Homeschooling Update: Three Months In

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Oh… homeschooling.

I know that a lot of you have been waiting for an update and the God’s honest truth is that I have had a draft sitting in my files for two months now. I meant to do a two month update and now I’m late on the three months in, but heck, I’m going for it anyway.

We’re doing ok.

Sure, I could pretend that everything is peachy keen, that every day is full of sunshine, roses and unicorns, because I’m a crunchy granola hipster mama trying to homeschool her kids. Or something like that.

What I am, is a worn out, frazzled, full-time food/life/travel writer who has another job of working on her cookbook over the next year and was also crazy enough to homeschool her kids.

Oh, I’m tired. Perhaps December isn’t the best time of year for me to write about this, but why not. It’s a good glimpse into my life because I’m always honest with you.

This is what our kitchen table looks like when we are all working. The kids are downstairs with me and tackle their work while I also try to tackle mine. My own – excepting cookbook work- is a solid 4-5 hours a day, not including all the work that comes up in December and not including cooking/baking time. I try not to think about cooking time because I might cry if I think about how long my days are in actuality.

Enough whining from me on that subject, however, my point is that I have to try to get those 5 daily hours of writing and photo editing/taking time done while helping the kids homeschool.

young girl studying, kitchen table full of study materials and gadgets

And you know what, we’re doing ok. I could not, however, in any way, shape or form, do this without Mike working from home as well and helping with the school. He’s lucky enough that he has a writer for his websites, which helps out his workload immensely. Otherwise, we would be screwed. Completely.

Mike will take over when I need time to write and take photos and the kids will go upstairs to our computer area and work there.

dad helping his son doing homework at the study table

My kitchen looks like this FAR too often lately and I can’t work like this. I just can’t. I might have had a little teary meltdown last week when my kitchen was oh, three times worse than this?

I just cannot function like this. This is my workspace. This is my creative space. This makes me cry.

kitchen full of cooking ingredients
Luckily, I have Mike who has no problem cleaning up the kitchen for me so that I have sanity.

man holding a black trash bag and cleaning the kitchen

The curriculum we are doing is aligned with what they do in school and has me thinking that it looks good on paper, but doesn’t translate to real life. I look at the amount of paperwork in binders and think my kids never brought this amount home from school.  My daughters math binder is almost full, three months in. I NEVER saw this amount of work from them, from their school and that’s not including the fact that with homeschooling all tests, quizzes and even some assignments are online. I am really starting to wonder if this curriculum was just written out on paper and it “appeared” there was enough time to do it.

The warning bells went off when we were told that the schoolwork should take up the same time as an entire school day. Um, say what? No, it shouldn’t. Homeschooling is supposed to be faster because we aren’t dealing with disturbances from other kids, wasting 15 minutes settling kids in after recess, have one on one time instead of 27 on one etc. I know several homeschoolers and one of them – my mother’s teaching aide in her classroom – was done in two hours in the morning every day and she homeschooled 3 different grades. What’s happening here with this curriculum that homeschooling should take this long?

So to sum up, while I didn’t want to plan out the curriculum, I am not so sure that aligned and teacher planned was the best way to go. The supplies needed as well have had Mike and I raising our eyebrows – some of the experiment materials are a little crazy for Grade 4 and 6. Yes, we luckily get our allotment to purchase supplies, but I think if you planned it yourself you could streamline it SO much better. Sometimes I really feel that we are running in 6 different directions just to get the supplies for each day. There’s no list of what you need, you have to go ahead and read all of the upcoming  lessons. Pain in the …you get my drift.

My mom, who just retired from teaching, commented on the amount of work expected, and SHE taught 9 grades at the same time. It’s not just me.

However, the truth of it is, with the extra work this year of writing my book, I don’t have to time to plan out a curriculum. This is what we have to do.

family group picture with dad, mom, son, daughter and cute dog

I have also discovered that Monday’s suck. Oh my sweet Lord, Monday’s are the worst day of the week. Do teachers deal with this at school? The kids have no interest in getting back into a routine. I have threatened – with a grain of truth – to just homeschool them 7 days a week.

