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Practical Thoughts for a Worn-Out Mom

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, August 22, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 35, August 22, 2011, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2011, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Notes from Heather
-- A Thought for the Day...
Winning Website
-- Three J's Blog
Helpful Tip
-- Text-to-Speech Software
Reader Question
-- Worn Out Christina
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Thought for the Day...

"Educational institutions make poor substitute mothers, fathers, and homes. There has never been a generation when children have so desperately needed their parents' time, thoughtful creativity, and friendship."

-- Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (from ">For the Children's Sake)


Also --

Thank you for everyone who is praying for me today as I travel to Philadelphia. It means a lot to me to know I have the love and support of friends.

-- Heather


Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


All About Spelling - Testimonials from Parents

"We started using All About Spelling with our third-grade son, and I am so thankful that I bought the curriculum. My son struggles with spelling, but since beginning All About Spelling two weeks ago, he is soaring! He even gave me a high-five today as he was going through the lesson. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!" -- Linsey D.


"All About Spelling has been a huge success with my eight-year-old. We have cruised through the first twenty lessons with enthusiasm. He actually looks forward to the next day's spelling challenges and has gained confidence in writing." -- Darcie P.


Winning Website

Five J's


This is a very refreshing homeschooling blog/website with great articles and free resources! :-)

Helpful Tip

Built-in "Text-to-Speech" Option

Here's a very easy, totally free (if you have a computer) way for help in reading larger words (as long as you are reading them on the computer).

Both Macs and PCs have a built-in "text-to-speech" option.

I only use Macs, so I only know how to tell someone how to set a Mac to do this, but I have seen people with PCs set their PCs to do it too.

On a Mac:

Open "System Preferences" under the little Apple icon on the far lefthand top of the computer

There are many icons to see once you do this. Under the "System" set of icons, click "Speech".

Then when the dialog box comes up, click the menu bar that says "Text to Speech".

It will ask you to select a "System Voice". Pick "Alex" because that is the most natural-sounding of all the voices available.

Then check the box next to "speak selected text when key is pressed". It will then ask you to select a key combination to press when you want the computer to read to you. I usually pick the Command-S (for "speech") keys but you can pick anything.

Voila! Now, anytime that you select any word on screen from a Microsoft Word document, website, e-book, etc. and press the key combination that you have set, the computer will read to you! You can read whole books this way.

-- Kathi Kearney


Here are instructions for Windows XP:


And here is a link to instructions for Windows 7 as well:


Thanks for the tip, Kathi! :-)

-- Heather

Last Issue's Reader Question

Worn Out Mom

"I am wondering what I'm doing wrong here. I start the day off with morning chores (laundry, dishes, picking up), getting my shower and getting dressed, and overseeing breakfast. While that took one sentence to type out, it takes 2-3 hours to accomplish. Then, I begin piano practice with my 3 oldest children. I sit and supervise each kid as I've had a huge music background and want to make sure they're practicing properly.

After this, it seems like it's getting close to time for lunch. There may be a little bit of time for a stab at math and English, but it always feels rushed and hurried. I am expecting my 6th child, and I've got 3 in active school right now. That means, Saxon math on 3 different grade levels and Abeka English grammar/reading/writing on 3 different grade levels. I feel like I need HOURS and HOURS to get each kid through their day's Math and English assignments as I really try to use these two curiculums the way they were designed to be used -- which with all the drills and teaching the lessons for each kid (4th grader, 2nd grader, and 1st grader). Well, it takes forever to do it all properly.

After lunch, it's naps (me included) and then our group work time: Story of the World activity book projects, Apologia science (reading together and projects), English from the Roots Up memorization, Sequential Spelling, penmanship practice and teaching cursive writing. I used to try to do Power-Glide Spanish here as well, but I was stressing us all out so I threw it out. I'm often finishing up my group work while trying to also start supper. It gets a little crazy some days.

In the evening (after cooking and cleaning up for supper), we have family worship which is when the children get their Bible time (taught by Daddy). This all lasts about an hour.

After family worship is more chores and time to do my desk work (paperwork, paying bills, answering email, etc.) until bedtime.

