in which i am complaining (and need you)

filed under: I Am Mommy on September 29, 2014

So.  Turns out having kids in school is just as hard as homeschooling.


I have three kids in school right now, a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and 1st grader.  Tonight, like many nights, they each had homework.  By the time I was able to work with each child individually, 2 1/2 hours had passed.  (The kids are at an age that they need a parent or adult to do the work with them as most of it is reading together and checking work and memorization.)

As a result of that, dinner was late on the table.  The kids were late to bath, and then late to bed.  Baby was grumpy and in need of her own bedtime ritual, which was also sorely behind schedule.

And then, as if writing and reciting Bible verses and spelling words and reading about Ruff the dog wasn’t enough, now it is time to read with little Eddie before bed.

I am tuckered out.

Basically, my kids enjoy school (a lot) and don’t mind homework.  (I am absolutely fine with the amount of homework each child is given, and in no way find it excessive.  I would actually like to be able to devote more time to each child one-on-one, but cannot conceive of a way to do that.)  It’s me.  It’s all me.  I don’t know if I can handle that much homework at night and be expected to still do everything else the family needs!

Truthfully, the transition to the kids being in school has been harder than I imagined.  But not in the normal way, in a weird i-am-mommy-but-not-homeschooler-anymore-but-work-fulltime-but-stay-at-home-mom kind of way.

I just sort of assumed that I would be the mom who was helping out in class and ever present in the kids’ learning and social development.  It was a given that I would know who they are hanging with and who is influencing them and that they would be the brightest most well behaved kids in the class and that Audrey would have perfectly perfect styled hair every single day.


That I would have had the kids’ teachers over for dinner, or at the very least, met with them so that I know more about them.

The truth is, I have not helped out in class.  Not one time.  Granted, I have been at home with a 3 year old and 1 year old, but you’d think I would find a way to be there for all my kids.  I am just now, very slowly, starting to figure out who the people are who have such a huge influence in my kids life.

I am lucky if Audrey’s hair gets combed in the morning.

Audrey riding bike

Lets just call this look… “messy pony”.  We dominate the messy pony. (I also just discovered that one of my children has been wearing dirty underwear to school because I mentioned that it is ok to wear pants more than once between washings. They just assumed that also applied to underwear. AND socks. I am mortified. And laughing because I often laugh at inappropriate times.)

I have not talked one-on-one with either of my kids’ teachers (Parker and Audrey have the same teacher as 1st and 2nd grades are combined) nor figured out a date when they can come to dinner. It’s already looking like mid-November.

None of this is going as planned and I didn’t even know I had a plan. So I sit here exhausted and a bit defeated and a lot hopeful that someone can shed some light.

Tell me please, if you would be willing… how do you do it? How do you manage school work with the kids and still manage the home? (As well as the needs of the children not in school?) What kind of relationships do you have with teachers and what should I be doing differently? What does your after-school schedule look like?

And thank you in advance for any insight you can give this weary mom. 🙂

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  • Erin | The Law Student's Wife says:

    No advice to offer (as I don’t have any kiddos just yet), only wanted to say that I am sending you a giant HUG and virtual pan of the best best brownies, because you deserve them, and I know you will share xo

    • Amanda says:

      You are the best! I love hugs and brownies. 🙂

  • Carly says:

    I’ve only got two to run after, but one of the biggest things that I find helpful is that my husband will help one kid while I help the other. I try to let them have some free time when they get home, while I make dinner. If they have some work they can do on their own, they do it before they go play. Then, after dinner, we get down to one on one. Mine are in grades 1 and 2.
    Hope you find something that works for you!

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you! Hubby has been working lots and when he is not working, doesn’t get home until 6. I am trying to get it all done before that. (Ha!) I think I will try doing dinner while they work though… great idea!

  • Ann says:

    If you can possibly fit it in the space, shelves — ideally near the door — where the children park their books and papers. You check them before YOU go to bed, to be sure you have dealt with any notices the kids bring home (class trips, permissions, cupcakes for special occasions, and other things you don’t want to find out about the next morning). That way these things aren’t scattered all over the house needing to be found before school. If they can have their Outerwear parked by the door as well, that should save you a surprising amount of schoolday hassle.

    Tomorrow’s clothes laid out before bed should at least help the clothes problem — you can decide whether things need to be laundered before they’re worn again. Also less hassle in the morning.

    • Amanda says:

      Great suggestions! Many thanks!

