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A Day in the Life of Homeschool Mama Kate

A Day in the Life of Kate, Homeschool Mama of Three

Hi! I’m Kate from @ourjoyfulchaos . My husband and I have three kids, Jack (8), Ben (6) and Ellie (4). Our family is in a transition year of intentional change and adventure. Last summer we moved from our dream house of 12 years into a small apartment. Change is rarely easy but we are getting a lot of clarity on what we need/don’t need and what we want to invest our resources in for years to come. 
I’m a recovering attorney and left my legal career when I was pregnant with Jack. After staying home for 7 years I have recently gone back to work part-time as a Project Manager at my church. We follow Charlotte Mason’s methodologies in our homeschool and travel quite a bit. I love planning trips and learning alongside my children. Most of all I love how homeschooling gives us so much time together. 

This year Jack was diagnosed with dyslexia and we’re still in the beginning stages of that journey. In tomorrow’s takeover I’m going to talk more about challenges- challenges with little siblings during the school day, with working outside the home, homeschooling with learning disabilities and how to live and school in a small space. I’ll also share some of the resources that I’ve found helpful and what I’ve learned over the past four years as we’ve ventured into this lifestyle.

hythms + Routines

Our days are firmly rooted in rhythms and routines which we’ve been working on for awhile. For the big picture Andy and I sit down and make an annual family plan at the beginning of the year. We’re assessing how the previous year went and what our goals are for the current one. On a more regular rhythm we have a family meeting on Friday nights.

We look at the calendar, budgets and discuss how each family member is doing. On Saturdays we have a family play & rest day which helps us reconnect. And on the daily the kids and I have routines and habit training which bring order to our time together. We’ve developed these rhythms over years, the biggest lessons have come from the things we’ve tried and failed at or had to tweak 20 times. I wanted to start with this semi disclaimer because the things you may see that work well in our day have come through work and planning and failure.

Younger Children

Does anyone else have younger children who need to be occupied in order to work on lessons with your older children? Mason has a lot to say about the personhood of each child when I began to understand each of my children as the individuals they are this part of our day became easier. I know my two youngest enjoy each other in the freshness of the morning, before they’ve had a whole day to frustrate each other, so Jack’s school lessons come early in our day when I am home.

If Ben and Ellie happen to need extra attention I have a stash of puzzles and games that can be pulled out so they can work alongside us. They also know they are welcome to sit in my lap. This rarely happens because we put an emphasis on starting from a place of abundance versus deficit. If someone needs my attention that tells me their relational connection tank is low. We may have to start/stop lessons to attend to these needs but I try to prioritize building relational capitol. We spend time together after dinner playing games or reading and then more time in jammies at bedtime, telling stories and snuggling. I want them to start the following day filled up. How do you connect best with your kids? What are the biggest challenges 

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Methodologies with Dyslexia

Jack was diagnosed with dyslexia this year (not surprising because Andy has it and it’s genetic.) Although he can read it is slow going and exhausting. For a kid who loves words (his current favorite is peripatetic), this is super frustrating and I don’t want it to affect his love of books.

We are working with Rooted in Language for weekly tutoring and then I go through homework with him. It’s become our Language Arts for now and it’s giving me a new appreciation for Mason’s methodologies- we keep lesson segments short and stop before he loses interest, I’ve dropped word problems in math in favor of concrete number because the words were obstructing the actual lesson and narration is helping me know whether he’s comprehending what he’s reading. We had to make a lot of time and space for these lessons- we stopped going to our lovely Charlotte Mason co-op (Great River Community Co-op), we’re turning down play dates and having to prioritize very carefully. This isn’t easy or fun for any of us but I’m already seeing progress in Jack’s reading after a few weeks and I know this is a foundation piece we have to devote resources to.

Work-Life Balance

I went back to work part-time last year and it’s given me a lot of admiration for working parents. I’m not sure that “work-life balance” is possible, I’m always leaving work/home with things undone. It has taught me to be more present, I’m only effective if I’m able to focus on whichever place I’m at. And I’m very fortunate to have a workplace where family is valued, I bring children to the office periodically and am able to do some of my job from home in the evenings after my kids are asleep. We talk a lot at home about “family team” and having helpers for certain work projects gives us a common mission and includes them in what I’m doing when we are apart.

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School in a Small Space

We moved into a 1000 sq ft apartment last summer, it’s 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and the kids share the master bedroom. There’s a tour in my stories @ourjoyfulchaos if you want to see the actual space. It has large closets so I turned the living room ones into a homeschool closet and a library closet. We put bookshelves in them to keep our materials and books organized and each week I stock a wheeled cart with what we’ll need for that week so I don’t have to get things in and out of the sliding closets every day. We mainly do lessons at the dining room table (or on the living room floor, or outside on the balcony or on my bed.)

Really not much of how we school has changed since moving. Although we had more storage space and rooms we were underusing in our old house we had never had a homeschool room, so far we’ve preferred the flexibility of picking a sunny spot or a cozy one or a nice clean hard surface. The thing that has changed is that I don’t have room for “extra” things so artwork projects have to move along faster, I rotate more library books through versus buying them and I’ve gotten wiser about where to spend my homeschool budget. We knew this would be a difficult transition for our kids but we also knew that we grow most through challenge and that there’s a lot to be learned from sharing a laundry room with all the neighbors on your floor and playing bingo with the senior citizens on Tuesday nights.

Traveling as a Family

We travel whenever we can, it started as a way to spend more time with Andy when he’s on work trips and has morphed into some fun living history trips. Over the past year, we’ve gone on a 10 day Spanish & French Explorers trip along the Florida/Georgia coast, a French Explorers trip along the St. Lawrence River, to Jamestown, had Thanksgiving dinner at Plimoth Plantation with Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe and most recently visited Colonial Williamsburg.

This weekend we’re headed to the Mississippi River since we’re reading about Marquette and LaSalle. We will often camp to keep in budget and use travel as a tool for all of us to learn more about comfort vs. adventure and how we can enjoy both at different times. #historytrippers

Find Your Tribe

I don’t have “a tribe”, although that could be fun. I do have friends who homeschool, friends who don’t, friends who are single moms, friends who are young and single, a lovely group of CM families in our local Co-op, friends who have grown children, friends who are grandmothers. And I am stronger and better for these relationships, we are meant to do life in community so look for good ones. Look for women who will speak truth to you, call out things that need to change, who will remind you to give yourself grace and who will challenge you to grow. And if you’re in the Charlotte Mason community check out Nancy Kelly of Sage Parnassus, her Living Education Lessons for parents have been a highlight of this school year and she just started a podcast. Thank you for following along with our day!

Thank you so much to Kate for sharing your family’s day with us!

If you want to see more Day in the Life photos and videos, be sure to check out our Instagram profile.  There are highlights of each takeover at the top.

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