Homeschooling while working from home full time

This past school year was a new adventure for us in homeschooling. With my husband working full time outside the home, and me working full time in it… juggling kids and school was quite a trick. Towards the last part of our second semester, we finally landed sort of accidentally into a good routine. My oldest, J, thought it would be fun to do a ‘day in the life’ type photolog. We didn’t get all the photos we would have liked, but I suppose what we got gives you a good idea of what our days looked like before school let out.

A Day in the Life

6:00am: I had to become a morning person.

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If you’re a long time reader you’ll know that I have always struggled with mornings. Getting up this early, this regularly would NOT have worked for me in the past. But one of my doctors was finally able to get my cortisol levels back in line and it is WILD. I’m still on hydrocortizone, but we’re getting to the point where I will be able to wean off of it. My eyes pop open around the same time every morning (without an alarm!!!) and I am no longer able to make myself sleep in. Even if I’ve had a rough night. It’s basically miraculous. And it saved my butt this year.

Mornings are still rough for me on the whole (eg: if I have to go somewhere early, it can bring on an episode) but mornings at home are easier to manage.

6:00 – 7:00am I had to make a little quiet time for myself before anyone else was up. I had to forbid myself from even looking at my inbox of phone messages until after I’d had this time to myself or I would lose my mind.

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My body and health are both high maintenance these days. If I skip this time for yoga and meditation, it would really wreak havoc in my system. My stress levels would go through the roof and episodes would start up again. This hour every morning keeps me grounded and feeling like I am in control.

7:00am: Wake up the kids.

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This was new for all of us, and not particularly easy on anyone. As homeschoolers (with a night-owl mom) we always took our days at our own pace before, maybe not starting school until 10 or 11am. But in order for me to have a good block of work time, we had to get started earlier. It didn’t take long for everyone to adjust to earlier bedtimes and earlier mornings, but it was painful for a while.

7:00 – 7:30am: Get ready.

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It helped with the entire day if I was able to get fully dressed and ready before we got embroiled in school and work. I didn’t always, sometimes I’d be in yoga pants at 6pm, but I can tell a difference in how the day goes if I get ready early on. Same went for the kids. Getting them ready for the day helped us all get in the mindset that we had things to do.

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We created some extra incentive – if they could be done with all of their school stuff and chores by a certain time period they’d get more time on their electronic devices. If they dragged their feet and did not get finished with school work until later in the day, they lost all electronic device time. That was incredibly motivating for them and worked really well.

7:30 – 10:00am: Breakfast and school.

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We made breakfast and everyone would get started on their school stuff.

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My three older kids are very independent at this point (they were grades 3, 5, and 7 this year) and don’t need me as much. I spend the hours after breakfast helping B get through his Kindergarten work, and doing the things with the kids that required my involvement like spelling, science, and unlocking devices for Xtramath or Teaching Textbooks.

10:00am: Mom “goes” to work.

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My business hours start at 10am and this is the part that would probably not work if someone was homeschooling a gaggle of little ones. The baby monitor acts like an intercom. It allows me to hear what’s going on — if any altercations erupt or if someone is being obnoxious I can deal with it, but it helps to have older kids who are responsible and you know, past the era of spreading peanut butter all over the sofa.

The big kids finish up on their own after I go upstairs to work, and bring their work to me so I can check it. If they need to fix anything, they do it right there near me. After school is all finished, they do their chores.

12:00pm: Lunch break.

(This is where we fell off the wagon and don’t have as many photos.)

I tear myself away (it is SO hard once I’m in the work head-space) and join everyone for lunch. I check in with them on school, make sure everything got done. Chores have usually started by now.

The whole house (except for my room and bathroom) is split up into sections for each kid, so as long as they do their chores the house gets a decent tidying up every day. We do a deep clean not on a schedule, just when it’s needed, and usually on a Saturday. They are usually done with their chores by 1pm and have the rest of the afternoon free. They can walk to the park, play their screen time, play games, read, whatever.

1:00pm – 5:00pm: Mom works, kids play.