      • Ann says:

        I read a book once where it’s called “structure discipline” — doesn’t have to be fancy or extremely rigid, but as you’ve discovered, YOUR day looks a lot different, and has different emphases, with three kids suddenly In School.

        You may also find that making two main dinner dishes and freezing one, or cooking for more than one day at a time, or cooking for the school week on weekends, might help with the sudden increased demand on what used to be a leisurely — or MORE leisurely — dinner hour. It’s not so spontaneous, but school isn’t either.

        Best of luck with this!

    • Ann says:

      You have me thinking of a friend who, in his bachelor days, had his clothes organized so he had shirt, trousers, underwear, and socks on one clothes hanger. He had, as I recall, eight sets of clothes (he favored white shirts and black pants), and when he was done with the week’s laundry, he had every day’s clothes organized for the week. With clothes for weekend projects and for church and formal occasions, he was well prepared and had more room in his closet than any of the rest of us.

  • Mateja says:

    first time poster here….love your blog!!!
    The one thing that saved my sanity and the sanity of my kids: The stuff that needs my undivided attention and a fresh kid’s mind (like reading out loud, multiplication…) is done in the MORNING before we leave. We wake up about 45 minutes earlier for that reason but the difference is ENORMOUS. A fresh, rested brain in the morning reads faster and better, and hence the kid is more motivated. Not to mention that in the morning I am a more patient and positive mom.
    And on weekdays I only make stuff for dinner that is ready in 30 minutes or less. Even if sometimes that means we eat pancakes. Because why not? We use fresh eggs and organic milk from the neigboring farm, along with fresh fruit – beats microwave dinners any time!
    I’m sure you’ll figure out what’ll work for your family, but of course it takes a little time and patience to figure it out. Don’t forget, you just put 3 kids to school for the first time, ALL 3 AT ONCE! And you have two more at home! Be gentle with yourself. Lower your standards for a while if you need to (happy kids and mom come before clean house and stuff). You’re doing the best you can!

    • Amanda says:

      What a great idea. And thank you… your kind words are appreciated!! 🙂

    • Olga says:

      I completely agree. I have my girls read and study their spelling words every morning. The spelling is great because by Friday, its been reinforced every day and not left to the last day. I have them read as well. They seem more apt to doing this rather than after school.

  • Melissa Sevey says:

    Oh my dear, I feel as though we could be kindred spirits. How do you do it all? Well the short answer is you don’t. I remember after I had my first 2 children and they were both in school I volunteered at the school once or twice a week, I knew all of their friends and their families, and most of the staff at their school. I managed to balance things pretty well I thought. Then I had 2 more children pretty close together and started babysitting another and all of that ended. My daughter was lucky if I combed her hair before school and healthy sacked lunches that were attempted at the beginning of the year didn’t last long. Now with 3 little ones at home my 2 oldest have learned how to do most things themselves. As far as homework goes, they rarely want my help, but it used to be a battle every night. It will get easier when their homework becomes more them and less you. The only advice I can give is to not be so hard on yourself. Let some things go until tomorrow. Maybe there are some things in your nightly routine that you can do at other times of the day. In the end it is always a struggle trying to juggle priorities, but it will get easier as they get older and more independent. Sorry I am not more help.

    • Amanda says:

      Oh, but you are a help! Thank you for sharing your experience… and for being honest enough to tell me the truth. 🙂

  • Charlotte Moore says:

    It has been so many years since my 2 boys were in school. However, I did work in the school for 24 years. A parent involved in their child’s class can learn lots about what goes on at school. Some good and some not so good. It is hard if you have small ones at home.


  • Melissa says:

    I seriously thought I just read an excerpt from my own life. Except well for that I don’t work from home, and I have twin 5 year old boys in kindergarten, not 5 kiddos. Its so hard. Way harder than I ever thought it would be that’s for sure! I have no advice, but reading all these comments, I do feel a little better. Please, Please, do a follow up post once you get a system going or have found something that really works. I think we would all appreciate it! But in all seriousness, you are a ROCKSTAR mom! Give your self more credit, you deserve it!! 🙂

  • Marge says:

    All I have to offer you is prayers. I only had two kids, that was exhausting enough! Enjoy it, savor the time with your kids, it goes by in the blink of an eye.

  • Sue B says:

    Hugs Momma. I’m not sure I can offer much advice. My son is in 3rd grade and I have two at home, 4 years old and 2 years old. I work 20 hours a week and that’s to much most times. Last night we had swim and dance. My son in school needs some downtime when he gets home. So after that it was swim/dance it was supper. It’s now 7:30 and we are just sitting down to homework. Urgh, there has got be an easier way. Maybe I need chocolate, more chocolate, lol.

