Archive | September, 2016

Our Daily Homeschool Routine (Homeschooling with Littles & Real Life – Part 4)


“How do you get everything done?” Is an important and valuable question that every homeschool mom receives. It is important because homeschooling does require some major juggling, planning, and a flexible mindset. It is valuable, because it is our God-given mission to manage and organize our domain in a manner that is pleasing to Him, and to train and disciple our children in character, truth, and academics. That’s a-lot. And it is certainly not something I recommend doing on your own strength. Thankfully, we have a pretty awesome God, who is near and open to our prayers.

God worked in an orderly manner, and we are called to do the same. There are many different ways to run a household, and my methods work well for our family, but may not be the best for everyone. A schedule provides good structure and routine, which is really beneficial for children and teaching self-discipline, but it also must be held loosely as seasons and needs adapt and change. That is why, I am always praying that our homeschool would be spirit-led, and not mommy-led. I want the Lord to be our ultimate teacher. I want to follow His plan…which may be a twist and turn from my own.

I love praying this promise over my children each day, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children (Isaiah 54:13).” Did you hear that? The Lord is their ultimate Teacher. He’s in control of all that they need to learn in order to equip them fully for the good work that God has called them to accomplish. It does not depend upon me. There is so much freedom here. So just get rid of that guilt right now. You are going to fail in some way, and that’s okay. He already lived the perfect life for you.

Anyway, back to the schedule. Our daily routine is divided into four blocks: morning duties, independent work, circle time, and tutoring time. These routine blocks are not set to a specific time each day, but do happen approximately at the same time each day, but can be rotated as needed. I like the flexibility this provides for our family, because there are often needs that come up that cause one or more of the blocks to get delayed and need to be moved around. But the ultimate goal is that all four of the blocks get finished by noon each day.

I’ll discuss these four blocks in detail:

Morning Duties

7:00am is our morning wake up time for the kids. They are responsible for making their bed, getting dressed, picking up their room after themselves, and coming down for family devotions by 7:30am. After devotions, the goal is to get their morning chores done in 30 minutes before breakfast. Each of my children has 1-2 rotating daily chores that they do to help our home run smoothly. I’ll discuss this more thoroughly in my next post on chores, but for example, my oldest (age 9), sweeps and mops the kitchen one morning each week, cleans the bathroom two different days, and starts washing and rotating laundry every Monday (which is our laundry day). My 7 year old is able to sweep and mop, do a quick bathroom cleanup (wiping down counters and toilet), and vacuum different areas. My 5 year old daily unloads the dishwasher at breakfast and then will either fold her laundry, wipe down chairs, and is just learning to vacuum the living room, or organize the shoe shelf. We start kids on the dishwasher at 3 years of age at our house, so she can really do it fast now!


Independent Work

This block of time follows morning duties, and is the time when the kids work on their independent school subjects. This includes workbooks and assignments that they can accomplish on their own. Mommy is on call as needed to help with a math problem or reading instructions (for my non-readers). I am usually cleaning up the kitchen, doing dinner preparations (pulling out things from freezer, etc), and caring for our toddler (getting her dressed, fed, etc) during this time. Independent work for us is mainly math workbooks, xtramath drills (a great free online service for reviewing and mastering math facts) handwriting or copywork, spelling, independent reading assignments, and instrument practice.

I write out my 4th graders daily assignments in a spiral notebook (pictured above). My 2nd grader just does math, xtramath drill, and handwriting/copywork, so he doesn’t need the assignment list yet. My Kindergartener works on her Rod & Staff workbooks when she is inspired to, but is not required. The goal is to finish these assignments up by around 10:00am, when we start circle time.

I do follow Charlotte Mason’s recommendations of keeping these early elementary years assignments to 5-20 minute chunks per subject. So handwriting is 5 minutes (or approximately 1 page), and math is 15-20 minutes. We stop wherever they make it to, rather than being obsessed about finishing one lesson each day. We use sticky note tabs at the top of our books to mark our places, which has been such a time saver this year. The kids can easily find where they left over and continue their day’s work. One to two pages in each is usually sufficient for making great progress without losing their attention or energy span. It’s a lot more peaceful that way for us. This block of time usually takes 30 minutes for 2nd grader and 45 minutes to an 1 hour for the 4th grader.

