Rooted in Rest: Charlotte Mason, Community, & Family Life with Abby Stone

rooted in rest abby stone homeschool conversations podcast

Abby Stone brings a grace-filled, joyful perspective to our Homeschool Conversation today! We discuss large-family logistics (how do we keep everyone fed, clothed, and educated?), Charlotte Mason homeschooling, finding local homeschool community, and the importance of keeping first things first. No matter what your homeschool philosophy, you’ll love her approach to learning. Listen in your favorite podcast player or read the full transcript below.

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Meet Abby Stone

Abby is a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling mom of five. Born in Chicago and raised in Miami, she currently lives in a small Florida beach town with her husband and children who love all things sunshine and sand. Abby has a passion for sharing authentic motherhood on her YouTube Channel, Rooted in Rest, where she hopes to encourage mothers in their journey as home educators.

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Amy Sloan: Hello, friends. Today I am joined by Abby Stone, who is a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschooling mom of five. Born in Chicago and raised in Miami, Abby currently lives in a small Florida beach town with her husband and children who love all things sunshine and sand. Abby has a passion for sharing authentic motherhood on her YouTube channel Rooted in Rest, where she hopes to encourage mothers in their journey as home educators. Abby, I am delighted to have you here today. Could you start by telling us a little bit more about yourself, your family, and how you guys got started homeschooling?

Abby Stone: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this. You basically covered most of my personal life there. If we’re not here at home homeschooling or at the dance studio, which is where my second home is for my daughters, we are usually at the beach or somewhere outside but that is actually a passion that has grown because of homeschooling. That wasn’t always necessarily a part of our family culture until nature study entered the picture. I always like to mention that because I think if you hear that somebody’s outdoorsy, you’re like, “Oh, we’re not the same person.” It really grew because of homeschooling. I just like to share that, that I have also reclaimed that part of my own education.

We are entering our 12th year of homeschooling, I believe, if you count preschool, which I do, because preschool is tough sometimes when you’re trying to get three-year-olds to hold pencils, and all that jazz. It’s about our 12th year, we have our oldest is a freshman in high school this year, which is wild. Our oldest is a daughter, and then we have two boys back-to-back. We have an entering seventh-grade son, and a fourth-grade son, and then, we also have a first-grade daughter and a little toddler running around here who keeps us on our toes.

Homeschooling as an extension of motherhood

When we started our home education journey, it was really because we had signed our oldest for the local private school for preschool because that’s what you do is to put them into preschool and that’s where it begins. Now it’s not kindergarten anymore, right? We were just doing what we thought was right for our family and I would pay the enrollment fee and everything. Then I took her school supply shopping and I just put the little backpack on her and I was like, “I can’t do it.” Something in me all of a sudden was just like, “I can’t.”

I hadn’t considered home education before that but I had that little part of my heart that knew I didn’t have to do this for preschool so I could wait till kindergarten. maybe I could teach her letter sounds at home and have her home for a couple more years. I told my husband, “I really don’t want to send her. I don’t know if I can do this. She’s so little. That backpack is so big. Can we please just try to do this at home? Preschool at home, I’m sure someone out there has done this before.” He was like, “Well, I guess it’s just preschool so if all else fails, there’s pre-K for next year,” kind of a thing.

By the end of that first year, our whole family had just adapted to the model of home education and we were just so much happier as a family unit and we never looked back. It was a good first year. I know there are usually a lot of struggles through that first year, especially if you have background in school and you bring your kids home and that can be a tough first year but we had a great first year because it just felt like an extension of my motherhood. I hadn’t ever sent my kids to school so it just felt like our same rhythms and routines that we were adding in some colors and letters and shapes and we never looked back.

Coincidentally, she will be on the varsity cheerleading team this year for that private school but we’re still homeschooling. She did make her way back there somehow. We’ve come full circle but I couldn’t put the backpack on her. I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, thank the Lord, we had some flexibility in time and so I didn’t feel pressured to go against my gut feeling.

Amy: I love hearing that story and I love how you said it was an extension of your motherhood. It felt like a natural progression in those early years, an extension of what you were already doing, this discipling and mothering that you were already doing. I hope that’s an encouragement to someone who’s maybe scared or thinking about homeschooling, and it feels overwhelming and they go on the internet and there’s all of the steps and the to-dos that they suddenly think they have to do, and you just really don’t, especially in those early years. You have time. I feel like if you’ve been able to figure out potty training, you can figure out anything.

