Emergency Home Schedule

All of my teens have had advanced Red Cross training. It's about time to re-certify and it occurred to me that having Red Cross training is good for any teen, especially if they have younger siblings and it counts towards their P.E. credit. For that matter an Emergency Home Schedule also wouldn't be a bad idea for any home school family.

My 3 year old and my 2 year old were born with a form of Fatty Acid Oxidation disorder. Our home school schedule is now occasionally interrupted by hospital stays or prolonged sick days. At first if we were in the hospital with one of the little ones it would be an automatic day-off for the rest of the children.

I thought the extra free time and getting to watch movies would make the days go faster for the kids at home- a treat to compensate for the stress everyone felt each time the babies were sick.

However, last year we had over 8 hospitalizations. The problem wasn't so much that we were getting behind in school work, the problem was that the lack of routine during stressful times was taking it's toll on behavior and coping skills.

I didn't even see it happening- my attention was brought to the matter by my 17 and 15 year old. My two oldest actually came to me and requested some sort of schedule on hospital days because their younger siblings needed more structure.

Keep in mind on hospital days- generally I'm at the hospital and my husband will work from home. It's not as if we push the other children out into the streets to fend for themselves- but I'm not at home and I'm pretty much our home's cruise director.

So, I complied with my older children's request and we made up an Emergency Home Schedule that is kept posted on the fridge. Blessedly we've not had a hospitalization for 10 months now- but we use the schedule when I'm with the little's at lengthy doctor's appointments or when they are ill at home and I have to sleep for part of the day to make up for being up all night.

Basically our emergency schedule gives "bones" to the day- as well as a treat for the end of the day. In my schedule I have in writing (helps prevent arguments) who does which chores, and an order to both school work, chores, and relaxation.

On nights when I've warned the older children that by morning the 3 year old will probably have to be in the hospital I've watched as they quietly check the schedule and mentally get their thoughts in gear- with no prodding from me.

I don't know how I would schedule things if I didn't have teens in the house. I do know that if we had to depend on someone other than family I would still have a schedule to give to the substitute caregiver. Having an emergency schedule has made a huge difference emotionally as well as physically for the entire family.


13 Books

My family is hard on books. We're a bunch of hardcore readers, which means reading in bed, reading while walking, while bathing, while flipping pancakes, etc. Which of course means that our books are constantly out and around being read, dropped, spilt on and generally loved.

Then of course there is the matter of re-reading. When you think about the fact that there are nine in my household a beloved book probably sees more action than most public library books.

I got to thinking about the books I've replaced the most often. Here's a list of 13 beloved, thus most often destroyed/replaced books.

  1. Brown Bear Brown Bear- Eric Carle
  2. Goodnight Moon- Margaret Wise Brown
  3. Owl Moon- Jane Yolen (children's writing at it's most beautiful)
  4. Peter Rabbit- Beatrix Potter- (add her book, The Fierce Bad Rabbit too.)
  5. The Little Train That Could- Watty Piper (you've got to see the newly illustrated version)
  6. Go Dog Go- Theodore Geisel (I'm not sure why I still replace this one- I can recite the entire thing)
  7. Blueberries For Sal- Robert McCloskey ("...all mixed up on Blueberry Hill," gets a laugh every-time)
  8. The Narnia Chronicles- C.S. Lewis
  9. Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkein
  10. Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling
  11. Redwall Series-Brian Jaques
  12. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austin
  13. The Bible
  14. Where the Sidewalk Ends- Shel Silverstein (I know this is number 14, I cheat.)
Actually there are so many more- it hurts not to list all our favorites worn out titles- it feels like I'm snubbing a family member.


Simplified Record Keeping

I'm a cheater with slight OCD symptoms.

I love to plan things, make schedules and lists for home schooling. I heartily dislike have to cross out my home school plans and scribble all over my home school teacher book. However, anytime I make detailed lesson plans in advance my life intervenes, and not in a kindly manner.

Years ago I figured out that I could have my cake and eat it too.

I write out goals for each child at the beginning of each year, then break it down to each semester. I get pretty specific and set goals for academics and relationship, character etc.

However, I do not write my exact plans for each day in a "teacher book" or calendar until after the day or week is over. See the cheat? No scribbling-out because what I write is what my child has already accomplished. At the end of the school year I have a neat record of each child's school work.

Simplifies my life.



