Oh how I wished that I had learned this earlier!
Before I started homeschooling, I had a vision in my head of what it would look like. I imagined us getting up and dressed, having a nice breakfast together, and then diligently getting on with our amazing and fun lessons. I thought about the long hours I would spend reading to kids, sipping on tea, getting lost in the amazement of teaching my children. I imagined us exploring nature, cheering for one another as we made new discoveries, and enjoying leisurely breaks where we would stretch our legs and soak in the wonderment of being together. I dreamt of pouring over curriculum (and of course, in my dreams, those curriculum choices had no dollar signs attached). I imagined where our shelves and shelves of books would be and I diligently planned out our systematic method for one-on-one time. We would work steadily and happily until lunch. We would eat together enjoy rest time for all, and then get ready for dad to come home and for dinner to be served. Homeschooling was bliss...until I actually started.
This is reality.
I wake up 40 minutes later than planned, most likely due to the unappreciated 2:00am wake up call from Zachary. I slip out of bed, almost kicking Jason as I realize he is at the end of the bed because sometime in the night Katie slipped in and stole his spot. Knowing that if the rest of my schedule doesn't get moving we'll never get through the day, I skip checking email and head downstairs. I hastily make my coffee and try to concentrate on my Bible. Instead, I am distracted as I watch the available Jason-is-home-and-can-be-on-kid-duty minutes disappear. I refocus and read. Always, always...the Word first. Manna in the morning. With Bible time done, I get my shoes on, debating about whether I should run or walk. I'm ready to leave but am already stressed because I am leaving 40 minutes later than usual. My left leg is bothering me so I take the day off from running. A walk it is. Better hightail it because my walk takes longer than a run. Forty-eight minutes and 3.2 miles later, I return home. Jason is getting ready to leave for work. I know I should stretch but don't have the time so I justify the omission with the fact that I only walked. As Jason rolls away on his bike, I ask who has eaten. No one.
I head into the kitchen. I have three kids asking for three different things. Alaina is asking about lunch ("Honey, it's 6:30am and I am not ready to discuss lunch!") Caleb wants me to make him oatmeal that I have showed him numerous times how to make. Katie wants a different kind of oatmeal. I know Zach will be up soon so as I help Alaina with her lunch plan,I quickly make two bowls of oatmeal. I grab an energy ball for my own breakfast (knowing that it is now or never) and quickly go upstairs to attempt a shower. I learned from yesterday that if I don't get clean now, it probably won't ever happen. I hop out of the shower and hear Zach. He'll have to cry for a few minutes. Getting dressed isn't an option.
Alaina, Caleb, and Levi are downstairs working on math and are already asking for help. I grab Zach and start to nurse him while I help Caleb with telling time. Alaina is on the couch in tears because she can't figure out the discounted price in one of her word problems. Katie asks me if I am ready to do her handwriting with her. Zach gets distracted and I have to coax him back to nursing while I try to be patient as my not-so-mathematical 10-year-old wipes tears away. Oh wait...where is Bethany? Is she up? I haven't seen her. "Bethany!" She toddles down the stairs...who knows what she has been doing. "Noodles!" she says. Always, always, she wants noodles for breakfast. Sometimes I don't even attempt to get the Asian out of her.
With Bethany eating and Katie trying (not very successfully) to wait patiently, I get Alaina and Caleb through math. I make my green tea and head outside to where Alaina and I do her First Language Lessons. Thankfully, she loves language arts and the tears shed earlier over her math are forgotten. I'm thankful for her love of words and I wonder what God will do through her. In the middle of diagramming sentences, Levi comes out, hoping for help with his math. While Alaina diagrams, I help Levi with his this-is-prep-work-for-your-someday-algebra puzzle corner problems. Alaina gets tired of waiting for her next sentence and peeks in the book for her next words. Levi figures out what triangle and square equal and Caleb says he is waiting for help with some story problems. Zach cries and so I bring him outside with us, trying to keep him happy while I make sure Alaina's direct objects are on the right line and Levi stares at yet another square and triangle problem with a helpless look on his face.
With subjects, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and direct objects in their rightful places and with triangle and square finding their true identities, we come inside. Bethany wants to watch Sid the Science kid and Katie (still in her nightgown) asks me to tie her shoes so she can ride her bike. I sneak upstairs to get my hair and makeup done so I can look somewhat presentable when I take Alaina and Caleb to school for art and music. Those pesky forever-long school applications taunt me and I throw them in my bag, willing myself the hand cramps it will take to fill them out. Caleb can't find his water bottle so I promise we will stop and get some water on the way. I pry Bethany's hands off of me as we hop on the motorbike. "Mommy will be home soon. Ibu Erna will be with you until I get back." We hop on the motorbike and almost get hit by another driver who isn't paying attention. We buy Caleb a bottle of water and head to school.