I feel like we have a fantastic homeschool curriculum lined up. I love everything we're doing individually, but as a whole, I don't feel like I can fit it all in one day. I'm very stressed out. We go year-round because we have to. With doctor appointments and morning sickness and field trips, we just never have a day where we get to it all. So, how do you do homeschool more simply (preferably with this curriculum line-up I have going on) with several kids on various grade levels? I've got another child coming up for K-4 (Abeka) this next year, and a newborn arriving in February. So, HELP! Any thoughts as to how to make this happen more smoothly? I'm worn out!

-- Christina in Texas

Our Readers' Responses

"Dear Christina -- I'm exhausted just reading your letter!

I implore you to slow down. Slow down and enjoy your kids. I have five of my own ranging from 19 down to 4. I really do understand where you are coming from. We also use Story of the World and Apologia and then separate math and Language arts.

Having a music background as well, I find the arts very important to our homeschool too. BUT, not everything has to be done in each day. We do Bible and math every day. Music practice is just that -- practice!! Let them do that alone. Class is for the teacher. Then while one practices, the others can do math or language. Science and History have become ultra important to us, but they can alternate each day. By doing History on Monday and Wednesday -- and science on Tuesday and Thursday -- it frees Friday for the fun stuff! Like field trips and experiments and Art and crafts for History.

We clean in the afternoons before Daddy comes home and we pick up before bed. Then the mornings are just making beds and breakfast dishes. Prepping for the next day is imperative. By doing things ahead, you allow time for slowing down.

God has blessed you with precious children who are not only capable of learning but have hearts full of love and wonder. Try to enjoy all of that now while you can. The more tired you get the harder that will be. Trust me, you don"t want God to purposely slow you down. All control is His anyway, but if He takes it, you get to learn some fascinating lessons about what He should already have control over.

I pray God's blessings over you as you bring forth a new little one into your family. And I pray for a peace that passes ALL understanding." -- Marlena G.


"Christina -- I had a couple of thoughts after reading your post. Hopefully, they will be helpful.

I find it a great help to have the house picked up completly before we go to bed -- rooms picked up, kitchen cleaned -- everyone pitches in to help. Whenever that does not happen, it seems that without fail the following day will be rough. It's also extremely refreshing and great on Mom's mood, when she wakes up to a clean home. Also, I save starting any laundry until the children are taken care of -- sometimes I will start in the afternoon. You will have a better outcome with the children's schoolwork if they do it right after breakfast when they are thinking the clearest. I also had the thought that swapping piano time with your afternoon schoolwork could be very beneficial.

I also would strongly encourage you to look at Robinson Curriculum. This is a curriculum that encourages simplicity, teaching 'The Three R's' strongly, (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic), and the most important part is that the children are taught how to teach themselves. Sounds crazy, and perhaps an impossiblity, but it has had outstanding results. It creates minimal teacher time and successful learners -- which obviously greatly lowers the stress level in a home. I would encourage you to look through the information on the website to get a better understanding of it." -- Bonny


"Wow! I'm tired just from reading about your day. Some of the things that jumped to my mind as I was reading your post were:

1) Can your kids help with the chores in the morning, assuming they don't do so now? I try and start a load of laundry and then as the day goes on take quick breaks to change it over and start another load. My 5 and 7 year olds are in charge of folding towels.

2) Is it possible to read one of your subjects while they are eating breakfast? Or lunch?

3) I started out with my 7 and 5 year old on 2 different levels, but somehow we have it all combined now. The only thing they do different is reading. And the 7 year old does spelling while the 5 year old does a lesson on Click N Read. Is there any way you can combine your 1st and 2nd grader with their math and English? You might be surprised at how easily the younger one picks it up. Your 4th grader should be able to do an assignment once you explain it then you can work with the younger ones.

4) We just started Story of the World this year. We do it on Mondays and Tuesdays -- 1 or 2 chapters a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays we do science. Fridays are different for us. We do a SOTW project, science experiments, play a math game, illustrate their Bible lesson, do an art project, and a coloring sheet on a state. Fridays are fun, but they are still learning.

