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What Our Mornings Look Like, How We Teach Math, Relax!

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, November 16, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 89 November 16, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Relax! by Karen Lange
Helpful Tips
-- How We 'Teach' Math
Reader Question
-- What Do Mornings Look Like?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

by Karen Lange


Recently, a friend and I were discussing home education. She
and her three children, ages 3-7, are entering their third year
of homeschooling. Many days, she says, she feels like she is
just keeping her head above water. I, on the other hand, have
finished homeschooling my three kids, who are 21, 23, and 25.
I never felt like I was keeping my head above water – it felt
more to me like walking in oatmeal! I remember those days,
looking forward to tucking the kids into bed and having a few
quiet minutes after a long day.

We discussed some of the ins and outs of teaching the kids at
home, this friend and I. She said she's heard us homeschool
veterans say how quickly the time goes. And then she asked,
'What can I do now to make the most of this time?'

In some ways that was an easy question to answer, but in other
ways it was not. How do you make the most of the time you have
with your kids? I've been doing a lot of thinking about that
lately. I guess I've been reflective, as our family has under-
gone changes in the past year. Our oldest son got married in
March and our other son bought a house and moved out last fall.
Our daughter, the youngest, is the only child at home now.

Looking back, the time did fly by! I didn't know that it would
go so fast. You just 'do' every day, trying to maintain, or
keeping your head above water as my friend says. You know you
are preparing the kids for the future, and you know that they
will grow and change. But you don't always expect those days
to end. Before you know it, it is time for them to go out on
their own.

So, what were my answers to this sweet friend of mine? I offered
a few right away, but I'm still contemplating many more. Every
family is different, every child is different, and no one size
fits all. But there are a few general principles that I think
might be helpful.

My first thought was to say, 'Relax!' The kids are this big for
about two seconds in the big picture. I know; it seems longer
when they are up in the middle of the night, or when the drive to
hockey practice takes 65 minutes. But those endless minutes
really do end. And you can never get them back.

Relax. If you don't find the absolute perfect curriculum for
each child, they'll still make it through. At least you've
learned what doesn't work for them. I promise you won't wreck
them! My oldest, especially, endured a lot of stuff that looked
so good at the curriculum fairs or in the catalogs, but didn't
really suit our needs. My two youngest reaped the benefits from
these mistakes. (I've apologized to my oldest for having to be
the practice child!) We managed to make it through though, and
they can all read, write, and do everything they need to do as
adults. If they are lacking in something, they have the skills
to learn as necessary.

Relax. Savor this time as much as you can. It is such a blessed
season in your family's album of memories. Enjoy the giggles and
the story times. Enjoy the corny jokes and their innocent sense
of humor. Enjoy and appreciate the milestones as they move into
their teens. Pray for the balance between parenting them and
letting have reasonable freedom in growing.

Make time to listen, to talk, and to really get to know them as
they get older. Don't force it, but be there. And be attentive
when you are there. Start early and create opportunities that
foster this attitude. Make time for games and snacks together.
If your schedule is crazy, designate a family dinner night, and
don't let anything other than an emergency or family vacation
preempt it.

Family dinner night continues once a week at our house. It is now
a time to visit and continue to get to know each other and our new
daughter-in-law. It is a time to reminisce and just be together.
You can be sure I savor each and every family night!

Relax. Enjoy their personalities. Each one of your kids is
special -- like I have to tell you that! But to view the ups and
downs through the day with an appreciation of who they are and
what they are meant to be – that really is awesome! Aren't you
blessed God chose to send them to you?

It hit me one Saturday afternoon after a hockey game when we were
eating out. (When our oldest son was in his teens, he played on a
traveling ice hockey team, so we spent a lot of family time on the
road for a few years.) As I sat listening to my husband and kids
talking, something inside me told me to savor this time, for it
wouldn't last forever. I looked at each of the kids, and thought
about their personalities and how they interacted together. It
was sobering to realize that I needed to more seriously treasure
the time, and a blessing to see who they were growing into.

