What’s Working :: 5 Strategies for Right Now

Growing pains hurt. Often we are so distracted by their discomfort that we can’t see them for what they are. The beginning of this school year was a bit of a struggle for me. From my current vantage point (the point being now, when the hard part has been muddled through and can be seen for what it was), I realize that my struggles really boiled down to a need for growth. Our family had gotten bigger (Deo Gratias!) and my plate had become significantly fuller. With more to juggle and more at stake, the systems and habits we had in place just weren’t cutting it.

I was being called to stretch and grow, and it was unpleasant. The good news about growing pains, of course, is that we usually end up taller on the other side.

In Teaching Tips & Techniques, Laura Berquist suggests creating a list of things that “work” as we stumble upon them. We can then look back on that list and gain a little perspective when our days get rough. Life gets foggy in the middle of chaotic dailiness; it’s nice to have a written list to turn to. This post is just that. A beginning of a list.

Five things in particular spring to mind that are “working”. These five things may not be your cup of tea; if that’s the case, ignore them. This is certainly not a post in which I tell you what to do (do I write those? I hope I don’t write those). My oldest child is 10, so you can safely assume that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing, no matter what I write or say. :)

I will need this list next February when I’m pulling out my hair and wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe some of them won’t work for us anymore. Maybe some of them will. In any case, I’m sharing them, and if any of these ideas bless you, that’s terrific! If not, then please ignore me and carry on. I’m not bossy, I promise.

1. Just Press On

First, I need to remember when we hit bumps in the road that the most important thing is to just press on. It’s so tempting to throw in the towel. We second-guess our decisions about curriculum, about scheduling, about extra-curricular activities; we even second-guess our decision to homeschool altogether. When things get bumpy we really just need to take a deep breath, hit our knees in prayer, and carry on.

Try not to fall victim to the silly thoughts that if we just did the normal thing and put our kids in school like all the sane women, then everything would be alright. (what? you don’t have those thoughts???) We all have our burdens. God has called us to teach our kids at home. Why would we choose a load other than the one He has offered to help us carry?

2. Simplify Wherever Possible

We’re hitting math and language arts every single day. Also religion, in one form or another. Other than that, everything gets touched on through memory work or reading aloud. For now, I’m not scheduling “history” or “science” on the calendar, but we do get to quite a bit of each in the course of our days. We are reading about, writing about, and discussing history and science in the context of improving basic skills.This has done a few things for me.

1. It’s made our days feel less frantic and fragmented.
2. It’s helped me remember to get my big rocks in first (skills usually trump content).
3. The kids are learning like crazy.

Simplifying has enabled me to give my kids a solid academic course and lots of time to pursue their interests. It also gives me time to get to those other important things like… laundry. I think it essential that my kids have time to play, create, explore, and work on projects of their own imaginings. For my kids to have ample time to do so and get a superior academic education makes me all kinds of happy.  It’s a huge part of why we’re homeschooling in the first place.

3. Start Early. Very Early.

This is a big change for us. Until now I’ve insisted that my kids and I be dressed and ready for the day before starting schoolwork. I’ve required made beds and brushed teeth, tidy kitchen counters and picked up learning spaces.

And we’ve always, always struggled to get school going at a reasonable hour.

This year I threw that all to the birds. We wake up and we start school. I do start the coffee pot right away (I mean, duh– right?), but other than that: Nothing. No checking email or starting laundry, making beds or changing clothes. It’s all of us- pajamas, bedheads, barely coherent- gathering in the living room and reading aloud.

Trust me, getting out of bed is a much more appealing prospect when chores and math aren’t looming directly overhead. My kids wake to the promise of a cozy blanket while mama reads a story. I sip coffee while I read, and before we know it we’ve got 30 minutes of  literature (or history, science, religion, or whatever else we’re reading about that day) under our belts.

Mornings are so pleasant now! If kids are hungry, they can eat while I read. If they are sleepy, they can hide under a quilt and just listen. If they are hyper, they can do somersaults. I don’t really care- I just want everybody there. I’m not nagging anyone to get on with their chores or hurry up or come-on-already-we-need-to-get-our-day-going!!! We mosy into our day doing one of the most important things we could be. And it’s a good thing.

Primrose has suggested following our read-aloud time with a daily decade of the Rosary, and I think we’ll make a go of that, as well.

4. Prioritize Memory Work

Every year we seem to get a bit more Classical, and this year one of the big leaps was in making Memory its own separate subject. Andrew Pudewa is the one who initially sold me on the importance of memory work, but the rest of the credit probably goes to seeing how much better my kids understand when they have memorized.

I used to quote that over-used “education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire” line, and I would consider memory recitation nothing more than turning on faucets. I now realize that memory work is actually the kindling for the fire I was so hell-bent on setting aflame. When my kids have information stored in their brain at their ready disposal, they are in a prime position to learn anything for mastery.

