small group, and so five families (complete with nine children age 4 and under) camped together on adjacent campsites. We got there at 9 am on Friday to "claim" our camp sites (which is the way they require everyone to do it at Oak Mountain State Park). We got to the sites, set up our tents and unloaded the car while the kids played. Marcus was at work, so it was just me, the kids and our good friends Al & Quenta (who have 2-year-old triplets). With three adults, five kids, and four tents to set up...the first few hours were a little stressful :) Around noon, we all headed back to our houses so the kids could nap and we could get our second load of stuff (food and some things we forgot the first time).

Me and the kids made it back to the campsite around 4:30. Marcus and the other families trickled in over the next few hours. The kids had so much fun being outside, running around, kicking soccer balls, etc. that the usual conflict was minimal. The weather was perfect...not too warm or too cool. We all sat around in our camping chairs and chatted for hours while the kids played. The only thing we wished we had was some of that orange construction fencing so that we could wrap it around the big area that encompassed our four campsites to confine the kids, rather than yelling "Too far, -----!" every few minutes. Bed time the first night went much more smoothly than we'd anticipated, though Caleb had a hard time falling asleep and Ethan cried for about 20 minutes in the Pack-N-Play before he was out. Caleb just laid there in perfect silence (under threat of punishment if he woke Ethan up) looking out of the mesh tent roof for 30 or 40 minutes before he finally fell asleep. I'm sure it was hard for him to drift off when he could hear us adults talking around the campfire just 30-40 feet from where he lay.

I think the group dynamic was a very positive part of the trip because all five families are such good friends. We have similar parenting styles and are all comfortable with each other correcting any of the kids as needed, so we don't feel like we have to be "on guard" all the time, lest our child do something inappropriate without us noticing. If Caleb acts out and anyone sees it, I know it will be handled immediately by that person (or referred to Marcus or I if needed). Ethan was the only mobile child who wasn't old enough to follow instructions, and everyone helped out with watching him and keeping him safe. It was also nice to be in a group because we did very little to entertain the kids while at the campsite...they amused each other very nicely.

In between hanging out at the campsite, we went on nature walks, to the camp play ground, down to the little camp "beach" and also to the Wildlife Expo that was going on that weekend. We were very blessed to have my friend Quenta (mother of the triplets), who happened to be a Wildlife Biology major in college, and she was a wealth of information for us and the kids. The last night, we ended up breaking camp and loading up the cars just before dark because of a tornado warning and hail thunderstorms predicted for that night. We were disappointed that we didn't get to do our singing/communion camp church on Sunday morning, but we're optimistic about doing the weekend again in the fall. Sorry for not posting pictures...I actually completely forgot to take any the whole weekend! The one group picture here is missing one family who had to leave Saturday afternoon, as well as Ethan, who was taking a nap. The triplet's Daddy got some good pictures of everyone and is going to give them to me soon, at which point I will try to remember to post them :)