The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Se7en Common HomeSchool Questions That HomeSchoolers ask…

March 11th, 2009 · 19 Comments

I know I said I would post on how we school subject by subject but at the end of last weeks post on Se7en’s School Schedule I asked for Se7en questions and you guys came to the party! My Se7en questions have been reached!!! That quickly!!! So I thought I would respond to your questions and show you more about how we homeschool next time…

And I want to say that the answers to your questions are purely our own and what works for us most of the time. Having just survived our first week back at school after weeks of summer trust me there is no pride… and I am no expert!!!

Here is a list of all the questions so that if there is one you are particularly interested in just scroll your way down to it:

  • Question 1: How do I keep little ones busy while the big guys school?
  • Question 2: How do we read through all the books?
  • Question 3: How do I cope with interruptions?
  • Question 4: How do I get them to do things they don’t want to do?
  • Question 5: What do you do when the set assignments seem overwhelming?
  • Question 6: What happens if you have bought a product that you thought would be fabulous and it just doesn’t work for you?
  • Question 7: How do you do everything?

Here we go se7en home school questions I get asked by home schoolers all the time:

Question 1: How do I keep little ones busy while the big guys school?


I don’t! I really live alongside my kids I am commanded to teach them His ways, Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (New International Version), but nowhere does it say that I have to be the entertainment or scoot cars or do playdo or worse build legos. No I am there to admire what they do (and I do!!!) but I am not there to do it.

I am the mother person not the entertainment. In our schedule post last week you will have read that the little ones tend to start the day close by, even at the table drawing or on the table with math manipulatives. But as the day draws on they tend to drift away to follow their own projects.

My older kids that are schooling also know that by insisting that I hover over them and help them with each miniscule step that that will most likely be their time with me for the day as I will run late with meals and chores otherwise. They can choose fun by the pool in afternoon or me watching every math sum in the morning…

Question 2: How do we read through all the books?


We have a schedule for reading throughout the day, but sometimes our schedule goes, well for a bit of a loop!!! To make sure it all gets done and we don’t get behind. I expect my older guys to keep up with their reading and they do – who wouldn’t love Sonlight books. And the books I have to read I used to keep open on the kitchen counter in a pile until they were read, but the sheer volume has meant the dissipation of counter space. So the books I need for the day are kept in a trug, they are all marked with what needs to be read and every time I sit down to read I make sure the first two books are school books and we get done by the end of the day.

If the wheels absolutely fall off our day… then while I prepare supper each of my eldest gets to read whatever remaining books are need to be done… but that happens very rarely because they can be quite dogmatic about poor short people having to remember every possible fact and detail, whereas I read and hope that they will be able to give me a general idea from a story and a couple of factoids from a science or history page. The last book of the day is generally the read-aloud for the oldest non-reader and we do that by torchlight in bed after general stories as teeny tiny people drift off to sleep around us – lovely!

Question 3: How do I cope with interruptions?


Oh Interruptions!!! My favorite but since I haven’t completed a single thought process all at once in eleven years I would have to say I live by interruptions.

You can ignore the phone, but I don’t. You can ignore the doorbell, but I don’t. You can in fact ignore the whole world – but I don’t! I could postpone the interruption till later with the answer machine, for instance… but by the time the phone has rung and se7en other people have told me the phone is ringing (event, Event, EVENT) I may as well get it since it is an interruption. And why let it interrupt us later as well.

I think the thing about distractions is not so much that they distract but my attitude towards them. I really want my children to grow up with a servant heart. Often times when people from outside our immediate family call on us it is because they really need some help – often it is a new mum asking for help with her baby. Or someone ringing to ask if I can fetch or carry something en route somewhere. Or a delivery for the neighbors business and she is not in.

The hardest part about interruptions for us is as soon as the phone rings or the doorbell goes every single scholar thinks: recess… and I am usually not in a position to say “Get back to your work or else!” But as they leap away I will often say: “That’s your break so enjoy it!”

Now those are external interruptions… What about internal interruptions? I can reduce the internal interruptions considerably just by paying a little attention in the direction that is pleading for it – If I just engage with the little interrupter, stop and read a quick story, stop and make a snack together. They tend to be happy and the balance is back! The harder I resist the more they persist!

Question 4: How do I get them to do things they don’t want to do?


Well that’s life. If you pick your fights wisely and you think something is really important that they learn and they really don’t want to do it then they need to learn it and you need to find a wonderful way to teach them. And I stress really important because I have had folk ask me how to teach their kids the most obscure things, but their motivation is often to impress granny. Beware of the child who is being used to impress because you can never be sure what will come out of their mouths! It could be the party trick – but it may not be!

