Here are a few pictures of the goings on over the past month-ish-
handsome in bowties
It's hard to believe that a whole month has passed since I posted anything. The days fly by. The years are speeding past at a pace that makes me clutch my heart and want to hold on tighter to these children that are growing up before my very eyes. They grow and get bigger and love it. Every birthday is a much anticipated milestone that they count down for months in advance. Why rush it? Because that's what children do. They long to grow up quickly and I long to keep them small longer. I'm thankful that Pete shares my sentiment. That he isn't anxious to be an "empty nester." I pray that the Lord blesses each of our children with finding the love of their lives while they are young- that they marry early and are guarded from the world's pull to have long years of career successes before "settling down." And I look forward to our older children making us grandparents before our younger ones are out of the house- to always be surrounded by the energy and the exuberance of youth!
Here are a few pictures of the goings on over the past month-ish-
Silas turned one!
Fun at the Children's Museum in Indy
we spent a day in Michigan visiting family and the Frederick Meijer Gardens
At one point a couple of years ago I realized that I am a much more productive and happy person when I try to include most or all of the following in a day (even if it's only 15 minutes!)-
Reading God's Word
Knitting- or some other creative pursuit
I am going to try to get back to that. Back to basics, sort of. I've been very focused on that schedule lately (which all has been working except for the getting up at 5 part!) and I need to be sure to schedule time for me to do those things. They are a part of taking care of me that makes me a better mama- more filled and inspired and equipped and able to do this intense work of raising a house full.
So I have a new plan for including exercise in my days. You have to dress the part, right? There have been days when I suddenly discover I've got 20 minutes that I could use to go to the basement and walk on the treadmill. But then I realize I'd have to change my clothes so I don't bother. Well, yesterday I bought workout clothes and I plan to wear them 3-4 days a week as a reminder and preparation for getting myself moving. I may find that I have 10-15 minutes to do a kettle bell workout or 20 minutes to walk at various times throughout the day and I need to be ready to seize those opportunities!
...and yet so often it feels like it must be. I'm having a scheduling epiphany of sorts. Funny that it's happening at this point in the school year. We have only 6 weeks of Tapestry of Grace left which is the bulk of our curriculum. And our official school day count is at 169 out of the required 180 days!! Funny. Kind of, but I do wish I had figured this out sooner. Like before I got to a near breaking point of saying I can't do this! Thankfully, the Lord has put a deep determination in me to do this. To not "give up" on what we believe is the ideal education for our children. So here's what I've figured out. I can't do it all. I know, that is pretty obvious. I thought I knew it and yet I was sort of trying to do it all- as in, cover all subjects all the time. But seriously, it just doesn't work that way. And since we homeschool all year round, I don't have to cover all subjects all the time. So for the next 6 weeks of Tapestry we are going to focus on that (which covers History, Literature, Geography, and Church History). We'll also do math and music. I'm going to lay aside the "formal" phonics, writing, grammar, and spelling. We'll pick those back up again when we are done with Tapestry and we'll continue them through the summer, taking a few weeks completely off. Tomorrow we are finishing up our science curriculum (YAY!) which is perfect timing to add the Constitution study that is part of the Tapestry unit we are on. Part of me gets scared to stop those subjects but the thing is, we'll still be covering them. It will just be in a different way. The kids will be writing because I have them do narrations of their History and Literature. And as I check what they write, I will be helping the four youngest with their spelling and grammar. I'll have the two youngest read aloud to me from some of our Tapestry books which will allow me to review phonics with them.
I'm busy coming up with a new schedule for these "last" six weeks of school. Then I'll make a new schedule up where they just do school work in the mornings for plenty of summer playtime- playing outside, swimming, crafting, etc. Then sometime around the middle to end of July we'll start our new school year. I am excited about Year 3 of Tapestry of Grace now that I've figured out that during the Tapestry weeks, we'll put aside the other things! Then during December and summer I can hit those other things hard. What a relief to give myself permission to stop trying to cover all subjects all year!
Here is the schedule we'll be following. Most of this is what we've already been doing but I was cramming a lot of other things in. One of the best parts is that I've fit rest time back into our days (including for me).
5 Mama up, exercise, COFFEE, shower, devotions, emails etc
7 kids up, get dressed, breakfast, do chores, practice piano (all by 8:30)
8 baby up, breakfast
8:30 family devotions and character training (right now-for the second time- we're reading Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by the Mally's) During this time Silas sits in his high chair, finishes his breakfast, and has his own character training as he learns to be QUIET. It's a challenge, for sure, but very important!