Relax. The housework will get done. Eventually. Assess the
necessary items that need to get done for the sake of order and
cleanliness. Things can be neat and organized, but don't always
have to be immaculate. Enlist the kids' help with chores. It
teaches them responsibility and gives you a hand. Take a few days
throughout the year and have the kids help you organize closets,
etc. to help you feel more in control. Or, swap babysitting with
a friend for time for projects that you need to do yourself

Relax and be spontaneous. Plan a surprise picnic lunch out back
or at the park. Grab some popsicles and read a chapter of a story
on the front porch. Make up a treasure hunt with some dollar
store goodies in a treasure chest at the end. Take an afternoon
and go roller-skating at the rink, or catch a family friendly

Use your imagination to suit your family's personality! Most of
all, relax and appreciate this time together. The hard stuff will
pass and will pale in comparison to the benefits and memories
you'll carry with you.

I'll keep you posted as I continue to contemplate making the most
of time with the kids. I now have a grandchild on the way and I'm
already looking forward to offering homeschooling help if needed.
So, let's make a deal and relax together!


Karen Lange homeschooled her three children K-12. She is a free-
lance writer, author of the Homeschool Co-op Booklet, and creator
of the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Write
to her at writingcoop@yahoo.com or visit her website at:


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net


Piano Is EASY For Kids

Start piano at home with your child.
Put the numbered stickers on your piano.
Read music with our books.
A great way to get kids started.
Come see all the fun songs you can play!



Helpful Tip

Here's some math food for thought! This was 'overheard' on our
Homeschooling Gifted email group:


"I think our view of math is generally too small - so folks think
they have to teach straightforward skills (arithmetic) in the
early years without fostering a mind which relishes in solving
problems and seeing mathematical relationships. Yes, this is easy
for bright kids -- to focus on skills. But I have used an approach
that goes *deeper* rather than faster in order to lay a solid foun-
dation for what comes later.

I've used a couple of good resources. 'Good Questions for Math
Teaching' and 'Hot Math Topics' come to mind. Also 'Lessons for
Algebraic Thinking', which can be started in Kindergarten)."
-- Vicki


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Last Issue's Reader Question

"How does everyone do their mornings? Do you have a set time to
get all the kids up or do you let them sleep until they wake up
(if it's not to late)? I remember as a kid going to public school
being so tired all the time and hating to get up to go to school
(if I was homeschooled I would have loved to get up). I don't
want my kids to be short of sleep and I know that your body runs
it's own cycle so that it wakes up when it has rested enough. We
don't have a good track record with bed time. I shoot for 8:30
every night but sometimes we have evening activites that keep us
out till 8, like my daughter's chorus practice for her Christmas
program at church, and we are up later. And then there is the
usual 'I need another snack', etc. My son is almost 10 and my
daughter is 8. We are going to be adopting younger children
ranging in age from 2 to 7 and I really want to have a better
routine down before they come into our home. I had the routine
really good when they were younger and now it just isn't there
like it needs to be. I would like others' perspectives on this.
It will be a big adjustment going from 2 to 6 children and I know
I have to have control of the ship! Help! Also -- these children
will be children from foster care situations so anyone who has
transition experience for these poor traumatized souls, I would
love to hear from you! We are trying to be as prepared as possi-
ble. My other thought is with them sleeping late that is my only
quiet time to work on the computer when my husband has gone to
work. This is my school work prep time and my email time. Thanks
for your help!" -- Sandy

Our Readers' Responses

"I homeschool a 4th, 8th and 11th grader and have a 10 month old
that I babysit during the day. In the mornings, my two older chil-
dren get up when they want, usually by 9, and do their independent
work. My fourth grader does about half of his work -- usually
what does require my help -- as the baby is really active during
this time. After lunch when the baby naps we focus on math,
science and whatever mom needs to help with. It works for us.
The only rule is that he has to be done by 4 and I have to get it
graded before the next day. I have learned this year that I have
to be more flexible." -- Marsha M.


"What has worked best for us takes in all our personalities and
the fact I run a home day care.

My 2 boys sleep until they wake up or until after 8am, when I wake
them up. Mornings are more for school videos, memorizations, out-
side exercise, my reading to them or one of us reading to the day
care kids. I do some 'relaxed school' work with the day care
preschoolers and toddlers. My 13 year old son does some of his
'paperwork' or reading in the morning, independently. After lunch,
I put the day care kids down for quiet time. Then I work one-on-one
with my 10 year old and 13 year old as needed.