That being said, like life, not all school is lovely and like life it has to be done. I clean toilets and they can do mental math. I have one that has wailed and cried and gnashed his teeth dramatically through mental math and never even skipped a breathe at language arts… and another who didn’t even realize that mental math was a separate section in his day but gasps in anguish when I ask “What do you need to do for language arts today?” So we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses.

I tend to ignore gnashing of teeth, its amazing how quickly this work can be done with the right “carrot” – and often I won’t play along with a “carrot” simply because nasty jobs often just have to be done. I realize as I teach more kids that my younger kids don’t do too much tooth gnashing… which is a good lesson to me because by ignoring my older kids I was actually tolerating them – hmmm food for thought! This year I have given them a time limit for nasty things and when they don’t finish I put that work aside and keep it till the end when a meal is due… that way all their work isn’t left till lunchtime and it is just one thing to finish up. This frees us for fun things in the afternoon and gives us a whole lot more freedom.

Now I really believe (no documented evidence!) that a child will pursue its passion regardless of anything. Time and time again I have seen a child of mine eagerly learn something they don’t really want to in order to reach their own higher goal. But there is a lot of stuff in life that we all have to learn just because we do and here comes the thing: 90% of my homeschooling is teaching my kids the self-discipline required to live. If I wasn’t disciplined we would never eat a meal. It really is that simple we have to learn to sit still sometimes when we would rather be dancing. We have to learn to be quiet when we would rather be singing… we have to learn that some tasks are dreadful but need to be done and some tasks are lovely and are going to be fun!

Question 5: What do you do when the set assignments seem overwhelming?


Sometimes tasks are overwhelming especially as the morning draws to a close. Often times they leave the worst to last and I am happy to rearrange their schedules to avoid this. When it is fifteen minutes till lunchtime and you open our language arts and it says write a mini-report on an animal in South America it is enough to make a man cry!!! I am not against helping a need! And there are two things I can do that really helps:

  • Firstly review their work with them beforehand: This is what we will be doing in math this week, in language arts this week and so on. It helps that they know what is coming. It is no good saying on a Friday afternoon that I wanted them to write a ten page report. (Like I have ever asked for a ten page anything!) But if they know on Monday that they need to find references and Tuesday make notes and Wednesday make an outline and Thursday write a rough and Friday be finished… then they can see what needs to be done. Breaking it up helps. My kids have just enough work for one day but if they leave it for two it is too overwhelming. In the same way, hopefully they will have learnt by the time they start school, that if they don’t tidy up before lunch time then the mess is too overwhelming by supper and they need serious help… getting things done when they need to be done is a life skill!
  • Secondly, a double page of times tables or write eight lines on your grandma’s childhood may squeltch even the strongest of us. Certainly when they are younger, I am happy to sit along side and scribe to get it done. But I find as they get older waiting for me to stop by their spot is often more agony than just getting it done. With the type of assignment that they ask for help I am not trying to perfect their handwriting, I am either fixing a new technique in their mind or getting them to narrate something back to me. If it is a beginner with dictation I will happily do one word for theirs and slowly but surely reduce my input as time goes by. Often I will write their story and they will illustrate as they talk. Remembering that for the early grades your child will learn in leaps and bounds over the period of one year and what is enormously difficult in Week 1 is a breeze for them in week 36. And they will learn even more in the break between school years. A child that could hardly want to write one sentence at the end of grade 1 will start grade 2 a couple of weeks later and with great gusto will write the required 8 lines.

Question 6: What happens if you have bought a product that you thought would be fabulous and it just doesn’t work for you?

Toss it, move it on, return it, whatever… Not every product or program has to work for you. In fact in any other aspect of our lives if we bought a recommended product and didn’t enjoy it you would just put it on our learning curve and move on. But for home schoolers, especially, there seems to be a huge guilt that your child might be missing some vital link in the education chain. They aren’t and if it isn’t working don’t use it.

For big issues, like a math program, for instance: if you have one and it is working for you don’t be swayed by a new marvelous system… stick with what works for you. You can always add the odd supplement but generally don’t fix something that isn’t broken. I have passed things on that would fall into this category, I used to feel awful about it but now I am confident that my kids will get their education and I am really there to assist. It is not assisting if you give them awkward tools to work with.

If it is something little like a poetry program that is supposed to be brilliant and just doesn’t work out for you, then let it go… your kids will survive without it! I have had people rave about products and they have been a real lemon for us. It’s O.K. if your kids don’t do everything – really!!! In this category go things that you know you don’t use but you buy because they are recommended: I can hear the flash card bell sounding here. For years I bought the flash cards that corresponded to our grade and for years the flash cards sat unopened on the shelf and then they moved on to drawers and forgotten corners… Ditch them if you don’t use them, there really are people that do use them! They take up space and have a way of looking at you in a way that says: “You are guilty of mis-educationg your children.” Remember they will learn the facts regardless – really!!!