It has been said that a child who can recite a long piece of poetry or prose from memory will know, without a doubt, that he or she can learn anything under the sun. I believe that. Throughout time, memory recitation has played a hugely significant role in the formation and education of children; it is only the progressive modern model of education that has left it for dust.

Rather than tagging on a bit of memory work here or there, I moved it front and center; we spend 30 prime-time minutes on it every single morning. (I’ve got my eye on Classically Catholic Memory for next year. Anyone use that?)

5. No Matter What, Do Latin

Who could have guessed this would make my list?  Up until last year, I didn’t even have it on my radar at all. I have become sufficiently convinced of the importance it plays in the curriculum, however. So convinced, in fact, that if all else fails- if the day goes to pot and nothing else gets done- my advice to myself is: Just Do Latin. (Okay, do math too.) ;)

Latin delivers a power punch in one sitting- foreign language, English grammar, vocabulary, logical thinking, history and religion- all rolled into one lesson. It is probably the best investment of time I can possibly make.


I know this list of “what’s working” will morph and change as our family grows and changes. But for now, it’s a start. Come a dark day in February, I hope these few tips will make a small difference in helping us press onward and upward. Goodness knows that come February, we’ll need all the help we can get. ;)

Happy Friday!

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  1. says

    Oh my goodness. You wondered if this list would bless anyone. Well, I can say for sure that I had NEVER thought of starting school BEFORE breakfast and chores. And, like you, the morning DRAGS and we have a VERY hard time getting started, which means we are “over it” sooner than we should be b/c lunch is looming. I mean seriously, I NEVER thought of that. Thank you SO much for the idea. I have to ask, though. After you read and then send them to get dressed, make their beds, eat breakfast, do chores, etc., does THAT then take forever? I have a hard time picturing the AFTER snuggle/read aloud time … getting BACK to the School Time. Hmmm. Also, have you given up any of the curriculum on your curriculum page?

    • says

      Right after read-aloud time, we move into our Memory Work since we are all gathered. Then I send the two younger kids off to do their morning chores and I work with Primrose (she is an earlybird and gets up before the rest of the house to eat and get started on her chores).

      Sometimes it does take my two younger kids a good long while to get their morning chores done. Especially the dawdler. Do you have one of those? One of my kids DEFINES the word “dawdle”. ;) But she is, at age 9, finally beginning to realize that if she gets her chores done faster, then she gets done with school earlier and has more time for her own pursuits. But yes- it takes quite a bit of nudging, even on the best days.

      Basically, I tell Tulip (age 9) and Snap (age 7) that they have one hour to get their morning chores done while I work with Prim. If they are diligent then their chores take about 15-20 minutes and they can use the rest of that hour however they wish (no screens). If they dawdle, they spend the entire hour doing chores and won’t get another shot at free time until later in the afternoon.

      They MUST start their schoolwork by the time that hour is over. If they haven’t finished their morning chores, they start their schoolwork anyway and they have to finish their morning chores after their schoolwork. Since they have afternoon chores to do as well, they HATE having to pile on the morning chores at the end of the school day, so this is usually incentive enough. Or nearly so. ;)

      Clear as mud? :)

    • says

      Forgot to answer your curriculum question. :) We bailed on English from the Roots Up (which is an awesome program but I thought it was overkill since we are already doing a full Latin program), Apologia Science (well, we’ll still read aloud a bit from these, but we aren’t doing the full program as I thought we would), and Thomas Kinkade Drawing Basics (which is awful- don’t buy it). ;)

    • says

      So, I read this because I had the same question about the morning routine … are y’all not so much breakfast eaters? Is it just sort of a help-yourself style? Because I’ve found myself many times wondering about the efficiency of our mornings, but right now the kids really depend on me to fix breakfast for everyone (we don’t do cold cereal, which would be easy for them to do themselves). Just trying to figure out where that fits into it all.

      The redeeming feature of our family breakfast time is that at least we do use that time for Bible reading and poetry or CC practice. :-)

    • says

      My kids eat mostly cold cereal, so yes- they get it themselves. Sometimes they do oatmeal or toast, but not usually. Primrose often bakes muffins while I read aloud, and then we all eat when they are ready, but I just don’t do the hot-breakfast thing as often as I’d like to. I loooove the idea of family breakfast time, though, so if you’ve got that going on I don’t think I’d mess with it!

    • says

      We have been doing cold cereal, but I am wanting to cut that out due to cost (and other factors). My kids can use the Keurig to make hot cereal, so I am going to make some homemade hot cereal packets. I am also going to having a cooking afternoon and freeze up a big batch of waffles, pancakes, muffins, and muffin tin eggs. I have one who loves granola and yogurt, but so do I and it isn’t consistent with my diet right now. I could eat homemade granola by the five-gallon bucketful. I may add that to the rotation later as well. That will give us a pretty good rotation of things the older two (7,5) can fix themselves or with very little help.

