Monday, July 13, 2009

Back to Basics

Wow! The last 7 months of my life have been crazy wonderful. Our twins, Chloe and Liam are doing so great. Check out recent pics of them here. It is so fun to be the mother of 3 adorable, hilarious, sweet, lovable, and always-changing children. And, obviously it is time consuming and hard work. But I've dreamed of being this kind of busy for a long time. I'm trying to soak it up and enjoy every minute and remember that before I know it my little ones will be grown up and I'll be wishing for these days again. Somehow I manage to read tons but that's about all I do besides taking care of children and very basic, not-quite-adequate housekeeping. Maybe today is the day the bathroom will actually get done...

Isabel turns 6 in October and this would be the year she would enroll in Public School if we weren't homeschooling. With all our family changes a lot of people have asked if I will still be able to homeschool my kids. I know most people think it gets harder with more kids but I can now say with a few months worth of experience, that at least for now, it is easier. If I were doing a K-12 program that looked like public school then yeah, it might be impossible to do but when your engaged in Leadership Education, having a family with lots of kids makes it so much better. One of the principles of this philosophy is "Inspire not Require." That's where most of my energy goes - finding new ways to inpsire Isabel. Having the twins has inspired her to do lots of new things.

One example is reading. She loves to be read to and sometimes shows a desire to read herself but "reading" (what beginning readers do using a combination of sight reading, phonics, contextual clues, and guessing) to Mom is like a test and feels pointless. Mom already knows what the words on the page say and she'll know if you read it wrong--she doesn't need you to read to her. But "reading" to your little brother and sister is exciting! They certainly can't read for themselves and are excited to have your attention. Plus, they don't know if you read it right or wrong. You get to be the big, knowledgeable person while you practice things you are learning. Isabel has made a lot of progress in her reading lately and I know it's because she's been inspired by the presence of her baby brother and sister.

We've also had some success restructuring our morning routine. We have to schedule ourselves around the babies eating and napping times. This has forced us to be a little more structured and gives a nice flow to our day. All 3 of my kids are in core phase. In core phase we focus on teaching them good/bad, right/wrong, true/false, work, family relationships, and responsiblity. So our day is structured to facilitate this. I get up before all the kids to exercise and shower. Then I feed babies while Isabel gets her own breakfast, showers, and gets dressed. Having the babies has given her the motivation and opportunity to learn more skills and become more independent. While the babies play we start our morning chores together: dishes and kitchen clean-up, make the beds, pick-up bedrooms and livingroom, vacuum and laundry. If we did a good job the day before and didn't leave a lot of messes for ourselves, the morning cleanup only takes 30-45 minutes. After the twins have played for 20-40 minutes they are ready for a nap.

When our chores are done we use the rest of naptime for school time. That is, we do whatever Isabel is inspired to do. Usually we cuddle up in the chaise lounge with a novel and read for an hour or more. Other things we do are read library and picture books, do art projects, bake in the kitchen, work in the garden, listen to music, dance, and play games. I try to keep a running list in my head all week of things Isabel has expressed an interest in and then we use our morning time to do things from the list. I'm always putting things on hold at the library and once a week Kelly or I pick up the latest stack of books. I try to bring in resources and materials in response to Isabel's interests. I don't make her do anything during school time, I just respond to her needs and interests. Over the past few weeks we've learned about microbes, ants, gardening, Beethoven, and poetry; read the scriptures, dozens of fairytales, a handful of novels, and stacks of pictures books; baked different kinds of bread and muffins; planted and maintained a square foot garden (with some major help from our friends Rachel and Jason - thank you!);

and turned Isabel's bedroom into a gallery of her paintings.

This is how she learns the core phase lessons of good/bad, right/wrong, true/false, work, family relationships, and responsibility.

Before the babies wake up we try to eat lunch. If we don't stop in time, Isabel makes a sandwich for herself. Then she runs outside to play on nice days or finds something to do inside. I read to myself whenever I'm nursing. During the twins second nap I do whatever I can from my to-do list in 90 minutes. Then I feed them again. By now it's 5pm and time to get dinner ready, pickup the house and get ready for Daddy to come home. Isabel helps with dinner and pick-up. We eat dinner at about 6 or 6:30. We all do the dishes together. At 7:30 or so, the twins eat again while I read the family novel-du-jour to Kelly and Isabel. Right now it's Charlotte's Web. Then Kelly tucks Isabel into bed. At about 8:30 or 9 we put the twins to bed and then it's our time to read, talk, do whatever. Last night we started reading "Carry on Mr. Bowditch" together. I love reading with Kelly.

And, that's what an ideal day looks like at our house. On a good week, 3 or 4 of our days looks like this. On a bad week maybe only 1 does. Having 10-15 ideal days in a month is success in my book.

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