Navigating the Red Tape- Part 1: How Do I Know What My Kids Are Learning?

This is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects.

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 That title’s a mouthful, isn’t it? 🙂  My apologies; I couldn’t think of another way to convey my complete thought.

 Anyway, living in a state which requires keeping records of each subject completed when you don’t approach learning with such rigid boundaries can be tricky. It requires looking closely at exactly what your children are doing in a whole new way.
Thanks to John Holt, author of Learning All the Time, and Renee Tougas, probably one of the most inspiring bloggers I’ve ever read, (over at FIMBY) I can see value in pretty much everything my children do.
In order to demonstrate how I keep a record of our unschooling days, I’m going to break down some of what my children did last week, subject by subject. I’ll only be including the activities of my children in 4th through 8th grades because I do not keep records of my younger children because it is not required until they reach 3rd grade. I’m also not including anything by my oldest daughter because I treat high school differently and will discuss that in Part 3 of this series. Keep in mind that, for this post, I’m only separating by subject- not by child- so if I write something like ”playing house,” please realize that I’m not referring to my 8th grade son. 😉

Subject breakdown for daily logs:

English- silent and shared reading, reading aloud to siblings, writing, proofreading, and editing blog posts, writing and illustrating ”readers” for younger siblings, visiting the library, writing captions for pictures, journaling, games on tablet- Ruzzle, Scribblenauts, creating new tablet ”apps”- Brave Writer

Math- Lifepac workbooks, Minecraft math (area, perimeter, symmetry, etc.), strategy games like World of Warcraft (problem solving), geometric patterns, grocery shopping (price comparison, budgeting, mental math)

Social Studies- Little House on the Prairie (watching miniseries, family read-aloud, pioneer times, Native American attire and customs), biblical history- Book of Matthew, field trip to accountant, Minecraft project (building an entire town, researching what businesses and institutions are necessary for a town to thrive- fire and police stations, hospitals, stores, churches, post office, etc.)

Science- going to nearby creek and exploring the frozen surroundings, listening to different sound waves created by throwing different size rocks onto frozen pond, Little House on the Prairie science (how a well is dug, how to test underground for noxious gases), learning how oxygen feeds fire by putting lids on candles, YouTube science experiment- how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong to suck in an entire egg, reading about cryptids, fake lung activity, how lungs work, creating mythical animals and describing what they eat

Health/Safety- fire safety while experimenting with candles, a visit to the eye doctor, how lungs work, the effects of noxious gases (Little House), checking thickness of ice on pond before getting too close

Art/Music/Gym- drawing, makeup tutorials, applying theatrical makeup, clay and play dough creations, sewing, making posters and murals, Minecraft (architecture, interior decorating), illustrating books, foam collages and mosaics, listening to music while playing, worship music, singing, playing in the snow, going for walks, skateboarding, shoveling snow.

Life Skills- cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, washing laundry and putting it away, meal preparation, grocery shopping, driving simulator game, helping with baby, pet care, making beds, game- Burger Maker

So, this is how I’ve broken down my children’s activities into subjects. It’s something I, honestly, find very tedious and, well, pointless, but it is so important that we homeschoolers comply with our state laws to protect this awesome privilege right that we are blessed to have.

What about you? What are your state requirements?

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Navigating the Red Tape

Unschooling in a highly regulated state can be a tricky thing.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

     Unschooling in highly regulated states can be a tricky thing. As I mentioned in previous posts, I researched natural learning for about a year before I was comfortable enough to make the change. Admittedly, I’m still nervous about this, but I’m confident that it will be possible.
     I live in a state which requires you to keep a log of your ”school” for 180 days and a portfolio with work samples. A homeschool evaluator must then make sure adequate yearly progress was made and type up a letter stating so. Our state also requires standardized testing in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade, the results of which must be included in the portfolio.

