Brieana’s Day in the Life with a 14, 12, 10, 7, 5 and 1 year old


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I had a hard time submitting this as my ‘day in the life’ because it wasn’t a typical day. I typically shower before my day starts, we typically start at 8, not 8:30 and we don’t typically watch movies in the middle of the day. But then I realized that none of the other days available would work – we had co-op, a history movie day and doctor’s appointments. I guess the moral is, there are very few typical days. 

My alarm goes off at 4:00, but I set it again for 6:00. Even though I’ve been getting up early lately, today I’m going to sleep in so I can stay up ‘late’ tonight and spend some much-needed time with my husband.

At 6:00, I get up and head downstairs to wake up my 14-year old. She’s attending a classical charter school this year, and needs to leave the house by 7:15 to be at school on time. Then I head to the kitchen to make chocolate chip muffins, which the boys have been asking for.

The 1- and 5-year olds are up by 6:30, peering into the oven to watch the muffins bake. I unload the dishwasher and start packing lunches. By 7:00, breakfast is ready, lunches are packed and my 7-year old is up. I start the younger three on muffins and yogurt and go down to wake up the 10-and 12-year olds. My husband leaves at 7:15 to take our oldest to school and by 7:30 the rest of us are at the breakfast table.

Today we do Bible during breakfast because I’m hoping to sneak in a shower later. It works so well that I think we might start doing it every day. I agree to a pajama day (not typical!) and send everyone to brush teeth while I clean up the kitchen and check email on my phone.

At 8:30 we’re finally ready to begin. I round everyone up and we start by reciting math facts while we do calisthenics. Then we all sit at the table with our math workbooks (CLE for the 5th and 6th graders, Singapore for the 1st grader). My 5-year old colors in his human body coloring book and I read books to the baby. I take her to bed just after nine and return to help my 1st-grader with his math box. I then read to the 5-and 7-year olds from Great Estimations and math is done by 9:30. I let the kids take 15 minutes while I grade the 6th-grader’s test and pull out our language arts supplies.

9:45 – we begin language arts with a prepositions game. We list as many prepositions as we can on the white board and then the kids write (very) short stories using as many as possible. My 1st-grader dictates his story to me and I write it down. We take turns reading them and in general it’s great fun. While I do a reading lesson with the 5-year old, the other three work on grammar (Rod and Staff), spelling (Spelling Workout) and handwriting (the 1st-grader uses Zaner-Bloser, the other two have sentences to copy). The older two also do Latin at this time.

11:00 – The baby is still sleeping (not typical!) so I run up for a shower. I let the kids watch the end of Into the Woods, which they started last night. At 11:30 the baby is up and it’s time for lunch. I leave them to it and eat my lunch while working on this post.

12:15 – Clean up after lunch and all the kids get dressed and go outside. I even take the baby outside, even though it’s 40 degrees out. Then I curl my hair and throw on some makeup while the kids read. Or pretend to read while they play with the baby on the top bunk. (!)

1:00 – Our afternoons are reserved for history and science homework (they take these classes at our co-op on Thursdays) and for our Charlotte Mason hold-overs; composer study, artist study and poetry. We also do logic and read aloud. Today we’re reading out of Apologia’s “Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics” and studying some of the terms for a game they’ll play at class. We’re also reading some of R.L. Stevenson’s poetry and C.S. Lewis’s “The Horse and His Boy”. I found a video about vortexes, so we watch that, too. The baby tears the house apart.

2:45 – I need to leave to pick up my 14-year old. I also need to stop at the library and pick up some things at the store. The 12- and 10-year olds get to stay home to finish school work and chores, the rest of us head out.

4:45 – Home! I do cook, mostly, but tonight we have church so I start the oven for frozen fish and french fries. The kids watch a show while I make curried rice for my history class in the morning (we’re studying ancient India). I also do math homework with my 14-year old and check in with her about the rest of her classes.

5:30 – Husband is home and we eat dinner. I leave him with the mess and the baby (he’s a pretty great guy) and the rest of us leave for church at 6:00. I’ll get home around 8:15 with the 10-, 7- and 5- year olds, and while I get them in bed, my husband will run back to the church to pick up the older two from youth. When he gets back, near nine, I’ll double check with the oldest to make sure she’s ready for school tomorrow and go over the other kids’ work from the day. I also need to make sure I’m packed and ready for my class, and tidy up the house as much as possible. As it turns out, while he was supposed to be getting ready for bed, the 5-year old was playing with play dough on the family room carpet, so I end up fully cleaning and vacuuming that room. Hey, at least it’s done!