Circle Time

Our Circle Time block is a time when we sit down all together to do reading aloud, prayer, memory work, history, geography or science and any other reading we might be doing, rotating through most of these books/subjects, rather than doing every one, every day. It takes roughly 1 hour each day, give or take. We work on memorizing Scripture verses, a poem, and review some old ones. We pray for the nations. Then we read aloud from a history book and a biography or classic storybook. Currently, we are reading A First Book in American History, and With Two Hands. We are primarily using Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts for His Glory, as the foundation for our circle time this year, adapting to our needs and preferences. I usually include 5-10 minutes of reading a picture book aloud to my 5 year old (check out our kindergarten reading list here), and the older ones love listening in too.

Any subjects that we can do together to enrich our homeschool with truth, goodness, and beauty fall into this time. One day a week, we do poetry tea time and picture study instead of the above routine. My baby and Kindergartener usually play together in the pack n play or with play dough in the highchair/counter or eat snacks :) to keep them busy. My 5 year old participates in circle time for at least the first half and listens nearby for the second half.  Some years, it has worked best to do circle time first thing after morning duties, but this year, it seems to work smoothly after independent work. When I have a nursing infant, I always schedule this time when baby is taking morning nap. I love that we can move these blocks around as needed.

Tutoring Time

Lastly, I do an individual tutoring time with whatever student needs focused reading instructor. Right now, I spend 15-20 minutes minutes with my 7 year old as we work through All About Reading level 2 & 3 this year. I usually fit this time in whenever it works. Sometimes it comes before Circle Time if my older student needs more time on her independent work or sometimes afterwards.

Our goal is to finish our formal studies before noon each day. After that, we have lunch, quiet time, and then play time. We have one afternoon outing a week for ballet lessons and piano lessons. Fridays is primarily a half day schedule where the kids do independent work, spelling tests, and a monthly field trip or grocery shopping trip (twice a month).

At five o’clock daily, everyone is called in for our 10-minute tidy time. This is when we do a quick clean up of the house in preparation for daddy’s return home and dinner. I usually assign the kids to different areas of the house, depending upon where they played that day. This works really well for getting the house in order for a smooth start the next day. After dinner, we usually have family time, daddy reading aloud, playing games, wrestling, watching a movie, or something similar. Bedtime for baby is around 7pm, and for the older kids it is 8:00pm.

That’s it!

For the introduction to this series and the series index, visit here.

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Finding a Wealth of Free or Cheap Audiobooks

2831212101_9e9fc3bbdb_zTaking a short break from our Homeschooling with Littles & Real Life series today to bring you these awesome resources!

We are huge audiobook fans at our house. Every afternoon we each cuddle up in our own quiet time areas or beds and enjoy a few hours of delightful imaginative adventures, myself included. I take naps on a regular basis while dozing off to an audiobook. It works wonders. I also love listening to books while I make dinner at night, or while washing the dishes throughout the day.

When each of our children have turned around five years old and no longer needed a daily nap, we have purchased a refurbished Apple Ipod Nano (which are usually under $100) for them. These have become their most treasured possession I believe, because of all the fun adventures they have enjoyed while listening to them. We do limit content to audiobooks, with the occasional music track for things we were working on memorizing. But it has no other ability to access internet, photos, or videos.

So where do we get all the audiobooks?


Librivox is a free audiobook service providing thousands of old classics in the public domain. You’ll find Anne of Green Gables series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series, Thorton Burgess animal stories, and so much more. The quality of these recordings can vary, and the selection is limited, but still worth checking out Check out our recommendations here: Librivox audiobooks for Children. Our favorite narrators include: Mary Anderson, Karen Savage, and Mark Smith. Check out Read Aloud Revival’s list of the Best Librivox Narrators. I’m currently enjoying Eleanor Porter’s Just David on Librivox. Gene-Stratton Porter’s books have been some of my favorites too!


Overdrive is a free service offered through local libraries across the nation,  that allows you to borrow and download a wealth of audiobooks for 21 days each. You can borrow up to 15 titles at a time. You just need a library card and make sure your library offers the service. Sign up for a free account and start borrowing online.  It is easy to download the Overdrive app onto your computer in order to transfer audiobooks to your devises. For iPhone, you can use the Overdrive app directly on your phone for listening. For my local friends, you can check it out through Multnomah Library. Overdrive also provides the ability to borrow kindle/digital book titles as well. We’ve enjoyed Roald Dahl titles (one of our family’s favorite authors), Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes series, Mrs. Piggie Wiggle series, Anne of Green Gables, Beverely Cleary books, The Boxcar Children, N.D. Wilson, and much more through this service. All of Read Aloud Revival’s Best Audio Book Recommendations (with the exception of the Little House series) I found available through Overdrive.


