Struggling to “Do it All”

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  • Singing2Hymn

    So, I know that no one can really “do it all,” but I’m struggling to even do the basics some days, let alone all of the beautiful enrichment subjects that “should” be part of a CM education.  I am an artsy person by nature – art, music, poetry, foreign language…. they speak to my heart and I would want them to be a part of our homeschool even if we weren’t CMers. But I have 5 children (all girls) ages 1-9.

    – My 9yo is on the autism spectrum and while she is moderately high functioning, she still needs a lot of hand holding and one-on-one time and is also not shy in vocalizing her general dislike of school. No matter how hard I try- scheduling, curriculum, breaks, games- she just doesn’t like school.  This breaks my heart because one of my deepest desires is for them to enjoy learning and for this whole thing to be a bonding experience.

    – My 7 yo is also on the autism spectrum and is very high functioning (more like what you would think of as Aspergers). Although she is bright, she struggles to handle her emotions more than the typical child and so I have to be very careful not to push.  Any bit of overwhelm and it is tantrum/meltdown city coupled with a complete refusal to do any more work. She reads well and is the most self-sufficient of my school ages kids, but I think she feels left out sometimes from getting one-on-one time with me and even if she can READ instructions, it often doesn’t mean she can understand what she is supposed to do on her own.

    – My 5 yo has been slower than my older two to read well, which is totally fine, but she obviously can’t do much independently because she can’t read the instructions yet and I don’t expect her to. So she needs a lot of one-on-one time just by being 5 and still working on learning to read.

    – In addition, I have a 3 yo who is very demanding and a baby who just turned 1.  The 3yo is  very social and curious, which is normally a good thing, but makes school time challenging.  With 3 older sisters who need one-on-one time during school time and with a baby sister who obviously needs a lot of attention, she is frequently being asked to “hold on,” “wait a minute,” “find something to do,” “go play outside,” “go play in your room,” etc. and she clearly feels a little neglected.  She just wants to either have someone play with her or to be able to do school like the big kids, but Mama doesn’t have a lot of time to do anything like that.  Mama is stretched super thin already. Being left on her own too long usually results in things like the sink overflowing and flooding the bathroom or something important being cut to pieces. And the baby is demanding in perfectly age-appropriate ways, but ways that pull my attention and resources nonetheless.

    So here I am, with 5 children who are all still very young and still need a lot of one-on-one time.  My three school aged children, factoring in their various special needs, are all functioning at about a 6-7yo level, plus a baby and toddler.  Just fitting in the basics of Bible/scripture and read-aloud for the group, plus math, handwriting, and language arts for 3 kids (plus the frequent, if not constant, interruptions of babies and pre-schoolers) is taking us 3-4 hours.  And then if we try to do history, science or geography, we’re looking at a minimum of a 4 hour school day, and that’s not counting the things that speak to my heart- the music, poetry, art, foreign language, etc.

    I keep hearing/reading about how “it’s only 5 minutes a day” and “how to be finished with lessons by lunchtime” and how with a CM education you can basically do it all because the  lessons are short.  But it’s never 5 minutes with my children.  They can take something as simple as reciting one verse of Scripture and make it take 10 minutes. It’s never done by lunch no matter how many things I cut out or how early we start. It rarely feels like we just enjoy learning and being together. I have been a CMer for about 4 years and while I don’t know everything she says, I feel pretty comfortable with understanding a CM education.

    After all this (the last 4 years but also the book I just wrote ^above^) I am wondering if there are times when you just have to let the extras go? Do I just need to do a minimalist year or two where we just do our math, LA, and bible, and try to squeeze in history and science when we have time? Why isn’t the CM atmosphere coming through? Why does it feel so impossible? I love CM, I love homeschooling, and I love my children. But I feel alone and defeated, and even a little bit deceived, like somehow I was led to believe I could expect certain things that are actually not possible. Can anyone offer some practical advice?


    Please come to terms with letting some things go!!  Here is my practical advice:  Keep Scripture, Read alouds, Math, Language Arts.  Be sure your Language Arts are kept simple.  SCM is ideal for this!

    Then try 1 content subject and 1 enrichment subject per day.  That’s it!  But if that’s too much, I firmly believe that what you already have is just great!  Especially at the stage of life you are in.  So much is covered through Scripture and Literature.  You could do history or science readings during summer or winter breaks.

    I also have 5.  You are in the hardest stage in my opinion.  It will get better.  You can do more later.

    Here is how we broke it up at that stage:  We did language arts and math in the morning.  Right after lunch we did an enrichment or content subject. But very short and sweet. Mandatory naptime/quiet follows.  You could play classical music and have them trace maps during that time.  Hymns and scripture memory were done after dinner with Dad included, only taking the briefest of few minutes.  Literature read aloud was done before bed.  Use SCM Picture Portfolios and display the art prints around the house.  Minimal discussion at this point other than the name of the artist and title of the print. Keep the weekends for nature study, but KEEP IT SIMPLE. 🙂

    I am a HUGE believer in Less is More!  Your relationships with your children and their walk with God and covering the basics is what matters right now.  As well as your health and wellness.  I’m always willing to chat more about these things.


