Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A day in the life of an unschooling, work-at-home family

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Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday.

This month is fun, because I get to give you a peek into what our daily life is like. Sam and I co-parent, co-homeschool, and co-run family businesses. It's an interesting balance!

The day starts before the camera and I are up. Sam wakes early and sneaks downstairs for time by himself to write, a blanket around his shoulders and a glass of coffee at his side.

Meantime, I wake up to this:
Which is not bad at all.

Karsten, 4 months, and I snuggle as he wakes, and then Sam comes to rescue me.

Sam and Karsten head downstairs for a diaper change while I stretch out the kinks in my back from a night of cosleeping and perform my morning ablutions.

Alrik, 3.5 years, gets up around the same time, so Sam carries him downstairs for snuggles and milk in a sippy cup. Once he's more conscious, he helps entertain his little brother.

Sam begins cooking our breakfasts. The boys eat in more of a grazing style, but Sam and I have two main meals together.

Sam's frittata.

My burger patties with provolone and avocado. I've never been particular about eating only "breakfast" food and in fact prefer anything but. We're still eating grain-free, so Sam's come up with good options for both of us to enjoy. You know how parents like to say, "I'm not a short order cook"? Sam totally is. We're probably doing all this feeding/eating stuff wrong, but I like it.

Congratulating himself on a successful potty visit. A year-plus after he became potty independent, this is still a reason to celebrate.

Sam carries a comatose Mikko, 7.5 years, downstairs. Otherwise, he wouldn't wake till late afternoon. We are night owls hereabouts, and Mikko's our champion. Mikko crashes on the couch to wake up at his own pace there.

This kitty follows Sam around until he feeds her. She's always very put out that he wakes up so many hours before she gets breakfast. Poor fat cat.

The rest of us head upstairs to the big bed for breakfast. (Did I mention we're probably doing it all wrong? But — breakfast in bed every day!) Alrik bounces around, sometimes watching a video on the Kindle but more often showing off his tae kwon do moves and beseeching us to play My Little Pony Party (it's a thing). Sam and I catch up on a TV show online, such as Impractical Jokers. (Any other fans here? I always die laughing.)

The other cat stares at us and eventually circles the bed, trying to snag an empty lap that's unaware and generally putting her fluffy tail in our food as much as possible.

Meanwhile, Mikko rouses enough to fire up the Xbox for some video game play.

We're experimenting with when and how to tidy and clean. We used to have a clean-up scheduled in the evening but found no one was in the mood before dinner (too hungry) or after (too sleepy). It's been working much better to move it to the mornings after breakfast and make it an everyone-pitch-in affair, not forcing the kids but requesting.

Mikko's been diligent about it, surprising me, I'll confess. He dislikes being told what to do, even more than most people do, but he will do what works well for his age: picking up toys and bits of detritus, scooping litter boxes, putting away silverware, sweeping, and so on. Not all in one day! He'll work for maybe 10 minutes and then beg off, which is fine. He also volunteers to amuse Karsten for us, since that's a more stationary task, ha ha. The kid's a born babysitter; Karsten adores him.

Alrik's less easy to motivate to put things away, because he gets distracted by the play possibilities. That was one reason I resisted moving cleaning to the top of the day, putting away toys and projects then — it seemed like making your bed right before going to sleep. But it's actually a great way to reset the space for new projects to come out, so I really appreciate it when we do it. (We're not at every day yet!) Anyhow, I do a mix of letting Alrik entertain himself as he wishes and giving him very specific and intriguing tasks: fill up this basket with fresh toilet paper rolls, put baby Karsten's shirts on his shelf, fling the feather toy around for the kitties.

There's always laundry. That's my actual mantra, when I get anxious that something got dirty just after I ran a load. Don't worry, I'll tell myself, there's another load soon on the way.