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This part worked amazingly well. I’ve never been a hover parent, so my kids know how to play and entertain themselves, and they love to read. It got a little boring for them sometimes, but I usually got four hours of uninterrupted work time here. Not always though. Sometimes it was one of those days where everyone was listless or one kid was just being ornery to everyone and causing problems, or other things interrupted me like doctor appointments or running kids to and fro for dance and scouts and stuff like that.

When neighborhood kids were home from school and done with their homework they’d start showing up and my kids would disappear outside to play.

5:00pm: Dinner and clocking out.

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The most difficult part of my day right here, well not the desert beach picture, that’s great, but clocking out. It’s just so hard to tear myself away and then make myself turn it all off and not come back to it after dinner. Sometimes I had to to come back in the evenings to work, but I tried really hard not to. Once the weather got nice we’d drive to a park or something to get me physically away from work and make a more tangible break at the end of the day.

8:00pm: Bedtime.

I love our night time routine. It’s so nice to have family time that doesn’t have anything to do with school, work, or chores. We gather in N & K’s room, read scriptures, say prayers, and then I read a few chapters from whatever book we’re reading together. B. usually likes to be tucked in after prayers, and then I read a bit longer to the older kids. I try to be in bed with lights and devices off by 10:30pm so I could wake up and do it all over again.


That’s it! We sure are glad school is out. I probably switched tenses a lot above (no time to proofread) as our schedule now is similar and we’re doing a lot of the same things. Without school stuff to worry about it feels a lot less stressful, though. I won’t lie to you and say this was easy, it wasn’t, but I do recognize that being able to work from home and homeschool my kids makes for a very privileged life all the same.

I’m not sure what this coming fall will look like. We’re in the process of packing up our little Wyoming rental here for a big move to Utah. Sun Tails is growing and life is very, very busy.

Being authentic

When I finally decided to take a leap and head up Sun Tail Mermaid, my business partner and I initially structured the operating agreements so that my identity could remain hidden. Not because we thought we were doing anything wrong, but because I didn’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable for anyone that knew both myself and the individuals involved with the other company.

Sensitive Species

But, as I’ve mentioned, it was soon apparent that we’d need to patent my monofin. But how to do it? Could you patent a product in the name of a company? Yes, but the inventor’s name was required by law to be on the documents. Documents which would eventually be public. Couldn’t we patent it in someone else’s name? Sell them the idea, but retain the rights? Too risky, and pretty unconventional besides. My patent attorney was baffled. Never, ever, had she come across any inventor not wanting their name up in the big lights, so to speak.

Yes, well, how do you do? My name is Jessica and I want the spotlight exactly zero.

We were also discovering it would be more challenging to launch a business without even being able to utilize our own personal and professional networks. Coming out of the closet, so to speak, was becoming more and more important.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it all created quite the existential crisis.

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This is navel gazing at it’s finest, you guys. But here goes.

I was rather loud and obnoxious and spotlight-loving in high school. I was in the drama club, for crying out loud; where the goal was, to literally be on a stage under a spotlight. It makes my throat close up to even talk about it now.

And my friends and I regularly did really stupid attention-grabby things. Amber and I would rig our backpacks to split, and then have an ocean of tampons and maxi-pads spill from the slit in the middle of the hallway, then kneel scraping them up and shoving them back in, acting embarrassed and purposefully bonking into people and generally causing havoc. Or we’d spray our crotches with water before we went on stage to make an announcement at an assembly.

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I might on-purpose tuck a long stream of toilet paper into my panties and let it trail behind me in the crowded school halls like it had gotten stuck there whilst in the loo. Sheelagh gave me a fart machine from Spencer’s Gifts in the mall, and I’d let it rip during a history exam, then watch gleefully as students hastily scooted their desks away from my person, disrupting the class and annoying the teacher.

After more idiotic antics at college, I moved away and became involved with a manipulative freak-show of a human being. To put it bluntly and succinctly, it was a scary, twisted, nightmare of an abusive relationship and when I finally emerged three years later, I felt like an empty shell.

