I recently revamped our schedule, which I do every once in a while to make sure it still fits. Even though my timing is considerably off, since right now we are in the middle of summer golf, swimming, and tennis lessons. However, on a (so-called) normal day, we can hit most of the things on the schedule, except for piano. Which we can never seem to be able to do. Never say never, right? I feel like life is a whole lot of crazy that I’m trying to stuff into a day. I squeeze it in one end, but it just blobs out the other. Still, the schedule helps gives shape to our day and helps me see what I need to work on. In other words, I don’t so much keep the schedule as the schedule keeps me. I like knowing what I am about.My day starts at 6:30. I get up, check my email, start a load of laundry, fill a quart jar with drinking water, and start reading my Bible. At 7:00 I wake up the boys and Jael and send them outside to check on their animals. Just stepping outside seems to wake them up. They come back new people and crawl in my bed with their Bibles to read for 15 minutes. When the timer rings I ask them what they read about and answer their questions. Then I tuck them in with their literature books and go to make breakfast. Usually before breakfast I try to get myself dressed, Lord willing. At 8:00 I call for the children to set the table. It’s a big production to get the tablecloth, the tea things, food, and plates outside to the picnic table. When everyone finally settles down to eat I read them a poem from the book of poems we’re reading. We talk about what we think it means, and then we Google it. Usually to our shame. Sometimes we pick out lines that we think may come in handy, “Why so pale and wan, fond lover?” And last week we couldn’t help but memorize the first few lines of “Julia’s Clothes.” “Whenas in silks my Julia goes, then, then methinks how sweetly flows, the liquefaction of her clothes.” It’s funny how it turns out that the days that start with poetry are the good days, and the ones that don’t are the crazy ones. I really value this time. Tea in our pajamas, under the walnut tree, with nowhere we have to be.
At 8:30 I send them away to get dressed and start their memory work. This is where I had to add extra time, because we could never get it all in. The big kids are supposed to get dressed and move to their memory stations. I don’t understand why it is so hard. Sometimes I get the feeling that they don’t actually want to do school. What do you think? While they are doing this I take a half hour to change diapers, wipe butts, wash hands, and get the three little kids dressed in clothes they did not sleep in. Then I get my handy squirt bottle out and walk around wetting down hair. I cannot stand bed head. I suppose if you are 11, you could technically do your own hair. But then I wouldn’t get to squirt you. I usually finish around nine, lock the littles in the rec room, brush my teeth, and settle down to checking the memory work, certain children supposedly studied.
I call one child at a time and check them on one subject out of the five. After each child has been checked, they are dismissed to brush their teeth. I call them back at 9:30 for Bible time. Against my better judgement, I let the babies back inside. We take half an hour to work on memorizing Galatians, read a snippet from a devotional, get lost in random conversations, work on learning a hymn by heart, run late, and then wrap it up with prayer. Interspersed are a lot of admonitions to stop touching someone else, to stop fighting over who you get to pray for, to sit up, to not stand in the window, to not crawl under the couch, to not wipe boogers on your sister, to not scream when you are offended, to not offend. The list goes on. When we’re done I yell, “Outside! All of you!” Because really, I can’t take it anymore. I have them work on sprints and a few agility ladder drills in the driveway. On alternating days they take a quick 1 mile run. Our kids were born slow. Marc decided that during the soccer off season he wanted the boys to work on their running, and since it is too hot, this is the only time to do it. Plus, I guess it get’s the wiggles out.
We come back inside and I put Judith and Eve back in the rec room so they can wreck it. The older four children work on their math. The rule is that you can be inside if you are quiet. If you’re not quiet, plan on being evicted. Sometimes the little girls stay in and color, but usually it doesn’t last very long. Marc does the math lesson in the evening so I don’t have to talk to anyone during math time. I just say, “Do math!” If they need to ask questions Rahab asks Jael, Jael asks Jehu, and Jehu asks Gideon. If the older sibling cannot help the younger, then the younger is allowed to write “Gideon is a retard” next to the question so Father can mock him later. This is sufficiently humiliating. I put on some kind of music during this time (usually classical, bagpipes, Indian, Celtic, etc.), and then turn around to assess the damage. It is significant. I try not to get too distracted by the littles messes and focus in on the big mess that is the kitchen, as well as keeping the washing machine going, and putting out any small fires along the way.
Eve goes down for nap at 10:30. Before I put her to bed I clean the nap room real quick. It’s just nice to have at least one room clean for a whole hour and a half. Before I know it, it’s 11:00 and it’s time to sit down and do English lessons with the older children. Rahab is done with math and goes to the rec room to make messes with the now abandoned and lonely Judith. They are mutually reinvigorated. Some days the lessons are shorter than others, some days they are longer. If the big kids finish early they work on their spelling. If not, they will have to squeeze it in after lunch. If they are really speedy, I let them have some free learning time where they can write stories, do an art lesson, research something on the internet, or watch science videos. Around 11:30 I start making lunch, sometimes while simultaneously giving spelling tests and dictations sentences. At 12:00 we break for lunch.
