A Fly on My Wall (Four Years Ago)

Recently Lauren asked a number of great questions concerning fitting everything in. A while back I wrote a post on establishing routines and a second with some ideas for scheduling and homeschooling  which deal with some of these things. Lauren also asked what an average day looks like in our home. A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for the "Day at our House" section of the magazine I write reviews for, Practical Homeschooling. It is VERY long and, in my opinion, kind of boring, not to mention out of date, but if you really want to know what goes on in our three ring circus, here goes.

By the way - this was written about one particular day, April 2, 2008. Of course things are somewhat different this year with new ages and stages of the children. We've had animal changes (we're goat free) and a number of curriculum changes. (Tapestry of Grace has been our history mainstay for the past several years, for example.) Finally, Kristen is now away at Purdue for much of the year. Also, the way things run on a typical day in 2012 (or 2008) bears almost no resemblance to what things looked like when we had only young children. But if you want to see how things work out in our house, here's a peek...

A Day in the Life of the Wegener family
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Home for us Wegeners is a 110 acre farm in beautiful southern Indiana. We currently have a couple of Angora goats, a lovely flock of chickens, some adorable baby chicks in our laundry room, and a kitchen garden, but our main crop is children. Tim provides for the family with his remodeling and home building business, and Anne teaches the children and tries to keep the home managed smoothly. Our oldest two children have graduated from our homeschool and more recently from Purdue University. Andrew, 23, is still in West Lafayette, IN though, continuing his electrical engineering studies at the graduate level. Kara, 21, graduated last May with a degree in Classical Studies, and returned home because she had met a wonderful young man at our church. Kara and Collin, a plant ecology grad student at Indiana University, plan to marry June 14.  We’re continuing to teach our younger children: Kristen (17), Jonathan (14), Peter (12), Amanda (11), Faith (9), Paul (7), and Benjamin (4). Here’s a peek into a typical day in our crazy household. Please don’t think life is perfect in our home, because it is not. Children do sometimes complain or bicker with one another. Tim and I get harried and very often are exhausted. But we love one another and we love the Lord Jesus, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to raise these nine amazing people. Our pastor recently said to Tim and I, “The lines have fallen to [you] in pleasant places,” (Psalm 16:6) and he was certainly right.

7:00 Time to start breakfast. We follow a weekly menu for breakfast and lunch, and Wednesday means that Swedish Puff Pancakes are on the queue. I love the rich golden color our fresh eggs give the batter. Once that’s in the oven I dash upstairs for a quick shower. One of the children will keep an eye on things while I progress through my morning routine. I chat briefly with Kara before she heads off to her job of cooking at a natural foods grocery and deli. Kara studied classics in college not because of the types of jobs that would allow her to pursue, but to give her a strong base to homeschool the children she hopes the Lord will give her. (She and her fiancĂ©, Collin Hobbs, hope to have lots of little “Hobbs-its.”) 

7:30 Everyone is up and eating. Tim kisses me goodbye and leaves for the day. He’ll be spending his day installing crown molding in a new home and getting ready for a foundation for a major addition to someone’s home. 

8:00 I start a load of laundry while Peter heads to the barn to feed and water the chickens and let the goats outside. The youngest children get dressed and ready for morning chores.

8:15-8:30 Morning chore time! The idea is that everyone runs around working hard for fifteen minutes until our timer goes off. Everyone has assigned duties, some repeated daily and others variable. Amanda and Faith unload the dishwasher (assisted by Ben who takes care of the silverware) and re-fill it with breakfast dishes. They will also clean the counters and prep the kitchen for the day. Paul brings down dirty clothes and then helps me fold clean laundry. Some days sheets are changed, others floors are vacuumed, others mirrors are sprayed. When someone finishes a task and doesn’t know what to do next, they are to come to me and ask for a new assignment. There’s always something to be done! Later in the day everyone has other chores, but this is one time we always work simultaneously.

8:30-9:00 Bible time. Kristen and Jonathan have their Bible time on their own. They are currently working through some of Larry Burkett’s materials on biblical financial principles. Kris and Jon work largely on their own through the main school hours. My time to tutor them comes mostly in the evenings and Saturdays, though I touch base with them at various points throughout the day. As teens they seem to wake up more as the day progresses, and are happy to continue working rather late at night. 