5) Dinner! I don't always do this, but when I do my whole day goes much better. Make weekly menues and use a lot of crockpot recipes. It is so nice not to have to worry about dinner at the end of a long hectic day. There is a great website that has tons of fantastic slow cooker recipes. She also has 2 cookbooks out. It is http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

I hope I've helped you in some way. I'm looking forward to seeing what other advice you get." -- Lacey


"You could cut one subject out by dividing the year in two -- then one half of the year do science the other half do history/social studies.

Another thing that may help is to rearrange the schedule so that the majority of the book work is done in the mornings when the kids are fresh and rested. I have homeschooled for 17 years and it has never worked for us to do much book work in the afternoons when everyone is tired or has lost interest. We always did the book work in the mornings, and then field trips or hands-on activities or music practice in the afternoons." -- Darlene


"Poor Christina! There's way too much for you to do and not enough time to do it! I felt like that, too. For reference, I have a 2nd grader and a 4th grader (not 6 kids like you have, but this might help you). To maximize time, we use our mornings for school and everything else is scheduled for the afternoons. Another thing we do is follow Charlotte Mason's idea of short lessons. We start doing things together, like Bible, Apologia Science, and Literature (they love for me to read to them). My children love 'stations'. I use pillows to set up stations all over our school room. Under the pillows are some things that they can do on their own. The stations are things like doing a workbook page or a hands-on game, practice their piano, or a writing assignment -- nothing that should take them more than 15 minutes to do. Also under the pillows are math books. When they get to that station, I teach them a lesson for about 15 minutes and then they do their workbook page(s). We use Singapore, but you could probably do that with other math curriculums. I also help my youngest with his phonics and my oldest with her Greek sometimes, if they need it. If they have a question about something, they can come to me -- and I always check their work when they're done to make sure they understood. But other than that, they're mostly assuming responsibility. If they get finished with all their work before lunch, then they can play the rest of the afternoon or we can go on an outing. We do grocery shopping on Monday and save cleaning for Thursdays when we do laundry and all pitch in with our own specific chores. Things don't have to be perfect, but they do have to have effort put into them and not do them halfway." -- Carla


"Christina -- If you are happy with the curriculum you have chosen and do not want any suggestions in that vein, I would recommend seeing if you could combine some of your children in the same grade level. I have seen parents who use A Beka combine their 8 and 10 year olds, for example, in the 4th grade language program. If you love the books you use, and think that they are necessary, you may be able to adjust the speed at which your children go through the books until some of them are working together for math, language, or handwriting. Saxon Math 2 can be used at a slower pace for a 1st and 2nd grader combined, but they are still learning -- or you could combine them in Saxon Math 1. If you have another child coming up closely behind the one entering K-4, you could consider either waiting for the next one, and starting them together, or gently introducing some of the K-4 work to the next one early, and guide the younger along with the older one as they enter K in a couple years.

Also, I would consider doing some of your lessons on alternating days. For example, if you did Story of the World a few days a week instead of each day, and Apologia on the other days, it may take you longer to get through the books -- but then, you're not in a race, and as long as they are all learning there is no condemnation in changing your schedule or routine.

Sequential Spelling now has a DVD or CD for each level and you could have your oldest child work independently with that program, in addition to dropping spelling one day a week. After all, in 'school' they would learn spelling for four days, then test on the fifth, so there is no need to do spelling each day, especially with a program like SS. Actually, anything that isn't reading/writing/math could easily be done on alternating days, including piano -- you could give two children lessons each day, and every third 'school' day one child would get a break.

The only other thought I have to offer is this: What is the most important thing you are teaching your children? If piano is the most important, fine -- keep doing it for each child each day. If something else is more important, like math, or character, or Bible, you may want to rearrange your day so the most important things come first. They have a lifetime to learn, and they don't have to learn it all at once. There are a lot of years between 5 and 18, and I have found they learn much faster as they get older (my oldest is in her 2nd year of college). If you can find anything in your day that would be okay to 'save' until they are older without sacrificing what you feel is most important, do that." -- Anne M.


