Monday, July 30, 2012

A Day in Our Life

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but it's actually now the "summer holidays".  We are following the mainstream school calendar loosely, so we'll just say this is a detailed day in the life of homeschoolers on "holiday"!  I'll try to write another similar post when we're "officially" doing "school" again.

What are all those quotation marks for? Well, I'm trying to speak mainstream language, but don't quite believe in it myself. A while ago, I requested that my kids refrain from using "school" to describe what we do.  I asked them to use the word "learning" instead.  Because, isn't all of life learning?  Not just the workbooks, but the everyday experiences that go so far in teaching them about real life.  Now they correct me.  If I mention "school", they're quick to say, "Don't you mean learning, Mum?"

Yes, I do.  So I'm not writing about formal lessons, but learning.  If you are unfamiliar with the practise of home education [as many people are here in the UK], before you carry on reading this post, please read this Wall Street Journal article first to give you an idea of what we're about.

Thank you.  Now that's out of the way, let's get on with the day!

7.20  I wake up slowly, three-year-old Coo cuddled next to me.  She is not happy about getting up, so we talk about coffee milk to help her look forward to going downstairs for breakfast.  Dan goes downstairs to prepare our muesli, then returns upstairs for a shower.  The three boys [nine-year-old twins Lefty and Righty, and Mr J, our six-year-old] are already awake in their room, playing noisily with their cardboard footballers and reading.  I can tell from the cool air blowing in through our open window that it's not going to be a warm day. Sunshine is intermittently streaming through huge fluffy clouds, but they soon group together into a dense cloud blanket, with only tiny patches of blue sky visible.

7.45  Coo and I are finally out of bed, and while I throw on my clothes, she is trying to decide what to wear.  Her dress from yesterday needs washing, so we play a game to help her choose a fresh dress for today. This doesn't work, and she still can't decide, so instead I take a few clean dresses from her cupboard and hang them on a low hook in her room. She goes through them several times before choosing one.  Then it's time to pick a pair of leggings. She's not happy with the choices available, so we decide to cut the feet off a pair of her old tights to create new leggings.  Helping Coo assemble her outfit sometimes takes longer than getting myself ready for the day!

8.10  I prepare Dan's lunch.  He's having tomato and avocado salad with mung bean sprouts, a peach, a raw nut and fruit bar, and water.  I've been putting his water into a large jar for quite a while now; it fits nicely into his lunch bag, doesn't leak, and I have no end of these jars: they're a result of the massive amount of peanut butter that we eat!  We also use them for drinking glasses; all but three of our "real" ones broke long ago and I decided to save money and stop buying them!

8.30  We are all gathered at the table for breakfast, but Dan has to eat and go this morning.  Usually we have a prayer time together using the book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, but we'll do that tonight instead.

9.00  Breakfast has finished, mostly.  Coo is still spooning up muesli, and Mr J keeps evading his glass of water.  Righty has already put away the dishes left in the dish drainer, and I claim washing up duties, as it's a chilly summer morning and I like washing the dishes when I'm cold!  Lefty and eventually Righty are outside in the garden playing catch with the neighbour boy.

9.10  Coo and Mr J are cold, too, and ask about having hot chocolate.  As I'm drinking my way through a fresh cafetiere of coffee, enjoying the warmth, I completely understand their need for a hot drink!  Often they drink decaffeinated tea, but as I have plenty of milk left in the fridge, hot chocolate is a possibility. I heat milk in a stainless steel pan and stir in Green & Black's cocoa and sugar.  They're quite excited about their drink and prepare, fetching spoons.

9.20  Righty returns from the great outdoors and decides to make hot chocolate as well.  He doesn't drink cow's milk.  He turns the gas stove on himself, and quickly mixes up his own hot chocolate using rice milk.  Lefty drinks the rest of Coo and Mr J's hot chocolate.

9.30  Lefty decides to do some math practice, using two of the maths apps we have on the laptop.

9.40  Mr J has Coo busy with his latest project: packaging up his Match Attax football collector's cards into packs to sell.  She is happy to help him, and follows all of his instructions very carefully.  Mr J's other plans for the day including drawing more promotional posters for the LOTR movie he wants to make someday.  These two activities, as well as his drawing, are the creative projects he bounces between.  Often he is busily working as soon as he wakes up, and if we are going out at any point in the day, I have to remind him to put proper clothes on, as he's usually still in his pyjamas!

9.45  Mr J encourages me to give Coo some money to put into her coin purse so she can buy packs of Match Attax from him.  He counts out 25p from a pile of change. At the last minute, he adds another 20p, and adds up the money himself, saying, "She needs 45p altogether."  I make the mistake of referring to what they're doing as "playing", and Mr J informs me, "We're not playing.  We're really doing this."  Of course.  Righty is now in possession of the laptop, busy with maths practice.

