Seven Quick Takes from Our First Week of School


In a gesture of hope, I posted a new schedule on the refrigerator.


The baby, of course, viewed this as a challenge.  A “Let’s see how many times a night I can get up” challenge.  Also a, “Do I really have to go back to sleep if I wake up at 3 AM?” challenge.  Needless to say, the section titled “Mom’s Chores” has been suffering.  Or, ok, it hasn’t really been happening at all.  My allergies and my asthma have both been acting up lately (in conjunction with the sleepless baby), so I am doing well to get the kids fed at 8… or 8:30… and we are struggling (but succeeding! I’m not a total slacker!) to start our morning time by 9:30.  I broke down and asked Andy to bring home some cold cereal last night.  My kids view cold cereal as the equivalent of candy and are undoubtedly rooting for the sleepless baby-allergy one-two punch to continue.


He’s just excited about almost being able to walk.  (He’s the 4th of my kids to scoot instead of crawl.  The scooters go fast and walk late.  But they go from walking to running really fast.  No pun intended.)

JM playing piano

And about being able to reach the piano.


Actually, aside from my inability to get up at 6 AM and put dinner in the crockpot so I can write between 3:30 and 4:30 while the baby takes a nap, the schedule has been functionable.  There are a few rocky places that need some tweaking, but I expect that in the first week.  Usually we do start school in stages rather than doing the full-blown everything right away.  Many years that has meant we add in math first and build from there, but this year what I wanted was two weeks before the teenagers’ online classes started to play with their assignments and to get the boys going on their independent work.  For the very first time I built a detailed first term for the highschoolers using Ambleside’s chart format.

year 12 quarter 1 screenshot

Ambleside divides their year up into three terms of twelve weeks each, but I find it much more natural to plan toward our normal breaks at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Holy Week.  Based on our start date this year, that meant it was easier for us to divide the year into quarters.  I made the chart in Numbers (the Mac version of Excel), printed it out, and handed it to each of the kids.  In the past, they have lost these things or ignored them, but I think having the actual page numbers written down for them for every single week has helped.  Gareth’s Year 12 is based on a combination of AO’s Year 11 and 12… plus some other stuff.  We still have some kinks to work out, and then I hope to be able to share pdf’s for both Year 12 and Year 10.


Katydid’s Year 10 is based on a combination of AO’s Year 7 and 8.  Here’s a little peek:

Year 10 Qtr 1 screenshot


I don’t have anything typed out all nice and neat for the boys.  This year I looked back at my former self who was so worried about learning how to plan a year waaay back when my oldest was 10 or 11 and I only had two official students and a whole bunch of little people to keep occupied every day.  I realize that there were things I needed to learn (and execute) back then, but I wish I had been less uptight about it.  From my perspective now I realize that planning a year for elementary school is not as hard as I thought it was.  There are a lot of givens (reading, spelling, arithmetic) and a lot of leeway to pursue various interests and rabbit trails.  Planning for high school, on the other hand, in the kind of detail that seems to be necessary to keep (my) teens on track, seems to suck up all of my time… and then some.  And I really did start with a template in mind.  Part of this is me and my inability to narrow down choices.  But partly I think it is just the nature of the beast.  While I was tearing out hundreds of Miquon pages to file in a giant binder a couple of weeks ago, I listened to Cindy’s Circe Talk on Morning Time, and I felt better when she said that the only year she ever didn’t do Morning Time was the year she had 7 officially homeschooling “students”.  I have 6 this year — and will have 6 for the foreseeable future — and only one less boy than Cindy has, and I have to tell you that this is really stretching me, trying to give the high school students what they need and keep up with the little guys.  Of course, this is not a news flash to other moms of large families, but I felt so much better when I heard Cindy talk about how hard it was.


In addition to making detailed charts for the first time this year for my teenagers, I also made up a Morning Time chart for the first time ever.  We’ve been doing our own variation of Morning Time since before blogging (ok, so that made me feel really old), but usually I just have a stack of books to choose from and I don’t attempt to do that many different subjects.  This year I was inspired to include music, Plutarch, Shakespeare, and poetry, mainly because those are the areas that have been left out over the years (except for the kids who have interests in those areas.)  After test driving the Morning Time sheet this week, I realized that it was just too much for us in some ways and a loop schedule might work better than assigning different days to different books.  The biggest hit in our Morning Time this year has been The Fallacy Detective, even with the eight year olds, mainly because of the cartoons.  And the Doctor Who reference.  (Zygons, anyone?)