"I am a mother of 9. My oldest was homeschooled from K to 12th grade. She graduated this spring. My other children are 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5, 3 and 18 months.

I have changed the way I homeschool in the last 13 years. In the beginning I did everything exactly as it was laid out in the teacher's manual. As time has went on and more children have started school (this is the third year I have 6 at the same time), I have let go of the rigidity and relaxed (and enjoyed) my homeschooling experience.

This means if they understand the math I would let go of some of the review. The 1st and 2nd graders would do phonics, reading, and math. My high schooler did some courses on the computer (Switched-On Schoolhouse -- which corrected it as well). When new babies have arrived we have let go of the traditional homeschooling in favor of reading literature (my favorite book is Carry On, Mr. Bowditch), enjoying more art projects, reading books from the library, playing with the baby, etc.

I have not found a way to do everything, so I gave up trying to do everything and decided to just do something. You need to sit down with your husband and decide what is the bare minimum that needs to be done each day. In the mornings we sit down and work on math, English, and reading individually. The older children each have 30 minutes with the preschoolers (they play blocks, exercise, play musical instruments, etc.) so I can help the school children one on one. In the afternoon we study together (the preschoolers take a nap) and decided to do history on Monday and Wednesday, science on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Fridays something different (we have studied states and First Ladies). Each family needs to find what works for them.

Chores are divided up between children (this teaches them responsibility). If you are unfamiliar with this, Managers of Their Homes is worth reviewing. The most important things to do are pray and ask your husband if he sees a way to take some of the stress out of your life." -- Pam


"Dear Christina -- I feel your pain!! I understand. I have frequently felt the same way.

As for me, God seems to be pointing me in a new and different direction: into more of a relaxed homeschooling, a delight-directed, more NATURAL form of learning for my kids.

A wise older woman recently told me, 'If you're feeling overwhelmed, maybe it's because you're trying to carry someone else's yoke, 'cause Jesus said to us HIS yoke is easy, and HIS burden is light.'

We don't need to do what everyone else is doing, even all those fine Christians who we may highly regard. We JUST need to seek Him first, and all these other things shall be added to us as well. (Matthew 6:33)

All these 'fine' curriculums can be very time-consuming, and take the joy out of NATURAL learning. I think God has something very different in mind.

Of course, there's so much more to say and learn about this topic; but for now, that's something to consider. That's MY advice and comfort to you.. something that when I learned of it, I found VERY liberating from the slavery I was feeling to my daytime/schooling routine. God bless you and yours." -- Katie C.


"Christina -- I only have 2 children (boys, 8 and 10) but they do their little bit of a morning routine (make bed, get dressed, pick up jams) come out and have time with God. Then breakfast, and then they have to both unload the dishwasher a few days a week when its been run, and they also put away dishes from the dish drainer. One takes the trash out 3 times a week and the other gets the laundry from my closet and sorts it. They both put their own laundry away.

They are getting their own breakfast as well as cleaning up their mess. So I just sweep the floors and pack hubby's lunch and read devotions to the boys, then after breakfast I get my shower while they are doing these few things: brushing teeth, picking up room, etc. Then we start school by 9:30 and any other chores (dusting, vacuuming, etc. are shared between us 3 on a weekly schedule and they have to be completed before free time. That is how we get it all done -- it's a shared responsibility. since i have to be in the school room with them and help them with most subjects, I have an exercise machine in there as well. It helps!

I hope this is helpful. Homeschooling means everyone helps run the household to accomplish all tasks together. It doesn't mean mom does it all. Hugs and blessings to you!" -- Kimberly


"Hi! You have a very busy day and schedule. I like how you combine the grades with Story of the World and Apologia. Abeka is a good program -- we have mostly used their science, health and history series. However, I feel that Abeka has a lot of busy work; extra work that really isn't needed in a homeschool setting. We are using Saxon Math this upcoming school year and I don't feel it is necessary to do every problem, especially if the child is comprehending and ready to move on. You can assign only the odd or even numbers. Could the 1st and 2nd grader be combined in Math? There really isn't that much difference and with Saxon about 1/3 of the textbook is review from the year before. Teach the 1st and 2nd grader and assign them their problems, then teach the 4th grader and assign their problems.