By 10:00, everyone is in bed. My husband and I snuggle up to watch a show and talk the presidential race, and I finally turn out the light at 11:00. I may regret it when my alarm goes off in five hours, but I’m glad I spent this time with him.

This year has been especially busy as we transition to having one in school, two doing middle school work, two doing early elementary work AND having a baby. It has been rough, I’m not going to lie, but today went as smoothly as I could have hoped.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to know Everything I know About Homeschooling, or why I get up at an ungodly hour every day.

Or, take a look at what my day looked like a three years ago. (Ironically, that was a pajama day, too.)

What about you? What does your homeschool look like?




Why I Get Up at 4:00 in the Morning

There are a lot of small words in that title, and I’m not sure I capitalized them properly.

Anyway, lest you think I’m some kind of amazing, superwoman, the getting up at 4am thing is very recent. But so far, it’s working pretty well for me.

I have always been a morning person. I feel more energized, my brain feels clearer. It’s much easier to think straight before the crush of the day begins and three people are asking for help with math or food or where their socks are. I can actually get stuff done, and starting my day with a feeling of accomplishment is a huge lift.

My kids are also early risers. Some not by choice; my oldest gets up at 6 for school, but my 7, 5 and 1 year olds are always up before 7, all on their own. Which means if I want time to myself, it has to be before then. And my teenager stays up until 9:30 or 10, so evening alone time is out of the question.

Early morning time is when I can do all the little things I would like to do, that never get done, like exercise and read blogs and write. And surprisingly, even a 4am wake up call doesn’t get me that much time. Here’s what my mornings look like:

4:00 – Alarm goes off

4:10 – Go downstairs and do 15 minutes of yoga

4:30 – Shower, dress, do makeup (and sometimes hair, depends on the day)

5:00 – Make coffee (and breakfast – breakfast is important)

5:15 – Settle in at the computer to catch up on reading or work on the blog, or grab my Bible and do some studying

6:00 – Wake up my oldest

6:15ish – Head upstairs to start breakfast/pack lunches/put away dishes

Between 6:30-7 my younger kids start waking up and coming in for breakfast.

7:00 – Wake up 12 and 10 year olds

And then it’s all chaos until bedtime! That time alone and the accomplishing of things that are good for me (exercise, breakfast, reading and writing) mean that I can really be present with my kids during the day. I can focus on what we’re doing rather than thinking about all the things I’d like to get done, but can’t because all these blessings are asking me for stuff when all I want is a few minutes to myself, darn it!

So it’s good.

What time do you get up?




Joy and Laundry

Having a large family is a lot of things. It’s chaotic, yes, but also peaceful. It’s loud and sometimes quiet. It is very messy but.. okay, it’s very messy. I often find that people who ask me about raising six kids have a polarizing idea about what it is – it must be either ethereally joyful or insane. The answer is.. yes!

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d snap some and share with you what life in a family of 8 is like. All these pictures were taken between 4 and 5 on Thursday afternoon with no staging. I promise!


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Coffee. My best friend.

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Yes, it’s 4:30pm and lunch is still on the table.

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I would be ashamed, but this is actually pretty good for us.

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Teenagers do not like their photos taken. Unless they are selfies.

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And, in an effort at brutal honesty, one of me. Today was a no-makeup, no shower day. But it isn’t always like this!

Also, you people who take selfies and post them on the internet? I thought you were silly, but you are BRAVE. I think I took ten of these before I got one I was okay with.

I look so weird! And I like my face!

So go forth, mama, and know that your life and your house and your face are lovely. Even if there are dishes in the sink.

Our Curriculum

We currently use a smash-up of Ambleside Online and a classical approach, and do co-op with five other families twice per week.

Our co-op meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings at our house and covers history (I teach this, using Story of the World volume 2), science (Apologia Astronomy), Spanish and art. We also do memory work together – right now we’re memorizing High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the Our Father in Spanish, our 2 and 3 times tables and the rulers of England (we’re up to Edward the Confessor). During the co-op, our little ones do ‘Super K’ with another mom (who is amazing).

Since we have co-op twice per week in the morning, we do our ‘together’ work on Monday and Wednesday mornings. That leaves afternoons for individual subjects like math, and we stay fairly consistent.

Monday mornings we review our memory work and do Latin, composer study, artist study, poetry and Shakespeare. Wednesday mornings are for memory work, Latin and Spanish and astronomy homework.