I do have a written plan for each boy similar to the idea of the
full-year-notebooks, so they know what worksheets, books, computer
programs, etc., they are suppose to be working on when I am busy
with the other one or day care. The written plan does not work
well for independent work until they are in 3rd grade or higher.
But even in the younger grades, it helps keep me on track even as
I am teaching them to use it on their own. And the biggest benefit
is it tells the boys when their work is done and they are free to
play." -- Carol and kids


"Hi Sandy! I am new to the newsletter but have been homeschooling
for almost 4 years now. I have 3 girls ages 10 and 11. Our morn-
ings go like this: If we were out late the night before I let them
sleep a little longer -- like 30 minutes to an hour depending on
how late it was when we got to bed. But generally they wake up
around 7am, get dressed, eat breakfast and do chores. We have
several animals and some belong to them. They usually make their
own breakfast, too. We also pick up the house and they have their
daily exercise. Then by 9:30-10am we are at the desk in our school
room and working on our curriculum for about an hour. We do a cer-
tain amount of pages each day in each book. We take breaks and we
are usually done in about 3 hours. Then for the afternoon they can
rest for a few if we were out late or just have some downtime. Our
schedule changes from time to time also as they get older and are
involved in more things. I can't help you on the foster child stuff,
but I think it's awesome that you have the guts to do that! I have
learned to relax a little in our schooling because a stressed mom
causes stressed kids." -- Tonia in Missouri


"I usually get up around 6:15, and let the kids sleep as late as
they need. My two youngest, 2 and 5, are usually up by 6:45; my
oldest, in 2nd grade, is up by 7 am. The kids will eat some
cereal and maybe some eggs, and then watch PBS kid shows. The
oldest is dressed and ready to start schooling by 8:15 on average.
We get lots of yard and park outside play every day - 3 to 4 hours
at least a day (important for being ready to sleep.)

Nighttime routine is: baths before 7 pm, snack at 7 or soon after
(fruit, toast, rice pudding or something else simple and not
sugary.) 7:30 - we watch a favorite TV show, getting into PJs
during commercials. 8:00 is tooth brushing and flossing, story,
and in bed by 8:15. We very rarely move from this schedule, even
on weekends (and even if my husband is working late so that the
kids will be in bed before he gets home.) All of the kids share
the same room, but my daughter does have a light in her bunk if
she wants to read for a while. The boys will fool around for a
little bit, but usually every one is asleep between 8:30 and 8:45.

This schedule seems to work well for us - my daughter no longer
complains about being tired in the morning and wakes up on her own.
My husband and I get some time alone together before we are ready
to hit the sack as well.

If you have other commitments, like the choir, see if you can step
out early, or see if only one parent can be there so that the other
children can get to bed on time. I suspect that the children you
will be adopting (good for you!) may have lacked consistency in
the past. One of the things that you can do to make them more
comfortable with the transition is to let them know that you have
a schedule and will be doing the same thing at the same time each
day. When they know what to expect, they don't have to worry
about things as much (from other ex-foster kids I know -- that
they *will* be getting fed, that they *do* have a bed, that
tomorrow will be a lot like today -- and no, they don't have to
be in charge of everyone else or looking out for themselves.)"
-- Cheryl


"Both my children are very different and still young: 5 and 7
years (Kindergarten and 2nd grade). They do have to be up by
7:30am and eating shortly thereafter. This is especially impor-
tant if my oldest (the night owl) doesn't go to sleep at a decent
hour. I do plan to adjust as they get older, when less direct
instruction is needed of me. I think the older one would do well
in the evening, but that does not work for us right now; I work
part time from home.

Our day is usually from 7:30 am until about 11am. After break-
fast, school for about 1 hour -- this is mostly our reading
requirements. Then they get dressed (if I don't shower before
school it doesn't happen until around lunch), feed their fish,
brush their hair and teeth (this must be stated!). They get
about two 15 minute breaks during the school portion. The
second is about another hour later, usually around 10am, after
math and spelling. They get a snack during this break, again
15 minutes. If they dawdle, they still get the snack but any
undone work is done on their time -- during TV or computer time.
Then, I make calls for appointments or my business -- I try to
never answer the phone during school.