Would you consider a more gentle type of curriculum for Language Arts? There is one I recommend called Language Lessons by Queen Homeschool. You can go to http://www.queenhomeschool.com and see samples. They are designed using the Charlotte Mason method. Here is a quote from their website: 'picture study, narration, copywork, dictation, poetry appreciation and instruction, creative writing, grammar instruction, and more, depending upon the level'. At first glance you might think it is too easy, especially compared with Abeka, but if you look into the Charlotte Mason method you will understand that short lessons done in this style are just as effective as an intense curriculum.

Is there a way you can streamline your cleaning schedule? You said it takes 2-3 hours to get it all done every morning. Can the washing machine run while you are teaching? Can you just have a couple days a week scheduled for laundry? Can the kids pitch in with the cleaning, so it is not all on you? If the house is being maintained (as it sounds that you are doing) efficiently, a quick pick-up and wipe down each morning should keep things tidy. Many hands make for light work.

What are the other children doing during piano practice? Can they be assigned reading or spelling words or math problems to do while the other child is practicing? When my oldest was in public school, the teacher would have reading time with a group of students while the others were at their seats doing other school work, then it was their turn for reading and the other group went to their seats for seat work. Would that work for you?

Also, Science and History do not need to be studied every day, especially if you are homeschooling year round. You can do a 2 times per week Science, 2 times per week History. Or mimic some public school schedules where they do one semester of Science and the next semester will be History.

One more thought -- would you consider a unit study program that includes all subjects, but not Math? I suggest Learning Adventures. It is for grades 4-6, however she now has a 'Little Adventures' supplement for grades K-3 so younger ones can work alongside their siblings. You can see samples of this curriculum also.

I hope this gives you some ideas. Congratulations on your newest member of the family! Also, remember anytime homeschooling isn't fun anymore, take a break and snuggle on the couch and read a great book!!" -- Kris

(PS... The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has their Summer issue available to read online for free. There are some articles in it about the Charlotte Mason method and a more relaxing way of homeschooling. You might glean some ideas from that also. Here is the link: http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine-digital.com/thehomeschoolmagazine/freegift#pg2)


"Christina -- First I want to say I understand how you feel. I am the mother of ten and have been homeschooling since 1985. I well remember those days where constant supervision and activity seemed to be the norm. It does get better as the children grow, so hang in there.

I also want to say I understand your dedication to Abeka. I, too, used Abeka for the first several years from grade two up. On its surface, Abeka is a good curriculum. Nothing can beat what appears to be their thoroughness of each subject. Their textbooks (especially science) are beautiful. But I have to be honest with you. In 1998, I found myself with seven in school and completely overwhelmed and defeated. We could NEVER get to all the drills, the massive amounts of reading, and I was never sure the kids weren't just spitting out the answers to the quizzes, etc., and not really retaining anything. Despite my dedication to raise my children in a Christian environment, most days, I was so tired and stressed I would end up yelling at the kids in frustration. They would end up so mad and hurt they couldn't learn. I was ready to put them in public school.

Then a friend of mine suggested a simpler, less complicated, curriculum. For us, ACE was a God-send. Five pages a day in each of the five core subjects. The kids worked independently for the most part. I only had to be available to answer questions, and grade the test at the end of each Pace. Each Pace had a scripture memory verse and a character quality it focused on. The children were allowed access to the score keys to check their own work, returning them to our check in/out shelf when done.

Gone were those days of leaving so much undone, as the children, and not me, became responsible for completing their work. Gone were those days of yelling at the kids, as they began to share with me (re-teaching) what they were learning, and that spurred all kinds of discussions, library/internet searches, and family time. And when I would mess up, fall short and sin, my kids were there with memorized scripture, reminding me of the grace of God... memorized scripture they learned in one of their Paces.