    • Anonymous says

      so can I ask what time all this happening? Our mornings haven’t been working well here and I have wanted to change them but don’t know if I can handle the chores not done and everyone not dressed by a certain time. every time I let everyone have a bit more of a relaxed morning someone arrives at the door at 9am and i am not dressed. where does you little one fit in? Does she wait for her breakfast too?
      with the Latin do you do it with the children? One of my girls did Prima Latina last year and loved it at the beginning but the novelty wore off. I bought the next stage but she wont do it and we have changed to Cambridge Latin. I am wondering if me doing it with them will help. Nikki

    • says

      Oh no! You aren’t going to make me admit actual TIMES, are you?

      We are (cough) not especially early risers around here. I want to be, but I battle some wicked insomnia and usually use that as my excuse to sleep in. :)

      Ideally, we are up and reading aloud at 7:30. If we aren’t up and reading until 8:30 or (cough) 9, then that’s that and we still proceed as normal. But our day goes much much longer if we aren’t up and at it early, so we try as best we can.

      If you were to pop over to my house at 11 am on a random day, I would likely not be dressed and showered. Yes, this makes me crazy. BUT. If I haven’t risen before the kids (say at 6:30 or 7), then I figure I slept through my early shower time and now I’ll just have to wait. If I shove aside schoolwork every time I want to pick up the house or shower, we’ll never get to our schoolwork.

      My kids aren’t early risers, so this works for me. It might not be the case for you.

      The baby still doesn’t eat much of a “breakfast”- we’re just phasing in solid foods. So for now, she waits and just crawls over everybody who is lounging around while I read. :). When she’s eating a daily breakfast, I’ll likely have to feed her first. Or I’ll just change the whole morning routine, which is possible too. :)

      Latin. Here’s my take: Latin is hard! The novelty wears off fast. We are using LC1 (which is the course that comes after Prima), and it’s hard even though I’m doing it with her, and she’s a 5th grader. I don’t think she’d be able to manage it independently- I definitely do the work right alongside her. We do a full lesson (using the DVDs) on Monday, and then the exercises on Tuesday and the Quiz on Friday. Every single day, she drills the vocab/grammar on her own and with me (both!). The work would just be too difficult for her to do on her own.

      I’ve also made Latin non-negotiable, so even though she’s mentioned that it’s hard and she would rather quit, that’s not an option. I do think she will thank me one day, though I’m not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon, lol. :)

      Hope that helps some!

    • Anonymous says

      well now I feel so much better! I wish I could pop over so that your children could teach mine how to sleep in a bit. since we live a tad too far away for that I had better make use of these early mornings. I just have to get my head around the chores being delayed and I need to be organized to be dressed! My baby should be eating his breakfast every day but unfortunately gets forgotten if he goes off to play. Then I wonder why he is starving mid morning! Oops
      Latin is hard and is pretty much non negotiable here too. I need to get my act together and do it with the girls. we have had a really tough year and that is one thing that went out the window on my part. Need to somehow slot it into my day. mind you we only have 3 weeks of the year left so maybe next year! Nikki

    • says

      thanks for the tip to come back to the combox! I really like the idea of starting the day off with read alouds…I have such a mixed bag here though…a couple that wake up early, a couple that don’t. Still trying to find a rhythm with the best time to read aloud…

  2. says

    Love this post, Sarah. I think it’s a great time of year to be looking at what is working RIGHT NOW for us. We, too, have been focusing a lot on memory work…but ours is just Scripture and poems – I’d love to hear more specifically what else ya’ll are memorizing. :)

    • says

      We are memorizing a lot now! We do poetry from Andrew Pudewa’s program, states/capitals and their locations on a map, skip counting facts, the new Nicene Creed, some prayers and songs in Latin (table blessing, Pater Noster, Dona Nobis Pacem, Adeste Fidelis, etc), and Prim drills her Latin grammar/vocab. I also intend to add history sentences (like they do in Classical Conversations) and the U.S. Presidents to our memory fare this year.

      I wrote more about how I’m making this work in response to Lindsay, below. :)

  3. says

    How are you incorporating your memory work into your day? What does this look like for you? I read Andrew Pudewa’s poetry book (though I don’t own it), and I found his chart a little confusing and awkward. The scripture memory system at Simply Charlotte Mason seems more intuitive to me, but then, the idea of a box full of cards scares me when “dumpers” abound. I have enjoyed when we’ve memorized poetry, but I’ve never been able to find the rhythm to our day where it seemed to fit naturally (or, perhaps I mean “effortlessly,” and more effort is simply what is required).

    • says

      I print our memory work on regular size paper and store it in a binder. Maybe I should put a post up about it- it might be easier to explain with pictures. I had looked at doing an SCM-like box with cards, but I know that binders work better for me than cards do, so I went that route instead. We are still new enough to memory work that we pretty much drill everything every day (we haven’t relegated certain facts/poems/etc to every-other-day or once-a-week yet).