An hour and a bazillion application pages later, I come home and find some leftover pancakes to eat. I grab some water and sit on the couch to read with Levi. He struggles through his book as Bethany helps herself to a pancake and gets it everywhere. Katie talks and talks while Levi tries to read. Bethany has game pieces in her mouth and my leg is cramping. Maybe I should have taken the ten minutes to stretch. Oh well. No time now. Levi finishes his reading and I send him to to the table to finish his Explode the Code. I work with Katie on handwriting. "Big line down, frog jump to the top, little curve, little line." Her letter "R" is unrecognizable, but hey, she's only on day 5 of kindergarten. We'll get there. I try to pop into my inbox while Katie makes her big lines. We stop and work on her pencil grip for a few minutes and I wonder how something so simple could be so hard. I cringe every time I hear the neighbor boy screaming at the top of his lungs and I think that being able to hear someone else's toddler scream and throw a fit as well as being able to hear and smell our neighbor frying food is a little too close for comfort.
An agonizing ten minutes later, I sneak upstairs to finish a bit of work while Zach is still napping. It won't be long. I get about ten words typed and Katie comes up to "chat." On and on she goes and I can't remember what I was writing. She wants to watch a Leap Frog video with Bethany but doesn't know how to put the DVD in the computer. I tell her I will be down shortly. She keeps on talking and I try to put words into sentences. I glance at the time, hoping I am not late for picking up Alaina and Caleb. Oh good. I still have 25 minutes. Oh wait, the other kids haven't eaten lunch. Too bad all the leftover pancakes are gone.
I go downstairs, make Levi some lunch, and get ready to pick up the other kids from school. Bethany wants to go so we get her shoes on. We head to school. With everyone on the motorbike, we head back home. I give the kids a few minute break and then we sit down to do group work. Bible. Scripture memory. Times tables. History Timeline. Catechism. It takes forever because Zach is unhappy but doesn't nurse well when others are around and Bethany wants "my turn" on all our memory work. Although it is endearing listening to a two-year-old try to say, "Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy..." this isn't getting us where we need to be. I try to talk about our history but we can't hear ourselves talk over the call to prayer that is blasting from the local mosque. It's almost 1:30 and we still have work left to do. I cut our times tables review short and move on to language with the boys. Levi is distracted by Katie who decided to make herself a peanut butter sandwich right next to where he is sitting. She can't spread the peanut butter or jelly, though, and wants my help. Zach keeps grabbing the book I am trying to read from and Levi still can't answer one question from his narration exercise. I hear Bethany screaming. Then I hear Alaina calling from upstairs, complaining that Bethany is interrupting her silent reading time. A few minutes later, Alaina carries a naked Bethany downstairs and delivers her to me.
We finally squeak through til the end and I am excited to put Zach down for a nap and have a little downtime before I need to start dinner prep. As I begin to walk upstairs, the little girls ask for green tea to go with their sandwiches. Katie watches Zach while I make the tea. While I wait for the tea to brew, I decide to make some cashew butter. Caleb calls from the other room because he can't get the laptop to turn on. I fix the laptop and start to put the cashew butter away. Bethany wants a bite. Satisfied, she returns to her tea. I go back to finish the tea and bring Zach up to his room. He screams. He's hungry. I feed him again and quietly sneak out of his room. I head upstairs from where I hear screaming. I deal with the noise and sit down to write a bit. Alaina pops in, asking if they can watch Leave it to Beaver and have popcorn. "In a little bit, sweetie. I just sat down." I type a few sentences. I hear screaming. Apparently Caleb accidentally kicked Katie. I go downstairs and start to make the popcorn. I hear the girls screaming upstairs and I leave the popcorn on the stove while I try to keep the girls from waking Zach up. Back downstairs, I finish the popcorn (thankful that it didn't burn) and I hand it to the kids. A few handfuls in my bowl and I head upstairs, hoping to sneak in a few quiet minutes that my introverted soul is craving. The words start to flow as I look at the clock. 3:20. I still haven't read with Caleb and dinner has yet to be started. But we did it. Another homeschool day done.
This isn't the homeschool life that I pictured, but it is the one we have. We have unusual circumstances. We live a different life that others. There is no way that our experience could ever mimic the experience of others. I could talk to a hundred different homeschooling moms and probably none of our days would look the same. We have different size families. We have different aged kids. We have different husbands and different homes. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. Some have unlimited funds for all the homeschooling materials and some have to work part-time from home in order to makes ends meet. Some have a lot of outside activities and some have none. Some have huge houses to clean and some have tiny apartments. And some of us lucky ones living overseas have someone to clean the house for us. Some of us are pregnant. Some of us are nursing. Some of us are dealing with special needs. Some of us are extroverts and resent never being with adults and some of us are introverts and resent never being alone. Comparing myself to any other homeschooling family serves no purpose.
This realization didn't come quickly or easily. But once I learned to rest in the fact that we are who we are, I was able to enjoy this crazy homeschooling life. It isn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.