Leaving behind Abeka, embracing a less-complicated curriculum, saved our home school. Now, after all these years, with only four left at home, this year, we have decided to 'play'. We have set aside ACE, and are using this year to study World Geography as a family, using a Charlotte Mason approach. I feel confident enough to set aside the 'structure' of our curriculum as I now understand that children learn on many different levels. We are, so far, really having a great deal of fun!! (Just so there is no confusion, we school June 1 to March 31 every year, taking the spring off to garden.)

Let me encourage you to embrace a style of learning the fosters the children learning more independently. Constant oversight, like in your children's piano practice time, forces them to play your way, practice your way, learn your way, and become another 'you'. Is that who God made them to be? Or did He make them unique? Their own person? Their own individual? While bad habits are to be corrected, by allowing your children more independence in their learning, you cultivate a love for learning, and the habit of self-discipline to complete their work in a timely manner. These are two very important character qualities that will serve your children well in the years ahead. (And as an aside, my hubby and I were music majors in college. However, we allowed our children to pursue music or not. We now have two sons pursuing music full time, one as a worship leader/sound tech. And one is a musician/song writer, on the road most weeks of the year, promoting his own CDs. The rest were not interested... and they all turned out to be hard working, responsible adults.)

Try to take a step back and really look at what your children are learning in their current environment. Are they truly learning that the world is a wonderful creation to explore? Or are they learning that learning is all about accomplishing that next drill and lots of stress? I am sure you'd prefer it was the latter.

As mom of ten, I know, it CAN BE DONE!!" -- Kay


"Christina -- what are the children doing during morning chores? If you are doing all that by yourself, you are missing a golden opportunity to teach them some of the most important skills they will ever use. My suggestions:

1) Chores: Ask yourself what chores the children can do, and start delegating. (Don't underestimate them.) Teach each child how to do at least one household task, and then give him the job. By giving him the job, I mean he truly owns it, which includes taking the initiative to see that it gets done without being told. That child can then train the next in line, and when the next younger child is ready to take it on, the older child can 'graduate' from that job, and move on to something suited to a more mature, responsible person. If done properly, you will have to train for each task only once. From then on your job will be to supervise and inspect. (You can offer to help once in a while, just so you don't get out of practice yourself) ;-) You might want to take a week or so off 'school' to concentrate on job skills and work ethic. It will be a very worthwhile investment in your time, and the lost time will be redeemed very quickly.

2) Academics: Other than math and reading, you should not be teaching several grade levels. The content areas can be taught to all the children at once. The younger ones' projects won't be as sophisticated as those the older ones are doing, but they can all study the same topics at one time. For math and reading, you should again be delegating. Once a child has mastered a skill, he can teach it to someone else. It will be a good review for him, and working together will enhance the relationship of the two children.

3) Music: I commend you for overseeing your children's piano practice. I am a piano teacher, and oh, how I long for more parental involvement in my students' practicing. I'm hoping that once you've delegated the household chores, maybe you can start the practicing earlier, and the other children can be doing chores while you're supervising practice. But don't underestimate their ability to do some practicing independently. If they are totally dependent on you, they will never be self-motivated. They need a balance.

I would never take it upon myself to advise someone as to curriculum choice, but I do know that your materials are very time consuming. If you really believe they are best for your family, use them; but if you ever find yourself on the verge of giving up, I hope you will consider a less rigorous program. You can teach very effectively with more relaxed methods." -- Mary Beth


"Christina --

We have found this article very useful for our homeschooling:


-- David K.


Note from Heather: We had even more replies for Christina, but I've run out of room so I will share them in our next issue. :-)

New Reader Question

Math for Middle School

"I have been intentionally relaxed in the math department regarding my boys, and would like to find a good program for my 13 year old that doesn't drive him to tears, anger, and contempt! I'm considering Teaching Textbooks, as it would give him the added 'fun' of the computer (which we currently only use for a typing tutor). He would be starting below grade level, but he has an engineering mind, so I believe he will 'catch up' and catch on quickly. Any suggestions?" -- Jane B.


Would you like to respond to our Jane's question with your own thoughts or suggestions?
Please send your email to: hn-answers@familyclassroom.net

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