My high school years seemed horrifying from this new, broken vantage point. More so, I think, than most, because I was so over the top. I mean, who isn’t at least vaguely embarrassed by their teen years? But I’d gone from one extreme to the other and couldn’t tell where I was supposed to land. I wasn’t comfortable with the pre-nightmare persona, and had no idea who I was post-nightmare either. It seemed the only answer was to clam up and observe.

This clamming up became quite a comfortable place to be.

Go away, I'm introverting

Twenty years later, I was sitting in my little office contemplating what, exactly, I was so afraid of. My health, after steadily improving had taken a nose dive as I tried to gird my loins for the mermaid-out-of-the-closeting. I’d burst into tears trying to put my real name on Facebook. I couldn’t do it.

I finally faced the fact that some of this old, moldy baggage was still mucking about in my heart and brain spaces.

This was alarming. I am not one who enjoys lying on a psychiatrist’s couch marinating in the past (no offense to those of you who do). I had no desire whatsoever to contemplate endlessly, my formative years and analyze them under a microscope in order to sort out what might have led to what, and why I now identified so strongly as a quivering, little brown church mouse.

Baggage Dept

So I mulled things over. The then, the now, the in between. And thankfully with only a handful of phone calls to my lovely mother and without too much introspective headache, I realized something that is probably quite clear to you already — it was something I already knew on some level, but just hadn’t connected all the dots.

The crazy personality in high school was a form of armor, because of course it was. It was safer to construct the embarrassing situations myself rather than wait for one to come along and surprise me. I’d had too many rejections and mortifications in elementary school and junior high, so this way, I was in control. I laughed at everything (and I do mean everything) as a way to show that my status as misfit didn’t bother me. And if people didn’t like me, it didn’t matter, because I wasn’t being real with them anyway.

245/365 - Never let your guard down

It likely wasn’t much different than any other coming-of-age survival tactic, a variety of which I’m sure are regularly deployed in institutionalized learning environs the world over. From the goths layering on a thick coat of “I don’t care,” to the jocks with their hard, shiny veneer of toughness – we were, many of us, just shielding and protecting ourselves from the various horrors of high school (and life in general), no?

These were things I already knew. But what was a bit more of a revelation was the fact that I was still toting around some fairly heavy-duty armor in my grown-up late 30s. Only it was of a different sort. I know, right? Duh, everyone says.

Armor complete with a vast moat; thick, impenetrable walls of stone; and a drawbridge, tightly drawn. It’s a wonder how my small band of friends ever managed to survive the crocodiles and various man eating fishes to forge across and batter through.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

Recognizing this made for quite a significant paradigm shift. I wasn’t really all that afraid of potential feelings or sticky relationships, I was simply afraid to put myself out there; to be authentically me.

It was an uncomfortable thought to consider that my cozy, agoraphobic, hermity ways might not be entirely the true me. I decided if I deconstructed some of the bullet proof glass and bomb shelter walls that made up my comfort zone, I’d maybe find a happier, more self confident person inside. Or at least one unafraid to stand up and say, “Hey, I made something rad. I think you might like it. And if you don’t, that’s cool.”

Stuart Smalley would be so proud.

An ancient SNL skit for the uninitiated.  The inimitable Stuart Smalley.

After all, the painful years of youth are long since past, and certainly no one on Facebook (I finally braved it, thank you) gives a rat’s banana what I may have or mayn’t have been like over two decades ago.

Oy, the navel gazing has turned into outright belly button lint gathering*, so I’ll sum up. It turned out that merely discovering and acknowledging this whole armor wearing thing was more than half the battle. I am definitely, and authentically still very much an introvert, but I’m a braver and more courageous one, and I’m not ashamed to say this has been my theme song of late:

I promised no more to-be-continueds so I won’t say to be continued… I’ll just say that perhaps I’ll write more on this subject should the fancy strike, mayhap at some loosely defined appointment in the foggy future.

*Do not, I repeat, do not search Google images for belly button lint sculptures. I am going to need to vomit.

Last call for the Omnibus

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I meant to post this yesterday, but I haven’t been feeling very well. For those of you waiting ’till the last minute I hope this reminder gets to you, as last year I had a few “Oh noes!” after it was over.