It looks like this on paper:

Breakfast: 7:30 to 8:15
School 8:15 to 9:15
Basic Daily skills (teeth, chores, etc.) until 10am
School (math, lang arts) 10am until 10:45am

I have found a good balanced breakfast with protein (bacon, eggs,
nuts, yogurt smoothie) makes a huge difference! And if there
are a lot behavioral problems (whining), then they need more work
(in the form of manual labor, ie. chores) to remind them of what
they have in a country where we can talk about our belief in our
God openly and have school safely at home with no police taking
them away -- as in Romania or Germany!" -- Michelle L.


"I have never been one to wake up my children in the morning.
When my kids went to public school I really had a hard time
because I hated to wake them when I knew they were tired and
needed their sleep. I think that one of the benefits of home-
schooling is the flexibility to adjust your schedule to your

That said, I am a firm believer in 'early to bed and early to
rise'. I think it breeds a slew of bad habits to allow chil-
dren to sleep until noon and then stay awake until all hours
of the night. It is our job as parents to arrange for an
appropriate bedtime (Mind you, the kids do not always fall
asleep immediately -- I have a night owl and she stays up in
her room reading for an hour or two, but she is in bed all the
same!) If the kids tend to sleep TOO late you may need to
arrange for an earlier bedtime." -- Sandy G.


"At our house we keep a somewhat relaxed schedule. I believe
everyone needs to be able to adapt to any situation to succeed.
We need to meet our obligations regardless of what time we went
to bed. This certainly doesn't mean that we stay up late. It
just means that our goal is to be functional human beings even
if we are tired. If we chose to stay up late and play a game,
we still have to get up and take care of our responsibilities.
We may rearrange our day to include a short nap, though. That's
how real life is. Adults still get up and go to work even if
the baby kept them up late crying. We all have to adapt in order
to make things work. That's life. At our house everyone has a
choice. If you choose to stay up late, you must also choose to
do your work and be a decent person to be around. It works great
to choose the time you want to get up. Once you have that picked
out bedtime is just 8 hours before the wake up time. I schedule
in 'get ready for bedtime' after dinner clean up has been done.
That's wash up, brush teeth, change clothes, etc. time. It's
nice to get that done before everyone is tired and crabby. Every-
one is comfy and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Everyone
has learned that getting cleaned up doesn't mean they have to go
get in bed. They are much happier and better teeth brushers as
a result. You can decide on a rest time for everyone, too.
Adults and children of all ages can use a recharge time everyday.
That's just quiet time at our house. When the kids were little
they napped. Now we all take a time to read, or sew, or play
quietly with Legos, etc. for a short time each day. The only
requirement is quiet. They can choose any quiet activity. Every-
one is ready to continue their day after a recharge break. I
always feelbetter too!" -- Alisha


"Good question, Sandy! I have been homeschooling for 20 years.
I have one left at home, who is now in high school. So, two kids
have gone K-12 in my home, and college has gone very well for them.
Having said that, my kids always slept in. I have gotten up early
to read, and that has been a source of strength for me all these
years. The kids always seemed rested, and weren't sick as often
as others. I always required a 'quiet time' in the morning, so
when the younger ones rose earlier, they were required to read or
play quietly in consideration of their siblings. This seemingly
small thing has been invaluable in learning consideration for

I applaud your decision to adopt and homeschool. You can do it,
and everyone will be happier with enough sleep." -- Lori in WI


"Sandy, one of the advantages of homeschooling is that you can
schedule your days (and nights) according to the unique needs of
your family. If having some uninterrupted time in the morning
is what you need, then by all means have it. I have observed
that as families grow, their level of structure seems to gradu-
ally increase to accommodate their changing circumstances. Your
situation is a bit different, because the growth of your family
will not be gradual.

I used to lament that my children arose and went to bed at dif-
ferent times; I wanted a tighter routine. But then I realized
that their staggered schedules were giving me time alone with each
child that I might not have had otherwise, and oh, how precious
those times have been! We allow our children to sleep a little
later the morning after we're out late at night -- another advan-
tage of homeschooling. Our day simply starts a little later, and
it's no problem. You can tell the difference between a child who
really needs more sleep, and one who's being lazy. Laziness needs
to be dealt with as a character issue. We have implemented rewards
for children who arise before a certain time without being called.