Sam leaves for work, and I take over care of the kiddos for the day. Since Sam now handles the lion's share of the work in our family business (selling DVDs) but we both need time to write as well, we decided on 4 days with the kids for me while Sam works, 2 days for me to work while Sam is the parent in charge, and a blissful Family Day each week where we do something (or nothing!) all together. A lot of our work is done at home still, with the at-work parent hiding from the kids with varying degrees of success, but Sam does now have a teensy work loft down the street where the messier bits of inventory can be stored. With Karsten so young, I currently have to stay home to work — he's proven reluctant to take a bottle, which is fine for our situation. Before he was born and as his age will permit in the future, I sometimes head off with my laptop somewhere distraction-free like a coffee shop. Besides our kid-free work hours, Sam and I will fit in tasks here and there as we have opportunity, as all work-at-homers seem to do, but I try to concentrate on the kids as much as possible when I have my time with them.

And what does this have to do with toast? It's Mikko's and Alrik's current fave. White toast with butter. Hey, at least the butter's grass-fed. I handle the food requests and transition us into our day together.

Which, with a baby, means a lot of taking breaks from the older boys to tend to a little one. Did I say little? Check out those 6(00)-pack abs! He's up to 23 pounds. I just had to buy a new round of extra-large diaper covers because we didn't have enough that fit him.

With luck, I get Karsten back to sleep for his morning nap immediately and then stealthily untangle myself from the bed, so I can spend the time with his brothers.

That is not usually what happens.

But, hey, they're this age only once, and the big boys are coping. Mikko is mastering all the Skylanders games (he's impressively good!), and Alrik plays with his Power Rangers and My Little Ponies and Play-Doh and kinetic sand. Meanwhile, I can sneak in a bit of work (like writing this here blog post) while Karsten sleeps and I'm attached.

Once I can emerge, I try to have planned one to three particular projects per day to do with the other boys. We're unschooling, but I felt myself fearing a slip into unparenting during what was sometimes a rough pregnancy and then the chaotic newborn period. I wanted to feel more intentional and balanced in what we do for homeschooling, especially as we have our last "practice" year before Mikko officially enters the system as a homeschooler next year at age 8. So, where I think people who are overly structured might need to tear down their schedules and planning, I needed to build some back up to feel like we were in the right place. I think this is going really well so far, and will get easier (I expect) as Karsten grows.

I'll admit it's still a bit frustrating right now, being continually interrupted and trying to adapt my attention to such a wide range of ages. Apparently I should not apply to the position of one-room schoolmarm anytime soon. But I try to manage, while conserving my energy lugging this chunka-chunka around! I wore Karsten for a bit, but at some point in the next photo span, I had to take a break to bring him up for his next nap. (This happens a lot.)

Today we did a science demonstration of the reaction between silver sulfide and aluminum. Bonus: My silver jewelry had its tarnish removed!

Mikko was having so much fun with the ingredients that we were working with that we did an impromptu bowl volcano. That's a thing.

Take baking soda and food coloring and add vinegar. We've got another chemical reaction on our hands!

They were insatiable, so we made our own deodorizing discs, with baking soda, essential oils, water, and food coloring for kicks. And you know Mikko added in some vinegar and salt because they were out. He's a born experimenter.

Ta da! I smoothed them out, and then we let them dry.

Someone's awake again!

But not happy. Let's see if we can distract him.

Brothers help.

My next plan was to go outside for a walk and to play on the beach, but my camera was full. No problem, right? Download the photos, and off we go. Uh…my computer didn't get the message. The software wouldn't work, and then the newly downloaded software wouldn't work, and then the baby needed a nap (all dressed in his bunting and ready to head outside), and then the photos finally started downloading but slooooowly. How could I take day-in-the-life pictures without a camera! Argh!

So Mikko chilled out with some more video gaming while I cursed the technology in my life.

Alrik continued his regular schedule of play, play, and more play.

This little goober went to sleep.

And when he woke up, a big brother was there to greet him with lots of interesting toys.