I'm a huge reader. I read constantly growing up. I'm blessed with a house full of readers. I never expected that this could cause a problem but my children devour books. I have to work really hard to keep them stocked with titles. I know for a fact my 15 year old had out- read me in the classics by the time she was 10.

The challenge for ferocious readers as well as reluctant readers is to keep challenging them with well written books they love that are not too emotionally mature. My daughter may have loved reading Jane Austen at 10 years old but Thomas Hardy deals with subjects I didn't want to have to discuss at that point.

As a result I have come to love book lists. Here are some links to lists that I have used for years to get ideas.

Booker Prize (these are all adult titles- use with great caution)

Carol Joy Seid- Her seminars are well worth going to just for the wonderful book lists she has. My son would never have discovered the history books written by Marrin if I had not attended her seminar.

This last link I just discovered listed on a forum I'm a member of.

If anyone knows of more links I'd love for you to share!


Teaching Reading, a Warning

My 5th child is on the cusp of moving from beginning reader to Reader. As in, I'll have to start taking his books away from him at bedtime. It's a really exciting time for both of us.

I remember this point with all my children though none of my children have had the kindness to have similar learning styles as an older sibling. Therefore teaching each of them has been a learning experience for me as their mom/teacher.

But..... with all of my children I noticed a couple of things that drove me absolutely nuts until I realized it was normal.

When your child is learning to read they may (will) have totally unexplainable and unpredictable periods when they seem to have forgotten all of the basics. You will wonder if they fell out of their bed onto their head that morning. You will wonder if they are purposely torturing you. Breathe deeply. Remember how much you love them.

It is not your fault.

They will also have totally unpredictable leaps forward in their comprehension and ability. Generally this will happen after you realize that you've been a terrible mom and have totally dropped the ball with their reading program. You'll sit down with your child with feelings of great trepidation only to hear them sight read 3 syllable words and suddenly be able remember the phonic rule you had been tempted to have tattooed on your forehead.

It is not your success.

In the absence of learning disabilities it isn't going to matter terribly what curriculum you use if you remember two things during each lesson: they are the ones learning how to read; and you really,really, love your child.

Check out Thirsty Thursdays for great teaching tips.
And Works for Me Wednesday for more tips on everything.


Nature Readers

My 8 year old is loving the Usborne, "First Nature Reader" and James Herriot's "Animal Stories". Every few days I have him do a drawing from the reading. I loved this one:

My 3 year old just loves to draw monsters. His wall above his bed is decorated with monsters; why this doesn't give him nightmares I don't know. This was his cow monster. I'd love to understand the inspiration.



This is not a paid review.  Only in my dreams would some one give me money for blogging.  I just really, really like using Math-It for learning math facts.

I've used it with 5 different children now- even though it is not my main math curriculum. My children would not rise up and call Math-It blessed.  They pretty much all rolled their eyes at having to use it- but the system really helped all of them get those pesky math facts firmly in their heads.

The funny thing is that I've found that when I'm doing bookkeeping for my husbands business and I have long columns of numbers to add- I now use the Math It technique of adding.

Just goes to show that old dogs can learn new tricks.


Chronic Illness and Scheduling

Every home school is unique- but every home school also has changing needs which make each year or even each semester within the same home school unique.  Sometimes it's time to revamp schedules or curriculum.

One of my greatest challenges has been to figure out a schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of my chronically ill 3 year old.  For weeks at a stretch he sometimes requires multiple blood sugar checks and feedings every few hours during the night.  Occasionally he has to be hospitalized for a few days for I.V. treatment.  Then there are the doctors appointments which tend to come in clusters and are capable of wiping out the best laid plans.   Last but not least there are the times when he is just "low" and things need to be calm and relaxed and at home.

The following schedule is working for us this semester mostly because school is more spread out over the day than I've traditionally liked.  I also have a cushion (due in great part to the baby-sitting super power of my older children) built in during the afternoon which I can use to sleep during times when I've been up all night caring for my 3 year old.  I haven't included chores- but we definitely work as a family to keep the house running.  Though I don't list them, the extra activities and lessons my teens are involved in all occur in the afternoons this semester.

