Tag Archives: toddlers

A Day in the Life

Someone said she’d like to see what a typical day looks like for us, so here is a “normal” weekday during this season (with 4 school age kids, a preschooler, a toddler, and me in the sick/tired first trimester with Kid Siete):

6:45       DH wakes up with the the two youngest, gets everyone breakfast, changes diapers, gets ready for work. The older kids trickle out of bed and the more motivated ones can start on their school lists (which I leave on the kitchen counter the night before).

8ish      Or 9ish these days, with early pregnancy fatigue. I wake up, eat, clean up breakfast, do some laundry, clean. DH leaves for work. If the kids are playing nicely together, and we aren’t going anywhere that morning, I let them play for a while. If we have an outing, we start the long process of  getting ready to go. If they are fighting, or if someone is eager to get his list done early that day, I have them start on chores or independent school work. This includes handwriting, drawing, typing, music appreciation, nature journals, math for the older kids, some art projects, memorization, assigned reading, written or drawn narrations, and so on.

10:30       The little kids are ready for a snack and I am ready for all the kids to have outside time. This is a minimum of one hour daily (lots more in warmer weather). Sometimes I do yard work or take them across the street to the playground, sometimes we all go on a “nature walk”, sometimes I run (taking one or two with me in the jogging strollers), sometimes I get caught up on indoor stuff while they pester me play outside. I’ve also been doing food prep in the morning when I can since my morning sickness gets worse throughout the day. About once a week, we hang out with friends, or go the zoo or museum or somewhere special outdoors. This is also when I schedule doctor or dentist visits.

12 or 1    Either Kid Uno or I make lunch. While they eat, I check my email or the news or finish whatever I was working on earlier. If we’ve had an outing in the morning, I try to get home by 1:30 or 2. After lunch, Kids Cinco and Seis nap for a couple hours, so it’s straight to the books for the rest of us. I alternate among kids. This is when I do math and phonics, poetry, read alouds, hear narrations, get out supplies for art projects, check handwriting and Miquon, sing, etc….everything they can’t do without me.

3:30       Twice a week, I take Kid Uno to her ballet class. The younger kids often watch Wild Kratts while I’m gone, or finish their independent work. On other days, I frequently doze off during someone’s times tables or phonics, thanks again to pregnancy fatigue, so when I wake up we try to pick up where they left off (unless Kid Seis already woke up from her nap, in which case everything just goes crazy).

4            The two younger kids wake up sometime around now, and everyone has a snack. We usually have a few school things left to finish, like correcting math. Then chaos free time descends. And chores. And neighbor friends. Lately I’ve been sending them out for more outside time before dark but that will probably end when it starts snowing, because it’s not fun getting into snow clothes twice a day. I do more laundry, pay bills, make dinner, etc.

6ish       DH gets home. We usually eat dinner around 7. Kid Uno needs to be picked up from ballet twice a week, Kid Dos has a horseback riding lesson once a week, and we have house church one night a week, so our evenings feel pretty full. If I haven’t worked out during the day, this is usually when I do it.

7:30       We clean up dinner, DH usually supervises the kids picking up the house, plays with them, does baths, and reads Proverbs to the kids while they eat something sweet. I check off all the boxes we completed today, and write out tomorrow’s school lists for the four older kids. Occasionally I read stories or play a board game to assuage my mom guilt if I haven’t spent much time with a kid that day 😉

8            Bedtime for Kid Seis.

8:30      Bedtime for Kids Cinco and Cuatro

9            Bedtime for Kids Tres, Dos, and Uno. They can do something quiet till 9:30. Meanwhile, I have crashed and am doing something low energy like online shopping, reading, or talking with DH.

11ish     DH and I go to bed. The end. Unless someone little wakes up in the night 🙂



Thinking Out Loud…Halfway Through 2016-2017

How are we doing this year? On track to finish at the end of May. We took a week off for my unexpected surgery and then spent 3 lovely weeks in Florida on vacation.


I’m glad we started in August last year; it gave me a mental buffer even though we weren’t expecting a baby this year…and recovering from abdominal surgery has been harder than recovering from a birth. On paper, our schedules are very balanced and doable. In reality, I am struggling with very long days for myself, generally 8:30 am to 9:30 pm without much/any margin. Kid Seis is Super Destructo Toddler–she can destroy our entire house in 3 minutes.  And send us all into hysterics watching her because she is so FUNNY!


But she is very hard to keep up with, and it seems like someone else is always getting the short end of the stick. My elegant solution is to hand the stick to a different person every day 🙂 We are doing well covering the skill subjects and readings. It has worked well combining Kids Dos and Tres for several readings. They have a sweet relationship with each other, without the competitive element between Kid Uno and Kid Dos. We are doing great at spending 1+ hours outdoors daily, even though it’s been a COLD winter. img_20170119_123554738

DH takes the kids on an outing most Saturdays, which is fun for the kids and gives me some very appreciated. I’m starting to get into planning mode for next year; I always enjoy planning.

It’s all the “extras” that feel very rushed to me; I assign something to a kid, and then nag and say “hurry up and finish, we have so much other stuff to get done”. But really, I want them to dive into their art projects or handicrafts or outdoor exploration, and really spend some time enjoying it.  So that is something for me to improve over the next 18 weeks. I’ll have the 3 older kids doing the same thing every day, to see if it streamlines things a bit. So everyone does picture study one day, nature journals another day, sports another day, art project another day, handicraft another day…


Also–the little kids. I want to grab a bunch of picture books, Five In A Row Style, and read them a couple times, and do a few activities that we are inspired to do. Kid Cuatro is a little academic. She spends hours drawing, and now writing, as long as she has a willing parent or sibling around to spell it for her. She doesn’t even listen anymore when we read her stories because she is too busy sounding out words on the page. She’s begging for reading lessons. And she’s not quite five yet! I think I’ll start reading lessons with her when Kid Tres finishes 100 EZ Lessons, probably in March. SONY DSCKid Cinco needs more cuddling, more stories, more playtime WITH me, and lots of music. He loves music! I bought a CD player to replace our broken one, and showed him how to use it so he can put on CDs by himself. SONY DSCThe little kids also need more art, and more board and card games through the rest of winter. Kid Dos has been dying for horseback riding lessons, so she and Kid Tres will start weekly lessons in March. Then we’ll have one day with music lessons, one day with horseback riding lessons, and three days with ballet classes. Plus house church, Sunday church, fitting in visits with friends, family outings,travel and hosting people, etc. It feels like so much. img_20161109_110652916

How can I streamline? Maybe clustering kid chores in 3-4 days per week, instead of every day. Maybe cutting out Bible with each individual older child, and just reading Egermeir’s as a group (DH has been reading the Bible with all of them at night). What about not scheduling drawing on nature journal days, and not scheduling handwriting on days when Kid Uno has lots of written narrations? Perhaps making math lessons a bit shorter. Maybe scheduling a few things which seem less “schoolish” for the weekends (music appreciation, handicrafts, longer readings like Robin Hood). Sometimes I could save a bit of work with older kids for after DH gets home in the evening and can watch the noisy little ones. Maybe having older kids help with the baby during the day while I take a turn with another one. And next year, I may try scheduling a 4 day week or an 11 week term, and see if that helps. Or maybe just drop all of my very detailed plans and unschool instead 😉img_20161230_111011926

How We Do…School With Babies and Toddlers

With six kids under age nine, this seems to be one of the most common questions I’m asked these days…how do you do school with babies and toddlers?

I’ve never been a morning person, although I have tried hard (at times) 🙂 So that rules out the wake-up-early-and -get-it-all-done-before-the-little-kids-wake-up method.