  • Nadia French says:

    Oh dear it IS hard! I have 4 kids. Two in high school, 2 in primary school but all 4 at three different schools (my eldest attends a performing arts high school). I run my business and the house and help my husband with his business’ paperwork and website! I also run, coach and compete with a baton twirling club. It is exhausting and there is only one thing at a time that can be done to the standard I prefer and everything else has to be simply good enough on that particular day … And I have learnt that that is OK! I forget kids lunches, or send them in the wrong uniform, or forget to pay an invoice …. But it all gets fixed in the end. I used to help out a lot at the school (and have made a concerted effort to at least do a little for each child but honestly I have not helped in the canteen all year! It makes me sad but we simply can not be everywhere at once! If I don’t sleep very much, I get more done but I’m a little cranky! If homework is up to date, the washing is not! If uniforms are ironed and lunches packed the night before and I make it to thursday night training, my cakes are not at the stage I need them to be. But it is my
    Choice to be a working mother running her own business and trying to be there for the kids at everything I can.

    My two saviours … My wonderful husband who runs around after the kids and myself AND my long kitchen bench, where the kids sit to do their homework while I prepare dinner and/or work on some cake work!

    Good luck, the chaos is priceless and a joy ❤️

  • Andrea says:

    Housework? Does NOT get done. When I drop off my daughter at school, I help out at our automotive repair shop until it’s time to pick up our daughter. We get home and I teach piano lessons four days a week. Top this with violin lessons and different church activities, and well, I feel lucky to get meals on the table and keep semi caught up with laundry and dishes. The rest usually just slides because no one helps and I can’t do it all. Guilty feelings to deal with, yes, but again, I just can’t do it all . . .

  • Lynae says:

    I haven’t found a good rhythm yet, although backpacks packed the night before help. Also, when I do laundry I take a pair of pants and inside fold a shirt, unders and socks, then fold the pants back up so I can grab a whole school outfit at once. Our son is a 4th grader and still likes Mom to put outfits together that way. They still get a choice of what they wear, but it’s a whole outfit. I can usually have 5+ complete outfits together so we can make the week. Other things I’ve given up is a wonderful, healthy breakfast every morning. I make a large batch of waffles one evening or weekend and freeze them so we can drop them in the toaster on school mornings.

    I also look forward to future comments as I can use all the help I can get!

    • Amanda says:

      This is the best advice EVER! I can’t believe after 4 kids I never thought of it. When my kids were little and went to my inlaws I used to pack each outfit in gallon zip bags but I honestly never thought of this! Kudos, mama!

    • Amanda says:

      Genius!! I shall follow this advice to the T. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    How do you do it all? In short, you don’t! And that’s ok. Some things will slide, you WILL find a a system that works for you, and this too will pass!

    Meanwhile, your crockpot should now be your best friend!! Seriously, it’s one less thing to stress about. That is probably the one thing that I rely on most.

    Give yourself a hug from ALL of your readers out here!

  • Lia says:

    I keep to a schedule as much as I can. I write the weekly schedule on the dry erase board in the kitchen so everyone is on the same page. Everyone that can read, that is.

    For the teacher, I send Lifesavers (b/c she is a lifesaver in my book), I ask her over email what I can contribute to the classroom (last week it was plastic spoons), I write to the principal when my daughter has had a wonderful day and that wonderful day was brought to me by some teacher in the school. And I sing that teacher’s praises to the principal so that he knows that he has a good one.

    I set their clothes in a sweater bin for each day of the week.

    And I hope, with all my might, that I make it to Friday without losing my mind. And I relish the Saturday relaxation.

    xoxo, you’ll make it 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      I think I like you Lia. Sounds like you have a servants heart and a that I something I strive for! Be blessed!

  • Jennifer Snyder says:

    well Amanda, it seems we are much in the same boat! 🙂 though I only have two children. My oldest is in kindergarten and my youngest just turned two. Though we have recently moved across the country so I’m away from the support system so it’s not like I could have someone watch her even if I would. The one thing that I have done is ask my sons teachers if its okay if I bring my daughter to certain events I.e: holiday parties, field trips etc. For me this has never been a problem they welcomed her with open arms and all his classmates Adore having her around… The we could be more of a hindrance than a help to the teacher I’m not sure lol!
    all you can really do is your best, as we all know you fact it’s nice for me to find that a super mom like you has problems too!! Haaahaaa!!;-) :-* Best of luck, and don’t worry a rhythm will develop and you’ll have this all down pat in no time! 🙂

    • Jennifer Snyder says:

      I meant though we could be more of a hindrance than a help… Silly autotype 🙂 my husband too works long late hours so everything here is onme also. Again, you’ll get into the swing of things- you are mother you are Bakeryou are servant you are wife you are author and you are Amazing!!