      We do all of our memory work during a specific Memory Work time (instead of trying to do memory work in little chunks throughout the day). I do think putting it in a morning time slot is helpful so that it doesn’t get shoved aside (our afternoon subjects seem to get pushed aside a lot- do yours?).

      We use songs and just drill/chant/sing every day right through our memory list. I would like to add games to give our memory time a bit more flare. This is something I’m working on and need to devote some time to working out.

  4. says

    I feel sort of liberated reading your list. You are doing kind of the same thing that we are doing. Getting the important stuff done first. As you know, I kind of feel guilty not cramming in all of the history and science but I think we are getting into the swing of things.
    As far as memory work goes, I try to memorize the same stuff Athena does and she is MUCH quicker at it than I. I choose to believe that her 9 year old brain has less to hold than my 47 year old brain. We do the English from the Roots up cards as well and then ‘flash’ them to eachother. I pretend to forget a few or say the wrong meaning just to test her and she catches it every time. Love that. What are you using for Latin.
    And lastly, just because you are young does NOT mean you don’t know anything. In fact, you seem to be very wise for your years.

  5. says

    I really needed to hear #1 today, so thank you for that! I’m also curious about the memory work. We already use the scripture memory system from SCM,and like it. But I think you are making a good point about them having some stuff/facts? already in their heads making it easier for them to make connections in their learning. So I’m wondering, what else do you have them memorize?

    • says

      We do poetry from Andrew Pudewa’s program, states/capitals and their locations on a map (I use songs for this), skip counting facts, the new Nicene Creed, some prayers and songs in Latin (table blessing, Pater Noster, Dona Nobis Pacem, Adeste Fidelis, etc), and Prim drills her Latin grammar/vocab. I also intend to add history sentences (like they do in Classical Conversations) and the U.S. Presidents to our memory fare this year.

      Next year I’d like to add science facts in addition to our history memorization. I think the memory work could make for a solid spine and lead to lots of delightful-serendipitous-learning along the way!

  6. says

    I just love your blog, Sarah, but because my 3-year-old is currently screaming “‘Top it!” at his older sister, (who, I don’t have to imagine, is teasing him relentlessly), that is all I have to say about that.

    (Not really. I actually have PLENTY to say about why I love your blog.)

  7. says

    I am using Classically Catholic Memory and I LOVE it! The kids learn so much and always want to read about what they are memorizing. Lots of opportunity for rabbit trails. :) And it’s really impressive when they can recite dates and history facts to Dad. Especially when your 5 year old uses words like Mesopotamia and cuneiform and the names of Egyptian Pharaohs. I highly recommend it! And, the book list from RC History(found on their website) compliments the CCM history very well. An effortless way to get Science and History in.

    • says

      You could easily base your whole curriculum off of CCM! It’s hard to say exactly how much time we spend on it. I started using it last year, then my friend and I had the idea to start a co-op using CCM, so I stopped using it at home to save it for this year. Last year, I used it as the backbone of my teaching. We would go over the week’s memory work (15 minutes, sometimes more) and then work our way through each subject throughout the week. Reading books, doing projects if the kids were interested, having them do copy work or dictation straight from the memory work, etc. The teachers manual has ideas for projects and such already there for you. Then of course we listen to the CD when we’re in the car, or during lunch, while they do copy work, when the mood strikes, until they “get it”. Then I just added math and grammar. The kids loved it! I bought a boxed curriculum this year since I had a baby coming… big mistake. It was expensive, the kids are bored with it, and they aren’t learning half as much. As soon as I adjust to life with baby, we’ll be going back to using CCM as our backbone. :)

    • says

      Look up there at that first comment- I responded at some length to this question there. And of course if you need more clarification, ask away! :)

  8. says

    Hi Sarah,
    I have visited your site a few times and have really enjoyed it. I modified some of your quarterly progress sheets and they have been really helpful for us so thank you! I just wanted to chime in and tell you that this is the first year we’ve done memory work and we’re using Classically Catholic Memory and LOVING it! My kids and I are amazed at how much they’re able to memorize and they really enjoy it. We meet with a few other families every other week to do the memory work together in a little co-op which the kids love too. Finally, I wanted to say that I am intrigued by your new morning routine and it makes sense to me. I think our mornings would be much more pleasant spent praying and reading. Right now we’re doing the “get chores and breakfast done first thing” and it can be stressful. Thanks for the suggestions. God Bless You and your family!

  9. says

    Thank you for writing this Sarah, a very useful post. I love gleaning wisdom from fellow homeschooling mamas. This reminds me, I’m not sure I ever thanked you for recommending Teaching Textbooks. We’ve been using it and loving it.

  10. says

    Oh, Sarah, I just love reading your stuff! I think you’re spot on about getting up right away and knowing you’ll be sitting together reading aloud. I’m going to start that with mine on Monday. Good stuff– thanks so much for sharing!!