We eat lunch outside and I make a point to not let anyone back in until 1:30. After lunch I like the kids to take care of their outside chores before they play. Gideon takes care of the recycling, Jehu takes care of the trash and diaper garbage, Jael leaf blows and waters the pots. I stay inside and try to get on top of things. I turn on Johnny Cash reading the New Testament, remind myself to breathe, and pull on my rubber gloves. I attack any food that is out, spills, blatant eyesores, sheets that need changed, closets that need put back together, messy counters, and, of course, laundry. I try not to get distracted by messes that the children can clean up, even though it is still physically impossible to walk from point A to point B without picking something up. At 1:30 I call in the big kids to start their history or science reading for the day. The house is still messy. Not only that, but now I probably have to give people baths, orchestrate entire wardrobe changes, and make entirely new messes. Someone is probably covered jam, went swimming in the irrigation ditch, is mysteriously ended up with hair full of chicken feed, or pooped themselves and the surrounding vicinity. You never know. There is just a lot of work involved in things that should be so simple, like coming inside. And now that they’re in, they spill things, leave their stuff in the middle of the floor, and break Carnival Glass with abandon. Noses bleed, babies cry, people leave books stacked on chairs, counters, sinks, beds, and every conceivable flat surface. Shoes reproduce at alarming rates and migrate. No one ever flushes the toilet. Which is why I fall on the little children as soon as they come in, clean them off, and stick them somewhere quiet. And stay there. It’s like catching chickens. Eve and Judith eventually go down for naps. Gideon, Jehu, and Jael are tucked in somewhere with their science or history books (after I take away their fantasy books and hit them upside the head). Finally, I sit down with Rahab and do our one on one reading time. When we finish she quietly works on workbooks alone while I go back to cleaning. Because yes, it’s still dirty (dirtier?).
At 2:30 the big kids stop reading and begin work on a one page journal entry on what they read. On science days they include a diagram, and on history days the entry is in cursive and requires at least one date. My goal is for them to become so accustomed to writing that they can finish this in half an hour. Usually it takes longer. I’m trying to inspire them to be more efficient. If they finish by 3:00 they are allowed to go on Chess.com and play tactical games, or play a chess game together if they are both done. However, I want everything wrapped up by 3:30 so we can do piano (comeon people!). Since there is only one piano Gideon practices for the first round, while Jehu cleans his station. At 4:00 they switch. Jehu practices piano while Gideon and Jael clean their stations. The laundry has been accumulating all day is put away at this time as well. I also try to sweep the floors, because this might be the only time I will actually see them. Once stations are checked and piano is finished the children have free time. These days, this is when I have been rushing off to the gym at 4:30. Which means I don’t have free time and dinner is a little crunched. I get home in my stinky gym clothes and throw food on the table. Some things I get prepped before I leave. Sometimes, there is something Marc can do while I’m gone. But it’s definitely not an ideal system. Fortunately, I’m almost finished with my gym membership so we can be done with this foolishness.
During dinner the children are supposed to impress us with an oral report about what they read about that day. They usually mumble something in between mouthfuls while we interrogate them. It’s not working. (Them impressing us.) This Friday I am going to give them the usual remonstrances, but then I am going to pull out some dinner guests and see if they rally a little better. After dinner the children clear the table, Jael loads the dishwasher, and the boys leafblow the fallout. As soon as the dinner mess is squared away, it’s time to meet with Daddy for a math lesson. I’m usually cleaning the kitchen during this time. I also try to start cycling babies through the bathtub, so they’re clean for their daddy date at 7:30. Daddy then reads books with them, brushes their teeth, says their prayers, and tucks them in. I yell at whoever else needs to take showers, and prod them all through the rest of their evening libations. I like the big kids in bed, with clean teeth and a book, by 8:30. I shower and call it quits at 9:30.
This schedule is my ideal day. When I don’t have anywhere to go and nothing bad happens. If something does happen, my schedule collapses to the basics. Which are math, English, spelling, and history/science. When this happens, we lose our together time, not to mention, I am less attentive to the quality of their work, Rahab is lost in the mix, the house gets a little messier, and the evening gets pushed back. But I think what is worse is that we lose that sense of calm and peace through the day. I don’t like it. But I white knuckle it until it gets better. I know now, that things come in cycles. I go with the flow and I don’t freak out. But as soon as I can, I get the dinghy turned over, and get back in.