      • Amanda says:

        As are you sweet Jennifer! Sending you long-distance support and really appreciating your kind words and insight. Thank you!

  • Joanie @ ZagLeft says:

    Amanda, I’ve been where you are and can only tell you it gets so much easier. I have five kids, spaced closely together and I can relate and understand you so well. My kids are older (much older now – with the youngest being 13). You’re kind of in a transition place right now with the kids just heading off to school after being homeschooled (we did this too). You’ll all settle into a routine soon. I think it’s important to remember that it’s OK if dinner is late, clothes are worn twice or things don’t get done that you’re used to doing them. Just know that in time things will settle out as you all get comfortable with the new routine. My biggest piece of advice would be to let go of perfection and know that it’s all ok. Sending HUGS your way.

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks Joanie! Love hearing from you and your perspective on things… you are wise and so insightful! Be blessed!

  • Claudia says:

    I totally get your struggle. I homeschooled for six years before sending my five school-aged children off to school. As mother of 8, I find it insanely difficult to meet everyone’s need, if not impossible. Between helping/encouraging homework, changing diapers, feeding a baby, making dinner, chasing a toddler and preschooler, and all else that is to be done, I feel like I could go awol. I have a constant internal struggle between the way I think it all should go and the reality of it all.
    I wish I had answers for it. I don’t. All I can do is try to limit the activities and catch some quiet time when I can.

    • Amanda says:

      As a mother of 8 I feel like you get a free pass. 🙂 Kudos to you for accepting the challenge in the first place (I am constantly shocked at how offended people are by large families) and I hope you know we are in it together! Sounds like quiet time is an excellent place to start… 🙂

  • hilary says:

    i don’t have any kids of my own, but i do have 24 of them 5 days every week! my suggestions:

    -have them write a hw to do list every day: (to do: read silently, math page, reading response, whatever) so they can check off the list themselves. teach them to set the timer for their silent reading, if they have it. you can help with hw difficulties, but the majority of it should be self directed (eventually). note that i said they write it, not you – i believe that what they CAN do, they should. plus this teaches them accountability! maybe give them stickers to mark the ones they did, if that is more fun for them.
    -can they help you pack lunches? maybe the 3rd grader can make everyone’s sandwiches, and the 2nd grader can put fruit in tupperware for everyone, the first grader can put them all in the bags. you got 3 kiddos, that’s almost like a mini production line! 😀

    like someone else said, there are ways to help out that don’t involve physically being present. ask if the teacher needs anything – if she does, great. you don’t even have to go to the store to buy some extra markers if you don’t have time – just have amazon send them over. some parents like to cut out/prep things at home – not sure how feasible this is with your littlest ones. i hope you get the jist. don’t worry about inviting the teacher over for dinner. maybe that is tradition in your area, but i have never once expected it, nor received an invitation.

    don’t worry. you got this!

  • Amber says:

    I also struggled with this last year because I had one in middle school and two in elementary. My oldest was in 7th grade and then I had a first and second grader and a baby and preschooler. This is one of the many reasons why I home-school now. I home-school my elementary kids but my oldest is still in school because he is now in 8th grade. I have just begun my home-schooling journey this year and I have an almost 4 year old, a one and a half year old and one due in January. I am a newbie but learning quite a bit. I had some trouble fitting things in once they came home as well and to me I feel the kids should be able to rest after being in school all day. So, maybe make sure they get some unwind time before beginning their work as well. I was able to volunteer a bit in the late fall/early winter until spring since my husband has a seasonal job. Some tips I have is maybe you could help a bit from home with classroom things and be sure to try to go to the after school activities that your PTA puts on occasionally. Also I agree with using the crockpot more and maybe try to have a cleaning schedule and possibly some kind of schedule during the day not a rigid one but one to organize your day. I hope this helps.

  • Amber says:

    Oh and I plan our dinners every week and I feel this helps as well 🙂

  • Donna says:

    Amanda – Just know you are doing a great job (Including your blog – I love following you). You just need to let go of the idea that you can be everything to everyone all of the time. Your children and going to turn out beautifully thanks to all that you do. And extra kudos to you for being by their side when they do their homework.