I make a list for the two “school kids” every night, and leave it on the counter where they will theoretically see it and start on it when they wake up. (Actually I suspect DH gets them started, because I am sleeping or nursing a baby in bed so I don’t really know for sure what happens before 8:30 am). Most days, they get in a good chunk of independent work in the morning. Mainly Kid Uno, since Kid Dos is dependent on me for most of her work. This may include handwriting, drawing, outdoor time (at least one hour every day), some written math, art projects, memorization, music practice, etc. Meanwhile I am wrangling younger kids, cleaning, paying bills, putting winter clothes on the little kids so they can play outside…

Then we have lunch. I don’t eat with the kids. Sometimes I read them a story from Egermeier’s. Sometimes I nurse a baby. Sometimes I check my email or put in a load of laundry or work out…

Then Kid Cinco and Kid Cuatro go down for naps. And naptime is when we do all the other school stuff. It is basically a race to get it done before the little kids wake up. Which doesn’t really allow for leisurely discussions or interesting rabbit trails, because I must check off my boxes to make it look like a productive school day! Just kidding–sort of. Some days are more enjoyable than others, and some days just don’t really work out the way I intended, and some we finish earlier than anticipated which gives us a little down time, and I am still not always happy about “giving up” my naptime break (I used to be able to use it for reading or hobbies or cleaning or whatever) because it makes my day REALLY LONG…but that is what works for us during this phase.

Once a week, we have a day where we do our together stuff…this is singing a hymn, reading One Small Square, Among the people, Saints, Lamb’s Shakespeare, and filling in their timelines (every 3-4 weeks). On the other afternoons, I alternate between Kid Uno and Kid Dos with their separate readings and math and narrations.

Kid Tres kinda does his own thing in the afternoons. His only schoolwork is handwriting, which takes all of five minutes a day, and I haven’t started reading or math with him yet…so he plays solitaire Othello or Nerf basketball or looks at books or draws or does puzzles or plays legos.

Most days we finish somewhere between 4-6pm. If we’ve had a morning out of the house, or if we’ve had friends over, we will probably have a lighter school day in the afternoon. We almost never go out between 2-4 because I am a stickler for naps for little kids. We rarely do any school on Saturdays, but often the kids’ weekend activities count toward my checklist for them. Things like ballet class, art projects, a hike, learning a new chore, listening to music, and so on. DH will often take the older kids out for a few hours on Saturdays so I get a kid break. Those are nice times for recharging, planning, hobbies, catching up, and thinking uninterrupted thoughts. And two of my goals for this year are to use the weekends for kid dates (so they each get some one-on-one time with parents), and to read aloud more to the younger kids. During the week, I probably spend about 2 hours a day reading to the older kids, and my voice is a bit worn out by evening, so the little kids get fewer stories than I think they should. Still trying to balance those needs.

So that is what our general schedule looks like. It’s actually quite different from the Charlotte Mason ideal of morning lessons, done by lunch, and afternoon free time…but I am not her, and she was a teacher, not a mother of six children! My priorities are outdoor time for everyone in the morning (my kids seem to do better with sitting down after they’ve used up some energy, and I do better after they’ve taken their noise outside for a while), and naptimes for the under-fives while the older kids work through their mom/teacher intensive subjects while it’s relatively quiet and I am available. So far, so good!



How We Do…Picture Books

This one’s for you, Team P! 🙂

First my disclaimer(s): I am really picky about picture books! Life is too short to read bad books. And if your kids are like mine, when they latch on to a particular book, you will be reading it overandoverandoverandoverandOVER!

Inaccuracies bug me. Here’s my confession for the day: I got rid of The Very Hungry Caterpillar because I couldn’t stand the upside down butterfly illustration and the reference to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon…if it’s a butterfly, it’s a chrysalis! Ugh. Don’t get me started on bison vs. buffalo and pronghorn vs. antelope, either. We have some really nice Smithsonian nature books, but in one the text says “maple tree” while the illustration shows a oak tree. What’s up with that? I’m keeping that one, but am seriously considering correcting it with permanent marker. Some people cover up nudity in their art books; I just want some accuracy in my science books! OK, moving on…

Branded books don’t stay around here. Nor any other book whose main purpose is something other than storytelling. If it’s My Little Pony, Disney Princess, Strawberry Shortcake, Little People, Nickelodeon, Barbie, or anything else based on a movie or TV, it’s outta here. Not because we are so anti-media, but because they are horribly obnoxious to read aloud, and their main reason for existing is to hook my children into major marketing schemes and consume their little lives with shallow consumerism.

