Tag Archives: cyber schooling

A “Typical” day during a Pandemic lock-down


Our days have been anything but “typical” for the last two weeks. Like many of you, we find ourselves adjusting to a new” normal” with Toby home full time, Grace and Zach now residents of Patchwork Farm, and all outside activities canceled. The only outside aspect of our lives that has remained constant is schooling. Online college classes continue for Rusty, Grace and I as we strive to finish this semester strong, and cyber school classes have continued to move forward for Tyler, Rusty, and Braden. The fact that they are cyber schooled has made the lock-down less disruptive for them than the brick and mortar students across Pennsylvania who are now transitioning to online school.

Outside of the hours spent on schoolwork daily, we find ourselves trying to fill the extra hours that used to be spent running in a thousand different directions. Knowing from past experiences the struggles and dysregulation that occurs with too much free time, we created a schedule for this season of our life. The predictability of a posted schedule, coupled with hourly transitions and a variety of activities, makes this time of uncertainty and unpredictability easier for all (especially my kids who have a history of past trauma.)

The schedule we came up with was one we created as a family, with input from all family members. The goal was to build a schedule that met everyone’s needs, with an equal balance of free time and structured activities. Everyone had certain tasks they needed met in this schedule. Some of the requests that were made included social media time, rest, alone time, family fun, and regular exercise. We took everyone’s input and plugged it into the schedule. This was the result of that collaboration. Here is the schedule we have been following:

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Below are some pictures from our last week of “typical” life here at Patchwork Farm:

Our mornings begin with a family prayer and devotional before everyone gets started with their morning chores. Everyone has assigned tasks they need to accomplish before they get breakfast. In addition to household chores, each kid has an animal chore they are responsible for. Rusty’s animal chore is feeding and watering chickens. His workload recently doubled, but he is not complaining! That’s right…we have 13 new baby chicks we added to our flock two weeks ago. In light of all that is going on in the world, Toby thought some additional chickens (and more eggs) might be prudent. When he came home with a box that was chirping, everyone got excited! Caring for these sweet peeps is a chore everyone enjoys.

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After morning chores and a quick breakfast it is time for Tyler to get onto his first class of the day. While the rest of us have the flexibility to work at our own pace, he has scheduled live classes at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, and 1:00.


While Tyler is doing school at 9:00, Rusty and Braden log onto their devices for their seminary class. This daily scripture study class for teens used to take place each morning at 6:00 at a friend’s house. Now, due to social distancing, the youth in our congregation meet together for class through Zoom at 9:00 am each weekday.

Our church is utilizing online classrooms for most meeting and classes, including Molly’s missionary training. Here Grace, Zach and Molly are attending their Thursday night Institute class.


Toby uses the morning hours to tackle projects that have been on the back burner for months/years while the rest of us get our schoolwork done for the day. Having time at home has allowed him the luxury of being able to slowly work his way down the always-growing “honey do” list. Here Toby is teaching Braden how to patch the holes in his drywall that were put there on one of Braden’s harder days.


Lunch is followed by our daily exercise session. Grace, Molly and I will workout together in the living room, with Rusty joining us occasionally. Everyone else scatters, having no interest in 30 minutes of sweat and pain.

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After 60 minutes of a family organization project (currently we are working in the basement) everyone is free for personal time or naps. We added daily naps to the schedule under the guise of COVID-19 prevention, with the thought that a well rested body is less likely to get sick, but really Toby and I just love the luxury of being able to nap daily for the first time in our adult life!

The kids use this time for personal pleasure. Some use this time to catch up on their favorite TV shows, while others use this time to work on developing talents or doing something creative…


Braden catching up on past episodes of The Walking Dead.

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The girls enjoying some personal pampering time.


Puzzles have become a staple of our “coronacation.” We recently started our third 1000 piece puzzle.

Rusty and Gracie have both pulled out the leftover supplies from their time in Mural Club and have been creating beautiful artwork.



After nap time/personal time we head outside for fresh air. Every afternoon (as long as the weather cooperates) we go for a family walk. We usually have some of the dogs join us. This is Ellie May’s favorite time of the day. It does us all good to get out of the house, stretch our legs, and enjoy the beauty of nature!


The hour after our walk is dedicated to yard work and gardening. Last week we used one of those hours to get our vegetable seeds started.



Then it is time for dinner. On March 17th we enjoyed a St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes…YUM!



Sometimes we enjoy a board game as a family while eating dinner. We had fun with this one. It was an escape room puzzle/board game. We had to put the puzzle together then solve the mystery on the board. There were 7 puzzles within the puzzle, that when correctly solved, allowed us to discover the answer to the corresponding story. It was a lot of fun.