  • LizA says:

    Hang in there, Momma!

    It never gets easy, but it does change.
    I thought working from home meant I could be the Teacher’s Best Friend when my two started. Not! There’s always someone who’s more type-A, has more free time, and is desperate for that attention.

    There are two sides to education — the one you experience with your kids, and the side that’s For Teacher’s Only. Good luck breaking that barrier. Teachers are like everyone else — they have their work friends, and they don’t hang out parents in their free time (who wants to be reminded of work and worry about personal details becoming gossip or turned into the Principal?). You can still be involved with the PTA/PTO (but watch those, they can be a time suck) or the BAAC (I think that’s the Building Accountability something Committee). Trust me, the teachers will know who you are if you stick with those, and you might just get to see them with their hair down — a little.

  • Michelle @ My Gluten-free Kitchen says:

    Oh Amanda, just so you know, I think September is a month full of feeling crazy and out of sorts for ALL of us with kids in school! I really believe you’ll be in your groove soon and so will your kids! Hang in there!
    A few random tips that might help or might not, depending on your situation and kids’ personalities:
    1) I’ve made up before school and after school routines for my kids. These are just a printed off sheet of paper that lists the essentials they need to do. I pin it up next to where their backpacks go. It makes things so much smoother as I’m not having to nag/remind them of every single thing before/after school like grabbing their lunch and water bottle, unloading those after school, washing their hands when they get home, etc. I can totally send you mine if you want to see, but they are so not fancy.
    2) I have a snack bin full of healthy snacks in my pantry and the kids can just easily grab one in the morning to take to school and grab one to eat when they get home from school. Frees up my time so I’m not preparing snacks in the busyness of the morning/after school and they don’t have to track me down to tell me they are hungry!
    3) If some of their homework is spelling words, I can’t say enough about how much using an iPad app for those has helped us! My kids enter their spelling words on the day they get them, recording themselves saying them, and then each day they practice by taking a test within the app. Seriously frees up sooooo much of my time. Instead of practicing these at night, usually mine will practice on the app in the morning, once all of their other stuff is done. I love that we can even bring it in the car for them to practice on our way to school/store/sports.
    That’s all I got for you. Things will start to flow soon!

    • Amanda says:

      Brilliant!! Thank you so much!

  • Christy says:

    Okay, here’s what semi-works for our family (and there are still plenty of days where my youngest doesn’t have her hair combed and somebody else is in tears on the way to school for some reason and somebody is finishing up a forgotten assignment in the car). They all do their homework at the table and I kind of supervise and am there to help if they need it, but I don’t really sit down with them individually. I know that would be heresy to some moms, but I have three kids and 1. I don’t have the time to do their homework with them individually 2. I don’t have the energy to micromanage their schoolwork and the house and my job and my other responsibilities and 3. I want them to be independent. They know if they’re struggling, they can ask me and I always check over it (and am stern if they’re goofing off and not being diligent), but I feel like in those early years, they were making patterns for the rest of their education. My oldest is now in 7th grade and she has friends whose moms sit down with them and do their homework. That’s fine if those moms can do that and stay on top of all their other stuff, but I just can’t and so I don’t. Of course, I have a little different education ethic in that I try to drive home a love of learning rather than perfect grades, so a B on a test every now and then doesn’t bother me all that much, as long as I know they’re doing their best. Something else to maybe consider is letting your older ones help your youngest out with homework.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember the first days of anything are the hardest and adjustments will be made and you all will figure it out together. You can’t do everything, so just decide what’s most important and do those. If you find that doing homework with them is really important, do that, and maybe let your husband take over bedtime duties while you straighten the kitchen or work on a recipe or something. Maybe if you can’t volunteer at school, send in some of your test recipes to your kids’ teachers and the office staff. You’ll have time to volunteer when all your kids are in school. Or some new adventure may come your way then!

    Hugs to you, though! Mommyhood is tough and mommy guilt is brutal. Don’t let it get you down!!

  • Serena | Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch says:

    We only have 3 and I would love to tell you it gets easier the older they get but I really think it becomes all the buisier in different ways.. I think the best thing I learned is to throw expectation out the window and just do the best you can. Take it one step at a time and enjoy them as much as you can because all of a sudden you blink and the oldest starts High School. Good luck Amanda! Your a wonderful mother don’t worry about the little things!

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