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Then, the portfolio, log, standardized test scores, and letter of evaluation must all be submitted to the school district by June 30.
     These strict legalities can seem daunting enough with a traditional homeschool approach, let alone with an interest-led approach in which there is just as much learning, but often less of a paper trail because there is more hands-on learning and much less seatwork.
     I’ve been working through how I will handle this and am confident that I can do this- it will just take more creativity and thought than it used to.
     When I was still just researching unschooling, I had a really hard time finding any information about how to comply with state homeschool laws. I don’t know how many different search terms I used for this, but it was a lot and still…nothing.
     So, as I navigate my way through the red tape, I’ve decided to write a three part series on my plans for successfully unschooling while still complying with state laws. I can’t tell you how much I wish I would have found at least some information on this subject, but I didn’t. So, hopefully, this series will help anyone with the same questions I had (and still have).
     The first part will be about how to categorize your children’s activities into the proper subjects. Some, such as math are easy. Others, such as Minecraft, are less clear.
     The second part will include how to keep a daily log, get creative with the portfolio, and how I intend to handle standardized tests, which I’m still a little anxious about. I’ll get more into that in that post.
     The third, and last, part will demonstrate how I plan to comply with my daughter’s diploma program. This accredited diploma is approved by PHEAA and is well-received by colleges, so it is a very vigorous, somewhat demanding program, so we must be very intentional in her approach to learning.
     Join me in this series as I share (and sometimes still work out) our plans on how to get through all this red tape.

If you live in a state like mine and are unschooling, I would love to hear how you do it! If you don’t but still have suggestions, I would love to hear from you, too!

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Five Random Things from Our Homeschool This Week

Five random things

I’m linking up with Random 5 on Friday over at The Pebble Pond today. Enjoy!

1.
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My kids have been teaching themselves how to sew because I can’t sew a lick!

2.
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We made a really cool fake lung, thanks to Dot-to-Dot Connections.

3.
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My kids made an underwater mural. They all love to draw.

4.
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Dillon just finished Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and has now started Cryptid Hunters, which he bought at the library bookstore. It’s actually really good; I read it while he was at his grandma’s.

5.
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I’m teaching Devin how to cook…sort of. Hey, you have to start somewhere!

What are five random things you’ve been up to?

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Weekend Review- Kenzie Is Mobile!!

Kenzie is crawling!

     It has been an exciting week here at the Sangrey house! Kenzie is crawling!

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This is a bittersweet moment for me. Sweet because she’s much happier and less clingy now that she has some freedom, but bitter in that she’ll be my last baby, and I’ll never get to witness this process in my own children again. Anyway, on to our week.
     On Monday, Devin, Dillon, and Arianna walked to the library and borrowed the Disney ”Little House on the Prairie” miniseries, so we watched the whole thing in one day. This is the second time we’ve borrowed it, but the first time we watched it, we were still reading Little House in the Big Woods. Now that we’re actually reading Little House on the Prairie, it’s neat to see the stories come to life. It’s also a great way to see how much the kids have been paying attention by noting any discrepancies. Dillon and Arianna went to a pond near our house and were busy experimenting with sound waves by throwing different size rocks on the ice. They have also kept themselves busy with their new blogs http://dragonboii12345.wordpress.com and http://unskoolgurl.wordpress.com. Caollin and London have been sewing, which, unfortunately, I can’t help them with because, well, I don’t know how to sew.

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     Tuesday it snowed, so Devin’s flash animation class was canceled, but we had a fun day indoors. (The wind chill was -15, so we were not going to go outside.) We did a neat activity from Brave Writer in which the kids were supposed to write captions on sticky notes for the pictures on our walls. Since it’s always either all or nothing with this crew they went all out and captioned a lot more than pictures!

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     On Wednesday we repeated an experiment that we tried the other week, which worked but would have worked better with a smaller egg. So I bought some, and we tried it again. The object is to demonstrate how a flame in a bottle can create a vacuum strong enough to suck an egg into a bottle.
It worked much better this time. The rest of the day was spent running errands- picking up Caollin’s new glasses, an appointment, and grocery shopping. Afterwards, our day looked like this

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     Thursday was actually a really productive day. I’ve been slacking off a bit in the laundry department, so I did a lot of catch up work there.