Question 7: How do you do everything?


Let’s start with school: We don’t! Often a week or two will pass without a glance at a science experiment – much as everyone loves them I have found that Friday afternoon especially is not the best time… if we get too far behind then I just forget it all together and we have a science week at the end of term and I spend a half a morning/afternoon with each kidlet everyday for a week and catch them all up. I prefer it like this but I think I should be better able to include it in day to day life – I let it go!

That being said it really helps to have things planned and just like having a trug of books ready to be read through for the day each kid has a row of workbooks to get through in a day and they start at one end and work their way through it. It doesn’t help for them to get to a book and say what needs to be done, or even if they should be doing a particular book or not. The books are there and they are ready and in the same old order every day.

And everything else:

I don’t go to morning meetings for moms and tots or midweek homeschool co-ops, or afternoon teas whatever – we are busy doing school. While we are flexible, the joy of homeschooling, we just can’t take the morning off for haircuts and eye-appointments and not get any school done. If we do have a “spontaneous” day off for an adventure then I will have weighted their work on days round it so that they finish their weeks work. There are no “Shame you had a late night lets not do school today!” days in our house but I can trim their school down and weed it a bit to get it done in double time… and I do when something comes up, but mostly we don’t. We have a plan and we pretty much stick to it.

Someone once said to me that homeschooling is a full-time job they were right and all my household chores have to be done on either side of schooling, but we have to eat! And by living alongside my kids i find that everything does get done! While they are busy in the kitchen in the morning I hang out there and get kitchen chores done. When they are madly playing in the afternoon I get a lot of stuff done round the house. Really everything in its time, chores get done wether we have a long day of school or not, really we have to eat the next meal and we have to wear clothes the next day!

That’s it, just what works for us and I hope some of it provides great inspiration to you!!! If between you all, oh happy readers, you can come up with se7en more questions I will make another “se7en question post” for you when I have them all in!

I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.

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Tags: HomeSchool Questions · Se7en at School

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 *~Michelle~* // Mar 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Bravo Bravo!

    I just think you have such an amazing system with your homeschooling organization and family. You really should be proud of yourself….it is really inspiring to me and I am sure to many others.

    have a great day

  • 2 se7en // Mar 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Hi M, Thanks for the great comment – You are too kind! I popped over and had a look at your fab t-shirts – lovely!
    You have a great day too.

  • 3 Taryn // Mar 11, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Something has to give doesn’t it? I mean, with homeschooling, housework, cooking, mothering etc there isn’t much space for anything else. I am really encouraged by the fact that you DON’T do all the other stuff and that you’re comfortable with that! Usually I am comfortable with the fact that I don’t do coffee morning anymore, don’t do playdates too often or coffee dates, don’t run around doing tons of extra murals – but oftentimes I have an attack of "guilty-mom-syndrome" where I begin to wonder if my kids are not missing out / I’m not missing out. It helps to be encouraged by someone who knows what I’m experiencing! (and interruptions! Oh they are the bane of my day – so good to think of it from the angle that it’s LIFE and the kids are learning from my response and example!)

    Thank goodness for the internet and great blogs like yours. I may not have time to load the kids into the car, drive to your house for tea/coffee, stay and yack for an hour, reload kids, drive home – but I can still benefit just as much from your wisdom with a 5 minute gap of time that I have throughout the day. Amen to that!

    Looking forward to connecting in person again tho – I suspect I may see you at a certain young boy’s party πŸ™‚

  • 4 se7en // Mar 12, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Hi T, You are so right… I love the connectivity of the internet! It is an easy way to get “out of the house,” virtually I mean, and I love having friends around the world – someone is always awake!!! My first two or three kids had mom’s groups and then we started school and morning events filtered away. We still have a couple of folk asking us to join their homeschool co-op from time to time… But honestly, I can think of nothing worse!!! (whole nother post!!!) And luckily we are just too busy. The next couple of kids have each other – there is always, always someone to play with! So I really don’t think they are missing out… In fact, kids seem to get along so much better when things are peaceful and they have time to just “idle” about instead of dashing from pillar to post. You all enjoy the rest of your week!!!

  • 5 thesleepyknitter // Mar 12, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Reading how you manage your se7en makes me feel more like I can manage my one! πŸ™‚ But my one definitely doesn’t drift off to do things by herself. She’s twenty months, and I am the center of her universe, and so far I haven’t found a way to help her find a little activity she can do by herself for ten minutes here or there, which would be oh, so helpful. Do you remember when you had just one hood? Could that hood play alone for ten minutes as a young toddler? People tell us that when we have two, both little ones will discover ways to entertain themselves for a few minutes at a time, but that one alone never does learn that little skill during the toddler years. Anyway, love your blog!