9 Kids do personal devotions (this is also when they review catechism) and I spend time with Silas reading him a Bible story and then playing with him
9:30 Tapestry reading and math time (Silas has floor play, Crib time, and watches a music dvd for 30 minutes each activity)
11:30 Finish up morning work, clean up, play outside
1:00 Silas story, nurse, nap
1:30-4 I haven't completely figure this out yet, but the kids will be rotating between Constitution study, memory work playlist, Tapestry projects, basement play, and at some point, a one hour rest time for all of us. During that hour I will either read, do meal planning/grocery listing, knit, sleep, or anything else I may want to do in blessed QUIET.
4 Silas up, snack for everyone, "free" time (basement play, outside play, or using a ticket)
5:30 Supper prep (with a helper team of 2 that rotate as daily kitchen helpers)
6 Supper, family devotions
7 Silas to bed, read aloud time
From here, the kids go to bed between 7:30 and 8:45, based on their ages and I CRASH.
Looking at that schedule I feel like it's intense enough. How funny that we were doing most of that AND phonics, logic, science, grammar, writing, and spelling. What was I thinking? Burnout was inevitable. And so for the past several weeks I've been feeling incredibly burnt out but didn't know what the answer was. I think this schedule tweaking is going to help tremendously!
When I first decided to knit sweaters for Ella and Charlotte I was going to try to have them done by fall. That was a safe goal. Then I got this big idea. Things were going fine until I washed and blocked Charlotte's sweater and the yarn, which I thought would shrink a bit, actually stretched out and got kind of funny. The sleeves are way too long now so I'm going to take them out and shorten them. Then last weekend I was going to begin a knitting marathon in order to get Ella's sweater done for Easter. But the kids started coming down with the stomach flu. Needless to say, my weekend included ZERO knitting. So I have changed my goal for the sweaters to have them done by fall. Then the dresses, which were done super fast by Kate and Nana and are ADORABLE, will last longer with tights and a sweater added. This just isn't a season of life when I can manage lots of knitting. I need to keep my goals attainable!
Today I am busy holding buckets close to kids with sick tummies and trying to convince them that they will feel better soon, that the Lord is with them and cares for them and that having a drink of water right now would not be a good idea. Three kids down, four to go? Hopefully everyone won't get it (especially Silas) but I have to gear myself up for that. I stayed up way too late knitting, finishing Charlotte's sweater and starting Ella's. I'm still hoping to get them done for Easter. I was planning on knitting for most of today. But at 1:45 am, less than an hour after I put away my knitting, Ella got sick. She continued to get sick about every 20-45 minutes through the rest of the night. Then later in the morning Maddie got it and now Kate is starting. I've never seen Maddie this sick. She is usually a tough little trooper, but this illness is really doing a number on her. It's not fun, that's for sure. I'm exhausted and probably running on adrenaline at this point. In the midst of it, here are some things that I'm thankful for -
-we don't live in the Colonial period, the time we're studying in school these days
-girls who know how to aim for the bucket (most of the time)
-Silas takes long naps
-Pete isn't out of town and will be home with some groceries soon
-a washer and dryer that has run well today
-Silas isn't sick
-I'm not sick
-our kids are generally very healthy
-the stomach flu doesn't last forever
Soon after Peter was born we started thinking about homeschooling as an option. Then it became clear to us that it was the right option for our family. The years have gone by in a flash and we find ourselves only two years away from high school! Friends have started the conversations about whether or not to continue homeschooling. This or that reason they give for sending their children to school was beginning to put me into a bit of a panic. And then listening to others who plan to keep teaching their children at home and the methods they plan to use was sending me into a different kind of panic. Will I be able to give them what they need? How can I juggle the needs of a preschooler, 4 grade schoolers, a middle schooler, and a high schooler? Along with the discipline, housework, meals, etc. And then a few years later, how will I be able to juggle the needs of FOUR in high school all at the same time! I had to take a step back, a couple of deep breaths, and do a little research online before I remembered this- our homeschool will not and does not need to look like any other school or homeschool. We are one family striving to live here in this home in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. I need to keep getting up each morning showing my children that I am FULLY dependent on the Lord. I need to pray that He will give them first of all, a love for Him and second of all, a love of learning. The rest, I truly believe, will fall into place. We aren't trying to duplicate the text-bookish education they'd receive if they sat before an "expert" of a certain subject each day. Honestly, I had that kind of education and don't remember a whole lot of it. What I do remember is the teachers who made me want to learn more. Teachers who were kind and loved what they were doing. Teachers who exemplified Christ. I was also encouraged by watching a video of Susan Wise Bauer talking about homeschooling in high school. At the very end she said to just remember that you don't have to know what you're going to do for four years. You don't even have to know what you're doing for the next year. Rather, take it six months at a time. That was good to hear because I find myself thinking I have to plan out the "perfect" map through high school and stick with it exactly. It is helpful to get ideas from other families, but I think it is REALLY important to not allow comparisons to creep into my heart and mind and make me doubt my ability to do what God has called me to. I trust that until He makes it clear that He has a different educational plan for these children, He will give me the grace to keep on being their teacher.
