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Homeschooling With a Baby in the Midst

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Our adorable baby girl was born June 2nd. I had planned to wait until September to start back to school, but suddenly in July, a mere month after her appearance, I felt an itch to get a routine going for the big kids.

It was rough. I dreamed of sending them to school daily, yet that wasn’t really what I wanted. I kind of mourned getting school done before 1pm. We were frequently interrupted. I can’t nurse and read aloud, by the way. I always need two arms for nursing, especially now that she is heavier, and in spite of her still being on the Boppy. So reading while I nurse is out.

Homeschooling with a baby is so much harder when your oldest two are school age.

But I took each day as it came and just persevered with the grace of God and lots of prayer (and a shout out to an encouraging blogger). I let some of my ideals go. I made checklists to encourage independence with my oldest. I explained that we would have to be flexible and whenever I was free, we were to do our “together” subjects. Whenever the baby needed me, she was to do whatever she could on her list and try not to dwindle away her time.

At the end of July, we added to our crazy when we started taking care of the two year old down the street That meant a readjustment to the routine once again. We’re still adjusting.

Morning Time to the Rescue 

Yes, Morning Time. Except, it does not always happens in the morning. Nevertheless, it’s the one part of our day that the kids look forward to and are pretty much always excited about. (If you’re not familiar with Morning Time, I highly recommend Pam Barnhill‘s Morning Time resources.)

Our Morning Time is thorough. It alone can count for a full day’s school by adding a page or two of math to it. Sarah Mackenzie shared her Morning Time on a Periscope video and hers is so simple. I love the simplicity of her Morning Time. Ours is a bit more full of stuff, but it is GOOD stuff focused on Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Culture, and Memory Work. These are Wildflowers and Marbles’ categories that I had intuitively adopted before I read her Morning Time posts.

I mostly split our Morning Time into three chunks. The post breakfast “as-soon-as-the-baby-goes-down-for-her-nap” time, lunch time, and before bed, though sometimes we can get the whole thing done in one sitting. When we do, it takes about an hour. In between those chunks there is math, copywork, dictation, grammar, Ambleside Online readings and narrations (the 8 year old also does written narrations), and a few other odds and ends.

Pam Barnhill recently wrote a book all about Morning Time. It’s more than just the book; it’s the resources she’s pulled together and put in one place for you so that your Morning Time can be well organized and successful. Her podcast Your Morning Basket is inspiring and full of ideas. In her guide, which I hope some publisher will publish as a physical book someday, she shares what she considers the pivotal aspects of Morning Time, explains them, and gives plenty of examples and resources. It’s the perfect resource for someone just starting out with incorporating Morning Time, although it can definitely be helpful for homeschoolers already well-versed in the Morning Time routine. For example, I always thought our Morning Time started pretty abruptly. We start with a prayer, then start our morning devotion, look up the extra scriptures provided by the devotional, and then move into our habit formation. Pam suggests building ritual and right affection for Morning Time. I felt we were lacking the right affection. Having just watched Sarah’s Periscope in which she describes their Morning Time and how they sing the Doxology to start that part of their school day, we’ve decided to start with the Doxology as well. It is beautiful and moving and sets the stage for a more thankful, appreciative start.

My next post will share our Morning Time content and flow. It’s really helpful to see everyone’s Morning Time. I am thankful for those who share theirs. It has helped me compile a list and routine that works for my family. In sharing our Morning Time, I hope to add to your own homeschool arsenal.

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HOMESCHOOL

Jumping into Ambleside Online Year 2

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We started Ambleside Online this year. I had looked at it often, but never taken the plunge. However, God led me to various bloggers who were using Ambleside. Visiting their homeschools through their blog posts completely inspired me to try Year 2 with Bear this year.

It took a while to find a groove. I fought Charlotte Mason on a daily basis. The AO website for Year 2 recommends only penmanship, copywork, phonics (which Bear doesn’t need much of at this point), foreign language, and math as daily subjects. No grammar, no Latin, no vocabulary, and so on. The rest of the curriculum is through literature and living books (I highly recommend you take a look here so you can see what kinds of books get read through the year). Yet, I had a hard time letting go of my preconceived notions of what needed to get done in a day. CM recommends short lessons, but Bear’s math was taking 45 – 60 minutes per day to get done. I also kept trying to add in extra things like Latin, vocabulary, grammar, writing programs, and other things that weren’t truly needed. I was leaving out the essential extras like nature study and journalling, and composer and artist study (or just not getting to them regularly enough).

Slowly we changed. First, we tried to keep everything. I shortened the math lessons – set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes. I let go of grammar. I decreased extra writing lessons to twice a week. We kept Latin, but set a timer for 15 minutes. We kept English from the Roots Up, but decreased the time on it to 5 to 10 minutes.

Now, on week 32, I think we’ve gotten into a rhythm and routine that works for our family and that I can make work next year with a new baby.