Educational books are also iffy for me. This is sort of a hazy category, but I’m thinking of Usborne, DK, Magic Schoolbus types. If a book’s purpose is to educate a child, in general they seem more textbooky than storybooky. I’m fine with the kids looking at them or reading them, but for reading aloud, I usually stick with stories. Unless they are really interesting non-fiction, with cool photos and stuff 🙂

And the last thing that annoys the crap out of me is poor editing. Where have all the editors gone?! Seriously, there must be a worldwide shortage of them, because in the last two years I have read so many books  that are filled with typos, misspellings, fragments, and so on. Are you listening, Mom? Your dream job awaits. We have beautifully illustrated versions of Brer Rabbit and The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, but they may be going in the discard pile too, because I hate reading around the typos and lousy sentence structure 😦

Whew! So what’s left after all my anti-this and anti-that? Plenty 🙂 My favorite picture books tell a great story in an engaging way, have wonderful illustrations, are fun to read aloud, have a unique approach to the world, are nostalgic for me (books I loved growing up), have amazing photos, or all of the above.  Here’s a rundown of some great picture books, in no particular order (you can read reviews on Amazon or wherever; I’m just including little blurbs about why we like them):

Tikki Tikki Tembo: I don’t think this qualifies for outstanding Chinese cultural awareness, but it is the most fun book ever to read fast, and have your kids memorize his name 🙂

The Day the Babies Crawled Away: So fun to read, and unique illustrations.

Hush! and Peek!: We were introduced to these by my sister-in-law who is half Thai, and they are sweet, lyrical, and colorful.

Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, King Midas: When the older girls were getting into princesses, I started hunting for alternatives to Disney. These have stunning illustrations, and are well told. The font is a bit difficult to read.

Rumplestiltskin: Again, fabulous illustrations and a good story. I’d like to get Rapunzel, too.

The Falling Stars: Classic, and lovely watercolors.

Hans Christian Anderson Fairytales: The un-disneyfied versions. Beautiful pictures.

anything by the Provensens. We started with A Year at Maple Hill Farm.

anything by Robert McCloskey. We started with Blueberries for Sal.

Mike Mulligan and More: If you are ok with reading anti-capitalist and Luddite-esque stories to your children, Virgina Burton is your woman!

Going on a Lion Hunt: Every single child of ours has been obsessed with this one even though it fits none of my criteria. So I kept it.

Least of All: Kind of an odd book, but the kids love it.

The Pumpkin Runner: I have a huge weakness for anything remotely Australian. And running and true stories. This one is all of the above.

Flip Flap Body Book: I do like this Usborne book, if for no other reason than it convinced my children that boy babies are made from orange sperm and girl babies from pink  sperm! (It’s actually highly age-appropriate).

anything by Richard Scarry. Try What Do People Do All Day?

anything by Tomie de Paola. I like The Clown of God, Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, and The Cloud Book.  Great stories and fun illustrations. I skip the Italian words because I don’t know how to prounounce them :/

Whose Garden Is It? Every time we read this, my kids seem to have a discussion about who the garden belongs to.

A Ride on Mother’s Back: If you wear your babies, this is a refreshing antidote to the bottle-and-stroller illustrations in most children’s books.

Fancy Nancy: some are better than others. My girly daughters relate to her. And the kids’ bedroom frequently looks like hers.  🙂

The Jesus Storybook Bible and Egermeier’s: After much perusing of children’s Bibles (No offense, but I can’t stand any of Kenneth Taylor’s blah-blah-blah versions) these are the two we read regularly. They are very different from each other.

Mama, Is It Summer Yet? and some others by Nikki Mclure: I love her amazing paper-cut illustrations. The stories are so-so, but sweet. BTW, if you need a baby book, hers is the nicest out there, IMHO. I got it for each of my three youngest kids.

anything by Beatrix Potter: Classics. Reading them felt a bit stilted at first, but they grew on me. I think the kids’ favorite is The Tale of Two Bad Mice. I prefer the little individual books over the big collection, though it is nice too.