Many an Easter has gone by without any attention to new dresses and shoes and hair bows and all the rest. Since the day is about so much more, I tend to kind of dread coming up with all the "finery" for four girls. But since I'm knitting Sunday sweaters for the two younger girls and Kate has been learning to sew with my mother in law, I thought new dresses were called for. Here's the pattern and fabric I picked out this week alongside the yarn I'm using for their sweaters. I think it has such a fun, vintage-y look and I'm so excited about it!
Ella's is the purple and yellow and Charlotte's is the teal and coral. Now I'd better get to knitting!
(joining Ginny's yarn along)
Joining Ginny's Yarn Along, when I started this sweater several weeks ago I was really cruising along. Then for some reason I barely touched it for a few weeks. Yesterday I picked it up again and finished the body. So now I just have the neck band and sleeves to do. Then I'll start one for Ella. I tried it on Charlotte this morning and the fit was fine, but definitely doesn't have much growing room. So she'll get Ella's next year and then I guess I'll make Ella another one. I'm not really reading anything right now and definitely need to get to the library, but the kids are a bit sick so that will have to wait a few days.
I always wanted to have a big family. I used to think 5 children would make for a big family. Then I had 5 and decided it wasn't really that many. Now I don't even feel like 7 is that many. Most of the time. I'll even look around sometimes, sure that someone is missing, and see that everyone is present and accounted for. When I talked about having a lot of children people would make comments about how much work it is, but they were referring to the physical labor. The diapers. The sleep deprivation. The laundry. The cooking. The dishes. And then they'd talk about how expensive it is. True, we spend a lot on groceries. As for the physical work, around here, everyone helps and they know that is just how it has to be. Of course we had the years with many littles that were exhausting in a deeply physical way. But now the kids do their own laundry, have daily chores, and clean the house on Saturday. All of those things are easily managed.
What nobody told me is how much time I would spend on discipline and training the hearts of these children. They are just at the beginning of learning what it means to be a Christian. They are learning the hard lessons of kindness and selflessness each day in this home. When they argue and fight, asserting their position and "rights" it can get ugly. And so I spend a lot of time talking. Talking about what the Bible says about how we must treat eachother. Talking about whether or not their words or actions towards a sibling were glorifying to God. That is what is most exhausting. All. the. talking. So if there was one thing I'd like to tell a future or new mother it would be to recognize and prepare for the work of character training. It isn't automatic. It takes much prayer, dedication to reading scripture and talking about it with the children. And so, when people discourage you from having many children, don't think about the diapers and the lack of sleep, the laundry and the cooking and the activities that make you busy. Those things are manageable. Think about the spiritual training and as you grow that baby, pray! Pray for wisdom and for the Spirit to guide you in the wonderful, weighty task of raising your children for the Lord.
Yarning Along with Ginny over at Small Things
Last night I picked up my mystery KAL shawl for the first time in a week. I had to take a break from it and I ordered new (longer) needles so now I can stretch it out and see the pattern. I have some mistakes for sure, but I'm afraid if I rip back several rows to fix them I'll never finish it. My stitch count is right so I'm going to just keep plugging along with it and finish it eventually- and try not to be bothered that I couldn't keep up with the Ravelry group.
On a happier knitting note, I started the Sunday Sweater for Charlotte and plan to make one for Ella as well. I'm using a pretty coral color for Charlotte's called Conch from Knit Picks and I am really enjoying this pattern. It's knitting I can do with my people around and not mess up- quite a relief after the "hunker down in my room late at night or early in the morning when I should be sleeping" knitting of the shawl!