Abby: 100%. I think that those earliest years are the harder ones and it just really, to me, it’s gotten easier from there. You think when you start homeschooling like, “Oh, we’re struggling with letter sounds, how am I ever going to be able to do middle or high school?” It’s like, “No, teaching these little–” I’ve heard the phrase unpracticed humans. “Teaching these little unpracticed humans how to do things in order is harder than getting a rhythm going and continuing on down the road.” Those preschool years, they can be tough but if you’re already doing bedtime routines and potty training, you are equipped, you’ve got it.

Growing into a Charlotte Mason approach to home education

Amy: Definitely. One of the things you said right at the beginning is interesting because you said that you weren’t naturally an outdoorsy person or weren’t already sort of an outdoor person, but you have grown through the process of homeschooling and now this is something that’s a big part of your family life. I’m wondering if there are other ways where your approach to home education or your thoughts about philosophy of education, in general, have grown and changed over the years?

Abby: Yes, I did that typical thing that most everyone does, which is brought a classroom into my home. We had the primary colored posters on the walls, and we had a schedule, and we set the pledge, and we did all the things. After six weeks, I had no consistency with all that anyway, so it didn’t quite fit our personalities, right from the get go. From those early years, when I thought it was all about the curriculum and all about the schedule, and just keeping 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we have definitely grown as a whole family in our expectations, and in what we consider to be worthy education.

I found the Charlotte Mason method fairly early on and it made so much sense to me, it felt most natural to the way we were already doing life. I definitely was a big believer in faith and family culture, being a building block of personhood, as well as good habits, and good self-discipline, and routines. Those were all things that have served me well in my life.

That made so much sense and just gave me so much relief, that those two things in themselves made up two-thirds of a child’s education, according to the philosophy. Then just enriching that with good books, and good text, and good ideas, and images, and just all of the things that are worthy of studying, just adding that into those things that I already considered to be of high value, really just made so much sense to me.

When I would say my daughter was around second grade when I found out about the Charlotte Mason method, and from that point on, we’ve just continued to grow the adults in our home and the children in our home, because even the idea of narration on Sundays after church, we narrate what we learned, and it’s just really has changed our whole family.

We’ve definitely grown. We’ve changed quite a bit through home education. I didn’t love nature naturally. I grew up in Chicago and Miami and so it was not a huge part of the way that I was educated.

I was always in a high academic environment. My parents would put me in those rigorous academic programs. In order to have more computer training or more writing practice they would throw me out of art classes and out of music classes and so I really entered into adulthood with very little understanding or appreciation for those things. It was one of the things I implemented last into our homeschool, was nature study and poet study because I was like, “Oh, I don’t know anything about this.” The way that it’s taught through the method of just exposing yourself to it versus teaching it taught me a lot about it as well and I really learned to enjoy it.

Now memorizing poetry along with my kids is one of my favorite parts of our school year. I have my own nature journal. They’ll come and ask me questions and I’m like, “Hold on, hold on this bird.” I love it as much as they love it and I love that. They’ve started their lives appreciating it because I can’t wait to see what that looks like when they’re adults. Yes, we’ve grown so much as an entire family just through home education.

History, it was my least favorite subject. It’s now my favorite subject. All those kinds of things that we all have, all the things we thought we couldn’t do, that we learned to do through home education and learned to appreciate ourselves, it’s just such a beautiful experience.

What Abby loves about homeschooling

Amy: I’m already hearing so much joy and delight, the things you love about homeschooling. Do you have anything else that’s your favorite thing or one thing that really stands out to you about homeschooling?

Abby: Yes. I definitely nature study. I know I mentioned that already. History, like I said, it was just something that I did not appreciate. It was taught in a dry way and now it’s something that you’ll hear– My kids will play games like they’re in history because it’s just something that has come alive in our home. Hand crafts, something that I never thought I would ever be able to teach to my kids, I’ve learned with them. Those have become some of my favorite things now to participate in with them and something that I think I will continue on even when our homeschooling days are over. I think there’s so many new things I’ve dabbled in for a year or two here or there with the kids that I’m like, “I can’t wait to explore this more.”

I told my husband last year that, I was like, “I would really like the homeschooling retreat where you just take the kids away for a week and I stay here and homeschool myself with all the things we have” because I really love our beeswax candles and I really love our watercolor kits. I just want to sit in the homeschool room and be a student myself. I want to read these books and do these things. It really is a beautiful thing when you customize it to your own family and you grow with it. I think it can be such a beautiful experience for both parents and children.

Amy: I love getting to still be all the learning nerd person, getting to read all the good books, and getting excited about the things we’re learning. Yes, I was thinking about that actually as our oldest graduated last spring and I still have a third grader, so I still have a ways to go in my homeschooling journey. I was thinking to myself, I was like, “Yes, when I retire from homeschooling, I’m going to have to find other kids who want to come over and do poetry with me.” Am I going to have morning time by myself? Maybe I can rope my husband in to doing it with me.

Abby: Your morning basket just for you.

Consistency and perseverance in difficult seasons of homeschooling

Amy: That’s right. Well, these are all really wonderful parts of homeschooling. I’m so thankful for these joyful things that we get to experience as moms, but there are some challenges that we all face. I always like asking moms, especially on this podcast, what are some of the challenges you face and how you’ve sought to overcome them because I think there can be this idea that we paint a rosy picture, especially on the internet, right? We come into an interview, we do a video, and it’s all like, “Look at these wonderful parts of homeschooling,” and those are true. It’s also helpful for people to know they’re not alone. What are some of the challenges that you guys have faced and how do you work through those challenges?

Abby: Yes, I completely agree. I think it can be really hard to only hear the good things when you’re in a difficult season. I’ve had my share of really tough seasons just outside of our home. Things affecting us at home. Then I just had struggles with consistency or motivation on my own, an internal struggle that affects our homeschool. I think that in both of those types of difficult seasons, my biggest challenge is taking myself seriously, trusting myself, trusting my own consistency and that I can do it and that if it’s not a Monday morning, start if it’s a Wednesday that we’re getting back on track, I can do it, I can trust myself.

I think that I want everything to fall into place perfectly. It’s like the whole analogy of, “I’ll start next Monday. I’ll start next Monday with working out or eating healthy.” It’s the same with homeschooling. I can fall into that rut of, “Oh, I bombed Monday and Tuesday. We’ll start fresh next week,” or “Are my kids going to take me seriously if I say on Wednesday that we’re starting a new book for the week,” or things like that? I can get in my own head and I can really sabotage the whole thing. It’s rarely the kids. It’s typically me when it comes down to our consistency or motivation.

My kids and most homeschooling kids, I would assume, have not known much else other than this and so it’s not really like they’re not motivated. I think that they know what the expectations are. My kids, at least, are very consistent on their own. If I’m not doing morning basket, I often find them finishing their independent work because they know there’s still work to be done. It’s usually me. It’s my motivation. To speak to that, I think to boil that down a little bit more, one of the bigger issues when it comes down to that is taking care of myself. Feeding myself, literally, physically feeding myself.

That’s one of our biggest problems in our whole homeschool is that I didn’t eat or I haven’t been eating or nourishing my body. Taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally, and just getting in a little exercise and sunshine, those are all things that I neglect first, thinking I need to meet these other needs. “We’ve got to get morning basket going. I’ve got to make some photocopies,” and yet when I’ve woken up and read my Bible and had some eggs, then our days run much more smoothly whether or not I’ve made a photocopy.

I think the biggest challenge lie there, with me, my motivation, how I’m feeling, and if I’m taking care of myself. It’s a struggle. It seems counterproductive sometimes to say, “We’re starting in an hour. Mom needs to go for a run and eat some breakfast,” but it really does change the whole day.

Amy: A little protein does a lot for Mom.

Abby: I know.

Amy: Sometimes I think, like you were saying, “Oh, will they take me seriously if we started on Wednesday instead of Monday?” or we get these weird ideas in our head, “Well, I bombed Monday, Tuesday, so I guess the rest of the week is a wash.” These weird stories we tell ourselves. I was talking to Cindy Rollins many years ago now, a previous guest on the podcast. One of the things she has said before is people will be trying to find this perfect book list. They want to read aloud just the right books, their kids, or whatever.

She’s like, “I just tell people pick up a book and just start reading it.” That’s the most important thing. Don’t get hung up by trying to start at the perfect time, or the right day of the week, or the right book, or the perfect curriculum, just pick something up and do it. I think that simple thing we actually do is so valuable. It’s so much better than trying to do something really fancy.

Abby: I agree completely.

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Finding community as a homeschool family

Amy: Well, Abby, what are some of the ways that you have found, you have a wide age range of kids like I do, what are some of the ways that you have found that you can really support community for yourself as mom and also for your kids?

Abby: Well, I will say a little– I’ll just throw this out there. At the beginning of this I have a really large homeschooling community in my town and so I just want to qualify what I say by sharing that first because it’s not hard to go very far in our town without finding a homeschooling group or homeschoolers. If you were to go to the playground around here, at any time of day during the week and you see kids, you can assume that they’re homeschooling families. We have a really large homeschooling community here but even with that, it’s finding the people who encourage you as a parent, who follow along in the same way that you do if you’re wanting to do community together consistently and not just have coffee or not just meet at the playground.

Early on, I was in a Sunday school class, and we had some young families in there and it was right after that whole story that I recently shared about pulling my daughter from the school and wanting to try preschool at home. We still hadn’t told anyone that that’s what our plan was. We were in a Sunday school class, and it was getting ready to be back to school and one of the moms said, “Oh, yes, well, we’re actually going to homeschool.” I remember looking at my husband like, “Can you hear they said they’re going to homeschool?”

Then another mom said, “Oh, you’re homeschooling?” We’re homeschooling too.” I was just like, “We’re homeschooling too.” Then it was just like all these families all of a sudden were like, “We are, we are, we are,” and so naturally we thought, “Well, we need to form a whole plan then,” because that’s what young homeschooling moms do, is they think we need a whole structure now to make things work.

We got together and we planned field trips, and park days, and themed holiday gatherings. “You’re going to take Valentine’s Day, and you’re going to take the Christmas party, and we have to have a craft and a snack,” and a da, da, da. That first year was very structured, but as years went on, we really just became support for one another. We got our kids together on a monthly basis and encouraged one another.

Even though we were all doing our own thing, we had a home base. We did that until our older kids all reached about middle school. That is when everybody picked a lane. I think it’s probably a fairly common thing to find community more easily when elementary schoolers are involved because once you get to middle and high school, you’ve got a plan and a purpose and a mission, and you’re going in a certain direction, and it’s really hard to adapt that to any other type of situation. You have a lot of CC, classical conversations home-schoolers, and we had some Charlotte Mason home-schoolers, and some kids who are pursuing dual enrollment, and some families who are going a very- like a back-up type of approach. We just couldn’t make our schedules work anymore, so we all went different directions.

While we’re all really close as moms still and our kids still hang out, there are some of them who are driving and so we’re approaching those days too, so our kids get together still and the moms are still in touch with one another, we no longer get together for history or we no longer get together for holiday parties now that they’re older. That was a wonderful season, but I did find myself at that same place again that I did at the beginning of our homeschooling journey, which was who are our people going to be in this season.

I started a Charlotte Mason co-op, a very simple, very relaxed enrichment type of co-ops so that it didn’t dictate our curriculum choices during the week. We only meet twice a month, and it’s just for things like book club and apologetics debates and things like that, very simple, enjoyable things that enrich what we’re already doing at home. That has grown over the last few years. I started that for middle and high schoolers, but if you have younger siblings, they’re welcome to join, and there’s something for them as well.

We really wanted to emphasize being a support for Charlotte Mason parents in middle and high school because I would say, and not to make this too Charlotte Mason of a podcast episode, but I would say that that’s a really tough season for a lot of Charlotte Mason families because you really have to be committed to the method especially when you get to middle and high school because that’s where you’re saying, “No, I don’t want to use a curriculum for this. I want to read a good book about this. No, I don’t want to have a textbook for this, we want to study this through living books.”

Jami Marstall Charlotte Mason Classical Education Homeschool

You get to a point where you’re like, “Oh man, this is where the rubber meets the road,” and so I wanted to create some kind of supportive community for those specific families who were in the middle and high school years. We started out with just five families, and now we’ve doubled. We’re going into our third year, and it’s growing. Each year, each month, we have new families visiting, and some of them just stay when they come visit.

It’s been really great, and I am now an advocate for if you don’t find what you’re looking for, then you can create it because I was going to change the way that we homeschool so we could find community. My husband was just like, “You know a couple of people, why don’t you just start something?” I was like, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

I think that you don’t have to change the way you’re doing things. Nobody has to tell you what to do when you’re homeschooling. That’s the beauty of home education, is you do what you know is best for your family. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always start something.

Amy: Do you have any videos or resources where you help people who might think, “Oh, this sounds great, but I don’t know where to start.” Have you?

Abby: I do. I do have two videos that I know for sure on my YouTube channel. One was called, I think it was called Tea Talk or Let’s Talk, and I started a co-op. Then I did, more recently, two years later, I did a follow-up on just the things we’ve tweaked over the years and as we’ve grown, how we’ve adapted.

Then there’s also, I don’t remember what the website’s called, but Simply Charlotte Mason, that company purchased the Charlotte Mason in a community website which was already a website where you could find other Charlotte Mason co-ops, but they brought it up to modern times and added new ones and took away some that weren’t meeting any longer. There is a website for that where you can find Charlotte Mason co-ops if you’re looking for one specifically to that method.

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Amy: Okay, great. Maybe I will look for those videos or if you can send me the links, I’ll include this in the show notes for the episode.

Logistics of Large Family Life

Let’s talk a little bit about the logistics of family life. If you have five children like I do, a fairly wide age range as I do, and that can be a joy and a challenge, both at the same time, often. What are some of your best strategies for meeting the needs of all of your children during the week? I think that’s one of the most common questions I hear, is how do you meet everyone’s needs when you’re homeschooling so many children with such a wide age range?

Abby: Great. First of all, you can’t. By the grace of God, everyone will be okay. I have a girlfriend who always says, “You won’t be so perfect a parent that your kids won’t need Jesus,” so that’s my motto. Grace will cover us there.

In a logistical way, I plan our school days to where I work with my younger kids, and my older kids are doing their independent work, and then we swap, and I have my younger kids doing their independent work, and then they’re just released to play, and I have a little bit longer to work with my older children.

We also have family-style learning, because that’s really important to me. That more meets my needs than theirs, but I need them all around the table still. We have a good system in play where we meet together. The older ones are dismissed to work on things while I work with my littles, and then we swap. We also have a baby in the house, so her needs trump all at any point in the day. That’s just how it works. When we adapt it year-to-year, month-to-month if need be, we’re always trying to tweak it to make it work best for everyone.

This current homeschooling year, we have something really fun going on, where I’m taking my older ones to a local coffee shop on Friday afternoons, and we’re sitting down and planning out their next week and giving them a little bit of control over their schedule, giving them some time to work independently out of the home. I think that that’s a good skill to have. I do a coffee shop with my laptop, and I’m so distracted. My husband works there all the time, and he’s able to focus. I think it’s a fun thing to teach them too. That also pulls them out and gives them a little something that they need as older kids as well.

Then, in an emotional way and just as a family, I found that my teenagers, and I’m sure you would agree with me here, need as much from me emotionally as my toddlers do. It’s a very important season to not neglect, especially if your kids are just agreeable. I have very agreeable older children who if I’m busy, and they want to talk, and I’m like, “Hold on. After I’m done doing the dishes, or after I’m done cooking,” they’ll be like, “Okay,” and then they won’t come back. They just know I was too busy. I don’t want to overlook this season, their needs in this season. It’s a lot of being stretched and being refined.

Similar to how it was when I had a few toddlers at the same time, it’s a lot of relying on grace and a lot of doing it with a lack of rest because everyone needs something and these ones more likely need you at 10:00 PM, and this one more likely needs you at 5:30 AM. It’s a lot of that. It’s a lot of allowing the Lord to sustain me working as a team with my husband and, again, back to my own needs, not neglecting myself and eating and getting my needs met. I also have to learn to advocate for myself and tell him like, “I’m really tired. Can you drive this kid to dance or karate? They just need to talk. They’re very chatty today, and I can tell they need someone. I can’t do it, can you?” Just being aware of all of those things because it’s very easy to overlook those types of needs.

Amy: I think it’s really interesting to see how the older children, you would think, “Oh, it’s easier.” They can buckle themselves. They’re so much more independent in so many ways, which is a joy, but then the discussions take every bit as much emotionally out of you. These are deeper issues a lot of times or deeper questions, and they don’t ever seem to happen right at the time where it fits into the schedule. I think it’s so important for us to remember that that’s why we’re doing this. This human, this soul, this eternal soul, this person that we love. That’s why we’re doing all of this. It’s not to check off our lists but to take those opportunities.

That doesn’t mean sometimes we can’t say to them, “This is really important and I need to have this conversation with you. I’m so glad you want to talk about it, and we’re going to have to reschedule it for another time.” That’s important too. Like you were saying, “Mom needs to eat.” Sometimes Mom needs to sleep because if I don’t go to sleep, you won’t have a very pleasant day tomorrow. Yes, it’s such a joy. I think that just prioritizing that relationship time is so important, yes.

Abby: You’re right, it doesn’t always happen at the right time of day. I’d even add to that, it seems to always happen at the wrong time of day. It’s when I’m cooking dinner, which is like the permanent witching hour that never goes away. I’m always frenzied at that time of day, or it’s after I’ve gotten everyone else to bed and I’m ready to be done for the day, but it’s like, “Hey, Mom, guess who said this at this point?” I’m like, “Oh, no. So what? Yes, I want watercolor with you right now at 11:00.” I was dreaming of that. It’s funny. It’s always the wrong time, but it’s always right on time because it’s what they need.

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Homeschooling with babies and toddlers

Amy: That’s right. That’s the day that God has given us. My baby is now eight, which just is crazy to me, but you still have little littles. You are homeschooling with babies and toddlers even now. It’s been a little while since I have been in that stage so I thought it would be good to talk about that issue too, or not issue, but that situation.

Amy: Imagine you’re talking to a mom who is tired and she feels like all she can do is feed the baby, get the diapers changed, keeping awake. Where’d the toddler go? What did they get into now? Then she’s looking around, thinking, “But I’m supposed to also be homeschooling these older kids.” What tips or encouragement would you have for that mom?