We suck at transition, that’s all there is to it. If any parental yelling is going to happen, it’s on a Monday. If there are tears over hating math, it’s going to happen on a Monday.

Mondays can bite me.

So after the complaining, there is a lot of good.

When there are good days, they are so good. So very good. To be honest there are way more good days than bad. My Rose is learning how to work on her own really well and when we have good days we are done by noon, usually. We manage to be done early enough most days that we have fit in rock climbing, gymnastics, piano lessons and Cubs/Scouts for the kids. They are getting enough socialization, to be sure.

young girl sipping from a box juice while studying and a book was in her head


We have travelled already to BC, visited the island and will be staying in Phoenix for three months this spring. I can’t wait. This is one of the main reasons that we homeschooled this year, to travel.

two kids holding hammer and doing some wood works

My kids have not been sick for months (touch wood!). No back to school colds, nothing. We are out ALL the time, germy grocery stores and malls, shopping centres, all cesspools of germs themselves, and my kids are around other kids during the week but obviously there is something about school classrooms that are beyond a breeding ground for germs. I have been amazed that we have travelled, shopped, gone on ferries, been worn out and tired from all of it and nobody has been sick.


So is it what I expected? Mostly. I didn’t think that there would be so much work involved because like I said, I based it on what I saw come home from school.  It also doesn’t match up with what I’ve learned from other homeschoolers. So if anyone out there can comment on what I see as a discrepancy in the amount of work, I would love to hear it!

Anything you want to know that I didn’t cover? Ask away!

I’m off to drink my wine for lunch, *


*hahah kidding. Sort of.

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. The Kitchen Magpie says

    Aw thanks Laura MacDonald! I know, it scares me what’s going on in the school system lately. We’ll see how much I screw up my own kids this year LOL!

  2. Laura MacDonald says

    I think it is awesome that you did this for your children! I work in emergency children’s mental health, and the amount of kids I see because of bullying I see saddens me. There are some schools that respond, and are proactive with bullying (unfortunately they seem to be in the minority). So many schools do nothing. I applaud you for taking matters into your hands!

  3. ShelleyJones1 says

    Thank you for posting about your homeschooling journey. After reading this…I’m extremely nervous to take it on. So torn. Clearly I have no advice, but it sounds like every homeschooling mom should be enrolled in the “Wine of the Day” club to be included with homeschooling supplies. 

    • thekitchenmagpie says

      ShelleyJones1 I’m not sure that aligned is the best way to go..that’s all. And remember I am also trying to write a cookbook at the same time LOL! Don’t get discouraged, hang in there while I see how the rest unfolds…. I obviously have to reassess after Christmas and take a hard look at things.

      • ShelleyJones1 says

        thekitchenmagpie ShelleyJones1 Your life is SO much busier than mine! I totally get that.  I can’t wait to hear how this all turns out for you, you seem to be doing so well with the added pressure on top of your regular responsibilities. I have a friend who is VERY seriously thinking about homeschooling, so I’ve sent her the link here. Right now I’m just toying with the idea. 🙂  PS…even without homeschooling I already need the “wine of the day” club. haha! Joking….kinda.

        • thekitchenmagpie says

          ShelleyJones1 OH no, I don’t want to come off like that lol, that I’m busier than anyone else!  It’s just that I want everyone to remember I have the added stress of working at home too so take my whining with a grain of salt! Or a cup of salt.

          I do know some parents who homeschool in the evening AFTER work, now that’s busy! I felt a little too complainy and whiny in the post, but hey, sometimes I guess I need to! I wouldn’t want anyone to be turned off of homeschooling though. However, I am always truthful, maybe too much sometimes….

          I also have Mike to help me otherwise it wouldn’t even be possible. What my goal is now is to get MR K working on his own which he has to learn, executive skills and planning aren’t really learned in school that well. Once we get there, I think that things will be better. 