In the next few posts, I’d like to give you an inside peek at a week with Ambleside Online Year 2 so you can see how we fit it all in, and in fact, how we are now done earlier in the day than we used to. We are just Ambleside Online novices and our way is just one of the many ways Charlotte Mason principles can get done. However, it does help to get a glance into other people’s homeschools and I wouldn’t have found our “system” without the help of many bloggers. I took the bits I thought would work for us from each of those blogs I visited. (Afterthoughts, Joyous Lessons, Sage Parnassus, the AO forum, and many more).

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A week with AO Year 2 – Monday

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Monday is a short day. The kids have an extra curricular program for history and fine arts that takes up most of the day, giving us a very short time for school in the morning.

We do not have set getting up times. Sometimes the pregnancy makes me very lightheaded in the morning and the best thing to do is lay in bed longer, and sometimes, the leg and foot cramps are so bad, I have to get out of bed to make them better. This particular morning nothing was amiss and I got up earlier. The kids tend to sleep in until 8 or 8:30 am (and even sometimes 9:00!), but J-jo sometimes gets up earlier – this was one of those mornings when he was up earlier.

The kids have to have their beds made, teeth brushed, faces washed, pajamas away, clothes on, and prayers said before coming down for breakfast. I usually shower and get dressed after breakfast to give them some free time before we start school.

Today Bear took a long time to come downstairs so I started school with J after my shower. He does math, spelling, and copywork daily. He joins in for the majority of the year 2 readings but next year will do his own year 1. Today he requested grammar – very rare occurrence, since I decided, as per Charlotte Mason, that grammar is not necessary in the early years. However, since he requested it, I got out the First Language Lessons (FLL) book I used once upon a time with Bear, which I started with him in the fall.

J-jo and I did FLL and spelling while snuggling on the couch. For spelling, we use All About Spelling in conjunction with a wonderful app my husband built me. J-jo neither cares to write very much nor use the All About Spelling tiles but he loves to use the iPad. I couldn’t find an app exactly like I wanted, so I asked my husband to create something. You can see the app in action below. The good news is that it’s available at the app store, so you can all use it, too.

Bear came down for her breakfast. I read our Bible while she ate. J-jo had a snack. After teeth got brushed, they both did copywork. Bear uses Pentime Cursive, and J-jo does the copywork from Writing With Ease. He likes this program, so I kept it.

J-jo wasn’t quite done copywork so Bear did EFRU (English from the Roots Up).

From 9:30 to about 10:00, I read aloud from Saint Anthony and the Christ Child, and we read our daily poetry (Christina Rossetti this term). The chapter from our saint book was quite long. I use various saint books to replace Trial and Triumph.

Then we went outside for math. It was 10:00 at this point and beautiful out. We had about 45 minutes left. I had to juggle both lessons and I hadn’t photocopied the worksheet portions of either of their Rightstart Lessons (level B for J-jo and E for Bear) so I had to improvise on our little whiteboards. It made both their lessons take a bit longer, but they swung on the swings and dug in the dirt while waiting their turns. See, I am not always organized and now you all know that truth.

It was time to go. Fortunately, the previous evening, I had been organized in the making of our snacks and lunches for our extra curricular program, so we brushed our teeth, got our shoes on and left the house. We used our time in the car to listen to half of a chapter of Robin Hood (an AO Year 2 literature title for term 3).

Piano practice got done after dinner. One bathed while the other practiced piano. We prayed the Saint Joseph novena and other family prayers, read half a chapter of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (our current bedtime read aloud), and then the kids were in bed by 8:00pm.

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HOMESCHOOL

A Week with AO Year 2 – Tuesday

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Whew. It is 1:40pm. I am completely drained. Probably because I have chosen to blog about my week, today was full of contrary children who opposed me at every turn (It will end up that this week becomes an atypical week full of outdoor play and playdates!). Welcome to the whole picture of homeschooling and if it happens to be all peaches in your home every day, just please keep me ignorant!

I couldn’t sleep last night.  A tired Mommy, who finally crashed on the couch at 3:30 am, to be woken at 8:30 am, doesn’t usually help the day.

School started at 9:30. They both did copywork. Bear did EFRU. Unfortunately, both children were quite grumbly, and it wore me out. Thankfully, my husband had most of the day off today so he was around to help.

We read our Bible, prayed, read a story from the Angel Food Readers about how we can be good eggs and bad eggs. This story must have hit home with my son, because after the story he did the rest of the school day without complaining. We did a lesson from the First Communion Catechism and read some of Christina Rossetti’s poems. Bear reviewed some Shakespeare memory work.

Math lessons, spelling using the app. Lunch.

I sang our new Folk Song (Clementine) to them as they ate lunch. We use this book and not the AO list of folk songs. I just choose ones I think they will like from the book.

After lunch, Bear did a written narration for her Sassafras Anatomy book (not an AO book, but one we added in). We don’t use the whole Sassafras curriculum, just the living book. J-jo read to himself from an Usborne What’s Inside You book.

Some friends came over at 2:00pm and the kids played outside most of the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, the kids practiced piano and took baths.

In looking at my checklist at the end of the day, I realize how little of it we have actually gotten to so far. I color some things in yellow I really want to get to tomorrow.

See the rest of the week:
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday

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