In the afternoons we do math (I’m using MEP), language (LLATL), reading (from the Ambleside lists) and copy work. Our copy work varies but is either something we’re memorizing, a poem, a scripture verse or some piece of great literature. I use

Besides these things, we are reading aloud two books – Storybook of Science and Adam of the Road. They’re literature but they double as a science and history book. I aim for one chapter per day, which gets us through two chapters per book, per week. I try to get them outside at least once a week for nature study, and we read extra books about our current history topic if we can fit it in.

As for ‘extra-curriculars’, we’re at church four days per week, one kid is in a Christmas play, and we go to the chiropractor three times per week. I know that’s not an activity, but it takes so much time out of our week that other things have been pushed out. Normally they’re involved in some kind of sport, but because of the chiropractor we’re skipping that for now. My oldest is on the kids’ worship team at church and is taking a basic Christianity course. They’ve all taken piano, but that’s been suspended for the present as well.

Up until this year I’ve had a very specific schedule outlining who is doing what at all times. This year it’s much more relaxed. We know what needs to get done and work through it as best we can each day. Most days we start around 8:30 and end sometime between 4 and 5, but I’m the only one working the whole time. While I work with one child, the rest get a break if they’re done with whatever they can do on their own.

They each have chores they’re assigned for the day also. They usually do these either at lunch time or after their school work is done.

Here’s a lineup from a couple weeks ago:


  • Review memory work
  • Latin lesson 54
  • Storybook of Science chapter 15
  • Adam of the Road chapter 7
  • composer study – listen to a piece by Haydn
  • Shakespeare – finish Twelfth Night (we use Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare)
  • artist study – look at “Boy With a Squirrel” and talk about it (John Singleton Copley)
  • poetry – read a few pages of Favorite Poems Old and New

Sixth grader:

  • MEP Year 5, Lesson 22
  • Read Matthew 27:1-2, 11-31 and narrate
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (sixth grade book) lesson 7 part 2

Fourth grader:

  • MEP Year 4, Lesson 22
  • Read two chapters of Robinson Crusoe and narrate
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (fourth grade book) lesson 8 part 1

Third grader:

  • MEP Year 3, Lesson 22
  • Read Pagoo, chapter 4 and Princess and the Goblin chapter 11 with mom and discuss
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (third grade book) lesson 7 part 2

On Monday and Wednesday mornings my two preschoolers hang out with us, playing and absorbing what they can. They do preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but apart from that they don’t do any formal schooling. We sing songs, read books, explore and play. This is consistent with Charlotte Mason’s ideas about early childhood, and is backed up by recent findings. 

School around here isn’t as organized as I’d like it to be – but with constant interruptions from little ones and a desire to leave room for life’s interruptions, it’s hard to maintain a rigid schedule or atmosphere. For a look at how this particular day went in real time – check this out.

What does your homeschool look like?


A Day in the Life

I’m often asked what our ‘homeschool’ looks like on a typical day, and since I’m always interested to hear about other people’s days, I thought I’d do a ‘day in the life’ post and try to explain how we do it.

I picked today because I was thinking about it and I figured if I planned it out it wouldn’t really be a typical day.

4:30 am – My alarm goes off. No, I don’t always get up this early. I usually get up between 5:30 and 6, but today I wanted to make apple crisp in the crock pot and mine doesn’t have a timer. I went down to the kitchen, dumped the crisp in the crock pot (I prepped it last night) and went back up to bed. I set the alarm for 5:15 but before I fell back to sleep our 3 year old climbed in to bed with me. He fell right to sleep but I never did. Around 5 I climbed out of bed, got dressed and put some make up on.

5:30 – Coffee in hand, I head down to the basement and get on the computer. I’m printing the week’s school schedules (it’s Monday), checking email and working on the blog.

6:00 – My 4 year old is up. I send him to bed with daddy.

6:45 – Both the 3 and 4 year olds are up and hanging around my chair. Much to my dismay, they will not be sent back to bed. This may have to do with the fact that I put them to bed early last night. Thankfully they open the blocks that are nearby and play for a while. I finish a blog post and write out the day’s goals and our Latin assignment on the white board. Today’s list: memory work, Latin, Storybook of Science, Adam of the Road, composer study, artist study, Shakespeare, poetry, math, language, copy work and reading.

7:30 – The 8 year old is up and we’re getting hungry. We head up to the kitchen where I scramble eggs and dish up apple crisp. The 9 year old is up; I drag the 11 year old out of bed.

8:30 – After 3 rounds of eggs I declare the kitchen is closed. Since none of the kids need to leave the house today, I call a PJ day. We rarely get to do this so it’s pretty exciting. I send them off to clean their rooms and brush their teeth with the instruction that school will start at 9. I wash dishes and pull a freezer meal out of the garage, but I can’t start it because I can’t get the crock pot clean from the apple crisp, so it’s soaking. Daddy leaves for work.