  4. CarrieLenk says

    Aligned curriculum is a LOT of busy work, and a lot of work for mamma. I would jump ship on aligned and move to traditional if I were you. The other thing we learned was that we work best when we do a morning set up (ie we have breakfast and mamma goes off to do her thing and the kids have a morning box of things they can do on their own – included in this is Teaching Textbooks (math curriculum)- I love this so much I could cry!)  We do the Teaching Textbooks Curriculum and then go to the AB tests and get our kids to to them so they are familiar with the technology/types of questions and this works out beautifully for us- . Then we have a family break – maybe a snack,maybe we’re at lunch already and a bit of reading/outside time. After lunch we do one subject. ONE for the afternoon. So Monday is science and we have so much more time to get our stuff organized and get into the subject and we might do 2 or 3 experiments AND read a few chapters. (I LOVE apologia science books but I also love our aligned science curriculum – we are with school of hope and they do a really good job with an aligned curriculum that we just get in a box in August). The other nice thing about school of hope is that you could go blened- stay aligned for science and math (but buy and do teaching textbooks) and do your own LA and social. They send you a box for the subjects where you are aligned – you do not have to plan out anything! AND I didn’t see- do you use essential oils? We started really using them this year. Not a single sick day- we have kids who wake up with sore throats or cough and i start applying oils (diluted in coconut oil b/c all my kids are under 12) and apply and apply and apply all day (every 3 hours is needed)- switching up different oils (mostly Breathe/OnGuard and Frankinsense) and it is amazing – they simply don’t “get” really sick. !! This should be required for EVERY homeschooling mamma! (this is my website-!)

    All in all it sounds like you are doing a great job but *I * couldn’t keep this pace up without burning out (did you know burnout is a major problem for us homeschool mammas? ) . 

    I think that for them to spend 2 hours/day of independent work (including teaching textbooks) and then 2-3 hours of hands on core subject stuff (where you might need to be more hands on or at least available) would probably be sufficient each day. Have you tried the Telus World Of Science programs- they are amazing and cover 70% of the aligned science curriculum in one day!  

    The other thing that i’m learning is that chores are very important. Maybe the most important part. Afterall when our children are grown up they will quickly forget the facts and memory lines we teach them, but learning character and building character will be your greatest challenge and greatest reward. The first year we gave up on the house, the food, everything took a back seat to EDUCATION but then I realized that the reason we are here is for our FAMILY bond and so that I can help them grow to awesome PEOPLE. Real world stuff. That includes chores. Responsibilities. And some days we don’t get the school work done (except the morning box b/c they do that on their own every day rain or shine) but we do the family reading/bonding/researching/game playing or some days we have a chore day and do a deep clean and I don’t feel guilty b/c i know i’m teaching them lessons that will be with them for life! 

  5. Jody says

    Yup. As the other commenters said, you do not have to do every single thing the book suggested. When I first homeschooled, I aligned for the 1st year for 2 subjects only and I cannot imagine doing all of them as the paperwork alone was mental! I actually switched school boards as well because the pressure to align was annoying. Our homeschooling days became shorter and my last kid went back into mainstream this year and is far ahead of her peers (sort of a bad thing, but a good thing as well). My point is you don’t need all that time. By year 2 my kids were doing homework in the backyard up the tree. We taught them that sitting in a classroom doing heavy work isn’t always the best way to learn. If you have your kids help you cook (which I know is work in itself), you are teaching them math and science with measuring and chemistry. Use real life as learning.  In our 2nd year we utilized the library a lot and the kids were required to get quite a few non-fiction books as well. I strayed from mainstream curriculum because the work required was insane. We’d go over a lesson and they would do as many of the example questions as it took to reinforce the lesson, or they understood and then we’d move on. 