10.00 I gather together used towels and cloths from all over the house, including the washing basket, and put a load of washing into the machine.  Mr J helps me put the washing powder in the drawer, shuts the front-loading machine himself, and turns it on. Most days, I do only one load of washing. We don't have a clothes dryer, so unless I can hang clothes on the line, it's difficult to get more than one load dry inside daily.  On sunny, warm days I do as many loads as I can and then have a break for a few days! Righty and I talk about the weather, as it's now begun raining.  It's very chilly.  He thinks the wind must be coming from the north.  We test the wind's source, using the good old-fashioned finger lick method, and sure enough, it's blowing from the northwest.

10.15  Lefty and Righty get online to check the Olympic results from yesterday evening, using the BBC website. They write a list of the football teams left in the Olympics, and when they're playing. They're disappointed about the rain, as their friend next door has gone inside, and they were planning on playing more with him this morning.  Mr J appears dressed in his football suit.  Together, we find his pyjamas and I direct him towards the washing basket with them.  He reminds me that he needs a hook beside his bed to hang pyjamas on, so he doesn't forget where they are every evening.  The boys head outside to play their own Olympic football.

10.45  Coo is busy writing her name on slips of paper. I work on planning out Mr J's birthday festivities which are coming up in less than two weeks.  Coo finds a packet of wildflower seeds and we plant them in a big pot of dirt in our garden.  We come inside and she listens to The Cat in the Hat audio book while I write out a birthday list and work on this post.

11.30  After I've spent some time writing and a quick five minutes scanning through new shops on Etsy, Coo has worked her way through several audio books, eaten a banana, and strung a bead on her "fish bracelet". She pulls a card out of our "Kids Garden" activity box, and wants to do it.  She also has her worry dolls and Purple People out, and decides to play with them first. I set the card, a craft activity for making decoupage stone paperweights, aside for later. Eventually Coo ends up on the trampoline with Mr J while I fold laundry and put it away.  Hmmm... four pairs of underpants for Mr J, two for Righty, none for Lefty.  So either he has been wearing the same pair for a while, or his used underwear is stashed around the boys' bedroom.  I ask him about it quietly, out of earshot of the other boys. He thinks it's probably the former, and decides he will remember to put fresh ones on tonight after his shower.

12.00  We sit down for lunch.  Our lunches usually consist of peanut butter, jam, or honey spread on oatcakes and rice cakes. Righty and Lefty set out the lunch and Mr J helps put plates and cutlery on the table. Coo has gone back to her worry dolls but happily tidies them away when she sees the food.  Lefty puts on a library audio book, Eldest, to listen to while we eat.

12.30  Most of us are finished with our food.  We leave Coo's plate containing a partially-eaten rice cake on it for her to return to later when she needs a snack.  Mr J and Coo have some playtime while Lefty sweeps the dining room floor and Righty washes the dishes. I hang wet towels and washcloths on our upstairs airing racks. Rain, which lasted for an hour, has stopped now and I peg the remaining towels onto the washing line outdoors in the hope that they will dry reasonably before the next shower comes.

13.00  It's quiet time! This gives us a break from each other and allows us to pursue individual interests without interruption for an hour.  Everyone sits on their own bed and reads or rests.  Mr J plays with LOTR figures.  Coo always joins me and usually I read stories aloud to her. We start with a few poems from Now We are Six, by A A Milne, and then read Gregory and the Magic Line, The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook, and Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Today she has also brought along her worry dolls and Purple People; we play with them together.  Sometimes, if she's occupied, I'm able to squeeze in some knitting or reading of my own, but often, she views this quiet hour as "our" time and this afternoon is no exception.  Afterwards she is often happy to play alone or with the others until she starts getting tired just before teatime.

14.00  Plans for the afternoon are under discussion by the three boys.  They are interested in watching the GBR vs UAE Olympic football game that took place yesterday. They decide to tidy up and take their showers as early as 4pm to enable them to watch the ninety-minute game later.  With two hours spare, they plan to fill this time with more football games outdoors, in spite of the frequent rain showers.  I had wanted to take a walk to the post office together but we'll postpone this until tomorrow.  Coo continues to play on her own while I catch up with my writing here on this post. I make myself a cup of afternoon coffee --a blend of half regular beans and half decaffeinated.

14.30  The lads are still outside playing football, but they've taken a short break to eat apples. There have been a few cloudbursts; however, I've refrained from bringing the towels in.  There's a strong breeze, and they will probably dry quite quickly if I leave them alone. Coo has tidied away her tiny worry dolls and Purple People, and is busy playing alone in her room.

15.00  Normally, I would start a few tea preparations now, but as we're having an easy tea tonight I'm not bothering yet. Instead, I use the time to finish writing down Mr J's birthday plans, text invitations to friends for his birthday trip out to Wroxeter Roman ruins, and gather the supplies needed for the craft project Coo wanted to do this morning.  When she sees me putting the glue, rocks, and paintbrushes on the table, she immediately comes running.  We sit together and work on creating decoupaged rocks.