Hoopla is another service offered by through the library that has tons of audiobooks as well. You can borrow 8 titles each month. Hoopla has a lot more Christian Audio titles, so you can find books like For the Children’s Sake, Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga series (my current personal favorite!), John Piper, Gloria Furman, Elyse Fitzpatrick, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and many other fabulous authors. I also found audio versions of many Shakespeare plays. I just finished listening to The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton with this service. Delightful. Currently listening to For the Children’s Sake before launching into the new school year. They also have a wealth of classics too. Hoopla also offers movies for borrow.


Another good option for cheap audiobooks is by using Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice Ready deals, which is basically Kindle books with Audible narration. And you don’t need a kindle device either. You can read Kindle books through Kindle apps on your computer or phone. If you find a kindle title you would like, look underneath the Buy Now button to see if they have a check box that says “Add Audible narration to your purchase for just $1.99/etc”. They offer this audio addition feature at a great discount from buying it separately, but you are still getting the complete audiobook that can be used independently or together with the kindle book edition. You can actually find many classic kindle edition books that Amazon offers for free or just $0.99 and add audio for just $2.99 or less. Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, for example, is just $0.99 for kindle and audiobook! Check out Amazon’s list of Kid’s Titles with up to 80% off narration. This uses the Audible service without the membership cost. Titles can then be downloaded through or using the Audible app on your phone. I discovered you could buy YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now biography series for the very best price by purchasing them this way. You can get the kindle edition for $7.50, and add the audible narration for just $3.49…which equates to getting the audio book for $11, which is the best deal around on this series (they normally sell around $15-20 for each audiobook version).

So that’s how we enjoy hundreds of audiobooks for free or little cost!

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Quiet Time for Mommy is a Good Thing (Homeschooling with Littles & Real Life – Part 3)


How do you find rest amidst the busyness of homeschooling and maintaining a home?

I look forward to our afternoon quiet time, which comes, Lord willing, each day. So do my kids actually. It is a daily scheduled time of rest in our home. Time to cultivate peace in our home, quiet in our souls, and renew our minds and bodies. For some, the 5 and under crowd, this means a nap. For older siblings, this means reading, listening to audiobooks, coloring, painting, legos, and other quiet time activities. They each go to a separate area, outside or inside, on the bed, couch, or table, or in the hammock or blanket in the yard. I’ve even seen them take their quiet time in a tree. For myself, it also means a short nap, personal reading, and/or writing. Napping while listening to an audiobook is my favorite. :) This gives me scheduled time to cultivate my own continued learning.

In our home, our goal is to finish our school subjects by lunchtime, and then we have set aside a two hour period after lunch in our home for this purpose. I guard against the temptation to fill up this time with other demanding obligations, such as cleaning and such, because I know my soul and spirit needs this. I am weary by the time the morning school and chore period is over. Its draining. I’m an introvert. I need some alone time, so I can renew myself to face the rest of the tasks ahead of me after quiet time. There is no guilt or condemnation here. Why? Because it is a little safeguard against getting overtired which can feed frustration and anger. It is a time to fill my cup of grace again, so I can continue to outpour the grace and love of Christ out upon my family for the remaining hours of the day. It gives the children time to rest from one another and give them opportunities to read and enjoy story in their own little worlds. We all come back together more refreshed and happy again. It’s a gift.

In our day and again, it is easy to overbook our schedules, filling them with too many outings and scheduled activities, often leading to grumpy overtired children. This is especially true when your children are young. Even if you have to keep the actual napping portion short, and then allow these little ones to look at books or color, it is still hugely beneficial. I did discover that if my kids nap past a certain time in the afternoon, they would have a harder time going to sleep at night, so we moved naptime up a bit, or I woke them up sooner. It was easy to flex and adjust as needed. It’s worth it!

In addition to our daily quiet time, I try to schedule a 1-2 hour outing once or twice a month for myself to get out of the house and have some quiet time at a local coffee shop. I use this time for planning, journaling, and reading. This might be after my husband comes home from work, or while a family member is over watching my littles. Or maybe you could trade babysitting with another mama to help you cultivate this space. The quiet and getting out of the house is so refreshing and revitalizing. We need it. This is good.

So, yes, you can homeschool and still have quiet breaks. I am a strong proponent of keeping this mama sane and joyful. It may not work for all, and that’s okay. Try to carve in some quiet time in your day wherever you can find it. But starting when your kids are young does make it easier to uphold this practice. We are going nine years strong!

The Lord will fight for you, and you can hold your peace and remain at rest. (Exodus 14:14)

How do you find time to have quiet rest and refreshment as a homeschooling mom?

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