    My heart goes out to you, Singing.  You are one blessed, busy, dedicated mom!

    I have not been in your situation, except for having all daughters, but mine are now 27, 22, and going-on-12, so I didn’t have the close age range that you have. I have always been aware of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy but didn’t educate according to it with my older two, and have done so only sketchily with my youngest. But I have some thoughts on adding riches, so maybe something will strike a chord with you.

    Like you, I love the arts and the riches, and I think you can add these to your days fairly easily and still enjoy them, without making them school subjects or burdens. I know that’s easy for me to say when I’m not in your shoes, but here are some things you can try:

    * If you have a good public radio classical station, turn it on and let it play throughout the day, or even for just a short time during the day if having music on is overstimulating or irritating to your daughters on the autism spectrum. This is the number one way my daughters have become familiar with and fond of classical music and composers, even though I have rarely done a composer study as such. We are a musical family and both of my older daughters played musical instruments, several of them in the case of my oldest. Then along came my third who has almost ZERO interest in playing an instrument. Yet she still has familiarity and enjoyment of classical music, partly because of listening to our local station, partly because of my next suggestion.

    * Pick up at least the first “Beethoven’s Wig” CD. (or stream it on a device. I’m old, so we have CDs, haha!) These are the silliest things you’ll ever listen to and maybe they’ll drive you or your kids nuts, but if they don’t, they are weirdly addictive and educational. Also, if you can find the Classical Kids CDs (I think that’s what they’re called?) that tell fictional stories about composers using narration and lots of music, these are excellent. “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” is one of these, and there are several others. Also, classical music composed especially for kids, like Peter and the Wolf or Carnival of the Animals, is really enjoyable. One way I have connected my childhood with my daughters’ is by playing them Peter and the Wolf, only when I was a kid we listened on LP record!

    * Don’t limit yourself to classical music.  Listen to all different types of music that you enjoy. We are lovers of world music, and if you listen to a variety of music from other countries, you will also give your kids a taste of languages other than English. This has been a very rich source of education in our house. I grew up listening to lots of jazz music because it was my dad’s favorite, so my kids have also. You get the idea.

    * Find a book of poetry you like and read a poem during a meal now and then, or at some time when the girls are otherwise occupied. Sitting by the tub while a kid bathes?  Read her a poem. Waiting for a kid to fall asleep?  Read her a poem. It doesn’t have to be a long poem or a complicated one.

    * If you spend time driving, listen to music, audio books or poetry.

    * Choose a piece of art, print it out or buy a print, and hang it where you and your girls will see it frequently. Change it whenever you can.  Look at it when you want to, notice what you notice, discuss if you want to.

    These are just a few thoughts. Again, my heart goes out to you. You are managing a lot of little people with a lot of complex needs, and you definitely don’t need One More Thing to do. It’s easy for me to make suggestions, but they may sound completely unrealistic for your particular family, especially with a daughter who tends towards overstimulation and melt-downs. So take everything I say with a grain of salt.

    I tend to be a “big picture” person rather than a detail person, almost to a fault sometimes. It has always been easier and more appealing for me to educate using time and immersion than structured segments, even when those segments are only supposed to take five minutes a week. Because let’s face it, they always take longer than you think they will, because you’re simultaneously feeding the baby, swatting a fly, ignoring the phone ringing and talking one girl or another off a ledge (that has been my experience, even though my girls are not on the autism spectrum).

    So, I would encourage you not to think of the riches as a requirement that must be done in a certain way at a certain time or frequency. And above all, do what it takes in your own heart to keep you from expecting a certain outcome. As far as it is possible for you, make the riches a pulse in the rhythm of the day rather than a main melody. Add in one (maybe the background music?) and then, after that is established, another. And even if you don’t add another for a whole year or more, you still will have added one. Then let time do its work. Over time, the riches become richer while you don’t necessarily see it happening.  It sneaks up on you in the best possible way. I have found that true with parenting, too, even in the midst of the worst possible days, months, years, but that’s another post.

    Hang in there. You are doing important work! You are keeping people alive and loving them, and that’s no small thing.


    Agreeing with everything @alphabetika said!


    We have 4 going on 5 under 10. I strughle to get it all done too. I am really making sure we have only 1 curriculum per subject for next year. And make sure they are all as efficient as possible.

    We have switched math to something more streamlined (for us Kate Snows books and math mammoth depending on the age…several optioms here though). We had used RightStart, but it had so many parts and non essential lessons (mostly geometry) that it took forever.

    We also are switching to SCM spelling and grammar relying on oral narrations and transitioning to written ones for the older. Without trying to add “writing” as a seperate subject. There are other streamlined CM friendly LA programs also (we used MFW language lessons and liked them as well another option is Queens). LA is SO easy to over do on. I am trying to make sure we dont do that. (I do have one in All About Spelling due to dyslexic symptoms and will use Spelling Wisdom for copywork/ transcription practice. I set a 15 min timer for AAS and then we’re done period so it doesn’t drag out.)