My favorite part of our new year, though, is art.  I have owned Drawing With Children and Drawing for Older Children & Teens for a very long time.  (Amazon tells me that I bought the first title on September 29, 2001.)  But we never seem to get past the “You Can Draw!” bird pictures in the branches with the berries.  Gareth needs a fine arts credit this year, though, so I was motivated to be more organized.  After discussing it with the big kids, we decided to make Tuesday and Thursday afternoons our art time.  The baby’s usually asleep, so I can sit down and draw, too.  And I did!  This week we did the scribble and doodle projects from Drawing with Older Children and Teens, and the starting level exercises from Drawing with Children.

template doodle 1

My template doodle in progress.  (I said I sat down to draw, too, but I didn’t say I was actually able to finish anything!)

template doodle 2

Katydid’s template doodle…

template doodle 3

And Chipmunk’s template doodle.  This project is in Drawing for Older Children and Teens, but the younger kids had a good time with it, too.  I am ever more cognizant this year of how special it is that we all get to work on something together. Art time has easily and immediately become my favorite time of the week.

Print Friendly


  1. I had to cut back our Morning Time activities too. Just too much to do or just too much at once to keep my boy’s attention. I don’t like to loop (because I see it as optional and I will not be accountable) but I see that is what I’ve been doing so far. Too many extra stuff going on too. We have done 4 weeks of school and I still don’t have a schedule. I’m struggling with it all this year (more than normal). Allergies are bad here too. The Ragweed is bad this year!
    Cassie recently posted…7 Quick Takes Friday {August 22, 2014}My Profile

    • I think the relatively cool, wet summer has made the mold worse, too, which is what my asthma responds to. I’m trying to beef up my intake of omega 3 and D to see if it helps. I’m feeling a little better, so… hopefully it’s working!

  2. Ooo, I didn’t know there WAS a Drawing for Older Kids book. Something to look into… I’m not half as organized this year, but I only have one teen at home (11th) and now a 6th, 4th, 1st, and no babies. It’s like I don’t even recognize my homeschool anymore! Thank you for sharing your charts and schedules, I hope everyone settles down for you. I’m terrified to make another schedule because inevitably within a week some disaster happens.
    Amy recently posted…Introvert and Highly Sensitive PodcastsMy Profile

    • Well, that’s usually what happens to us, too… inevitably something happens and I can’t use the plans I made. So cross your fingers. Really, by this point, the routine is pretty set from later in the morning on; it’s just the waking up part that’s hard.

  3. I’m a new reader to your blog and excited to read more! It’s great to find a homeschool momma further down the path. We’ve always homeschooled. I have 8 children (2 girls, 6 boys) from 8th grade on down. Thank you for sharing your family’s journey! I’m off to read more of it….
    Tristan recently posted…Week in Review #1: Learning and A New ProjectMy Profile

    • Thank you, Tristan, for your kind words; it’s always nice to meet another mom of a large, homeschooling family with a lot of boys! I’ll be checking out your blog!

  4. Oh wow, such a terrific post and so much to chat about!
    1- Our kids are like that with some cereals too! They think Weatbix they’ve died and gone to heaven
    2- Old enough to walk!! where has the time gone!
    3 &4 – Fascinated to read that you have detailed to that extent and finding it successful, I just wing it more and knowing you normally do I’m intrigued as to how it pans out
    5- only just getting back into ‘morning time’ this year
    6- I always think planning exactly details with morning time seems unnecessary, more, read that pile of books approach is me (and you) so want to know more as you go as to pros and cons
    7- Inspirational, should get out my copy too;)
    Erin recently posted…Families of Four ChildrenMy Profile

    • I’m a little worried (well, a lot worried) that I won’t be able to keep up that detailed planning for the high schoolers, since I only made it through the first 9 weeks and not the entire year, but the kids’ experience with outside classes and with our history blog last year showed me that they managed their time a lot better when they had specific page count goals for their books. But they didn’t like having everything assigned to certain days (they’ve been managing their own days for a very long time now). Having a solid idea of what to do weekly in order to finish by the end of the quarter or by Christmas, etc. seemed to strike a happy medium, but it still seems to take me a long time to plot out. Really hoping it’s worth it! My daughter really enjoyed her first week. My son… maybe not as much, but then he’s a different personality.

      Re: morning time… I liked having the choices printed on the sheet so that I could check them off as a sort of record, and I liked having the prayers to memorize printed out all together right there, too. I may just go toward having a list of titles from my stack with with space to check off the days, instead of trying to assign books to days. Still tinkering :-)


  1. […] I work with the boys, the teenagers work through their charts, and JM cruises around the room, pulling books, blocks, and Playdough tools off the shelves and […]

  2. […] therefore be altering the charts I made for him, as well as for Katydid, after we get a sense of their real workload this week when […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: