Today we’ve headed off to Canada to talk with Tammy Barclay of Marching To A Different Drummer. Tammy, a military spouse, homeschools a whole household, keeps super busy, and has some great chore charts you’re going to want to take a look.
Tammy is also a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew this year with me and I thought it would be nice to get a glimpse into her home and life and find out how she homeschools.
Kemi: Tell us a little bit about your children’s ages and grades?
Tammy: I have 6 children. 4 boys and 2 girls. Evan is 13 and in Grade 8, Meagan is 11 and in Grade 6, Nolan is almost 10 and in Grade 5. Amy is our 7 year old and she is in Grade 2, Adam is 5 and in Kindergarten and David is an active and fun loving 3 yr old.
Kemi: What homeschooling method do you use?
Tammy: We’re eclectic homeschoolers who are strongly influenced by Charlotte Mason, lean heavily on unit studies and are fairly relaxed in our overall structure. I find we really love hands on learning here as well.
Kemi: Can you give us a peek into your typical homeschool day?
Tammy: We aren’t great morning people, so now that it’s darker in the mornings with the much shorter days of winter (we live in Canada) everyone tends to sleep in. I don’t have a set time I wake everyone so they get up when they’re ready and we often don’t eat breakfast until close to 9 on most days. After breakfast the kids go and do their morning jobs (get dressed, tidy rooms, teeth and hair, etc.) and then we start our school day.
I’ve created both a “morning jobs” chart and a “school chart” for the children as a visual aid for what they need to do in an average day but let them choose the order (for the most part) that they make their way through the subjects.
Adam and Amy do a lot of their work in workbooks and usually sit at our kitchen table with me for that. Both of them are usually “finished school” in about an hour on a typical day. I don’t require them to do much with us for history at this stage so once they’re done their main subjects they usually go and play.
The older 3 children are all using Teaching Textbooks for math so while I’m working with the younger kids at the table, they get their math done and any other independent work they can while waiting for me.
We are using Diana Waring’s History Revealed for our history studies and I love to do that with them! Most of the rest of their subjects are done through the history study.
For reading they choose books that we have from the unit’s reading list or find some from the library. Their daily writing is usually working through one of the history assignments they can choose from the unit. Spelling varies depending on which child. They all have different preferences so every one of them is doing something different for spelling.
After our core work is done (most days they could easily have this done in a couple of hours, they have free time to do any independent learning that interests them. It could be something related to history or something completely different. Evan has been studying robotics this year with a Lego Mindstorm kit we purchased for school. Nolan has an interest in science and often works through is chemistry set trying different experiments or, more recently, has been learning computer science and coding through www.hourofcode.org and also through www.schoolteachers.com which has a great computer science course that has piqued his curiosity. Meagan is an avid artist and crafter and in her free time is often found working on drawing skills, learning to sew something new or reading books on crafting and art. She has recently discovered several courses on www.schoolteachers.com as well, like Artistic Techniques and Play Writing that she has been exploring.
Since David, our 3 year old, is our “wild card” in the daily routine, sometimes we need to be flexible and change things up to bless him as well. Some days he’ll play on his own really well for a little bit. If he’s having a day where he really wants people to play with, I will often rotate the kids giving them a “David break” where they can go and play with him for 15 minutes or so, then I’ll send someone else to take over. It’s a blessing to David and it’s a help for the rest of us who are trying to finish up school work. Once Adam and Amy are finished they’re usually very happy to go and play with David while I finish up school with the older 3 children.
Chores are also (supposed to be) part of our school day, although if I’m honest we aren’t as consistent as I’d like to be. But I’ll share more on that in a minute.
The late afternoon is time for them to go and play with friends or have some down time while I get supper (sometimes with the help of an assistant chef). After dinner there are a couple nights where we have evening activities, but whenever possible, our days end with read aloud stories. Usually my husband will take the younger boys (Adam and David) upstairs to read them bedtime stories and tuck them in and I’ll read novels to the other children as a group. Since they are often historical fiction, this is often where Amy gets her history studies in. Sometimes the book compliments our unit study and sometimes is just something for fun.
Kemi: We love to see where homeschooling happens. Can you give us a peek into your homeschool room?
Tammy: Our homeschooling happens all over the house since we don’t have the space to have a dedicated room, which makes managing the clutter and mess all the more difficult, unfortunately.
Kemi: So you know that Homemaking Organized is all about homemaking or the details of home. We love to find out how others keep their homes. Can you tell us about your own homekeeping and how you manage to fit it in with homeschool?
Tammy: Caring for the house is *supposed* to be a group effort. I’m not very consistent with tasking the whole family with this but I’m working on it. This year I’ve started using this chart to help keep us on track.
Each day the plan is for each of us to clean one area of the house (the younger 2 boys are to work with me for training). I recognize that the other kids will all have different skill levels so I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect effort and progress. With this plan, I end up cleaning each area once a week as well, which gives me the peace of mind knowing that it got done well at least one time that week 😉 Also, if we keep it up all week, the house doesn’t get very cluttered in between and is easier to maintain. It’s when we have a crazy, busy week and get off schedule that it gets nasty and takes us much longer to do. Slowly my children are seeing the wisdom in this method and we’re making better progress sticking to it.
While I really enjoy cooking, I don’t like the stress of not planning my meals ahead of time. If I wait until 4 pm to start thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner it makes for a cranky momma!! I’ve been working harder at planning my meals and getting back into the habit of freezer cooking which I used to do all the time and then somewhere along the line slipped out of the habit. I’ve created a meal planning pack as a subscriber freebie over on my site and you’re welcome to it, if you think it will help your days run a little smoother as well. (Subscribe to Tammy’s email list and get a FREE copy of her Meal Planning pack!)
I also really love to use freezer cooking to help with my planning and make the days less stressful. Pampered Chef has started doing Dinners Done workshops in which we help customers to put together 10-20 meals at a time in a 2-3 hour workshop and these have been a great help for me! Not only do I love to offer these workshops as part of my Pampered Chef business but it’s helped to inspire me to get back into the habit of putting meals in the freezer again and that is such a help on busy nights.
Kemi: Do you have anything else that you would like to share?
Tammy: Being a military family and having my husband recently diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), one of my new passions is to help break the silence that surrounds mental illnesses and injuries and make it easier for people to talk about and get the help for these treatable issues. I blog about our journey with PTSD with the hope of giving others support and the courage to speak up if they need help dealing with some of these issues themselves.
Tammy is Canadian military wife, married 16 yrs to Gerry who is an army medic and her very best friend. She is a daughter of the King, a fun-loving mom of 6 great kids, and a serious chocoholic. Tammy is passionate about encouraging others and strengthening families. She is a life long learner, and loves to create.