The younger five children and I start out by singing several Scripture memory songs from the Sing the Word CDs. I love the beautiful arrangements written by homeschool dad, Steve Harrow, plus the fact that the music is available in songbooks as well as the CDs. As I play the piano, the children sing Psalm 103, “Run the Race” (Hebrews 12:1-13) and Psalm 19 from The Heavens Declare set. I try to pick a combination of new and review pieces. Sometimes I chose something that I especially need to hear that morning. One of my favorites is Lamentations 3:22-23:

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
We’re currently focusing on stewardship and Africa with KONO’s “In a Bag” country unit study. Some days we take our Bible studies from the KONOS stewardship activities or from Larry Burkett’s Money Matters for Kids. This morning we instead read about Pygmies in Windows on the World. I pass out prayer requests, and we pray for them and other needs we are aware of. Grandpa Jonathan, my father-in-law, is much in our prayers as he has been recently hospitalized for internal bleeding and other issues. After we finish our Bible time we have a short time of poetry memorization. Before the year starts I pick one poem for each month. Periodically we review old poems, though we are not as systematic as we ought to be. I keep copies of all the poems in sheet protectors in a binder. April’s poem is “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes.

9:00-9:30 Peter, Amanda, and Faith head upstairs to dig into the books they are currently reading. Each child has a book list with books related to our history or science units, plus lots of other good literature on his or her level. I assign point values to books and give a goal for each one. My girls, though, are such avid readers that they have demolished the list and I am continually having to come up with more ideas. Thankfully our house is filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and we are blessed with a fabulous library and bookmobile. (I can even tell the bookmobile librarian what our current topic is and she will hand pick books for the next week.) 

My theory has always been to work with the youngest children first, so after sending the middle ones off, I have a special time with my two youngest boys. This year we’re primarily reading the Sonlight preschool books, though we add in lots of other things – poetry, art appreciation, and art or science activities. I’ve found that when I “fill-up” my little ones first, they are usually happy to then play on their own while I work with their older siblings.

9:30-9:45 While Paul reads to me from a Dr. Seuss book, I put a few more stitches in Kara and Collin’s “Lover’s Knot” quilt which I have pieced and am now hand quilting. Paul is my wiggliest child ever, and by the time we finish he is ready for a little trampoline time. Ben, though more of a cuddle-bunny, is also ready to run outside. 

9:45-10:30 Writing time! Several years ago, when I was weary with my ninth pregnancy, we discovered The Potter’s School, a fabulous online school that offers rigorous classes for junior and senior high students. Since then we have had our oldest children take many classes from journalism to robotics. As a former chemist, I especially turn to TPS for help in teaching English. This year Peter has his first TPS class, Writer’s Workshop, and he is working on his current assignment on a laptop upstairs. We’ve asked Kristen to help Peter this year, and that has worked out very well. Jonathan works on his assignments for his English 8 class. He’s currently studying Animal Farm and writing a persuasive essay about the Linux operating system. Kristen’s English course this year is Early American Literature, also a TPS class. This week she is taking a midterm and writing an essay on Poe.

I’m teaching Amanda and Faith together from Institute for Excellence in Writing materials. We’ve used Andrew Pudewa’s system to teach writing structure and style for many years, and I have been especially pleased with the history-based lessons that have come out the past couple of years. The little girls are working through Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons. Amanda writes faster than Faith, so she uses her extra time to either write poetry or practice typing. She’s looking forward to taking her first TPS class next year. In our home taking online classes is a mark of growing up. 

I give Paul a lesson from First Language Lessons. I try to alternate this book with work in a Memoria Press copybook. Paul also works in an Explode the Code phonics book. Ben is just starting this series with the Get Ready, Get Set, Go For the Code books. Ben is a new reader and on days when I can squeeze it in I give him a lesson from 100 Easy Lessons. Sometimes I feel bad that he doesn’t get more individual attention, but he has lots of other perks with so many older siblings to play with, and as I have seen with the others, he picks up so much just by being around the other ones.

10:30-11:15 Math. The younger children work in the kitchen in their various Singapore books while the older ones do math in their rooms. Jonathan works in Jacob’s Algebra while Kristen uses UCSMP Function, Statistics and Trigonometry. I love math, but until I found Singapore, I was never totally satisfied with an elementary curriculum. We still supplement with various things as well. Paul supplements with Miquon books and Amanda has been having a fun time with Hands On Equations. Peter’s now working in Singapore’s New Elementary Math (which, contrary to what it sounds like, is post-elementary in our American system.) Faith finishes early, so I have her play a math game with Ben. Speaking of Paul, where is he? I track down Mr. Wiggles in his room, listening to a Story of the World CD and playing with playmobiles. Paul is very bright, but like most of my boys at young ages, is pencil phobic. This year we are working on self-discipline and self-control.

11:15-12:00 Latin has been my language of choice for many years, mostly because I find it the easiest language to teach. Likely that is because it is so wonderfully orderly, which fits the way my brain works. I love conjugating verbs and parsing sentences! Not all of my children are as enthusiastic as I am, but they at least put up with my strange quirks. Two years ago we started using the Latin For Children series, and it is my favorite elementary Latin curriculum of the three I have used over the years. On Wednesdays we read together a story from the history readers, Libellus de Historia. Faith is in Primer A and reads “Iesus est Vivus!” (Jesus is alive!) while the next three children are working in Primer B and they read “Inquisitia Hispaniae” (The Spanish Inquisition). Children I am not currently working with study on their own. When I am pressed for time I have Amanda teach Latin to Faith. They enjoy studying together, often quizzing one another on vocabulary or spelling words. Ben and Paul often join us for our Latin chants, and Ben is excited that next year he will have his own Latin book when he starts the new Song School Latin program published by the same folks as Latin for Children.

12:00-1:30 Lunch, recess, and chores. Wednesdays the kids eat pizza, which is the easiest of our lunches, so I have time to squeeze in a 10 mile bike ride. I’m pretty compulsive about exercising outdoors nearly every day. Either very early in the morning, at lunch, or after school I try to slip out for a walk on our trails or a bike ride. Exercise nourishes my body, and I need the quiet time to be able to once a day think continuous thoughts and to pray without interruptions. For many years I walked with a baby in a front or back carrier, but now that my youngest is four I have a bit more freedom. Spring is starting to come on here in southern Indiana and the daffodils are beautiful, but it will be a few more weeks before the redbuds and dogwoods are out in their glory. Often I sing hymns as I ride past woods, fields and ponds, thankful that there is little road traffic at this time of day, though the cows and horses sometimes stare.

This year our internet speeds are too slow for our kids to take their online classes at home, so they have been driving in to our church, about 20 minutes away. Kristen heads off for her lit class. She’ll stay afterwards to do some online SAT prep as well. Jon will man the fort while I’m riding.

After lunch the kids head outside. The younger ones are building a new home in the woods. Near our creek they have built a village with homes made of large stones and sticks. The village has a general store, a school, a park, and houses for each of the younger children. Amanda later tells me about a wild turkey she started in the woods. Peter takes care of the lunch dishes. Home again, I grab a quick bite to eat and move the laundry along. We’ve taken a long lunch break for years, partly because I used to need the time to nurse the current baby and put the toddler down for a nap. I’ve thought of shortening the time, but the break still works well with our life.

1:30-2:00 Spelling and math drill. I work with Peter on spelling using Spelling Power. Amanda, Faith, Paul and Jonathan work in traditional spelling programs. Some days I give spelling tests or pretests to all five at once in a round robin. Kind of crazy, but it works. I’m still searching for the ultimate miracle spelling program to help my boys who seem to lack visual memory. My oldest son, a brilliant student, would still be in trouble without spellcheck, but I guess that is common for engineers. His history of technology professor told the students that he wouldn’t take off much for spelling errors because he knew they were all engineers and couldn’t spell. For math drill we use Calculadder. We’ll be doing standardized tests in a few weeks, so I want the kids to be sharp on their calculation skills.

2:00-2:45 KONOS time. Today we read about monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. As the kids feed me facts, I write on the wall-sized slate blackboard that is in our kitchen. The blackboard originally came from a one-room school house. Peter, Amanda and Faith take notes and draw illustrations to make a tri-fold booklet which shows the similarities and differences between these primates. Paul and Ben listen in, but don’t take notes. The girls then help Paul and Ben make little monkeys out of supplies found in our KONOS-in-a-Bag kit. Paul and Ben love them and can now use their monkeys with the clothespin crocodiles they made yesterday to re-tell a folktale we recently read, The Monkey and the Crocodile.
This afternoon Jonathan is studying for the Physical Science test he will take tomorrow and prepping for the song he will lead at church tonight. Jonathan is taking guitar lessons from a young man at church, a classical violist and instrument maker.

2:45-3:15 Read Aloud. I’m reading from Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar. I’ve figured out how to place the book so I can quilt at the same time I read. Many of my children, like me, listen better when their hands are occupied. If they still have handwriting to do, they are supposed to do this now. Today Amanda, Faith, and Peter are building model Pygmy houses out of pipe cleaners and raffia. Sometimes the children knit or draw pictures. Amanda has been making a large map of Africa, beginning with a grid she drew on blank paper. Faith might see how quickly she can put together our Africa/Middle East Geopuzzle. This is certainly a painless way to memorize names and locations of the countries. From time to time I give the kids a blank outline map and test their knowledge.

3:15 Phew! We’re done with the bulk of school for the day. I spend a few minutes picking up, then turn my attention to wedding plans. Our dining room has turned into Wedding Central. We’re putting the finishing touches on the 250 invitations we’ve been making, and hope to get those out in the next couple of weeks. I’ve almost finished sewing Kara’s dress and veil, flower girl dresses for Amanda and Faith, but still have the bridesmaid dresses to go. By making the dresses we can end up with simple but lovely, modest and still stylish, dresses. It’ll be a summer garden type wedding with bouquets of wildflowers that Collin will pick for Kara and the other girls. Kara is going to make a daisy wreath just before she walks down the aisle to wear on top of her veil. I’m currently sewing my niece, Elizabeth’s dress. Kristen, the maid of honor, is sewing her own dress, as is Collin’s sister. So, after this one, I only have one more to go!
Kara comes home and we talk briefly about our plans for teaching the girls at church tonight. Amanda and Faith practice piano while the little boys play in their room.

4:30 Time to start dinner. We’ll be eating early today to make it to church for Wed. night programs. Tonight it’s going to be chicken lo mein with broccoli.
5:30-6:00 Dinner. A bit rushed tonight as everyone eats, then heads off to gather things to take to church. Evening dishes, Kristen’s responsibility, will have to wait.

6:30-8:30 Church programs. Kara and I, along with one other lady, work with the older elementary aged girls. We take a two-pronged approach, teaching them practical homemaking skills plus lessons in godly girlhood. This year we are teaching them to sew with the Sewing Machine Fun series. Tonight they are sewing simple dogs and cats. I’ve used these books at home with my older girls, and really like how they develop skills and control with sewing machines. For the second half of the class we are doing an overview of the Bible and making a lapbook (available from Tobin’s Lab) to summarize the contents of each book. Kara, my artist, comes up with visual representations of the themes of the books. Eventually we gather all the children and head home. Collin brings Kara home. They’ll work a bit on wedding plans, but mostly just want to spend every possible minute enjoying being with one another. How sweet it is watching them. Collin is going to make an awesome husband and father.

9:00 It’s late, so family devotions time is short tonight. Tim reads a chapter from I Thessalonians, prays, and then sends the kids upstairs to “jamify”. (Translation – put on pajamas.) I help the little boys brush teeth and then tuck them in. The girls still have a bit of time to read before lights must be out. Peter and I look over an outline he has made for a pro/con essay he needs to draft tomorrow. He’s going to write about whether our family should or should not get a pony. Peter, who adores the chickens and considers them his children, is not so wild about the idea of getting a pony, so he’s taking the con side.

9:30 Andrew calls from West Lafayette with a question about how and when to plant peppers. We chat for a bit about his classes and research, and then I hand him over to Collin, a botanist. (My most frequent conversations with Andrew are when he calls asking how to make some recipe or where to find some exotic ingredient at the store. Left to himself Andrew can survive on frozen pizza, ice cream from the box, and Taco Bell. But he and his roommates have made it a goal to practice hospitality at least once each week, and when cooking for guests Andrew likes to go all out.)
10:00 Jonathan goes down to the barn to collect eggs and lock the chickens and goats in for the night. He then puts up all the stools and benches in the kitchen to do the daily sweeping so we can start with a reasonably tidy kitchen tomorrow. I’ve been working some more on Lizzie’s dress, but by 10:30 I’m ready to quit for the night. I spend a few minutes reading over my lesson plans for tomorrow and gathering books. I write extensive unit study lesson plans each summer, which are essential to making life work during the hectic school year.