Since you asked, I'll share with you how our morning goes, but
the point is to determine what will work best for your family,
and if it looks like everybody else, it's most likely not best
for you. My morning actually begins the night before -- I lay
out my clothes for the next day, and sort off the load of laundry
that I will do the next morning. I plan meals and get meat out
to thaw, and make a to-do list. I get up very early so that I
can do my Bible study before everybody else gets up. (I do lots
of memorizing, and interruptions break my concentration.) I pop
the button on the washer as I walk to the kitchen to make coffee.
The wash is ready to hang out after my Bible study. If I finish
my Bible study, and everybody's still in bed, I then do my exer-
cising. I am hoping to break my habit of doing the computer early
in the morning, unless I have urgent business that needs tending,
because I so often get sidetracked and it delays me getting started
with my day. After everybody gets up, I prepare breakfast while
the children do outside chores. After breakfast we start our
lessons. We try to be finished by noon, except for assignments
the children do independently, which are done in the afternoon.
That gives me the afternoon to do housework, bookkeeping, e-mails
and so forth. We try to save most evenings for family games,
crafts and read-alouds. I'm so thankful that our evenings are not
spent hassling over homework when everybody's tired. Our children
will have very different memories of evenings at home than most
children will have." -- Mary Beth


"Your morning routine will be whatever works best for your family.
Ours has changed over the years (7th year of home school – 16, 14,
12, 11 years). First few years – we tried waking everyone up at
6:30 to eat and start school by 7:30 (ok – yes, you can laugh now –
not sure why, but I decided that another mom probably knew best
and tried to follow her example).

Last year I got everyone up at 7 – they had to have breakfast and
do whatever chores were required and be studying by 8. There was
always something that needed done – usually on my part - before
being ready to teach. (I like to get up around 6, but I like my
quiet time and sometimes go over – sometimes I am just helping my
husband – also, we like to have a cup of coffee in the am before
the kids are up and moving. It may not seem like much, but some-
times that 15-25 minutes is all we have together before night. It
does wonders for us.)

This year I let kids sleep till whenever – 16, 14, and 12 each
have a dog; I don’t care for dogs, so the kennels are in their
rooms (I gave up worrying about if the dogs sleep in kennels or
with kids – that is not a battle that is important to me). Any-
way, the dogs, and therefore the kids, tend to rise about 7:30
a.m. (around 6:30 in the summer). No more mom waking kids – they
do it on their own. I let the 11 year old sleep in; even though
he shares his room, he sleeps through the dog alarm and gets up
around 8. 'Official' start time is 9:00 a.m. This gives time
to get up, do chores, and eat breakfast. If you miss breakfast
- not a big deal – bring it with you. Snacks are around 10:30
or 11 a.m. (depends if we are swimming that day), lunch around
2:30, snack again around 5 or 5:30; dinner is usually 8:30. Bed-
times vary by child. The 12 and 11 year old are the only ones we
actually send to bed. The older two are encouraged to think
about what needs to be done tomorrow. Reading after bed is fine
– no limits, however, if you don't get up when called the first
time, there are consequences (Mom doesn't like to get up with a
dog who needs to go out!)

Bedtimes – great when possible, but during hockey season my 12 year
old doesn't usually get home until 10:30 p.m., so bed times are
fairly late. My 16 year old is usually home by 9 or 9:30 – and
on Wednesdays no one seems to have time for dinner until after
church – around 8:30 p.m.

Our schedule is pretty awkward; it doesn't work for everyone. My
14 year old has a babysitting job on Thursdays so she has to be up
and ready to leave 7 a.m. She actually likes to join my husband
and me for coffee if her ride is running late. She is actually
very good at taking charge of herself and getting to bed as early
as she can on Wednesday nights.

Our schedule isn't typical and yours won't be either; do what fits
and suits your needs." -- Lucinda in Minnesota

Answer our NEW Question

"I know we recently talked about this, but is anyone incorporating
foreign language in any way other than with the computer? I have
used the Reader Rabbit Spanish computer games, but I am wanting to
incorporate languages more in our life. Does anyone know of games
or other books to use -- and how do you incorporate that into their
daily life more?

I speak some Spanish but want to include French (which I do not
speak), so knowing the proper way to pronounce is tricky."
-- Michelle L. in Oregon


Do you have tips and/or experience to share with Michelle?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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