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Then, I corrected math work, which I’ve also been neglecting the past couple of days.

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We also made a really cool fake lung, thanks to Dot-to-Dot Connections. This is definitely worth checking out.

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Dillon is quite the character, isn’t he?

Devin helped make dinner today.

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Boxed fried chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and canned vegetables. Stop laughing. This is the same girl who asked me a few months ago how to turn the oven on. This is progress.

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This picture has nothing to do with what I’ve been writing about, but Luke is as elusive as Bigfoot, so if I can get a picture of him, I’m posting it!

     Our plans for Friday include a plate tectonics activity using Graham crackers and whipped cream. (I guess you’ve realized why my kids want to do this.) Beyond that, we’ll just go with the flow. Happy weekend!

What are some highlights of your week?

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Caption This!

…my kids were writing and having fun with it!

     I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to get my kids interested in writing, so every time I get my daily writing tip from Brave Writer, I get excited. A few days ago, the tip was to use sticky notes to put captions on the photos around the house. I suggested the activity to my kids, and they jumped on it!

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This says, ”Brendan pees like a girl.” because he’s squatting. Sometimes my kids’ senses of humor are…um…questionable.

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I believe this one said, ”I like trucks…and steak.” Again, what I said before…

     These captions may have been a little goofy, but I’ll take it because my kids were writing and having fun with it!
     And, trust me, they went beyond writing captions for just pictures.

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This is a caption on our TV that says, ”TV rots your brain.”

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Yes, that’s a sticky note on Luke’s head. It says, ”Luke has Q-Tip hair.”

     Finding writing ideas that get my children excited are few and far between, but this one was definitely a hit!

Do you have any good writing ideas? What’s gotten your kids excited?

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My Word for 2014 (Even Though I Had No Plans to Jump on the Bandwagon)

God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.

     I live a pretty sheltered life. Between having such a large family and homeschooling, getting out and about is much more difficult for me than for most people. Church and grocery shopping are about the most socialization I get (and they call homeschooled kids unsocialized), and I don’t do social networking, so I’m not exactly up on the latest things. So when I started constantly hearing references to ”choosing a 2014 word,” I honestly had no clue what people were talking about. After a while, I figured it out, and I really wasn’t interested. Just a new way to say ”New Year’s resolution” which I always inevitably break anyway.
     Imagine my surprise when, as I was reading yet another post about this subject, a word clearly popped into my head. Trust. Immediately thoughts began to flood my mind. Trust that God is in control. Trust in His provision. Trust that your children will learn what they need to learn. Just trust.
     Being the Type A personality that I am, this was a little scary. Unfortunately, this has been a problem for me. I do trust in God. I do. He has come through for me in amazing ways many, many times. I also trust my children to learn. I see it happening all the time. I’m just so used to being in control of things. This is a sin, I know. I’m working on it.
     So back to the trust…I’ve been reminding myself daily that this is what I need to do. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. And I’ve felt more peace than I have in a long time…but I still felt that something was missing.
     Until last Sunday.

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My pastor was preaching the message and referred to these verses- Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him, For He will act. – Psalm 37:5-6. And then it hit me… I was trying and trying to trust in the Lord, but it was still all about me. Do you see it? I was trying to trust so that I would have the peace that surpasses all understanding… I was counting on my trust to bring these things to fruition. I was still counting on myself, not God.
     That’s why these verses hit me so hard…” …For He will act.” The Lord will act…my trust is not the be all and end all of this process- what God does through me is. And it doesn’t say He can act, and it doesn’t say He may act. It says He will act. There’s no question about it.
     God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.

     
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Lessons from an 8-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

My youngest child, Kenzie, is learning to crawl.

I sat for a while watching her, joyful, but also a little sad, when I started to think about her journey up until this point. Sitting. Rolling over. Laughing. Crawling. My point? She did all this on her own. I didn’t teach her how to do these things. I didn’t hold classes, ringing a little school bell saying, “Kenzie! Time for crawling lessons! Put your blocks away! It’s time for school!”

Absurd, right? But isn’t that what happens to kids everyday? They’re pulled away from enjoyable, often educational, activities to learn something they would have eventually learned on their own.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking. Some babies don’t do this on their own. Some have to have therapists come in and help them. I know. Three of my children had physical therapy because they were delayed because of low muscle tone. Did you catch that word? Delayed. Meaning, they’re not following a neat little chart stating what children should do when. I realize that some children truly do need this help, and I’m grateful it’s available to them. But the vast majority, including my children, would have eventually accomplished this themselves in their own time.

This is what happens in so many schools. Children are learning at a different time-table than what is expected, so they’re labeled as ”special needs, ” a label which often stigmatizes them, when there really is no problem. I can’t read the mind of God, but I’m pretty sure He created us as individuals- not as mindless robots programmed to all progress at the same speed in every area of life.

Children are individuals. They need to be given the opportunity to learn what they want/need to know when they need to learn it.

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Another example of this theory is language. In her travels around the floor, Kenzie found the TV remote. I told her sister to take it from her before she put it in her mouth. Kenzie heard me say this. She looked at me, dropped the remote, and started to cry. She understood me!

She understood me without flash cards, and workbooks, and Mango Languages for Babies. She learned herself by being exposed to language all the time. This is how children learn best! This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

Am I saying you should never expose children to new things they would otherwise have never known about? Absolutely not. We should provide a stimulating environment in which they should be able to learn, explore, and be the little scientists they are!

So the next time you’re ready to make your kids put their playdough away to ”do school,” reconsider. They’re already learning everyday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definition of an Ideal Unschooler

What is the ideal unschooler?

     Since I made the switch to unschooling, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what an unschooler should really be like. I’ve always been one to overanalyze things, so it comes as no surprise to me that this has been weighing on my mind. After reading several books and hundreds of blogs, I still wasn’t able to come up with any definitive answer…until I took a look right around me.
     So, though opinions are sure to differ, I’ve come up with attributes I feel a ”star unschooler” would be sure to possess.

– A love of reading
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– Innovation with objects on hand
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– A willingness to help with household duties
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– A love of exploration
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– A love for science
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– The ability to stay busy
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– Lots of creativity
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– And most importantly, a love for life
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What do you think? Have I missed anything?

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An Intimate Glimpse into Life with Ten Kids

Come join us for the day!

     Have you ever wondered what other people’s lives are actually like? Not the public, edited image, but everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
     Today I’m giving you the opportunity to witness my hectic life. Last Thursday, January 16, 2014, I chronicled my entire day, hour by hour for the world to see. I began at midnight and continued through the entire day until bedtime. So here we go, if you’re brave enough!

I’m starting with a list of family members for easy reference since there are so many of us.

Shawn- the Dad
Me (Shelly)- the Mom
Devin(14)
Dillon(13)
Arianna(12)
Caollin(9)
London(8)
Bailey(6)
Luke(5)
Ireland(4)
Summer(2)
Kenzie(8 months)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.

12am– I’m still awake. I just got done writing a post, so I’m a little wired. Kenzie, who’s teething, has just woken up and is very cranky. She falls back to sleep after a few minutes. I lie down on the sofa- we’re sleeping downstairs tonight, so Shawn can get some sleep before work.

12:45am- I start dozing off.

1am- Kenzie is awake again. After a few minutes of crankiness, she falls back asleep. I lie down again.

2am- Kenzie is not the culprit this time. I’ve woken up from a strange dream. (Something about me finding a gray hair and panicking. Don’t ask.)

3am- Kenzie’s awake again…

4:20- and again…

5:45- and again. I notice that Shawn has left for work. I’m already getting discouraged about what the day will bring after my lack of sleep. After Kenzie falls back asleep, I do, too.