Dinner and clean-up is followed by family fun time. When Grace and Zach moved in they brought with them some games from their apartment, including this gem:

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The tiny hands game pins player against player in a series of challenges like stacking cups, putting on a jacket and applying chapstick.

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At 8:00 we gather in the living room for family scripture study and then at 8:30 put on a movie to end our day. On Tuesday night Molly got to pick the movie since it was her last chance to watch a movie before being set apart as a missionary and abiding by the rules and standards set for the missionaries. She chose to watch, “I Still Believe.”


By 10:30 everyone is heading toward their beds, ready to settle down for the night and rest their bodies and minds for another day in quarantine!


The End of an Era


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It began 13 years ago. We were attending a start of the school year picnic. It was our second year 0f cyber schooling and I finally felt I had enough of a handle on the ins and outs of schooling at home that we were beginning to search out additional enrichment opportunities.

It was that need for socialization and adult company that pushed me to leave my home on a Friday afternoon and drive to a picnic an hour away with a 3, 5, and 7 year old in tow.

Tarina was the first to approach me. She introduced herself and told me that her and another mom were starting a learning cooperative group in New Castle and if I thought I might be interested she could take my name and number. Who knew that the decision to show up at that first co-op meeting would change our lives forever and bring an abundance of blessings to our home-schooling experience.

Tarina has since passed away. I often think of her, reflecting on the great blessing she was in my life, not only in the friendship I enjoyed with her and her family, but in the way she has blessed our life (and so many others) because of her decision to start our little co-op.

This past week marked the end of an era.

Our co-op has gone through its share of transitions. It has called two different churches, “home.” It has evolved from being a group heavy with preschoolers and elementary aged kids to being mostly high school students. It began with all the families being PA Virtual families and using the k12 curriculum to now being a hodgepodge of cyber schools and curriculums.

As the years have passed our numbers have ebbed and flowed as new families joined and founding families moved on, with so many dear friends made along the way.

We watched as students graduated and others moved away, all while trying to hold what was left of our little co-op together. This year, however, the decision was made to disband what has been an integral part of our week for 13 years and a huge part of our schooling experience.

We have simply “out-grown” its original vision and original purpose.

In those early years it was an enormous blessing, as it allowed our kids to be taught by someone other than mom, socialize with friends, participate in traditional school experiences like holiday parties and talent shows, all while accomplishing a HUGE amount of work in those four hours every week.

By teaching science, history, art and music together we were able to leave co-op with 12 lessons done for the week (per child) and an emotionally-filled bucket after getting in some much needed friend and mommy time.

Now our co-op looks much different.

We now only have one grade level that functions in the traditional way developed by our co-op, with all other students working independently in a study hall setting. We no longer come to co-op to get lessons done, but rather to feed our souls as we connect with our “tribe.” Because of this evident shift in our co-op, a decision was made to retire the New Castle Star Co-op and instead meet our families’ evolving needs (which are primarily social rather than academic) in a different way. We will still be getting together with this group we love but it will be less frequent, less structured, and more of an enrichment group rather than an academic co-op.

Wednesday, May 9th was our last co-op ever. I spent the day trying to keep things light and not drown under the emotions of loss and finality I was feeling. The kids handled it better than I. They understood that we weren’t saying good-bye to this group of special people. They know we will still see each other, but for me the knowledge that we won’t be returning to this building that created so many memories for my family left me feeling sad.

We were the last to leave the building after taking some final photos for this year’s yearbook.

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I walked from room to room, checking to make sure nothing had been left behind and making sure all the lights had been turned off, and I allowed myself a moment to reminisce and reflect on the memories created in each room…

Memories of Miss Tauni sparking Ozzie’s love of history.

Memories of Tyler and Simon’s first class where more time was spent trying to lure those wild 6-year-olds out from under the table than actually teaching. 🙂

Memories of Rusty working with Miss Julie to learn sign language as a little boy so he could communicate with others during his struggle with Selective Mutism.

I remembered with fondness the class of students I worked with year after year, teaching Rusty, James, and Katie science through hands on experiments.

Then there we memories of Miss Molly’s class as they connected in a special way over Miss Kathy’s science experiments, Miss Corrina’s history lessons, and art with Miss Lana.

As I stood in the doorway of Gracie’s classroom (which has since evolved into the study hall room) I couldn’t help but think of the special people that had taught my oldest daughter and what special friends they became to me. Love you Ginger and Wendy!

I walked into the gym and visions of so many wonderful memories flashed before my eyes…

Memories of trick-or-treating, