Who's the boss?

There's a Facebook group that I joined today to help parents forced into homeschooling because of coronavirus concerns. Either their kids' school has closed, or they've voluntarily taken their kids out of school because someone in the family is immunocompromised, or they're just not comfortable sending their kids to school right now. All of those are fair enough reasons.

So I've been commenting on a few posts, trying to help, and I find myself getting agitated at certain questions. Thought I'd do a blog post on it to get my thoughts out, and hopefully not be agitated when I'm trying to help people in there!

Many parents have posted questions about what to do if the school isn't happy that they've pulled their kids out of school. So they've rung the school up in the morning and said their child(ren) won't be in school for a while, and the receptionist has given them a hard time about 'unexcused absences.'

Here's the thing. They don't live with your kids. YOU DO. They don't look after your children's health. YOU DO. They're not the ones who get to make the decisions about whether or not your child attends school. YOU ARE.

So who's the boss? YOU ARE.

All you need to tell the school is this: "Hi, school secretary. My kids will be staying home from school until this pandemic has settled down. I'll let you know when they're coming back. Thanks, bye."

That's it. You don't owe them any more explanation than that.

You can send an email if you don't feel you can stand your ground on the phone or in person. You don't need to lie and say they're sick if they're not. Just calmly state the situation and leave it there.

If they ring you up to hassle you about why your kids aren't in school, you don't have to answer the phone.

You don't need to be rude or arrogant either. Don't stoop to their level if that's where they want to go. Just say, "Sorry, this isn't a good time right now," and hang up.

You can do this. I have faith in you!

So you're being forced to homeschool...

This is the first in a series of homeschool day-in-the-life type posts. I don't know how many installments I'll do. Maybe it'll just be this one. Maybe I'll do it for a week, or two, or several months. We'll see.

See, I know a lot of people are having work shutdowns and their kids' schools closing, and you're kinda being forced to homeschool. And I'm sure that's overwhelming to you since you've always just sent your kids to school like Normal People do. You don't know it any other way.

So here's what I'm gonna do for you. I'm gonna tell you what we did today in our homeschool. Every day, for as long as I can manage it. Because it doesn't have to be stressful, or overwhelming, or ridiculously structured.

And I hope you'll see from my posts that you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to do school every day (gasp!) or even at the same time every day. Home based learning doesn't have to look like school.

So. Grab your cup of coffee and have a read. Or go hide in the toilet and read. Whatever works for you. Here's what we did today.

Monday 16 March, 2020

8:40 Elijah (16 months) wakes me up wanting a feed, but doesn't go back to sleep. He's awake for the day. It's a respectable time to get up (for a homeschooler) so I'm not too fussed. Get up and go to the toilet. Chuckie (8) is reading on the couch.

8:45 Make my cup of tea. Give Elijah some veggies left over from last night's dinner. Sit down and check Facebook, email, laugh at coronavirus memes. Wonder if I should go shopping today instead of Wednesday, because supermarkets appear to be running out of meat. Not good for a family that likes to be keto as much as possible. And the farmer I emailed last night asking about getting a side of beef hasn't responded yet, but he usually doesn't till the middle of the day or evening, so I try to be patient.

9:00 (I think?) Micah (3) is awake and comes out for a cuddle. I tell him to go wee in the shower, but he doesn't make it. So I grab a couple of flat terry nappies to wipe up the puddle in the kitchen...and the bathroom...

9:47 Look at the clock and realise the morning got away from me. Oh well.

9:50 Caleb (12, almost 13) wanders out of his bedroom.

10:00 Darrin wanders out of the bedroom half awake. Yay! I can go shopping WITHOUT KIDS!

10:05 I go get dressed, then check the Adelaide Costco group on Facebook. Apparently it's nuts there, and there's no toilet paper or mince (ground beef/hamburger). So not worth it today.

10:10 Micah comes out carrying a shirt and undies, but no pants, and wearing only his pajama shirt. He puts those on and then I take him outside to find some pants off the washing line.

10:15 I decide I can't be bothered nagging kids about schoolwork today, so I tell them they can have a day off from their workbooks. Everyone's happy.

10:20 All the kids are playing outside now. Peace and quiet inside for a few minutes.

10:30 Leave the house to go to Aldi. Decide on the way out of our street that I'll try the NEW Aldi (which is actually closer, but trickier to get to) instead of my usual one.

10:35 Arrive at Aldi and get my trolley. Go inside and I can't believe my eyes: 99c/kg for bananas! They're upwards of $3.50/kg everywhere else. Grab as much as I can and shove in a produce bag, which breaks and drops my bananas on the floor. Separate them into TWO produce bags, and put them in my trolley.

10:36-11:10 Load up my trolley with meat, veg, random stuff we actually need like washing liquid and paper towels. Yes, we're running low on toilet paper, but we have enough for at least another week, and there's none on the shelves anyway.

11:10 Line up in the checkout queue. Somebody behind me puts the separator bar too close to my stuff and starts unloading their trolley. I have to shove things in wherever they fit. Ugh.

11:25 Check my email in the carpark, and find the first real thing that the coronavirus has disrupted for my family. We had an appointment scheduled with the US consulate on Friday to get our youngest two boys their Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (basically proves that they have US citizenship because they were born to a US citizen), but they've cancelled the trip to do it in Adelaide. So we'll have to wait for a reschedule.

11:30 Arrive home. Big 2 kids unload the car and bring stuff inside. The cat escapes, and Caleb catches him to bring him back in.

11:35 The littlest wants some Mum time, so I sit on the recliner with him. I finally realise that he's probably upset about his wet nappy, so I give him to Caleb to change him. "Can't you smell him?!" he exclaims. Nope, honestly, I didn't smell him. But I'm not sad about that.

12:00 Go in the kitchen and put the food away. Darrin starts an electronics lesson with Chuckie, then a friend rings to ask him something. He's on the phone for roughly forever talking, while the youngest 2 kids compete for the Loudest Child Ever award. I get Caleb to take them outside so it's quieter.

12:30 What, is it that time already? Crap. I haven't even started lunch. Start cooking lunch.

1:15 Lunch is finally ready. Feed everyone, including myself.

1:30 This is the time we were supposed to be at the park doing a nature walk with our homeschool group, but we're still eating. Don't think that's gonna happen for us today.

1:40 Pretty much everyone has finished eating, except Chuckie (who likes to take his time with everything) and Micah. Elijah's ready for his nap, so I feed him and he crashes. I tell Darrin that during this crisis, I probably shouldn't take the little kids to the shops, since they always touch everything. I should go alone. Oh darn. I'm SO upset.

2:12 Darrin's work alarm goes off, so he starts to get ready for work.

2:40-ish Darrin leaves for work. I put Elijah in bed.

2:45 Caleb asks if he can use his computer. I say no because I'm stirring him, but he sulks off to his room anyway. (He does have a tendency to obsess over his computer...)

3:00 Chuckie still isn't finished with his responsibilities (chores, shower, etc.) so I tell him we probably won't get to the park at all because everyone will be going home by now. Oh well.

3:01 Caleb asks again if he can use his computer. I ask him to chill out, and he gives me attitude. I tell him it's entirely possible if he'd reacted differently I would have let him, but not now. "Oh," he says, and heads back to his room.

3:15 Micah wants paper to draw on, but refuses to use the other side of the paper he's already been drawing on. Cue the tantrum.

3:30 I sit down and start to write this epistle.

3:45 Chuckie is finally finished with his list. He asks if he can play on screens, I say yes, but Munzee first (we have a family clan and we need daily activity for prizes).

3:55 Caleb comes out and gets ready to use his computer (the rule is if they're finished with their lists by 4 pm, they can use screens till 6).

4:00 I realise I haven't turned the page on my planner, then notice stray papers on my desk that need to be dealt with.

4:12 It's quiet. The bigger 2 are playing on screens. Micah is watching Chuckie. Elijah is sleeping. Ahh... I decide to laminate some stuff. End up laminating roughly a billion recipes I've printed out over the years and decided to keep. (Only the good ones, not everything.)

4:40 Go help Micah make his bed. Make sure he puts his clothes away. Give him a chore to do (sweeping, it's not gonna be perfect because he's 3 but it gives him something to do).

5:05 Elijah wakes up. I know he'll be up a little late tonight, but I'm not too bothered because he had a nice LONG nap. And I'm making another cup of tea to get me through the evening.

5:15 Sit down while Micah goes to tidy his toys (because he wants to play on screens too!) and the minute I sit down, Elijah starts yelling. He wanted to go in the big boys' bedroom but he's not allowed. Poor baby. So he goes into the lounge and starts eating Micah's lunch leftovers instead.

5:20 Micah comes out of his room yelling, "My hat got broken! Fix it!" Then, "I need to get a new hat!" I fix the hat, check his room, and tell him he can play on the computer for a while.

5:30 Elijah brings Micah's plate over to me and dumps everything on the floor. Rice everywhere.

5:40 I get the dustbuster out of the laundry room and clean up all the rice. Realise I forgot that I had towels in the washing machine that I was bleaching, and needed to soak...so they didn't soak after all. Can't be bothered going back and doing it over again, so I just put the detergent in and run it on the wash cycle.

5:50 The 10 minute warning for the kids to get off screens goes off on my phone. Chuckie puts away his screen (it's running low on battery anyway) and Micah tries to argue that he doesn't need to get off the computer. I tell him no, he doesn't need to YET but he will in 10 minutes.

5:58 Caleb shuts down his computer. I tell you folks, this is MOMENTOUS. Usually I have to nag him for another 5-10 minutes and threaten to switch off the power point to get him off. Today he does it himself with no nagging, and before time's up. I ask him if he's feeling ok, maybe he has coronavirus? He rolls his eyes at me.

6:00 The get off your screens NOW' alarm goes off on my phone. Micah wants to keep playing. I say no, it's time to get off. He screams his little lungs out. I turn off the computer. He screams louder. I pick him up to give him a cuddle. He keeps screaming. I'm almost deaf now. Finally get him calmed down and he goes to watch a short video with his brothers while I try to figure out what we'll have for dinner. I decide there's enough leftovers in the fridge, so I won't cook anything. No problem.

6:10 Move the car out of the way so Caleb can get the bins out to the street for collection in the morning.

6:20 Can't remember if I set the temperature on the washing machine to hot' or not for the white towels. Argh. I don't think I did...

6:25 Make sure everyone goes and grabs some leftovers for dinner.

6:45 Caleb comes out of his bedroom in his pajamas. Already? It's not even 7!

6:50 Decide to make some seed crackers. Mix up all the ingredients while my dinner is in the microwave. Let the cracker mixture sit for 10 minutes while I eat my dinner.

7:20-ish Put the crackers in the oven and bake. Run the load of towels again, this time with hot water.

7:30 Find a puddle on the floor in the lounge room. I ask Micah what happened? He said he did a wee in his pants. ARGH. Send him to the bathroom to clean up, ask Chuckie to get a terry and wipe up the mess. Send Micah to get his jammies on.

7:45 See the video on my timeline from our church, stating that all services and all gatherings have been suspended for 3 weeks. Tell Darrin in our chat. He says he expects to be off work by the end of the week. He's a bus driver. They've started being really meticulous about cleaning the buses and everything, but still...that's a lot of work every night to clean & disinfect every bus. And tram carriage. And train carriage. Fortunately Darrin doesn't have any part of that; he just drives them.

8:05-ish Talk to the kids, at least the older ones, about what's going to happen. The fact that I don't really know what's going to happen, and that their dad might be off work for a while so we won't be able to afford any extra stuff like chicken & chips from across the road, ordering pizza, etc. Caleb's most concerned about his birthday party on the 27th; we're supposed to have a BBQ at the park, but if they start restricting gatherings and things of that nature, we might have to change plans. I'd rather not, but it's a possibility. But thanks to my trip out this morning, at least we have enough food for a couple of weeks.

8:35 Check the crackers. Not quite done. Put them in for another half hour. Go read to Micah.

8:55 Tell Micah it's time to stop reading books and go to bed. He tries to argue with me, of course. But I deflect it the usual way, and he hasn't worked out yet that I can deflect it so easily; I ask him, "do you want to go turn off the light?" Instantly he's agreeable again. So he goes and turns off the light. I ask Caleb to go find Micah's stuffed Minion and his drink. Chuckie comes in to go to bed and climbs up on the top bunk.

9:05 I walk out of the kids' bedroom to go check my crackers again. Now they're done. I leave them on the freezer to cool (we have a chest freezer we use as a cooking surface, because our kitchen is too small). Caleb and I sit down to watch Star Trek: Voyager.

9:50 Voyager finishes. Elijah's still awake and fidgety. Not surprising since he only woke up from his nap 5 hours ago. So we watch another episode.

10:30 The second episode finishes, and Elijah is a total lump on my lap. I get up and put him in bed. He doesn't even need resettling this time, he's so far gone.

10:45-11ish Peel the seed crackers off the baking paper. Can't say I'm a fan of Aldi's baking paper, except the fact that it's wider than the Glad Bake I'd been using previously.

11:10 I check my email and find a message from our Boys Brigade captain. The ANZAC Day events have been cancelled. This means Caleb doesn't have to go to a rehearsal, or the vigil the night before. (About 20 years or so ago, the ANZAC memorial was vandalized the night before ANZAC Day. Since then, youth organisations in & around Adelaide have held a vigil at the memorial to stop it happening again. Boys Brigade is one of the organisations that attends the vigil.)

11:15 Warm up some frozen strawberries in the microwave and pour cream over them for a snack. Caleb finally stops talking about Minecraft, shuts his door, and goes to bed.

11:25 Sit down at my computer to write out the rest of the day, and try to remember approximate times for everything we did today.

11:40 Realise I'm feeling pretty tired, so think about going to bed.

11:45 Start writing the intro to this blog post, then copy & paste everything in. Make a few edits. Hit publish.

Good night!

A day in the life of an introverted mum

I'm thrilled to be part of the Introverted Mom content tour, celebrating the release of Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy by Jamie C. Martin. Releases 7 May 2019. Preorder now and get a bunch of bonuses, and (if you're Stateside) it'll arrive in time for Mother's Day.

Because I'm a mum to four kids, the youngest being just shy of 6 months old at the time of this writing, I've left this post till almost the last minute. So the best thing I could come up with is to write about an average day in our house. Which will change in another month because kids grow, seasons change, and nothing ever stays the same. But here's what my life is like now.

Sometime between 7-8 am, I'm awake for the day while my night working husband keeps snoring away. Either one or both of my smaller boys (who sleep in our bedroom with us) has woken me up. I drag my tired self out of bed and change the baby's nappy in the bathroom, at the same time trying to convince my two year old to wee in the shower. He eventually does.

Straight from there, I go into the kitchen, where the two year old says "something to eat, Mum." Which is really code for "I want you to open the fridge so I can play with everything and ask you the name of everything I don't know yet." Sometimes, we manage to both agree on something he can eat before the fridge starts beeping that the door's been left open too long. Other days, I shut the fridge before he's decided and because he's two, he has a meltdown.

I put the baby on the floor or in the high chair while I put the kettle on, and think about what I want to accomplish that day. Sometimes I do the dishes first thing in the morning if I'm feeling ambitious. Other days I make my cup of tea and sit at my computer for ages scrolling through Facebook because I'm just too tired.

My 7 year old usually gets up next. I say good morning, he finds his breakfast and sits down with a book to read. Out of four kids, he's our only introvert. I call him a ninja. Sometimes I forget he's there, he's so quiet. Tell me how two introverted parents end up with THREE extroverted kids. While you're at it, tell me how two introverted parents end up with so many kids in the first place!

Anyway. Eventually the oldest gets up. He's 12. This is when I know I can go out shopping, or get some other stuff done that I can't do while holding a baby. He's pretty competent looking after his little brothers - a bit impatient, but he's 12.

10 am and it's time for the older boys to do their lessons. We homeschool, and they have a certain number of workbooks that they do on their own each day. Twice a week they do maths with their dad. Sometimes, as you'd expect, they complain.

Usually around this time, the baby goes down for his morning cat nap. He'll sleep about 15 minutes in the Ergo - on my front if I'm sitting at my computer, or on my back if I'm working in the kitchen.

After the kids finish their lessons, which SHOULD only take half an hour on a good day, they usually go outside to play. The two year old goes with them.

Around 11 most days, my husband gets out of bed. We're both night owls, which is why he chose to work the shift he's on, but some days the wait to 11:00 feels like an eternity.

Let's call today Tuesday. That's one of the days he does maths with the older boys, and we usually don't have to go anywhere. So after he's up and about, and had his morning caffeine fix (not coffee or tea - Coke), they get their maths books out and talk about that day's lesson.

Usually during the maths lesson, I need to get lunch started. And the baby wants me. And the toddler needs to be supervised. Sometimes it's a struggle to keep everything in check. If the older boys are having a good day, they get through their maths lesson quickly. On other days, one or both need extra motivation. One boy in particular has a tendency to think everything is too hard and might try to avoid his work.

Lunch time comes around, and it's also the baby's nap time. As it always is when Mum wants to sit down and eat! I usually take him into the bedroom and lie down with him to feed him to sleep, then come back to my cold lunch once he's settled.

Then hubby has to get ready for work, which means I'll be on my own with them for the rest of the day. Yep, I get to do bedtime with 4 kids all on my own.

It isn't always as bad as it sounds though. The older two can get themselves ready, and now that the baby has more of a routine, it's just the two year old's inconsistency that throws things into chaos. For now.

But before that happens, there's the afternoon and the evening to get through. And I still, most likely, haven't had a minute to myself since I woke up, unless I actually got to go to the toilet by myself. By this time it's starting to show in my mood, if it hasn't already been obvious. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) we have a convenience store right across the road (literally - our driveway and their exit almost line up perfectly) that sells chocolate. I have no idea how much money I've spent over there on Medicinal Chocolate in the last 12 years, but I'm sure it's a lot.

(I was lucky enough to get on the launch team for Introverted Mom, so I've been reading the book before release date. I'm finding some strategies to get more time to myself throughout the day that I need to start implementing. Things like a mandatory 'quiet time' for everyone - but it's hard to do in a small house, with so many kids, and a baby who doesn't necessarily sleep at the same time each day.)

So the baby's asleep, the older kids may or may not be playing on screens, and the two year old is probably begging me to watch The Wiggles. Because I need a break from the chaos, I let him watch an episode as long as he sits on the potty first.

If I'm very, very lucky, the baby will stay asleep through the Wiggles and I'll get half an hour to an hour of (relative) peace and quiet in my office at the back of the house. I'll sneak my chocolate, listen to podcasts, play computer games, or try to get some work done for a client.

If I'm very, very unlucky, the two year old will fall asleep watching the Wiggles which means he'll be up late. My worst nightmare at the moment.

And now it's dinner time, and kids are starting to get tired, and fight, and melt down over the silliest things. Because my husband works nights, we have our family meal at lunch, and usually leftovers for dinner. So the big kids grab their own from the fridge, one of us gets something for the two year old, and we sit down and eat.

After dinner, depending on what time it is, I'll sit down and watch a TV show with all of them, or let the older three watch a cartoon while I get the baby to sleep. The 7 year old goes to bed at 9, then I watch something with the 12 year old and cuddle the two year old till he falls asleep. 12 year old goes to bed at 10, and if the toddler hasn't had a nap, I'm finally free for the day.

Or at least till the baby wakes up for a feed.

My husband gets home anywhere between 10:30 at night and 1:30 in the morning. If it's an earlier night, we'll sit down and watch something together. If it's one of the late ones, I might watch something by myself, or sit in my office and listen to podcasts till about midnight, when I go to bed myself.

Wow, I'm exhausted just reading that back to myself.

How and when do I get time to myself?

1. When the baby goes to sleep, sometimes I stay in the bedroom and lie next to him for a while, just to be away from everyone else.
2. I go for a walk across the road to get chocolate or peach iced tea.
3. I hide in the toilet longer than I need to be in there.
4. I stay up way too late.
5. I escape to go shopping while the baby's asleep. At least I'm alone for the 5 minutes it takes to drive there!

I've pre-ordered the Audible version of Introverted Mom. That's the best way for me to absorb new content at the moment. I'm so looking forward to that.

You can pre-order your copy from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong in Australia.

Homeschooling and Home Business 101

I'm a part of several Facebook groups for small biz owners. I'm noticing more and more are homeschooling! This is great, because I'm homeschooling my kids too. It's good to be in contact with others who are doing homeschooling and home business.

It's a lot to have on your plate, for sure - homeschooling and home business. So some planning and forethought is definitely required!

If you're on the fence about whether to send your kids to school or homeschool them, here are three words to bear in mind.

Simplicity. My husband and I have decided that for the most part, we'll focus on the three R's, and let everyday life and the kids' interests take care of the rest. Because when a child can read, they can learn about whatever they want through reading about it. If they can read and do basic arithmetic, they can get by quite well in society.

The workbooks we've decided on for our boys are things that they can do on their own. Sometimes they'll ask for help, and that's okay! We don't expect them to know everything, because they're learning. But when you have multiple children, a home business to run, and the regular home upkeep, it's good that they can work on their own for the most part.

Flexibility. This is important, because no two days are the same. Some days you'll have a sick kid, or an excursion (field trip). Sometimes you'll decide to go on holiday (vacation) during the normal school term - because you can! And those days when you have meet-ups with other homeschooling families, and take care of that thing that non-homeschoolers always worry about - socialisation!

And then some days, you just need a mental health day, and tell the kids to watch TV.

Rhythm. Sort of like a schedule, but not as strict! Our rhythm most days means schoolwork & chores in the morning, then lunch, then kids on their computers while I work in my office. My husband's work start times are different each day, so sometimes we'll have lunch at 12, and other days not till 1:30 or 2. But regardless of the actual time that everything happens, it happens in a certain order most days. This way, we all know what to expect, and everything gets done.

Often, I'll do some work in my office after the kids are in bed. Or if I'm still getting the baby to sleep, I'm on the couch watching Buffy. ;-)

And we try to keep to this rhythm during the school holidays, too - although without so much book work!

So this is how we do homeschooling and home business.

Are you homeschooling? How do you do it?

Surviving the newborn period as a homeschooling WAHM

So I had a baby a month ago. Almost exactly, in fact - Micah will be one month old tomorrow. We are well and truly in the middle of the newborn period.

I have two older boys as well, age 5 and 9 1/2. We homeschool. And I run my own business from home.

That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? It certainly feels like it some days! And I knew it was going to be a huge adjustment having another baby, so I made some plans ahead of time for how to get through the newborn period without completely losing my mind.

How I'm surviving the newborn period as a homeschooling WAHM

  • Babywearing. When the baby only wants Mum, but Mum needs to do something other than just hold the baby before she tears her hair out, babywearing is awesome. While babywearing my three boys, I've been able to play computer games, work on my website, wash dishes, put on a load of laundry (and hang it after), walk around the shops with a shopping trolley, use my sewing machine, cook dinner - and that's just the beginning. I've heard that some anthropologists believe the baby sling was the first human invention, and it's easy to see why. It's useful not only during the newborn period, but for the months to come - as long as your back is strong enough to carry your child!

  • My kids are, by and large, on school holidays. I told Caleb, my 9 year old, that when the baby came he'd get a break from his schoolwork. The newborn period is a time when pretty much everything else falls by the wayside, so I expected that we wouldn't be up for checking his work and reminding him to do it every day. Instead, I've told Caleb that he can do his workbooks one day a week, and he can choose which day that is.

    Chuckie, our five-year-old, is learning how to read and doing his first mathematics workbook. He's still excited about these things, so he grabs his maths book whenever he feels like doing some work (about 2-3 times a week). A friend of mine, who has homeschooled her eight children, said that right from the start, she chose workbooks that her kids could do mostly on their own. This has proved to be a useful strategy for me too, even though I don't have as many kids as she does!

  • I let my clients know that I was going on maternity leave, and to expect I'd be out of action for at least a few weeks. I'm also not taking on any new clients at the moment, because it's too much at this time. Right now, I need to focus on getting to know my baby and recovering from the pregnancy & birth. Everything else can wait.

  • Online grocery shopping. Actually, I've been using this one since I was about 35 weeks pregnant. It's so much easier to have a Coles delivery driver carry your heavy groceries into the house than having to do it yourself. Sure, it costs a bit more, but the extra I pay for the delivery is less money that I'm paying for chiropractic adjustments from overdoing it.

  • Accept help from whoever offers it. I know - a lot of us have trouble accepting help, myself included. I hate being dependent on anyone. But you simply can't do it all on your own, so whoever offers to babysit your older kids, bring you meals so you don't have to cook, clean your house - let them.

  • Disposable everything. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this one, but as I'm writing this, we're using disposable nappies and disposable plates in our house. It's just easier at the moment. When things settle down a bit more, Micah will be back in the cloth nappies (love my Seedling, Baby Beehinds, and Cushie Tushies nappies!), and we'll use our standard dishes again.

  • Packaged food and take-away. Yeah, this one too. Today we had chicken nuggets for lunch. About half our meals at the moment are frozen packaged things that are easy to prepare - because inevitably, the baby is always hungry when Mum is ready to cook.

  • Giving the older kids more responsibility. The 9 year old is getting really good at doing laundry, preparing food, and washing dishes. The 5 year old checks the letterbox every day, puts dishes away, and helps Dad empty the bins every week. Older kids can do a lot more around the house than most people give them credit for.

  • Whenever I feel up to cooking, I make a double batch and freeze half. This gives us an extra meal we can warm up quickly if we're having a crap day. Or, depending on the meal, it gives us leftovers that the big kids can grab for their own meals over the next few days.

  • I only do one big thing a day. If I go out shopping, I ONLY go out shopping. If I do housework, I ONLY do housework. I don't try to go to several different shopping centres on the same day and then do three loads of washing and wash dishes when I get home - that would result in certain disaster.

  • Whenever I'm able to put the baby down, I have a list of priorities. The first thing on this list is go to the toilet. After this is eating, drinking, showering - and further down the list is any kind of housework. This ensures that I look after myself before I do anything else. Putting on my own oxygen mask first, so to speak.

  • Well. That was a bit longer list than I was anticipating writing, but I think you get the idea!

    What other things would you add to this list, or do differently in the newborn period?

Home biz + homeschooling: A typical day

Most of you, I assume, take your kids to school in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon, and the hours in between are your working hours.

My family is a little different. We're homeschooling. Now, the reasons for that are many and varied, but the main thing you're probably thinking right now is "How the heck do you manage to work at home when your kids are ALWAYS there?!"

Or, maybe you're considering homeschooling, and wondering how the two can fit together.

So I'd like to share a typical weekday in the Smith house.

A day in the life of a homeschooling family

8 am: My alarm goes off. I get up, check social media, emails, and play games on my tablet for a few minutes to get adjusted to the day. I know a lot of people recommend against this, but it works for me. Also, I usually make myself a cup of tea, and try to remember to drink it before it goes cold!

Anywhere from 7-9 am: My kids wake up. If I'm lucky, they wake up AFTER I do, and I get a bit of peace & quiet to start the day off, which REALLY helps. If I'm not, they wake me up with their fighting at 7:30, and I know a miserable day is ahead.

9 am: My 8 year old starts his lessons in my office/sewing room. We use workbooks for most of his learning. Until this week, he was working on them in the lounge, whilst his younger brother was playing nearby. This week, we began letting him use my office, and things go much smoother. He doesn't complain as much, and it takes him half as long!

10 am: My husband gets up. He's a bus driver and works the night shift, so he HAS to sleep late. This is the point where I can go off to the shops if I need something, even if it's just a half hour break from kids fighting! (Yes, even homeschooled kids fight. Can't get away from that one, I'm afraid.)

11 am: My husband spends about an hour with the kids, teaching maths, science, or geography. While they're doing this, I usually tackle the dishes and cook lunch.

12 or 12:30: we all eat lunch together and watch something on TV. The 8 year old likes Megastructures at the moment, but if Dad has his way, it's Top Gear. Actually, any engineering show goes over well with most of us. What can I say? We're geeks. ;-)

1 pm or so: I go into my office and work until my husband needs to go to work. This doesn't happen every day. My husband's schedule varies, and he starts work anywhere from 2 pm to nearly 5 pm. On the late start days, I get a lot of work done in the afternoon.

After Dad goes to work: mostly we all just potter around, play on computers/tablets, watch a bit of TV, play. Sometimes, if the kids are quiet enough (but not TOO quiet!) I can get some work done while they play. On Friday afternoons, we usually meet up with our homeschooling group at a local park.

6-7 pm: dinner time. The kids & I are pretty laid back about dinner. Sometimes I just tell them to grab their own (if there's enough grab-able food in the fridge), and other nights I cook something for all of us.

8 pm: Start bedtime routine. (I've never understood why people think kids should go to bed at 7. That just means they get up earlier!)

9 pm: In bed listening to music with the kids. Once the 3 year old falls asleep, I'm free to do whatever I want.

Sometimes I work after the kids are in bed. Sometimes I'm so knackered from getting them to bed that all I want to do is curl up on the couch with whatever TV show I'm currently watching.

Then, anywhere between 10:30 and 1 am, my husband gets home from work. I'm in bed at 12, but rarely asleep when he gets home. So we chat a bit about how our nights have been, then he usually watches something on TV and comes to bed later.

For the moment, this works for my family. I know that things will change as life goes on, and we'll adjust. I'll still make time to get my work done.

Homeschooling doesn't have to mean the end of your biz. It can actually be an educational tool too!

Can you homeschool when you work from home?

Today was one of those days. You know the kind. When getting your seven year old to do anything feels like pulling teeth. And your three year old pushes your buttons all day long so that when he finally falls asleep for a nap at 6:30 pm, you don't wake him because you like the peace, even though you know he'll be up late because of it. And through it all, you've been trying to think about blog posts and Facebook and finding new clients or customers, but you can't actually DO anything because the kids are taking up all your time. And sure, many of you are looking forward to the first day of school (or rejoicing because it's already come). But for those of us who homeschool, it's a different story.

My kids are with me about 90% of the time. They get up in the morning before I do, and go to bed between 9 and 10 pm. My husband works nights, and often doesn't get home till 11:30 or midnight. I am an introvert. Therefore, my sanity slowly slips away bit by bit the longer I go without alone time. So for that hour and a half between the kids being in bed and my husband getting home, I breathe a lot easier. I get things done that I can't do during the day.

You can homeschool if you work at home. I've done it for two years. I know other business women who homeschool and have done it for longer. How do we do it? Here are a few strategies I've used to be more productive when the kids are always at home.

How to work around the homeschool

  • Work at night/early in the morning. You can get a lot done when the kids are in bed. And you can eat all the good snacks while you do so. ;-) Just make sure you still get enough sleep, okay?

  • Hire a babysitter. Do you know another homeschool family with teenage kids? Ask if they'd like to earn some pocket money by babysitting your kids while you work. They can come to your house and play with the kids (useful if you have a little one who's not quite ready to be away from mum), or you can drop them off at the other family's home.

  • Put on a video. Now, we all know that too much television is a bad thing. But a video a couple of times a week is hardly too much (unless it's the extended version of The Lord of the Rings). Let them watch something fun (or even educational!) while you write for your blog.

  • Send them outside! Provided they're old enough, playing outside without adults is actually good for kids. Remember all the fun we used to have playing outside? I'm sure my mom still doesn't know half of what my brother and I got up to when we ran around our seven acres. We had a ball, and she had a bit of peace and quiet for a while.

  • Leave your partner with the kids while you hide in your office/sewing room/stock room. Since my husband works nights, he's home until after lunch time. This means when I need to, I can fire up the laptop in my office and work in there, with the door shut.

Do you homeschool? What other ways do you get time to run your business? I'd love to hear your ideas! (I may need them!)

A big long ramble about how and why we've chosen home schooling.


I'm back after almost a year of hiatus. Long story that I won't go into here.

But anyway, Caleb just had his sixth birthday. In Australia, that's mandatory school age. Even though he could have been going to reception/prep (equivalent of American Kindergarten) for the last year anyway. So now we have to officially make a decision regarding how he's going to be formally educated.

Let's go back in time a bit. I have, shall we say, Issues. I won't go into it here, but if you've met me, you know what I'm talking about. These issues made me a prime target for bullying when I was in school. So when I first heard about home schooling, when some of the other kids from church were home schooled, the idea really appealed to me. And still does.

On the other side of the world, Darrin was top of his class, but doing so much work ahead of time in math that by the end of the week, he didn't have anything to do but go play on his school's one computer. Time well spent, as it turned out (given where we met). He showed he was fully capable of learning on his own when it was something that interested him.

One day when we lived back at Glynde, I found some information online about unschooling. I really liked the philosophy behind it - that if you give your kids the resources and opportunities to follow their interests, learning will naturally come from that. And it does. What have we been doing for the first six years of Caleb's life, anyway? He learned to roll over, crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, all from his own motivation. Because HE wanted to. We noticed he likes trains, so we bought him books about trains, wooden train tracks, found Thomas episodes for him to watch, and Darrin used to walk down to the train line with him at rush hour so they could watch all the trains going past.

And then suddenly, when a kid turns 5 or 6, they stop being able to learn on their own and have to be taught how? I don't think so.

I know that for me, personally, the things that I wanted to learn, and learned through my own efforts, are the things that have stuck with me the most. Sewing, knitting, and crocheting are just a few things that I mostly taught myself. (Okay, so I learned a bit of sewing when I was a kid that my mom taught me, and in home ec, but I wasn't really that interested till I was an adult - and then I learned by doing it, watching YouTube videos, asking for advice, and reading tutorials online.) And reading! I was reading before I set foot in a school building.

So now we have Caleb at six years old, and I've been doing paperwork this week to formalise our homeschooling intentions. In South Australia, kids first have to be enrolled in a school, THEN you have to do paperwork to get an exemption for the purpose of home education. And they're legally required to be in school past the age of six, as in attending school. It's all a bit backwards if you ask me. Apparently SA is one of the strictest states regarding homeschooling. Parents in most other states just have to fill out a form and send it in, and that's it. SA? Nope. They make it all complicated. Six pages of forms. Six. Questions about your entire curriculum plan. Eight key learning areas to account for. And they ask you to 'describe the learning area.' I know one friend was tempted to write 'four walls, roof, cold AND hot running water' as her description because it seemed so silly.

It all seems a bit much - especially since something like cooking can fall under ALL EIGHT depending on what type of cooking it is! English (reading recipes), mathematics (addition/subtraction/fractions), science (seriously, cooking is one huge chemistry experiment), society & environment/SOSE (growing your own food), health & physical education (healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods and what they do in our bodies), design & technology (the official category home ec falls under in a school setting), the arts (cake decorating), languages other than English/LOTE (a unit study on another country). Phew!

Now about Caleb. If you know anything about Myers Briggs personality profiles, he's an ESTJ. He likes to be around people. Darrin & I are introverts (INTP & ISTJ respectively). We don't cope so well with Caleb's extroversion. He'll talk to anyone. Anyone. He walks up to complete strangers, just because they're in the same shop (or train or bus or whatever) and tells them his whole life story. 'My name is Caleb and this is my brother, his actual name is Ethan but we call him Chuckie.' For two introverts, who answer only when spoken to, or when we have a good reason, this is WAY out of our comfort zone.

What else does a little ESTJ like to do? They like to tell people How It Is. And that's that. And once something has happened one way, they expect it to happen that way for the rest of eternity. So because one time we made popcorn and watched Chicken Run, now every time we make popcorn, Caleb wants to watch Chicken Run. He also went through a stage at around age 2-3 of telling us that we were going the wrong way when we drove a different route home than we did going TO the place we were at. Because to him, it had to be That Way and only That Way.

As a baby, he was pretty predictable. He always had his nap at the same time each day, and to bed at the same time each night (after the newborn stage wore off anyway). Apparently he's one of those kids who likes routine. So while unschooling is still a great philosophy in my opinion, I think a little bit of structure wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing in his case. And so we've made the decision to get some actual school books and sit down with him for about an hour a day to do school work. We can be flexible about the time if we have other stuff going on, but for the most part, I think we'll try to stick to a certain time each day.

And the great thing is, if what we do doesn't work, we can change it. We don't have to wait till the end of the year and hope he gets a better teacher next year. If it's too much structure, or not enough, we can adjust as we need to. We can send him to school later if we want to, or he wants to. It's not a tattoo.

And he's excited about the idea of doing work in school books, so yay! Now we just have to keep at it.

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