  11. says

    Bless you, bless you! I actually rang three schools yesterday, two didn’t reply and the third was full!! Benedict’s behaviour has been a challenge these past few days and I’ve been horribly hormonal, a bad mix right?!

    I so neede to read this post, I’ll tuck those words in my head and draw on them when I’ going crazy again!!

    Have a good weekend.

    san xxx

  12. says

    I love this post. My babes are still 3 and 1 (and one in the womb), but as a homeschool graduate, I can affirm that memory work and Latin got me where I am today!! So keep on keeping on and thanks for posting, it gives me hope for my future mom-self :-)

  13. Jackie says

    Hi Sarah,
    This post was so helpful – I have an 8,7, 5 and 8 month old and am feeling much the way you were at the start of the year. Your ideas have really helped me along. Thanks so much and God bless you! Jackie PS We use CCM – not regularly but we’re plugging along. I really like that all the memory work is in one place. I get overwhelmed pulling out lots of different books so it’s nice having catechism, poetry, geography and more all in one book.

  14. says

    Lovely post, and perfect timing. I’ve been thinking long and hard this past couple weeks about what is working and what isn’t. My son has been requesting Latin so I’ve done some research and the plan is to start Monday. We’ve also been trying to figure out memory work, poems mostly right now. Between those two things, copywork, math, and loads of reading aloud I feel we have finally landed on something that works.

  15. says

    Great stuff, Sarah (and all who commented here!) I’m definitely coming back to this page to make some notes. Don’t delete it! Wonderful thoughts, details, and inspiration here. :)

  16. Katie in GA says

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your insights, Sarah. They always help me to reflect in meaningful ways, too.

    We are in our second year of using CCM (did Beta last year and Gamma this year) and I completely, totally LOVE it. We are MODG users and CCM is a beautiful fit, and fills in a couple of places that I wanted to flesh out a bit more completely, too. It streamlined our memory work and thus simplified our school day. (And I needn’t tell you how adorable it is to have your 2 year old singing about monasteries in the middle ages, or even better, Adeste Fideles in Latin.) I do have a couple of minor gripes…stuff we’ve learned to work around…but overall I would highly recommend it.

    • says

      I’d be interested in hearing your gripes (even by email if you’d rather not go public with them) :). I’m almost certain that we’ll use it next year, but I’d be eager to hear your work-arounds, just so I know what to expect. Are you using it in a group or on your own?

  17. says

    This post and these comments are super helpful! I’m one of those that also goes all drill sergeant in the mornings. I shudder at the thought of everyone still in their pajamas past 8 a.m. The only morning out of the year we’re “allowed” (in my crazy mind) to be in pjs late is on Christmas morning. But you’ve opened my mind a crack :) I’m tired of being taskmaster, you know? Aaaaand I’m pretty sure my kids are tired of it, too.

    I’m going to look into CCM. I’ve never even heard of it before and it sounds really promising.

    And we’ve found ourselves doing the same thing this year. Getting the big stuff done (for us that’s writing, math, and Latin). History, spelling, religion, geography, and science seem to take care of themselves which is so incredibly scarily unschooly of me. But it’s working and they learn so much that way. I would like to get better with memory work but I get a bit overwhelmed by all the things I want them to memorize. So then we just don’t do it or do the tiniest bit. Because that makes sense, right?? (Um, they have Ooey Gooey down pat. Should I be proud??)

    Thanks for the post, Sarah!

  18. says

    I completely identify with Better than Eden. I too am a morning taskmaster, and maybe this is why we almost always begin school an hour late! I am giving serious consideration to you #3 idea this weekend. Not sure I could get used to this!

    We are cramming history and geography into afternoon work along with music practice. Makes for a long day. I am seriously considering enrolling in MODG next year because it’s just too much for one mom to facilitate and supervise. And I am also dyeing CCM – but do you have to do this in a group or can you do it on your own?

    • says

      You can do it on your own. It’s my understanding that most people do, and when some like-minded folks come together they combine and form a community, much like CC does (but without the national organization oversight and support, of course). I would use this on my own, not in a group.

  19. Anonymous says

    Would you mind giving an example of how you go about the reading and writing part of history and science? I LOVE how you have your days worked out for this “right now” season. Thank you so much for all that you are willing to share! We have 4 children as well ~ the older 3 are ages 6 thru 10……and then we have a 9-month old, so I laugh, smile, and relate to so many of your posts. :)


    • says

      We use IEW’s writing program, which is laid out with the intention of plugging it in to whatever content subjects you are already studying (so that writing does not become its own separate subject, but can help streamline the work already being done).

      Primrose, for example, is using the Student Writing Intensive, so she does the assignment that Mr. Pudewa walks her through via DVD. Then the Writing Intensive “assigns” her a couple more papers to practice the skill she just learned. Instead of using the paragraphs that the Intensive suggests (on “pill bugs” for example, or maybe on “King Tut”), I give her a paragraph from something we’re learning about in history or science. I might have her write her paragraph on killer whales if we are learning about marine biology, or about George Washington if we are learning about Revolutionary history. We practice those skills we just learned (keyword outlining maybe, or various stylistic techniques) on the content we are learning about elsewhere.