The Little Pig, The Little Duck, The Little Goat, etc., by the Dunns. : My animal-lover especially loves these. Great photos.

Wild Tracks, 25 Fish Every Child Should Know, and everything else by Jim Arnosky: Beautifully illustrated, and non-fiction presented in a readable way. I love Crinkleroot!

Manatee Winter, Little Black Ant on Park Street, etc. Smithsonian books: The stories aren’t the most engaging, but they are informative, and the illustrations are great. If you ignore the oak/maple mix up 🙂

Olivia: A sophisticated, slightly naughty pig.

Eloise Wilkin Stories: I love her books mainly for the beautiful, detailed watercolors that look like my grandmother’s house.

Arm in Arm, Fortunately, and probably others by Remy Charlip. Kid Dos loves language–rhyming, punning, etc. This author is a recent addition I got mainly for her, and we’ve had fun reading these two. Older and unique.

An Edward Lear Alphabet: This is for Kid Dos, too. I’d like to get more of his books.

So Many Bunnies: Rhyming, counting, and the alphabet.

Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature: We don’t do Berenstain Bears around here (DH does not appreciate the negative portrayal of papa) but we do read this one…the bumbling, lame father is toned down, and the science is great for this age. I think all the kids learned learned solids, liquids, and gases from reading it.

Eric Carle’s Animals Animals: Most of his books are so formulaic, I passed them on, but this is a nice collection of short poems (by other poets) illustrated by him.

How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by McNulty, and anything by Robert E. Wells…such as What’s Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? : Physical science for little kids…and me! Love these. Except now Kid Tres thinks he can get through the other side of the world if he has the proper suit. He also was afraid to go to sleep one night because he’d convinced himself there was a black hole under his bed…but that was from a library book.

Children’s Book of Virtues: Classic stories, very moral.

A Child’s Book of Art: We use this for their first introduction to picture-study. It’s a game, at this age.

Anno’s Counting Book, Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar: I guess these are old too, but I never heard of them till I started hunting for some interesting math books. They are pretty cool. No words. I just got a couple others of his, but haven’t looked at ’em closely yet.

Once Upon a Potty (girl) and (boy): These are fun to break out when someone is potty training.

Feathers For LunchWaiting for Wings, and probably anything else by Lois Ehlert.

anything by Lois Lenski. Kid Tres likes Mr. Small.

White Rabbit’s Color Book and Color Dance. I also have a weakness for tie dye, so these are a nice intro to color mixing.

Marguerite Makes a Book: Interesting and beautiful.

Owl Moon. Fun to look for the semi-hidden animals.

The Listening Walk: Any book about listening is good, right? 🙂

Johnny Appleseed by Will Moses. The illustrations in this version are great. And we are supposedly distant relatives of Johnny Appleseed, so it’s fun telling the kids he was real AND he was their great-great-something.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Kid Uno thought this was pretty funny.

The Llama Who Had No Pajama. Fun poetry.

any collection of Mother Goose

The Ark: Very cool pop-up, though the story is kinda long.

As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps. This one is newer for us, and was an instant hit.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: A book that doesn’t grow old.

Millions of Cats: An oldie but a goody.

Madeline series. A classic.

How Do Dinosaurs…formulaic and obviously have an agenda (teaching manners and social skills) but my kids love them, so they stay.

Saint Nicholas: We need some more saints books…this is the only one we have. It’s a good one.

any of Laurence Anholt’s artist books, such as Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail.  Very interesting.

Finally, I think the Five in a Row booklists are amazing. We’ve read about one third of them, and have liked almost all of them. And our library has a lot of them, which is extra nice.

Oh, and they aren’t exactly picture books, but for coloring books and paper dolls, I have been really impressed with almost everything Dover and Peterson. There’s something for every interest.

OK, that’s enough books for the day…or for a couple years! Have fun looking 🙂

An aside: Did you know Charlotte Mason recommended not reading much to children under age five or six?! This is where I part ways with her 🙂