15.30 Lefty plays a game of chess solitaire, while Righty creates elaborate action scenarios with his figures.  Coo and Mr J raid the dress-ups to play Lord of the Rings, and begin acting out scenes in front of the laptop's Photobooth video app.  I overhear Mr J reciting bits and pieces of the Tolkien books aloud during some scenes.  [This is Mr J's great movie project in action!]  I busy myself in cutting apart a worn-out duvet cover in preparation for dyeing.  If tomorrow proves to be sunnier, I may be able to start dyeing.  Then possibly by the end of the week, sewing the dyed fabric into nightgowns for Coo, and some big bags for storage or gifts.

16.00  Picking-up time, half an hour earlier than usual.  We walk through all the rooms in the house, tidying as we go.  On a day like this, when it's been slightly rainy and we've stayed home all day, there's usually quite a mess lying about to be put away. Mr J needs extra encouragement.  He begins to throw a paddy about having to clean up, but when he sees that I'm not buying his tantrum and am willing to help him, he changes his attitude instantly. While I'm waiting for them to finish tidying, I eat a perfectly ripe, meltingly soft peach. What a treat! It's so worthwhile waiting to eat certain fruits until they're in season.  I'm happy to bring in the six towels that managed to dry on the line in between numerous bouts of rain! All three boys have their showers.

17.00 I haven't been able to find the football game online for the boys to watch, and get started making our tea: cheese quesedillas made with wholemeal tortillas and served with salsa, and a big green salad.  Dan arrives home about quarter past five, and we sit down to eat.  This is rather earlier than usual; our teatime normally starts around six to accommodate friends who are joining us. However, today, it is just the six of us. We complete today's reading from the Common Prayer book that we use daily, and spend a bit of time praying for friends and family.

17.50  Lefty and Righty help clean up after our meal.  Lefty normally chooses to wash dishes and Righty vacuums the floor, but tonight they've swapped. Dan unpacks musical instruments he's purchased for work and Mr J sits near him, checking out the weather forecast on the laptop.  I pop a grubby, sticky Coo in the bath and write more of this post while she plays in the water.  Mr J trudges upstairs to give me a full weather report for the week ahead.  He also sells me a pack of Match Attax for 25p.

18.30  The lads sit down together with Dan to watch the football game they wanted to see yesterday.  Coo is still playing happily in the bath, and I crouch on the step-stool in the bathroom to chat with her.  When she is finished, I help her brush her teeth.

19.00  Coo and I sit down comfily on the big bed and finish reading Now We Are Six.  She is completely wrapped up in the gentle cadence of these timeless, beautiful poems. Written for children, they are appreciated by little ones but probably more fully understood by adults, with their clear themes of the joys of childhood and growing up.  Coo still breastfeeds right before bed, so she has a few minutes of booby, as we've always called it, but drops off quickly.

19.45 The football game is nearly finished, and I put on the kettle to make myself a cup of decaffeinated coffee, and prepare to have a quick shower.  The guys tiptoe upstairs quietly to brush teeth and listen to their books being read aloud by Dan. He's reading The Two Towers to Mr J, and Inheritance to Righty and Lefty.

20.30  I still haven't had my shower, as I've been catching up with this, but the three boys are settled in bed with books.  Mr J was possessed by a last minute creative urge and had to draw the England badge and write "Giggs" on his bedtime t-shirt.  [with washable pen, of course]  The sun is shining, low now, in a cloudless sky.  Maybe no rain tomorrow?

Thoughts from today, and a few links

After looking back over our day [this was easy, as it was written down in front of me!], I had a moment of feeling guilty because we'd stayed home all day. I don't drive here in the UK, and often I waste time looking around at others who are more mobile, seeing the opportunities they're able to give their kids, and forget that my quality time at home and walking around our town with them are just as valuable as others' out-of-town adventures.

Then I read this: "Instead of trying to measure up to other parents, reach down and hug your child." Quote of the day, for me! That definitely puts it all in perspective.  Also, I was inspired by the wisdom in this article: Six Things You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Say to Your Child.

Here's a link to a recipe I saw today that I want to try, from one of the blogs I read regularly: Fragrant Vanilla Cake's Raw Carrot Cheesecakes.

And I was reminded of a creative idea, shared by a favourite blogger a while ago: Getting Paint and Markers ON Your Clothing.  I already have white t-shirts for the kids, so I'll see if we have any Amazon vouchers to cover the cost of some fabric paint and markers!  Then all we'll need is a sunny day and we can start creating our own clothes outdoors some afternoon.

This is another "open book" post.


  1. At first I was confused about the Olympics reference, but then I remembered the comment you left explaining this was a post you did this summer.

    How fun to read through the details of someone else's day! We're so different, but so much the same, you know? Thanks for linking up!

  2. Thanks, Laura. :)


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