      Doing this is supported/encouraged by IEW as a great way to use the writing curriculum as a part of what we are already learning about, and it’s very easy to do (IEW helps you figure out where to get good paragraphs for writing work).

      Does that make sense at all?

  20. NDK says

    The problem I have been having with memory work is this: How do you work with children of all ages? I hate the idea of doing separate sessions! For example: My 9yo learned all of his states and capitals in 2nd grade. Reviewed them in 3rd (per MODG). Now I have 7 yo and a 5yo who are learning states and caps. Sure, everyone could use a review of states and caps… but not everyday… especially when you know (and he knows that you know) he already knows them. Same with poems… some of those he’s KNOWN for 4 years. I don’t want to exclude him, but I see he’s itching to go get some of his other work done. Are you doing the more advanced things first (new poems, more advanced catechism, history dates, etc) and then does Prim slide on over to do handwriting while you do review the more basic stuff (phonograms, 1st Holy Communion Catechism, states and caps, etc.)

    • says

      Hmmm. Well, memory work is somewhat new to us- we only began with it last year- so my kids aren’t really on different levels. We do memory all together. Now, some kids memorize things faster than others, but we just keep at it all as a group regardless. I move as fast as my fastest child (and that doesn’t always mean the oldest child, lol) and since we do the memory work everyday, the others catch up without too much strain. I’m fascinated at how fast my kids can memorize stuff- they are faster than I am, for sure.

      There are a few things Prim is memorizing that the others aren’t- Latin grammar forms, for example. When we do memory work, I start with the stuff we are all doing together (states/caps, the Creed, poetry, etc) and then I send the other kids off and drill Latin grammar with just Prim. This seems to work okay.

      I wonder if you did your “all together” stuff FIRST and then sent your big guy off to do copywork or some independent work and then worked with your littles on the new stuff? Would that work? You could even keep him there every other day (for review) and send him off to do copywork on the off-days? Maybe?

      I do see a benefit in having them all do the same memory work, just for the sake of logistics, if nothing else. I’m thinking this would be a huge benefit of using a program like CCM (which I linked in my post) for this reason.

    • Katie in GA says

      I also have a variety of ages and have been doing memory work for years, so I’ll take the liberty of chiming in on what works for us right now.

      I do most memory work together in a “Memory Period.” I use the CCM program, and so that is the bulk of what we are memorizing and it keeps everyone learning the same thing at the same time. Also during Memory Period, we will work on anything supplemental to CCM that I want all of the kids to memorize, like a prayer, the presidents, etc. The final thing that I include in the Memory Period is poetry. CCM includes “Great Words” which is often poetry, but I highly value memorizing poetry and so always have each child working on an additional poem to memorize. This is the one thing in our Memory Period where not everyone is memorizing the same thing at the same time. I keep it in the Memory Period because I think it’s beneficial for them to be exposed to poetry at all different levels and (bonus!) usually they all end up memorizing everyone’s poems anyway without feeling like they “have to”. When the MODG syllabus calls for a poem that a child already can recite b/c an older sibling has learned it, I simply substitute with another poem. We either do Memory Period in the car or around the table with everyone’s hands busy with knitting, legos, coloring, etc. b/c there is waiting involved as you listen to others recite. This takes about 30-45 minutes each day.

      Any other memorization items that I feel are more grade-specific I do separately with each child during their one-on-one time with me (like Catechism and Latin vocabulary). This takes very litte time each day.

      Whew! Sorry for dominating the comments section…hope that helps a little.

    • Katie in GA says

      Sorry, one more thought I failed to flesh out: I’ve learned that for me, with several children, I benefit from looking at the “big picture” on some memory items, like states & capitals, presidents, prayers, etc. I’m a real sylluabus-follower, so when the syllabus tells me to teach states and capitals in 2nd grade, that’s just what I expect myself to do! However, I’ve found it much more freeing to realize that my child can learn the states & capitals in any of the lower grades, just so long as they learn them. So putting myself on a long-range plan for memory work was very helpful, and then things could be done more with the children all together, which is of course a time-saver (and perhaps a sanity-saver, too). Before I started using CCM, I made a list of all the things I wanted them to memorize in the lower elementary grades, and mapped it out over a number of years. Now, CCM does that for me, which is one of the main things I love about it.

      That’s all now, I promise!

  21. Lisa R (from 4Real) says

    Hi Sarah, I’d love to know what you’re reading for History and Science. Are you going in any kind of chronological order with history or just reading? Thanks!