10:45 Time for a quick email check. Maybe I can order a couple of books from ABEBooks to use next year when we are going to be using Tapestry of Grace for the first time. This year we have enjoyed taking a break from our normal chronological history studies, but next year we’ll start cycling through again. I’ve found that I have a fairly low tolerance for repetition, so I try to strike a balance between using some new curriculum each year and sticking with tried and true favorites in other areas.

11:15 Many nights our older children end up in our room wanting to talk, but tonight they are tired from being out. One of the challenges of raising children over a wide age range is that the little ones still wake up early, but older ones come more alive as the day wears on. I’m thankful the older kids all still talk to us so much, and pray that we will have the energy to give each one what he or she needs.

Snuggling in bed with my husband is my favorite time of day. It’s finally quiet, and Tim and I catch up, and read a bit before the lights go out. We can hear the lovely peepers (little tree frogs) singing outside, and the occasional howl of coyotes. Good night!

©2008 Home Life, Inc. Originally published in Practical Homeschooling magazine. Used by permission.


Anna said…
Thanks for the glimpse into your life! It's helpful for me in a lot of areas, especially juggling the different ages of the crew I have. We're thinking about bringing Carver back home next year, and your examples of what your boys were doing is helpful, too.
Grace Halsey said…
Thank you, Anne! This was helpful. Do you remember when you started schooling all day? Right now, we finish by lunch time (sometimes a late one!), but I think we might have to add some afternoon school next year--for 3rd grade.
Anonymous said…
I enjoyed this too! Could you possibly write a post about using the IEW program? I want to start it next year but I'm not sure if the basic videos will be enough for me or if I need more of a lesson plan provided for me. I have a terrible weakness for "teacher-intensive" curriculum so I'm hesitant to use something I have to apply myself to other topics. We are using Tapestry of Grace too.

Thanks! Lydia
Anne said…
Thanks, ladies. Glad it was helpful.

Grace - I think we started having school in the afternoons fairly early, but for the most part the afternoons are more relaxed, at least for the younger ones. I try to get language arts and math accomplished in the mornings, leaving the afternoons for history, science, etc. We *always* have had a read aloud session some time after lunch, which is often my favorite part of the day. Also, until the past two years, our lunch break has been a generous 90 minutes, so the afternoon time was not lengthy. Things are just different at each stage of the game. So, with my teens, often the evening hours are the best ones for us.

Lydia - What year of TOG are you using? We've just begun Year 3. (We spent an entire year on the first half of Year 2, so this year has been a split on Year 2:3,4 and Year 3:1,2.)

Yes, I will try to write a post on pros/cons/tips for using IEW. When we first started using it, way back when, teachers had to write their own lesson plans. The flexibility is nice, but it takes a lot of work to do it that way. Now, with the newer teacher helps such as the History Based lessons (Ancient History, American, etc.) using this program is much easier. Many families do combine IEW with TOG, and it's not too hard to find ideas for doing that as well, esp. from the Tapesty Yahoo groups.
Anonymous said…
We are doing Year 2 of TOG. I love, love, LOVE it and try not to feel too guilty about how much I am just scratching the surface of what's there.

I have found the geography hard to pitch down to my lower grammar target audience though, and I haven't used the writing because I've been too cheap to buy the writing aids book after investing in the year plan. I need to choose between IEW or TOG writing for next year. Thanks! Lydia
Lauren said…
Thank you Anne for taking the time to post this. God has given you many talents and you have not buried them in the ground at all.
Anne said…
I also am a huge fan of ToG!!! It offers such a great combination of excellent books, activities, discussion questions along with discussion guides, etc. Then the supplementary resources (Map Aids, lapbooks, and Evaluations) are wonderful. Plus, I've not used any other program which was truly as able to work with children over a wide age span. Today we had our weekly discussion period, and it is a joy to discuss what my junior and senior high school girls have been reading, and have the elementary boys chime in when they have something to add.

I, too, have been disappointed at the parts I've had to leave out, but I'm coming to grips with that. Since your children are all still young, you can look forward to hitting each year again and doing some things you weren't able to the first time! Even I will be able to cycle through at least one more time with my youngest two. Yay!
Kara said…
I enjoyed reading this too - it was fun remembering what life was like four years ago. I have to say, though, one of the things I liked most about it was how it reminded me how much nicer it is being married than engaged!

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