Until midnight tonight (Sunday) eastern-time, you can still download over 100 homeschool e-books for $25.

Sale is over, thank you!
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Instant Homeschool Library

The Homeschool Omnibus is here! What is that, you ask? Well. It’s a pretty sweet sale that only lasts a few days.

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There are 94 brand new titles in the collection valued at over $545. The entire collection is available for only $25, but for a very limited time only. The sale ends just before midnight on August 24.

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Why so cheap, ladies and gentlemen? Because we are all homeschooling parents. We know what it’s like to purchase the supplies, curricula, and helps we need each year. Plus, my very own Out of this World packet is included, and I really think you’ll have fun with it. My little packet is in good company, too. The planners alone are incredible!

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I’ll send you my Discover Europe packet FREE when you purchase the Omnibus through my purchase link, just email me a copy of your sale receipt.

Sale is over, thanks all!

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School Plans for 2014-15

You guys. I am so excited for school this year. Life is all kinds of topsy turvy, but one thing is certain and that is ME getting to homeschool again. I have MISSED THIS.

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We clearly need more stuff. This is nowhere near enough. I mean where is the GLITTER?

Also? I think I get high on buying school supplies. Is there anything better than purchasing pencils and colored paper and new markers? Glue sticks and rulers? Fresh stacks of lined paper, and replenishing all the paints and Play-Doh? There isn’t. I’m sure of it.

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These beat-up bins have been a marvel and a wonder. I highly recommend them for corralling school crap.

Before our last family camp-out this past week, I inventoried all the kids’ school boxes and figured out where everyone was on which subjects and made a list (a glorious, marvelous list) of the supplies we needed to stock up on (my favorite part, did I mention that already?) Then, while I lounged around on a mountainside, periodically swatting mosquitoes, I made more lists and plotted out lots of stuff on graph paper, because graph paper. Then, this weekend when we got home? I BOUGHT ALL THE THINGS.

So. Here’s our line up for this year:

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J. 7th grade

  • Solo Reading – For at least an hour every day, I don’t care what he reads. Getting in an hour of reading is not a problem. Getting him to tear himself away from whatever he’s engrossed in can be a bit more challenging.
  • Writing Strands – E. tried The Write Foundation with J. last year, and it did not go very well. I looked over what we have and while I think it’s probably a lovely curriculum, it’s a little dry for J. I think Writing Strands 3 will be more enjoyable for him… if it’s too easy, I’ll bump him up to 4.
  • Singapore Math – J. blew through 6A and 6B last year, but then stumbled on the end of year review tests, so E. had him start over and re-do 6A with more hands-on instruction. He’s halfway through doing 6B over again, so we’ll finish that up. He’s pretty grumpy about having to do everything over, but I think it’s been good for him to make sure he has this stuff down solidly. As soon as he’s done, we’ll start up with Dimensions Math 7A, also through Singapore.
  • Life of Fred – J. will continue working through the Life of Fred Middle School math books as well. He’s finished with Fractions and Decimals and Percents and will start on Elementary Physics this year.
  • Xtramath – He’ll continue drilling basic math facts through the wonderful and free XtraMath. He’s advanced up through their ranks and continues to increase his speed.
  • Khan Academy – I am ashamed to say that we really underuse this amazing, free resource. But I know now that I’m in charge of school again, it’ll get more use. Math is my weakest area, so I’m certain we’ll be turning to Khan Academy a lot for instruction as I am regularly lost on both the older boys math workbooks.
  • History – E. skipped around a lot with our history CDs from Peace Hill Press – most recently going through Volume 1 again, so we’re picking up with Story of the World, Volume 2. We’ll use our history notebooks and timeline figures and whatever else sounds fun along the way.
  • Science – For the past few years, we’ve just worked our way through The Usborne Science Encyclopedia as I never could find a science curriculum I really liked. I’m going to be doing Chemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey with Miss K and N, but it’s a little young for J. He (and probably the others, too) will be utilizing this awesome chemistry kit and this spine: Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science).
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – J. has finished up the Getty Dubay italics series we’ve liked so well. His handwriting is lovely, and I’m so pleased with the course. He’ll be continuing to exercise his penmanship with Character Italics – Level III Advanced Cursive.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – He’ll be continuing with Growing with Grammar level 7. Everyone has really liked this series and I’ve been happy with how independently they can work.
  • Spelling – We’re still very happy with Spelling Power. J & N are not natural spellers, but we’ve seen such marked improvement using this book. You can print the practice / test pages with the CD that comes with the book, but I like using the workbooks. They’re pretty affordable and I think I’d spend more on ink printing the sheets myself.
  • Typing / Keyboarding – We’ve been using the free Typing Web for the last few years, and will continue to do so.
  • Computer ProgrammingIrishMum turned us on to beginning programming with Scratch, and all the kids are hooked. J worked his way through Super Scratch Programming Adventure! last year, and this year will be using Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math
  • Music – Our beloved piano and violin teacher (who came to the house each week!) has moved away. I’m still hunting for a replacement, but meanwhile, I will continue to crack the whip and have the kids practice. J. is making nice progress on the violin, and though he grumbles, I love to hear him play.