    • says

      For history, we are reading chronologically through American History. This year we are focusing mostly on Westward Expansion and the Civil War. You can see the booklist I put together in the Family Work document I posted as part of my Color-Coded Progress Lists. Jessica (at Shower of Roses) has some awesome American History booklists posted on her blog that are super-fabulous, too. :)

      I have a couple Apologia science books we plan to read through, but so far this year we’ve just read various picture books on scientific topics from the library. We’ll see how the rest of the year pans out. :)

    • says

      I should mention- next year I think we may use the CCM memory work to guide our reading in both history and science. The CCM would be the spine, and we’d read on topics as we got to them!

    • says

      I just discovered the other day that some of those elementary Apologia books have audio versions. Might help you use them more (if you are really concerned about it :-P).

  22. says

    HI Sarah,
    I haven’t read all the comments so I hope this isn’t a repeat. How does your new laid back mornings work with your Managers of their chores packs? When do they do those? Also, what history are you using? We are starting History of the World but it is not from a Catholic perspective.

    • says

      Hi Lisa,

      My kids do their morning chorepacks after read-aloud/memory time. Their morning chorepacks consist mostly of get-ready-for-the-day chores (brush teeth and hair, get dressed, make beds, etc.). Prim is a sort of take-the-bull-by-the-horns personality, so she often has her morning chorepack done before I’m even awake for the day! But the others get to their morning chores after our read-aloud/memory work is done, and after they’ve eaten breakfast (but before they start the rest of their schoolwork.) I did comment somewhere above about how that works as far as keeping my kids going on their chores and encouraging them not to dawdle.

      They have afternoon chorepacks that are done after the schoolday is finished, and that is when they contribute to the household cleaning (vacumming, dusting, taking out trash, etc).

      For history, we are reading our way chronologically through American history. This year we are focusing mostly on Westward Expansion and the Civil War. I’ve assembled a booklist and we’re working through it. You can see the booklist at my Color-Coded Progress Lists, on the Family Work document.

      Next year I intend to use CCM (linked in my post) and will just find books to read about the topics we are memorizing as part of the CCM program.

  23. Colleen says

    We started using CCM this year and LOVE it! I had originally planned on doing it at home, but a couple of friends heard about it and wanted to join in. So we meet as a co-op every other Wednesday from about 8:30-noon or so. We have about 15 kids ranging in age from 5-12. We keep the kids together in one room and have another room to use as a nursery/playroom for the younger ones. We started with the Alpha year because it is impossible to match up all the subjects with what you are currently studying. And I’ve found it’s a great review if you have already covered the material or a good intro if you haven’t. The bigger kids obviously get more out of it, but I’m amazed by how much the younger ones pick up. And if they get bored they can head into the playroom for a break. I love it because it is all laid out for you with very little prep work involved. Most all of it is simply memory work except for Science which has some teaching involved. I teach Science and do some prep work ahead of time. We decided to try dissecting which is going really well and something I never would of tried by myself at home:) The kids and Moms are learning so much. The kids love it and are asking to go every week. We spend about 20 minutes every morning reviewing what we learned in co-op. By the end of the two weeks, the kids are pretty good with it. We also added an art program. We have also given up the morning routine and spend some time once everyone has grabbed something to eat with some read alouds (usually history or saints or character building) and then review CCM. Then everyone gets up and dressed and chores done. It has made such a difference with starting school early. Thanks so much for all your helpful and encouraging blog posts Sarah. I love all your suggestions and have learned so much from you:)

  24. says

    I’m always impressed at how wise you are:){} I’m nearly a decade ahead of you in hsing but only a year ahead in wisdom. So agree with nos 1, 2 & 3, top advice!!! as for no. 4 I’ve been thinking about that lately myself, I’m going to mull this one. No5, not convinced yet;)

  25. Anita S. says

    We use CCM in a co-op setting and love, love, love it. Everyone is learning so much, right down to the Kindergartner. I am continually amazed at what they retain! I agree with the commenter who stated that you could base your whole curriculum off it. In our co-op, the Geography and Science were split off from the rest of the memory work, and that resulted in time for extended lessons in those subjects, including dissections and such.

  26. says

    Thank you for that link to Cheryl Lowe’s talk. We have started back with Latin this year with my 8 year olds, but I was in need of some encouraging reminders to stay the course. We are also using CCM for the first time this year and are loving it. It is the first memory work we’ve done, other than some poetry memorization we did in First Language Lessons. I’ve been surprised how much we’ve already learned, and it has convinced me of the benefit to memorization. Now, to go back and work on memorizing math facts…sigh. Thanks for sharing what’s working for you!