9:00 – I get my second cup of coffee and head downstairs. I turn on a youtube recording of Haydn (our term’s composer) and tell the big kids to copy the Latin off the board. Three times. (That is, I tell them three times. They write it once.) Then I help the younger boys into their Halloween costumes because they can’t wait for Halloween.

9:15 – I turn off the recording and cross ‘composer study’ off the list. Usually we listen to an episode of Classics for Kids but we’ve already done all five on Haydn. Next week we’ll read a book about him and listen to more of his work. I go through the Latin lesson with the big kids while the little boys play with blocks. It’s rather loud.

9:45 – We recite High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and the Our Father in Spanish. I separate the boys, who are fighting over blocks.

10:00 – We read the last few pages of Twelfth Night. We then read a few pages of our poetry book and a chapter of Storybook of Science. The volume increases at intervals as I compete with crashing towers and the boys’ running commentary about their block robots.

10:20 – I call a break. The boys are bickering and it’s way too loud to get anything done. I try to turn on Super Why but it isn’t loading on Netflix. I finally give up and go with Leap Frog. I manage to scrub the crock pot out and start dinner, then I hunt down the big kids and shoo them back downstairs.

10:50 – We read a chapter of Adam of the Road and then I pull up “Boy With a Squirrel” by John Singleton Copley online. We review what we’ve learned about him (he’s our term’s artist) and spend a few minutes looking at the painting, then I close it and ask them to tell me what they remember. It’s hard to concentrate with Leap Frog singing his numbers in the background, but we get through it.

11:20 – I call another break for lunch. The kids ask for an episode of Fetch and I’m too tired to care. Normally we don’t allow any screens on school days – Leap Frog was for my sanity – and I think they know I’m easy prey today. I allow it and go to the kitchen to make lunch. On the way I start a load of laundry. And update the blog.

12:00 – Lunch – grilled cheese and bananas. I spend 15 minutes cleaning up the kitchen. After we eat, the kids ask for more television. 90 minutes of TV on a no screen day is kind of unheard of.. but then again, they’ve already read Shakespeare and learned the difference between nominative and accusative noun cases, so I figure it can’t hurt. I turn on a screen adaptation of Eric Carle books and get on Facebook.

1:00 – I put the boys down for a nap and start math with my sixth grader. The fourth grader reads and the third grader does copy work. Today’s copy work is 1 John 4:7 – they have to look it up and copy it out of the Bible.

1:15 – The boys are out of bed. They’ve been shrieking with laughter since I put them down but I’ve been ignoring them. The four year old needs the bathroom. While he’s in there, the three year old helps me switch laundry loads. And they go down again.

1:30 – More sixth grade math. The third grader has disappeared. Fourth grade starts copy work. No wait, first he argued about writing his narration of Robinson Crusoe. Then he did copy work.

2:00 – After putting the boys back to bed twice more, they’re finally asleep. Sixth grade math is done – we go over her language assignment and she starts on her reading (today it’s the Bible) and copy work. Fourth grader has also disappeared. Third grader wanders back in, so I grab her and do her math.

2:30 – Sixth grader is done! This might be a record. Fourth grader does language while I ‘supervise’ and blog. Third grader disappears again.

3:00 – Math with fourth grader.

3:30 – Sixth and third graders reappear with painted fingernails. We go over the fourth grader’s narration and I send them away so I can work on the blog post.

At 4:30 I remember I have to leave for the chiropractor at 5:30. I run upstairs and do my best to fix my hair. Dinner is done in the crock pot and is served in paper bowls (our dishwasher is broken and I have my limits).

5:15 – Daddy’s home! The angels sing.

5:30 – I run out the door – today’s errands: chiropractor, hardware store, gas station, Michaels, Starbucks with a lady from church.

9:30 – Come home, exhausted but triumphant. I have in hand 20 paint stirrer sticks and 10 wooden dowels for tomorrow’s project, but the prep work will have to wait until tomorrow.

10:00 – Good night!

What do your days look like?


The Life Craziness Matrix

If you aren’t reading Conversion Diary – you should. Jennifer Fulwiler is an atheist to Orthodox Catholic convert, a mom of six, a writer and a hoot. She recently posted this brilliant matrix on her blog:

I love this. I love it when someone is able to take a complicated subject and simplify it, then make it visual.