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N. 5th grade

  • Solo Reading – This kid can read all day, and usually tries. I don’t know why I even schedule this in. I loooove that I have kids who love to read, yay!
  • Writing Strands – I’m going to start N. on Writing Strands 3 this year. If you hear whining and moaning, it’ll be coming from this general vicinity. This kid hates writing, but he does enjoy making up stories so I’m hoping he’ll dig this, or at the very least, not completely hate it.
  • Singapore Math – Starting 5A this semester, and will do 5B next semester.
  • Life of Fred – N. is just about through all the Elementary math books, and will be starting on the Intermediate books this year. We love Life of Fred!
  • Xtramath – Same as J., N will continue drilling basic math facts with XtraMath. He grumps about this, but he’s progressing well.
  • History – Same as J, we’ll do this as a family.
  • Science – As stated above, we’ll do Chemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey and I’m sure he’ll be involved with J’s labs.
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – N. is on the last Getty Dubay book: Workbook F. His penmanship is not as pretty as J’s, but I’m confident it’s better than it would have been without Getty Dubay. I’ll definitely be getting him further practice when he finishes this book up.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – N. is on Growing with Grammar Level 5.
  • Spelling – Chugging along with Spelling Power, same as J.
  • Typing / KeyboardingTyping Web also.
  • Computer Programming – He adores Scratch as well!
  • Music – Oh the grumbling, but his piano is coming along, especially when he’s not pounding the keys to annoy me.

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Miss K, grade 3

  • Solo Reading – The older boys got their own basic Kindles last year, and at the time, Miss K wasn’t super interested. But since, she’s inherited E’s underused Kindle Keyboard (gray graphite version) and quite likes it! Hooray! Three readers down, one to go! I do schedule 30 minutes of reading into her day, but she usually goes at least an hour.
  • Singapore Math – K. is halfway through Singapore 3A already, so we’ll just sally forth.
  • Life of Fred – She adores the LOF Elementary math books and we’ll continue working our way through.
  • Xtramath – Same as the older boys, but with less grumbling.
  • History – Same as the older boys — she loves her history notebook.
  • ScienceChemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey with N, and I’m sure she’ll be involved in J’s labs, too.
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – My daughter definitely enjoys writing / drawing more than her brothers. She’s halfway through Getty Dubay Italic handwriting book D. I’ll get book F on the way for her.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – K. will be starting Growing with Grammar Level 3.
  • Spelling – She’s a bit more of a natural speller than the boys, but I’m doing Spelling Power with her anyway as she enjoys it.
  • Computer Programming – K. also enjoys Scratch and has been creating all summer!
  • Music – She takes flute from my friend Amy and loves it!
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This is the picture he wanted to accompany his section. I live to serve, little buddy.

Mr. B. – Kindergarten

I don’t do anything super structured for Kindy, I just go with their interests, but B. has been quite interested in ‘schooling’ with the big kids for the last couple of years, so I’m adding a few more things for him this year. This is all stuff he likes to do, and it is no big whoop if he does not do it, and instead opts to build Lego all day long.

Other fun stuff