  • 6 se7en // Mar 12, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Hi SK, Yup I did once have just one… and the thought of one drifting off is quite daunting… don’t ever ask about fish food… (I will have to blog it sometime)… My first was very high maintenance, very bright and completely verbal by a year… no poking around in a book it had to be read! Forget about toys he wanted real things. But I still had to live and for survival I had a couple of things he would do alongside me… He would happily unpack my plastic cupboard (all those interesting containers) while I cooked. He would spend minutes sweeping (spreading) leaves and stuff, with a dustpan and broom in the garden, while I gardened, he would love poking around the stones I popped in the yard drain (to make it safe) while I hung out the washing. And occasionally I would have to sleep even if it was three in the morning: In which case he had a pile of Richard Scarry’s that he would pore over and tell me the entire story of which cat was climbing which ladder and which dog was driving which car… I learnt to say hmmm a lot in my sleep. And I insisted on a rest everyday where I would lie down on the bed and pass out and he would clamber around on me – my kids still do this, they are happy playing and I am happy reviving, even if it isn’t deep sleep it is a rest and I know where they are. Once they start drawing on their own the world is your oyster you can get a lot done next to an arting toddler, pay bills, blog and so on!!! Don’t push it… the more time you give them when they are little the more freedom you will find when they are older… It’s like they get all that high need out of there system… the more you push the more they want to climb into your skin… and the more you say welcome the more independent they want to be… they are only human after all!!! Have a Great Day!

  • 7 Faith // Mar 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Hello! I saw your comment on the Simply Breakfast blog and I’m so glad I hopped over to sneak a peak into your blog! I loved this post. I have four children and I homeschooled last year. This year they are in school and while I think it was God’s mercy for me to have a little rest from the crazy-busy-ness of it all and spend time with the little ones, this post makes me want to homeschool again! I totally agree with everything you said in the bit about teaching your children the self-control to get things done. When I was homeschooling I often thought that the thing I was teaching was less the handwritin and math than teaching to work through the tough spots and just do what needed to be done. That’s life!
    I have a question for you, though. What do you do for socialization? I was homeschooled strait through high school and have had difficulty relating to peers because I was so isolated as a child. It’s not a problem when you’re a kid but as an adult it’ s really daunting.
    Well, anyway – thanks so much for sharing this little peek into your world of homeschooling! Keep up the good work!!

  • 8 Abbie // Mar 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for all the inspiration. I really enjoy your blog

  • 9 se7en // Mar 12, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Hi A, So glad you enjoying the blog, we have great fun putting it together… Have a nice day!

  • 10 se7en // Mar 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Faith, Don’t you just love and adore Simply Breakfast… Thanks for the question… I love questions and will add it to my next se7en question post! Socialization is a huge common question and a lovely can of worms to get into… Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!

  • 11 gracie // Mar 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I love your pencil box — when ever my children ask me for a pencil — i send them to look under the couch cushions — there’s always one there.

  • 12 se7en // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Hi G, Gotta laugh at your comment… I love any kind of caddy or trug – really, really love! Though I think if the father person came home and sat on a pencil (ouch) on the couch… well we would all be looking for a new father person! Our pencils tend to wander and we do have “a great pencil hunt” from time to time. Not to mention they all get eaten by the jolly sharpener. My kids love to waste time sharpening, sharpening, sharpening… I have found that work avoidance behavior starts very early on in the life of young humans.

  • 13 Paige // May 4, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    I am not sure how else to contact you, but I have a question: With many kids, how do you manage each child’s keepsakes? Do you keep scrapbooks, etc.? I have 4 little ones and I have some things that I would like to keep as memories for them. As of now, I have no system in place and I just have a few piles of things waiting to be dealt with.

    I have been so inspired by your blog, which I found through Craft Crow, and I thought you may have a system in place.

    Thanks in advance, Paige

  • 14 se7en // May 5, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Hi Paige – Great question… and another reminder to set up that contact button!!! I do have a system for keepsakes and that is a brilliant post idea I will write it up and post it sometime this month! Glad you like our blog so much… You have a great week!

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  • 16 Marcia Francois // Feb 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Your cutlery caddy looks lovely with all your pencils and kokis in them. How do you spell kokis? LOL

    Since I wrote that post (I schedule them mostly) I bought another one, this time for a mini bill-paying centre with calculator and all my different receipts, etc.

    Enjoy your Sunday – have to get the kiddos ready for a PARTY! Wish me well and that there aren’t lots of mommy competitiveness

  • 17 se7en // Feb 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Oh M, I just love caddies… hmmm se7en ideas for a caddy!!! All the best at the party!!! I hope you have a chance to relax a tiny bit too!!!

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