I lived for years in the red box. Some days I still live in the red box. But back when I had three kids under four, a full time job and we were volunteering as children and youth pastors for a church plant… yeah. Red box. Want to hear a funny story? We used to store a bunch of stuff for the church in our garage (we met in a school) so our pastor would come by on Sunday afternoons to drop it all off. I worked Thursday through Sunday, so by the time he got there the place was, well, trashed. Then we had him over on a Tuesday or something and the first thing he said when he walked in was, “Wow. Your house is so clean!” It wasn’t, actually, it’s just that by Sunday the chaos had managed to take over, and he’d never seen our house not engulfed in crazy.

The red box is not a happy place.

I’ve lived in the orange box, too. When I’m pregnant, it’s all orange box. I hate being pregnant. For me it’s nine months of nausea, heartburn, exhaustion and wanting to die. The really frustrating thing about the orange box is that there’s generally very little you can do about it. The orange box is the result of illness or injury or circumstance. The best thing you can do if you’re in the orange box is to accept it as best you can and ask for help. And pray that it’s temporary.

Then there is the yellow box. That’s where I live right now. From 5:30 am to 10 pm I’m in constant motion. Even my ‘me time’ is productive – either blogging or reading nonfiction or showering. We run full octane all day, every day, with a half day off at the end of the week. But things are running pretty smoothly – my work level is high but my stress level is relatively low. I’m ok with the yellow box.

The green box may not actually exist. I think maybe a few people live there, but some of them have dementia. The green box is where I imagine other people live. People with nannies.

Just kidding. I aspire to the green box, and I believe I’ll get there. We’re closer than we used to be.

What I really love about the Crazy Matrix is that it shows so clearly where we all really need to be. We’ve got to stay out of the red box if we want to effectively do whatever it is God has called us to.

Homemaking is holy work. Caring for your family is valuable and honorable. But even those who feel called to full time homemaking understand that sweeping and laundry are not the focus of that call. This is why we need systems to keep our homes running as smoothly as possible – so we can live in the green box and focus on God’s work in our lives.

You are here for a reason. You have a gift to give to the world that no one else can give. I recently heard someone say, “Your gift will make room for you.” So true! If you have a passion and talent for something, God can open doors of opportunity for you. But first you must find that gift and make room for it to flourish in you. That’s why I’m so passionate about great systems – because I’m passionate about making room for the gift.

More on those systems soon!


How To Do It All… part two

I know I promised some practical tips on home management, but before we get that far, we’ve got to deal with something far more important: attitude. All the systems and tips in the world aren’t going to make a house run smoothly if Mama’s bitter and frustrated. I’m sure no one reading this has a problem with attitude – just me. So let me talk to me for a little bit:

“Listen, me. You’ve got to quit the whining. Look, raising a pack of kids, homeschooling and keeping all the plates spinning is hard work. But remember, you signed up for this. Yes, I know, the laundry never ends. There are always dirty dishes in the sink. Those kids want dinner every single day. It’s exhausting. But here’s the thing – that stuff isn’t going away. And your complaining about it doesn’t make it easier or better, it makes it harder and worse. Take a look at all that stuff and get some good systems in place. Make it as painless as possible to keep up with it all. Accept that some days it won’t all get done, and make it a goal to do better tomorrow. Most importantly, change your attitude. If you keep a cheerful attitude, everyone in your house will have a better day.

Oh, and let’s talk about all the other stuff you feel like you need to do. Let’s take soccer, for instance. You signed the kids up for that, remember? You chose to do it. So you don’t get to gripe about the cost, and the time it takes in your week, and the drive, and the snacks, and the weather. If every time you look at that thing on the calendar you get bitter inside, then stop doing it. Don’t tell me you can’t. I know you think it’s good for the kids, but you’ve got to look at it objectively and weigh your options. If you feel like the benefit for the kids is outweighed by how much you really hate doing it – quit. Yes, I said quit. Because being grumpy about it all the time is sucking the life out of your home. But if you really feel like the benefit to the kids is more important than the inconvenience to you, than suck it up and quit your whining. I know it’s hard. If you really feel overwhelmed, give a good friend a call and tell her. Then pick yourself up, remind yourself that you made a choice, and move forward.

Remember, your kids pick up on your tone and attitude. They will begin to reflect your character. Think about that for a minute. What kind of choices do you want them to make? How do you want them to behave when stuff is hard or inconvenient? Start to behave like that, and you might be surprised the positive changes that start to take place.

Listen me, you’re doing a great job. We all need a little pep talk now and again. Don’t let it get you down! You’re a great mom and your family is lucky to have you. Keep up the good work.”