7am- Ireland is awake at the crack of dawn, as usual, followed by a slew of early risers.

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Yes, that’s Ireland in boy pajamas- a hand-me-down from Luke.

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That’s Bailey with our kitten, Violet.

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Summer makes herself comfortable anywhere.

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That’s Arianna darting back upstairs after seeing Mom armed with a camera.

7:30- I give up on the notion of sleep and start checking emails, start a load of laundry, and proofread Dillon’s latest blog post. (He’s recently started a blog and posts 2-3 times a day.)

8am- By this point, everyone, except Devin, is awake. I make get breakfast out of the kitchen and bring it to the dining room.

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Nutritious, right???

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Yum!

9am- Time for chores!

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London vacuuming the living room

This may make it look like chores go off without a hitch, but today some of the kids, who shall remain nameless, do their share of complaining until loss of tablet privileges is mentioned.
     By this point Kenzie is still crabby and won’t nap, Ireland is crying because she wants a box like Bailey’s (he’s making it into a boat), and I am in desperate need of some coffee!

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Bailey making his boat

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Luke playing cars

     After filling up, I sweep the floor and vacuum again, which is dirty again already.

10:10- Kenzie is finally asleep, and I’m still in my pajamas.

10:30- I finally get dressed, start having the kids take turns showering/bathing, and do some more laundry.

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We’ve actually run out of laundry detergent, and since I can’t afford to skip a day of washing clothes, I use baking soda.

10:45- Kenzie is already awake. Sigh.

11:00- Snacktime! Just a few crackers to hold them over until lunch, while I put laundry away, proofread another of Dillon’s posts, and give everyone their own clothes to put away.

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Ireland with her clothes

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Caollin, my free spirit, carrying her clothes upstairs with pants on her head

     By this time, I’m noticing that my ankle is really hurting, even though I don’t remember hurting it. Sigh. The curse of approaching 40. Yuck.

11:30- Everything has calmed down enough for me to do my personal devotions. Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible, if anyone is interested.

12pm- We have lunchmeat sandwiches for lunch. Afterwards, Arianna, London, and I do some Mad Libs. Dillon and Caollin are on their tablets, Bailey and Summer are on Leap Pads, and the other little ones are doing a puzzle.

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Dillon on his tablet

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Ireland playing a matching game

12:30- I check more emails and comment on other blog posts.

1pm- Devin has risen and graced us with her presence.

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Time for family read-aloud. We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie. The kids and I really enjoy it.

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1:30- Devin starts her Swedish lessons using Mango Languages, while Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and I pull out the atlas to plot countries from which people have read our blog posts. (Arianna blogs, too.)

1:45- Today is Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna bakes her a cake. In the meantime, Dillon and I work on his Smithsonian volcano Kit, until we give up because the string is all tangled.

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     Devin starts her schoolwork now, while the other kids play the game, Operation.

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Devin hates algebra.

3pm- Shawn arrives home, Arianna decorates the cake, and we sing Happy Birthday to Ireland.

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4pm- Chore time, again, and I start dinner- spaghetti.
     Afterwards we all pose for a family photo for Dillon’s blog. Then, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin do their math.

5pm- We eat dinner and start to wind down. From this point until their bedtimes, nothing major happens. Just lots of puzzles, games, TV, and, of course, electronics.

8pm- Bailey, Luke, Ireland, and Summer go up to bed and listen to the Bible and their bedtime stories.

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What we’re reading.

After they’re in bed- at least, before they come down five more times- I read the Message New Testament Bible to Devin, Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and London. Then, I help Devin with some algebra she didn’t understand.

9pm- Caollin and London go to bed. Okay, they’re in their bedroom, but I doubt they’re sleeping. I correct any schoolwork that was done and write in the daily logs I have to keep for Devin, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin. I truly despise this.

10pm- Kenzie is asleep for the night (I hope), and within the hour, I’m down for the count.

What’s your day like?

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