Abby: I think that it’s really important to balance flexibility with a little bit of self-discipline because you don’t know which of those two things you’ll need more of each day. I think sometimes you just need grace to cover the day, and you just need to say, “My kids are learning something even if it shifts what to expect when they have kids one day.” We’ll put on a documentary today, or they’ll go outside and play, or they’ll just get their chores done for the day and we will all make it through a day we haven’t slept together. We’ll put on some worship music and we’ll get through this day together.

Then there’s some days where, and I’m speaking of my own experience, where I have a few of those days in a row where it’s like, “Yes, the baby’s teething,” or blah, blah, blah, and then I’ll be like, “Wait, she’s actually not teething right now. Actually, I just have no motivation today.” Today we need to really be a little more disciplined and get things done and to recognize that those days you don’t know what each day is going to hold. It looks a little funny, some days you’re not doing much, and some days you’re like, “Today, there are no excuses. Today, we really should be getting some things done.”

Just to be aware of that, I know that I had a few years in a row of having babies and toddlers, and then we had more of a gap before our younger two. I had somebody come along and pluck me out of that season after a few years being like, “Well, one day we’ll do this. One day we’ll do that.” Then I was like, “Wait, we’re out of that season now.” I’m still in that season mentally, but we’re not really there. Then I also have the same friend who will say, “Hey, you need to be easier on yourself. You’re being really tough on yourself and you haven’t slept in a year.” You need good friends to edify and encourage you. You need to be aware of just what days need some grace and some extra rest and what days are like, “Okay, we’re going to get a reading lesson done today because we really do have a little bit of time to get that done right now.”

Again, like I said, I’ve done this a few times. We have our fifth right now who’s one, and my kids survived it. They’re doing just fine. There are ebbs and flows in a homeschooling year, or not even just in a homeschooling year, but across the whole experience as a whole. There are some seasons where you’re homeschooling really diligently and well and everything’s working out. There are some seasons where whether it’s because there’s a baby or a toddler or an illness or grief, we’re also in a grief season, you pause for a little bit and then you pick up again later.

I’ve seen my kids come out on the other side of those seasons and they’re doing just fine. It did not delay anything. They’re doing well. They’re right where I would want them to be, and they’re thriving and maybe thriving without a level of anxiety that comes from having to push through those harder seasons. They’ve learned to adapt. I think that as adults, they’ll have a good foundation and understanding for when to give themselves grace. If that’s all they learn in these baby and toddler years, and that’s good and enough for me.

Amy: Abby, one of the things I loved about what you were just saying is you weren’t saying, “Okay, now here are your three steps to successfully homeschooling with a baby and a toddler. Just everybody, check these boxes and you’ll be fine.” A lot of it, that’s just not the way life works. It was wisdom, discernment, being able to see, “Okay, this day we have this amount of energy or this opportunity, and this day we don’t,” being willing to be patient with ourselves, patient with our situations, but then relying on the grace of God as well in the lives of our children, to know that if we aren’t perfectly meeting every need, every day, that God is there meeting their needs every day.

Over the course of time, the bigger picture, maybe one day feels like a bit of a wash, but over the course of time when you have that perspective, you’re really able to do what needs to be done. I think that’s an encouragement because I think everybody wants this quick, easy fix, like, “How do I homeschool with a baby and a toddler, please? No, just give me the ticket, give me the pill, and I’ll just take that in the morning, drink it with my water, or with my breakfast and it’ll be fine,” and that’s just not the way it works.

Abby: No, no. No, it’s not. We want that with everything. How do I homeschool with this or with that or how do I homeschool– It’s grace. It’s grace and it’s Jesus sustaining us through all of the different seasons.

Amy: Oh, for sure. That’s why I tell my kids, Mom needs Jesus too. We all need Jesus.

Keeping the homeschool family fed and clothed

One of those things though that never seems to go away regardless of the season or the ages of our children, is this thing that they still want to eat all the time. It’s not enough to just homeschool them but we’ve all heard the joke about homeschoolers being hobbits. They also want to eat all the time. How do we keep everybody fed, Abby, while we’re doing this homeschooling thing?

Abby: This is another place we’re having toddlers and teenagers at the same time. It’s very funny. It’s like, “Oh, it’s very similar.” Everyone just is crabby and needs food.

Amy: Too many snacks.

Abby: We’re just throwing yogurt sticks at people all the time, those yogurt tubes like, “Come on guys, let’s finish this math lesson.” No. Well, for having a large family, it’s a lot of bulk cooking when I can. That is really helpful. I think the hardest for me is not necessarily the snacks or the dinners, but the breakfast and the lunches because that’s right when I need to be doing other things versus– Dinner time is like, “Okay, I’m cooking dinner,” and everyone knows that it’s dinner time. It’s not also homeschooling time. Breakfast and lunches are the more difficult ones for me to manage.

If when I’m making breakfast burritos, I just make enough to freeze some. That’s helpful. If when I’m making muffins, I double the recipe and have some for tomorrow. That’s really helpful. It’s finding those little pockets of opportunity and, like I said, just some bulk cooking. This week alone, I made a bunch of pizza dough and I just froze them into mini pizza crusts so the kids could make their own pizzas one day this week. We did some breakfast burritos and some muffins, things like that. Just as I’m cooking it, doubling it really helps when I’m in a pinch because we do get into boxed mac and cheese seasons where nobody wants to see it again for a year because we had it six days in a row. That’s the more difficult for me are the breakfasts and the lunches.

Also, we do have a little bit of a system, I would say, in the afternoons, usually around 2:00 or 3:00 when our school day’s done and the kids chores are done for the day, I will put out a community snack. It’ll be like some cheddar bunnies and some pretzels and popcorn mixed together in a big bowl, put it on the table with a little clamshell of blueberries, and I’m like, “Snack,” and there’s something there. That’s just a time of day where I know everybody needs something before everyone melts down. It’s the last thing that I do before everyone starts getting ready for their afternoon of dance or karate or violin or whatever it is. It’s our last community meal before dinner.

Then in the morning time, they often grab a cheese stick or a yogurt tube or an apple or something. We joke that we call it our math snack. I don’t know if it’s anxiety about math or what, but every time, no matter what time of morning, I’m like, “Okay, time to do math,” they’re always like, “Can I have a snack?” I’m like, “It’s time for our math snack,” and everyone just grabbed something on their own.

It’s like a mid-morning little something and then an afternoon something to get us through the rest of the day and cut cost on those prepackaged snacks that are so easy but really not cost-effective when you have a family of seven because I think we would probably go through like a whole stack of those individual bags of chips in a day if that was what the option was. Just having a little system helps and then those are the things they can grab when they’re heading out the door for something. Stick it in their karate bag or something like that.

Amy: Those are some great strategies and tips. I love the idea of a math snack. I think we should just have like a snack for math, snack for history, just snacks all through the day. Are there any other logistical strategies that help with other things with a big family, like laundry or just keeping up with the household stuff that is just a part of our regular life?

Abby: It’s a lot of just doing what you can when you can, I think, when you’re homeschooling. It’s one thing that, I know my husband and I would get into this discussion in the first two years of homeschooling, where I’m like,” I can’t do it all. I don’t know how to do it all.” He’s like, “I don’t need you to do it all.” I’m like, “But I don’t know which thing to do, housework or homeschooling. I don’t know which thing. They’re both really important,” and that’s tough. Some years when my kids were really little, we would just do a four-day school week, and Mondays were my cleaning day. I would recover our house from the weekend and get us set up for the week. That was a great season and that was really helpful when I had younger kids.

Now most of our kids are older and their actual chores actually do something. When they’re little and their chores are the dishes, it’s like there’s water everywhere and they washed four dishes. Now they’re singing and they’re playing in the sink and that’s not really helpful but they’re still learning how to do something so you know it’ll pay off in the end. We’ve gotten to that season where those things have paid off now and everyone’s actually accomplishing something helpful around the house.

I have their chores. We call them contributions because you’re contributing to our household. That’s something that I learned from the One Plus One Plus One Equals One blog way back when, I would say, that was like 2010 before Homeschooling YouTube and Homeschooling Podcasts and Homeschooling Help was really at hand. There were a handful of blogs that were really helpful for me, and hers was one of them, and she called them contributions. I just thought that’s such a beautiful way to describe the family operating together and doing household chores.

They have their morning contributions that help set us up for the day, which are things like making their own beds, tidying up the main areas that we’re working in. Then they have afternoon contributions that feel more like chores would. Chores from when I was a kid, which is like, we’re going to wash the dishes for the day, we’re going to wipe down the window sills, or we’re going to clean the bathroom, things that don’t make sense to what we’re doing for the day. Those things get done in the afternoon and that helps the general upkeep of our home.

Then, like I said, just doing what you can when you can, that makes the most sense. I mop on Fridays because it’s our family movie night and the kids sit on the floor and so I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to mop on Fridays because people are going to be on the floor and I want to know it’s clean.” It’s become habit or we go in the pool on Saturdays and it’s the day where when we’re all drying off, we all pick up the patio because there’s always sparkling water cans and things like that. Just those things just fitting it in where it makes the most sense and not trying to create this overbearing cleaning schedule or household management schedule that you are also going to feel like another thing that you’re missing the mark on or you have to answer to this other schedule that’s bearing down on you.

Amy: I love that because so often it can feel just like, even when you’ve come up with your own planning, your own planning routine or your own chore list, it’s like, “Wow, here’s one more thing I’m not doing, that I’m failing in this one more area, not meeting my goals,” and just instead taking the idea, “Okay, well, when is the thing that fits just naturally in the schedule?” like the mopping on the Friday before everyone’s sitting on the floor, something that’s already going to fit into the schedule you have instead of creating an artificial routine. I love that. That’s a really great tip.

What Abby is reading lately

Abby, here at the end, I’m going to ask you the questions that I ask all my guests. The first is just what are you personally reading lately? As many things as are on your stack as you’d like to share.

Abby: I know. I’m like in 16 books at a time always, but the one that stands out to me right now is I’m currently reading Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It’s a book and a book and a Bible study. It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, like read along and answer the questions in a workbook type of studies and it’s been really encouraging. It’s a great book just for this season of what’s it look like to do the next right thing. How do I also do this but with a perspective of worshipping God and not just trying to have control over things. That has been a really big encouragement to me, a little convicting, a little stinging here and there but it’s also been really practical with giving you some tools for how to manage certain expectations a little better and also has just been speaking to my heart.

Amy: That sounds really good. I’ll have to add that to my list.

Abby: Yes.

Amy: My ever-growing list.

Abby: Yes, always. There’s always room for one more.

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Abby’s best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly

Amy: You’ve shared so many wonderful tips already, but if you had to pick just one, your best tip for helping the home school day run smoothly, what would you share?

Abby: Oh, man, that’s hard because it’s like, yes, there’s a lot of things, but I will say my husband and I were just talking about this recently, I would say that as difficult as it can seem to fit into your schedule or as unrealistic as it may feel with the kids running around and tasks at hand, starting my day in the Word is really a game changer because you’re going to start your day with something, you’re going to start your day with social media, or you’re going to start your day panicking and rushing around to get household chores done, or you’re going to start your day with something. Making it something that’s worthwhile and that’s going to fill you up and give you some sort of direction for the rest of the day is really important.

I know that there are seasons where it’s really hard. I know that it’s hard to do it with a grabbing baby. I’m in a season where my Bible pages are wrinkled because her hands are always at them and they’ve got some Cheeto on them. It’s still really important. We have tools to utilize when it’s not an option to actually sit down with a pretty cup of tea and our Bible. The Bible app will read it to you. Sometimes I’m listening to it while I’m taking a shower in the morning or I’m listening to it in the car driving to a dentist appointment at 8:00 AM.

Making that a habit to start my day with Scripture has really helped so much. The days where I don’t, I notice it big time in my attitudes, in my motivation. Either way, somebody has to do the dishes, somebody has to homeschool the kids but it’s whether or not I’m doing it with a heart posture of wanting to do all things as unto the Lord or whether I’m doing that because it has to be done and all these people and there’s a big difference in my motivation when I’m not spending time in the Word.

Amy: Such a good reminder. I think it was Spurgeon, I could be misattributing this quote, but I think it was Spurgeon who said, “I like to start my day with an hour of devotion, prayer in the Word. On really busy days I spend two.”

Abby: It’s so true.

Amy: Which seems counterproductive, right? We’re like, “Oh, no, on the busy days we can let that go. We’ve got so much else to get done,” but it’s such a good reminder that really the most productive thing that we can do is to spend time with the Lord. It affects everything else we do.

Abby: It does. Every single thing is affected.

Find Abby Stone online

Amy: Abby, where can people find you all around the internet?

Abby: Not very many places. I do have a YouTube channel. It is called Rooted in Rest. I have Instagram. I’m active on Instagram and YouTube most often. Then, also, I am a contributor for Made 2 Homeschool. I do contribute over there monthly, an article or a video or a hangout or a seminar or something like that. I’ve really enjoyed that as well. That is mostly where you will find me, where I’m most active and consistent.

Amy: I will have those links in the show notes for this episode over at Thank you to everyone who has listened or watched. If you enjoyed this episode and were encouraged, I would love for you to share it with a friend. Make sure you’re subscribed in your podcast app or on YouTube so you don’t miss the rest of the Homeschool Conversations series. Abby, it was really great to get a chance to chat with you today. Thank you for talking with us.

Abby: Yes, thank you for having me and just giving me some good thoughts too, remind myself why I love homeschooling and what’s most important. Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

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