My schedule calls for "sibling leadership":

  • Our 8th grader reads a history, science, and literature selection to the 2nd and 4th graders each day.  The reason is three-fold.  First, the 8th grader is benefitting from the review and the responsibility.  Secondly, it's a bonding activity.  Thirdly, it gives me afternoon time to focus on my 2 and 3 year old doing fun and usually messy pre-school activities.
  • My senior son reads history to his second grade brother.  This lightens the load for me but it also is the highlight of my 2nd grader's day.  His big brother makes the history reading come alive.
  • During my morning "table time" my senior takes an hour to read and play with the toddlers in another part of the house then my sophomore does the same for another hour.  This makes table time a truly focused and productive school time, building the "habit of attention".
  • I've incorporated some workbooks into our schedule for the first time so that if I'm away for a hospitalization the 10th grader can keep Table Time going for a few days at a time.
9:00- 11:00 Table Time with my 2nd, 4th and 8th grader.  We use this time to do math, bible, artist study, copy-work... basically anything that is more pencil and paper oriented, or Mom lead.

11:00 Outside- nature studies, walking, gardening or reading in the sun.

12:00 Lunch

12:30 Nap-time for toddlers. For the first 30 min. 2nd grader reads to mom and then has history read to him by big brother. Older students read and study- Mom is available to answer questions and direct work.  10th grader practices piano.

2:00 8th grader reads to younger siblings.  Mom has Toddler Time.

3:00-5:00 Free time and music practice time

Evening: Older students often read or study later in the evening (when it's quiet) to keep up with work load.
Bedtime for younger boys includes Bible stories.


Phonetics Fun

My 8 year old and I wrote this poem this morning:

Phonetic Mysteries

I don't know how, I don't know why.
I don't know why "y" is called a "y".

I don't know how, I don't know why.
Why is an "i" not a "y"?

I don't know how, I don't know why.
Why "y" is not "i" or why "hi" is not "bye"?

I don't know how, I don't know why,
but I do know that "I" am not a tie.


January's reading list

So far so good.  I love my new schedule- the kids love the new schedule.

Memory work: the Beatitudes, Lamentation 3:22-24

What we are reading this month (some titles will be continued for the rest of the year) and generally enjoying:

8 year old's list (mostly read alouds):

  • Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Story of the World Vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer
  • America's Paul Revere, by Esther Forbes
  • Black Ships Before Troy, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • Usborne Complete First Book of Nature
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
10 year old's list:
  • The Wheel on the School, DeJong
  • The Gawgon and the Boy, Lloyd Alexander
  • Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Story of the World Vol. 1, by Susan Wise Bauer
  • America's Paul Revere, by Esther Forbes
  • Black Ships Before Troy, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • All About Horses, Marguerite Henry
13 year old's list:
  • Othello, Shakespeare
  • The Once and Future King, T.H. White
  • Public Enemies, Bryan Burrough
  • Mystery of History Vol. II
  • Love Comes Softly Series
15 year old's list:
  • Hamlet, Shakespeare
  • Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott
  • Les Miserable, Victor Hugo
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  • The Complete Collection of Edgar Allen Poe
  • The History of The English Speaking People, Winston Churchill
  • Francis Bacon The Temper of a Man, Catherine Bowen
  • The Song of Albion Book 2, 
  • How To Read a Book, Mortimer Adler
17 year old's list:
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin
  • Hamlet, Shakespeare
  • Dracula, Bram Stoker
  • The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis
  • The African Queen, C.S. Forester
  • History of The English Speaking People, Vol. I, Winston Churchill
My list:
  • Your God Is Too Small, J.B. Phillips
  • The Twelve Spiritual Disciplines,
  • City of Thieves, David Benioff
  • Breaking Dawn, Stephanie Meyers
  • The Tipping Point,
  • Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos


Carrots and Sticks

The Problem:  As my teens have gotten older the time their schoolwork requires has expanded.  This last semester I had a constant problem with work not completed on time and tests not taken on schedule.

I also saw a growing problem of a blame game being played.  A home school variation of "my dog ate my homework." The song and dance that goes, "I'm not ready for this test because we went on that field trip Wednesday and then on Thursday we worked all day on a different project and you didn't remind me I had a test today...."

The Solution: I'm changing the school week to start on Tuesdays and run to Mondays.  This will give them the weekend to catch-up.  Spending the weekend studying may be so distasteful to them that they will plan their weeks better, if they don't- at least they have the extra 2 days.

The Diabolic Carrot: My teens are all a part of a P.E. group that meets Monday afternoon.  This is their group, their friends, their time.  My kids love this group.

The Even More Diabolic Stick: If their work is not completed, if all tests are not taken then P.E. is forfeited until the next week.  A home school version of no pass no play.  Cue evil laughter.

Though to be honest, I hope they don't ever have to miss- the exercise and fellowship of this group is a great thing.