I caught up a bit on my homeschooling blog. I've made it private for now, because I'm not sure whether to share it or not — it's basically a record of all the things we do each day, for (a) using for our yearly teacher evaluations (one of the options in our state as far as homeschooling regulations go — it's that or standardized testing), (b) having a portfolio if we need to reconstruct a transcript for entering formal schooling (whether as children or for college), and (c) keeping track for our own memory-making. I'm categorizing everything we do by the subjects required by the state (plus a few more I like) and tagging it with the grade levels the kids are at. Would anyone be interested in reading a blog like that, as a resource for how to do or keep records for an unschooling approach to homeschooling?

For fun, here's a collage of some of the many things we've done just in the past couple months:

Some highlights: making Valentines and sending to family / Life of Fred / blanket forts / flubber / science & history videos on YouTube / boxes from Green Kids Crafts & Kiwi Crate / German CD from the library / weekly class at the homeschooling co-op / board games / Handwriting Without Tears / drawing, cutting, & pasting / Hidden Pictures / tablet games … oh, and there might have been some baby care thrown in here & there by everyone!

As I mentioned before, take 1-3 of the activities and put them into our typical schedule, and you get a representative day around here.

It's just as well my camera was off limits for awhile. Mikko was done with having his picture taken by then, anyway.

Not this dude, though. Here he's showing off my solicitude in bringing him his favorite drink.

Welp, Sam was home now, and the photos still weren't downloaded. Time for dinner! First, though, Karsten woke up and pooped all over the bed and me. I actually did take a phone photo of the aftermath to share with Sam, but I'll spare you. Pre-dinner is kind of a free-for-all as Sam cooks and the rest of us do whatever.

I didn't take a photo of our meal that night, but here's a good, repeated one from the month: pork strips with Sam-created sauce and mashed cauliflower with cheddar and chives. The kids eat … whatever again. Toast or what have you. (They're so weird.)

The kitties alternate stalking us and running around like hooligans until they also are fed.

Then the crowd moves upstairs. Right now, the three big boys are sleeping in the Boy Room, and Karsten and I are in the big bed (a king size mattress on the floor) all by our lonesomes. It's working out well this way, because then Karsten doesn't wake anyone else throughout the night (you know, except me) and we can safely and relatively comfortably (my back!) cosleep. Mikko's insistent he's moving back in once he's given the green light, but he's been enjoying his loft for now. Alrik's perching in it in this picture. He likes to climb.

Alrik and Sam sleep on the double mattress down under the loft (except on occasion when Sam sleeps next to Mikko on request). I hand Karsten to them as they snuggle for story time and I get ready for the night myself.

I didn't have a picture of this from the day of, but one thing I do is go downstairs to read a book with Mikko. You can see what we're in the middle of right now! (Nope, he's still not posing.)

Mikko and I give Alrik and Sam a chance to fall asleep while I get Karsten down for the count (for awhile).

Then I help Mikko get upstairs with his laptop to watch a few videos before falling asleep. I fetch him his toothbrush and flosser and a glass of water that I'm fairly certain he never drinks but unfailingly requests. (Still not posing.)

Ha ha, caught him! I go back to my bed next to Karsten and do some more work on my blog and my writing (this post is being finished close to midnight, for instance), and nurse the baby back down when he wakes. I often have a little nighttime snack as well. Eventually, I extricate myself and get ready for beddy, making sure Mikko closes his computer and goes to sleep. (He likes to fake me out by quickly turning off the screen light as he hears my footsteps. I'm on to you, kid!)

I snuggle next to a sleeping baby who almost immediately awakes and demands that I nurse him into the night. So it goes! It's nice, though.

And that's our family's day-to-day life right now. What is yours like?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 10 with all the carnival links.)


stoneageparent said...

Thanks for sharing. It has answered some of my questions about how you juggle being a mum who homeschools and works from home. I would be interested in your homeschool blog, a good idea to record what you do and keep a kind of portfolio of it all.

survivingmexico.com said...

