A Year in the Life of a Home-Schooling Family: Day 51

The essence of today actually began at three in the morning. I was lying in bed listening to an alarm going off. On and off. On and off. It went on so long, I was beginning to get irritated with the people to whom the loud alarm belonged. I mean, it was three o’clock in the morning – did they not know that some people were trying to get some shut eye?! I began to imagine all the horrible things I would do to said person if they didn’t shut off their alarm very soon, when an eight year old popped her head into our room and declared that our car alarm was going off and could one of us do something about it because it was stopping her getting to sleep. Um. Yes, darling, right away. Whoops.

Sheepishly, once the alarm had ceased, I turned over and tried to get back to sleep. Alas. My punishment for the alarm was not being able to settle back into snooze-land. Morning came about too quickly and I was thrown into home-school with no sleep and an arm permanently out stretched for coffee.

I felt in my bones that today would not be a good day.

Chores were done sloppily as children (most of whom had also been woken up by (our) car alarm) wandered round the house in some sort of zombified manner. The bare minimum was achieved by everyone, including Thomas, who left for college without putting on any washing. He never forgets his chores. Never. See? Today = bad day.

Charlotte went round to mum’s as planned to be tested on her Latin:

She is doing so well, and is just (by the skin of her teeth) keeping up with her scheduled work.

Lillie was editing a few silhouette photos she’d taken the night before with her sister:

The little ones started their work books. They were singularly unimpressed by their maths!

It wasn’t long before Abigail began complaining about her foot. Yesterday, whilst being outside barefooted, she had acquired a thorn. Now, she was limping with the pain of it. So, armed with glasses (to help me see), a light (to help me see) and a second daughter (to help me see) and various twentieth century implements which, at the sight of, Abigail should have taken flight, I attempted to remove thorn from foot.

The squeals and screams which resulted from this benevolent action on my behalf could have woken the dead. I’m thinking neighbours were putting their houses on the market at that very moment, desperate to remove themselves from the perimeter of our noise infested building. Either that, or calling social services.

In the end we were all there cheering egging Abigail on. If it weren’t for the obvious pain, it would have been comical. Me, practically blind, with glasses on which had their own built in light prodding away with needle and tweezers; Lillie, who was letting Abigail bite into her arm and attempting to distract her with tails from her nursery work; Becca, who was aiming the phone light in the direction of Abigail’s foot, giving me some much needed light; and Charlotte who was holding all manner of paraphernalia for Abigail (drink of water, tissues…) declaring to all who was listening (no-one) that it was Abigail’s own sweet fault, and if she only wore socks and shoes like normal people did, she would not have got a thorn in her foot in the first place.

We needed an adult intervention and quick. I looked around hopefully. Nope, there was just me. I quickly made the executive decision to run in a hot bath and coax the thorn out that way. The crying stopped as I cuddled my girl, and reassured her that after the bath we would pop a plaster over it and hope that it would work its own way out. Disaster averted.

Huh. I adult quite well when I put my mind to it.

After the bath, we tried to settle down to some work. I am nothing if not enthusiastically hopeful delusional when it comes to school. I always plan for much more than I actually do. It was now eleven o’clock in the morning and the littles had only just finished their work books. Things were not going well.

No matter. I doggedly continued, finishing off the chapter from our astronomy about Saturn, after which the girls did some copywork. They also filled in a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences between Jupiter and Saturn:

I then attempted to explain the concept of gravity assist and how the Cassini space craft gained speed by using the gravitational forces of Venus and Earth. This is a complicated thing to explain to the children, especially when the teacher is not sure she understands herself. Ahem.

It was only when we did an activity which I had found months ago but which I had simplified significantly to make it suit a ten year old and an eight year old, that things began to fall into place. I used a magnet and a magnetic ball to demonstrate the effect that gravitational forces have on the propulsion and path of a space craft like Cassini which used two Venus fly byes and one earth-moon fly by (and yes I do know that gravitational forces and magnetic forces are not the same thing – it’s a simulation and possibly not a very accurate one at that!).

It did however work exceptionally well, and by the end of it I even understood what I was teaching! We did it a few times, and I think Abs understood by the end, whilst Becs just thought it was really cool, ‘and could she please play with the magnetic putty which came with the extra strong magnets?’

Yes, Darling. Do.

Lillie went off to work, and after every one had lunched we went our separate ways. Note to self. Must use flash in doors.

Charlotte and Becca to bake a cake:

The girls did good!

And Abigail and I to shoot a rocket, as part of her weekly MEL science chemistry (which just happened to fit in very nicely with our Cassini rocket astronomy work):

We had success, and Abs tried it a few more times:

Abigail was just finishing up when she was delivered her next MEL chemistry, all about zinc. Loving this Christmas present!

Our penultimate work was based on Hammurabi, the next Mystery of History lesson, which I read out again. I printed out a selection of laws to use as primary resources, and we used them as evidence to discover the class structure of the Babylonians, their attitudes towards family, property and human life and whether or not the Babylonians took into account intention.

The girls then wrote down their own laws, which were quite funny to read:

Tomorrow we will be having a Babylonian court case, where the girls will be choosing the punishments for certain peoples’ crimes, as well as choosing the favourite of their own laws and writing them, in cuneiform, on a mini stele just like the Hammurabi stele.

I also gave them black bags, double-sided sticky tape and scissors to make some authentic (not) Babylonian clothes for their dolls to wear:

Ha! So much fun!

The last lesson was a continuation of yesterday’s art. The art lab we are following is from Art Labs:

and it is all about contour drawing. Yesterday I taught them that art is 90% observation and 10% ability (don’t quote me on that! I was just trying to get across how important observation is). Today I taught them a nifty observational skill builder – blind contour and continuous drawing. I made it hard (because, y’know, why not?!) and had them do three continuous blind contour drawings:

These were good for Becca. Being a perfectionist, she can become quite discouraged when her art doesn’t look like she thinks it ought. Contour drawings are about building observational skills and are more about the process than the end result:

Well, for a bad day we didn’t do too shabby a job at the whole home school thing. I am exhausted. And am hopeful of a good night’s sleep without any alarms going off! The girls are all at choir, Gary is having a relax in the bath and Thomas is on his way home from college. I am about to make a family favourite of chicken and mushroom with peas and rice. Yum ee!

Join me tomorrow for another day at the nut house!


  1. Not bad at all for a sleep deprived family! We actually had our schoolwork done in record time today! We had a lighter day of schooling since two of my boys have finished up one of their books and we’re waiting for new books to come in.

  2. Well your bad day made me smile and laugh out loud. The car alarm was hilarious. Thorns and splinters are not fun at all. Ouch! You still managed to accomplish quite a bit. I’m impressed!

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