    You can switch at any time through the school year from what I understand as well. In First Class there’s a Writer’s portfolio that I would highly recommend if you decide to not align. It really helped my kids in their writing and keeping track of things (and ignore the rubrics, those are for teachers!). Also, as your kids age, unless you are Christian, you will find it very difficult to find any full curriculum in Science. 

    I could keep going!LOL! Cut yourself some slack. Your kids are learning, I promise, and you are not failing them.

    • thekitchenmagpie says

      @Jody Aw thanks! I appreciate the kind words! What I’m really getting here from everyone is that I am doing the “busy work” that is in the curriuclum and it’s what is taking up all my time. For example, we would do the experiment and talk about it but then there would be 2 pages of questions. I’m going to look at perhaps verbal questions instead of writing that takes up so much time…

  6. faithfilledchaos says

    Hi! First off, Congrats on deciding to homeschool. We have been homeschooling for 9 years so I thought I would try and answer your question about amounts of homework. There really isn’t an easy answer for it, sorry to say. It all depends on which curriculum you choose and what style of schooling you take on. Some people are worksheet kind of teachers and others are hands on project kind of teachers. It all depends. I will say that most curriculums that are based off being used in a classroom environment will have much longer lessons and have lots more work involved. The reason is so that a teacher can reach all the kids with all their different styles of learning. If you know your kid learns by hearing a lesson, then do you at home really need to have them write it all out after a lesson? If they are a kinesthetic learner (touch based) then you could tell them till you are blue in the face and they still will be struggling to understand. So why try and talk everything out? Give them something hands on so they can “get it” on their own. So my guess is that you are most likely doing all the activities listed for each lesson, when in fact you probably only need to do a couple. If you see that they are getting it, then move on. No test needed. At least that is my method. There are soooooo many curriculums out there made just for homeschoolers to help address this same question of yours. I would love to share with you more about what we use and help in any way I could to direct you to some better options, if it might help. Just let me know. :)

    • thekitchenmagpie says

      faithfilledchaos See are the binders to be handed in at the end of the year? That’s the part I’m not sure of, I want “complete” binders with no missing assignments. (maybe that’s my type A speaking. most likely) It makes sense that the lessons are longer so that they can teach all types of kids, but honestly, with the disruptive behaviours in BOTH of my kids classes last year I have a hard time believing that teachers were getting done what is expected of me to do. And they had great teachers, don’t get me wrong.

      We usually have one item to hand in for lessons but even if we don’t I still hesitate to not include all the exercises in their binders.. (again, type A much?)

      Thanks for the sage wisdom! 

      • Daisy says

        thekitchenmagpie What work you have to hand in really depends on the board you are with. They should have told you what you need to submit! 

        • thekitchenmagpie says

          @Daisy They do tell us what to hand in, it’s the other stuff that drives us crazy! SO much exercise work, which apparently is just filler or ‘”busy work” that would be used in the classroom to occupy the kids. Being my first time doing this I am learning SO much about homeschooling! 

      • faithfilledchaos says

        thekitchenmagpie Each State and Country has their own laws about homeschooling. I’m not sure where you are, so I really can’t answer your question. I know in my state, I have 3 options to either have a teacher review my kids work with me at the end of the year and have the teacher send a report of their findings in to the state, to send 3-4 samples for each subject for each kid to the state to be reviewed, or I have to have my kids participate in standardized testing and still send in samples of the other subjects that the test don’t cover for everything to be reviewed by the state. We opt for the teacher review. Then I can show our binders full of work and explain what we did better than a sample of work can. I also get great feedback from her on ways I can improve for the next year. Some states do not make you report anything. It all depends on your state/country. I keep all my kids work for the year in a binder. One 3 inch binder per kid. Maybe that will give you an idea of how much or not so much as the case may be, of paperwork my kids have completed by the end of any given year. If you message me what state/country you are in, I can get you the complete rules for your area sent to you. Just let me know. 🙂

        • thekitchenmagpie says

          faithfilledchaos Edmonton, Alberta Canada gal here! We have it pretty good in this province compared to others! 

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