    Combine everyone for science and use one of SCM 2 day a week sciences. We are using SCM history, but you could totally just read books aloud 3× a week for this.

    We also usually go till 2….I’m not sure how to be done by 12 with several rather un-self motivated kids either.

    Not sure if any of this resonates with you, but it’s what we have struggled with.


    As someone with special kids too I can say you have to play the cards you are dealt and live the life you have to it’s fullest. Your life won’t be found in a manual.

    CM has some fabulous helps (habits are huge, just exposure is huge,  and short lessons are great) but remember your children are individuals. Maybe you won’t get to do it all. Just make sure you do the most important things for them.

    Just listening to classical music while doing chores or sticking the portfolio art on the wall so you can chat about it at dinner or your husband can if you end up caring for the baby during dinner. I wouldn’t make them something you have to do for school when you are getting the basics done. My children tend to enjoy things more when there isn’t a “have to for school” mentality anyway.

    Character is number one. If you can encourage your child to do their best. Let them know you see them trying even if it doesn’t look like it to the rest of the world. Different things are harder for different kids and if they know you see their efforts and are on their team it goes a long when they are older.

    I don’t want to burden you with a super long post now but I just want to say life is messy.  I have a child who hates to read because it’s hard and yet it was pure enjoyment for many many years as we read stories every single morning. Ovaltine and stories was a staple he loved and received with joy until he was upper elementary and even then it was read alouds for breakfast but life doesn’t work like many promise, if you do X then Y will happen. Life is an adventure and results aren’t promised. I can make habits and earthquakes kick us out of our home or I suddenly have to move in with an elder until care can be found. School as never been as picture perfect as I would like.

    The important thing is to teach our kids how to live life. That means to choose the most important things, to care for ourselves, and to serve others through hard work. Sometimes hard work isn’t fun but that doesn’t mean it won’t bring joy or satisfaction.

    I have more thoughts but this is too long for now.



    I can not even express how grateful I am to all of you who have taken the time to respond to my post.  Seriously- tears in my eyes at being heard and understood above all else.  But also for the practical help.  I have quite a few things that I can use from all you have shared.  It helps to feel less alone by hearing from others in the throws of it right now and to also feel some discipling from those who have already come out on the other side.  I have very few homeschooling friends, let alone CMers, so I really just appreciate feeling a semblance of a community.  I will definitely be taking most of our enrichment subjects and not making them “school” anymore.  Just beautiful parts of life in our home instead. And I think the idea of spreading school out in small chunks throughout the day might work well for us too, rather than trying to cram it ALL in before lunch.  I feel lighter, like at least part of the burden has been lifted.  THANK YOU ALL!


    My children are lots older but I too have found some help in reading through these posts.  They’ve each one had a bit or more of something that stood out to me for our own schooling.

    Frogger, your post spoke volumes to me.  I have had life events hit one after the other and I would often get overwhelmed and feel that our ‘school’ was failing, but after awhile, my thoughts would be the same as what you shared, but it is just so good to hear someone else’s wisdom.  I struggle with writing and voicing my thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing


    What wonderful advice here. I have two children, and struggled when my second was born, while  homeschooling my first. It just took time and patience to get a schedule. And even then, life happens.

    I love what Alphabetica said concerning playing classical music. And, I second using a timer sometimes as Ruralmomma suggests. Froggers words about serving others touched my heart.

    I have a few ideas that might free you up a bit, without pressing you with too many words, here. Using sand to write their letters, names, or spelling words, building letters with macaroni noodles or dried beans. We have used dry erase markers to write letters and words on our windows. Reading to your kids while you snuggle and rock little ones is the best homeschool teaching a mother can do. Reading to your children takes them so far in Language Arts. It’s truly a gift.

    We sometimes use the Classical Kids cds for composer studies. They are so much fun, and we learn from them. Also, you can get a little easel to display a painting each week, even if you don’t spend too much time doing a formal art study. love the SCM picture study portfolios for this. Your children will see the art and it will become a part of their environment. They will form ideas and connections with it, whether you discuss it or not. Also the, “how to” draw books can be used for multiple ages for drawing. My 6 yr old draws along with my 11 yr old.

    I remember using books like Fun With Nature, and trying to get outdoors for science/nature, while have a little one. This year (5th grade) is the first year we have purchased a curriculum for science. I always used living books.

    We are learning Modern Hebrew, and when we started out I was all about keeping it simple. We used videos of the aleph bet, songs, and watched other videos to teach us simple words. I then worked in a writing program, Pimsleur cds, and aleph bet flash cards. In the fall we will progress with a more formal curriculum to take us a step beyond where we are. Baby steps, but purposeful and intentional steps.

    Blessings and prayers on your homeschool journey with five blessings!

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