It's nice to see how you and your husband can co-parent and co-work!

Jessica said...

Wow, what a full day! Thanks for so much info and photos. I love looking into other people's lives! But I still don't understand how you get so much done!
So you are grain-free but the kids are not? Are you okay with the different eating styles or would you like to move more toward family meals? I prioritize meals but we also have different sets of food since I have so many restrictions.

Holly Scudero said...

You make it all look so easy! (I'm sure it's not, but you make it look that way!) Your kids are lovely and it looks like the way you handle (un)school is working great for them. I know I would definitely be interested in your homeschooling blog, since I'm planning to eventually go that route myself. And the kitties are adorable! I should have put a picture of mine in my post. :) Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your life with us!

marijasmits said...

Wow! What a super-busy day. I think it's always fascinating finding out what people do in their "everyday". I think it's also a really useful reminder (to me) as to how challenging it is to mother three at different ages and stages (that's when I sometimes feel like maybe we should have had 3 rather than sticking with the 2)! I am totally in awe of all that you do. Thanks for sharing.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

You've been waiting all year for this topic, haven't you ;)
What is Mikko sleeping in? Is that a tent?

Lauren Wayne said...

@Jessica: When we first went grain-free, we tried to get our oldest on board, and it backfired. All he wanted, then, was grains grains grains, and he'd beg all day and refuse to eat anything else. He's very, um … persistent. Everyone was miserable, so we backed off and let him go back to eating how he wanted (which is what I call the All White Food Diet — any white bread, pasta, chicken, etc.). Our middle child eats more of a variety but will obviously eat grains, too, if they're in the house. So we keep a small amount of grains for them and are leaving it up to them right now what they eat. We do make suggestions, especially for the middle child, who otherwise seems to forget to eat.

I had a desire to do family meals and a sense that they were required somehow (it's how I grew up, and I know its importance in most families), but it wasn't working for our family. Finally, I looked at the fact: All 5 of us were together most days for a lot more hours than other families where one or more parents work outside the home or kids go to school. I stopped worrying so much about whether we had a mythical family-meal time when we have so much together time as it is. We do have opportunities to model table manners and such when we eat out or at other people's houses, and otherwise we all just relax at home while we eat.

So, yeah, I'm in a weird predicament where I'm satisfied at the moment with how we're handling eating in our own home but I would never recommend that another family adapt our style. ;) It doesn't really fit the rules, but it's working for us.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Dionna @ Code Name: Mama: It's the famed IKEA Kura loft bed with canopy. :) From the response I get every time I mention it, I seriously thought everyone had one, ha ha! http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20257589/ It's very cozy. Ours is the older blue color.

All Natural Katie said...

What a full day, but so full of love and fun! I love reading about your unschooling adventures!

Emily Reviews said...

I'd love to see your unschooling blog be made public. I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around how unschooling really works in real life on a day to day basis.

LB Present said...

Wow! There's so much going on in a day for you all. From the constant baby caring for to the constant attention dividing between all the boys, I'm amazed you don't somehow need a nap...or probably you do, you just didn't mention it.

BTW, I'd really love to see your unschooling journal. I don't really yet know how to go about unschooling, though I somehow think that'll be what works best for us, versus a structured homeschool curriculum (or mix of curriculums). Besides, I love learning how others do things, looking for ideas to implement in our lives.

Nonetheless, thanks so much for sharing your days! :)

Donna DeForbes said...

Wow, what a day! I'm amazed you found time to document and write a longer post with the 3 boys around. Love your nursing and co-sleeping pix (I'm remembering those days fondly) and love the breakfast in bed every day idea.

I'm the kind of person who needs more structure in her home life, but I really enjoyed the glimpse into unschooling and a larger family (I doubt I could handle more than 1 child myself!). Thanks for sharing!

paganista said...

Busy Mama! I'd love to see your unschooling blog, I'm schooling my two at home as well, and new ideas are always welcome.

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