  27. says

    Great post! I just want to encourage you to persevere with the Latin. Super valuable! After LC many years ago, I knew that I was just a few minutes ahead of the kids and needed outside help. I started looking for tutors and ended up finding an incredible homeschooling coop that was truly classical and had phenomenal Latin teachers. We have been with this “school” (one day a week class with a detailed syllabus the other days to complete at home) for 7 years. I have had two of my third child is in the 2nd year of Latin now. The Latin subject test was a breeze for one of my children and they tested out of their college language requirements (at a very young age). Latin well done has taught them grammar, history, SAT prep (vocal) as well as an excellent foundation for other languages. If it gets too hard, look outside and talk with other homeschooling moms. Get a tutor together if need be to keep the cost down and the social aspect is fun for the kids. Since you like memory work, there are latin chants available on the school website that you may find helpful (although they dont use the ecclesiastical pronunciation) http://www.classicalcottageschool.org

  28. says

    Great post, Sarah. I read it a few days ago when you posted it, but am just now making it back to read through all the comments :-). You know, it’s funny, but even after 12 years of homeschooling, I have to remind myself of #1 all the time. Seems like there’s always a slightly different bump in the road to be dealt with, or at least another personality to throw me for a loop.

    When my big kids were younger (about the ages of yours), I read to them over breakfast, too. We prayed, I read the Bible or we did Catechism, then I read aloud for a while. Usually the kids were done eating by then, so they colored or drew while I read. I have no idea what it’s like to have 4 kids because I went from 3 to 5 (right about the time my oldest turned 9), but I was happy at that time that my dh went into work a little later than he goes in now so I could run and take a quick shower while he took the twins. My brain doesn’t really seem to work before I have a shower, so now I have to wait until my big kids get up so they can be in charge of all my hyperactive little guys. This means we get a somewhat later start than I’d like, but at least my oldest cleans the kitchen while I’m in the shower :-) As the kids have grown up our morning read aloud times have gotten more challenging, because it’s hard sometimes to find something that both a 16 year old and a 6 year old can listen to. But every time I let that morning time slip, I regret it. It really is the most important part of the day.

    Oh, and I totally agree about Latin, too. I’ve seen so much fruit from studying Latin with my older kids that I’m completely committed to it. We went through Prima Latina and Latina Christiana I kind of slowly, and I did have to patiently stick to my guns because it is hard sometimes, and then when we went into First Form both older kids kind of lost me because we were moving, new baby, etc., and they were very independent. We moved into Memoria Press’ online classes at that point. My 13 yo dd took the high school Latin I Henle class last year and did really well, so both my older kids are doing Latin II this year. I’m kind of disappointed because I enjoyed learning Latin along with them, but I have to admit that doing it this way is a *lot* easier in the upper levels.

    • says

      I’m trying to keep in mind this very thing- that just because something works “right now”, that doesn’t mean it will work next year (or even next month!). It’s hard to be flexible enough to accomodate a growing family.

      I imagine that it’s super hard to find read-alouds for your age range of kids. Have you found any titles that work especially well?

  29. says

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! i so appreciate your laying out our schedule (including times!!) & your struggles as well. i have 4 kids, the littlest a babe, & per your encouragement are just getting into both read-alouds & memory work. i so appreciate having another kindred mind to go the road with, if only virtually!!

  30. Wendy says

    Hi – Thank you Sarah – I have 9 children…..from 6 months to 22 years (my oldest – homeschooled all thru HS and now married in May and graduating with his Masters in Accounting; one at Hillsdale; one at Community College; the rest in HS and below schooling with me)….and I love being inspired by wonderful moms with youngers only. Reminds me of myself back when – and refreshes me with your wonderful ideas and inspirations for my younger ones.

    One question: What math is pictured in your binder above??



  31. says

    We are not at the point of having our kids take Latin yet (or anything formal, they’re 3.5 and 1), but both my husband and I took Latin in High School. It’s one of our non-negotiables too. We went into completely separate fields in college, but it’s helped immensely! It’s hard, but it makes English much easier, and really, English is the hard one.

  32. says

    What a great idea to start the morning with reading aloud! I’ve tried it with my middle son who used to be a nightmare to try to wake up in the morning. I’m getting him out of bed and I’m getting his read-alouds done. A win-win all around!

  33. says

    OH MY GOSH!!! I just put my youngest (7 1/2) of four girls (21, 18, and 14 1/2) into a school — a small charter school, but nonetheless, against my gut…. and I knew today when we dropped her off (after getting her up at 5:20, to get her rushed out the door to drive 25 minutes) that I would make the next three weeks (a three day week this week, five days next week and a three day week the following week) and then pull her out. She truly does belong home with me, reading on the couch, cozied up as I did with her older sisters. Only then I cut the TV out, the computer, etc. I had a rough three years mentally/emotionally and I let it all go “to pot”, as my mother would say… and now I’m not taking the bull by the horns (what’s with the cliches this morning?) and spending the next three weeks getting the house in order and bringing by baby home where she belongs, just as I did for her sisters. Because it IS what I believe in, even if it isn’t always easy. Your ideas are wonderful! Thank you for confirming what I needed to be reminded of!

  34. says

    Hello, I was just trying to get some encouragement. Found this page and have a question? How do you make your notebook pages for keeping track of school work? I like the page showing your Latin work. Do you have a template or something? I need some of that color and organization right now. Thanks.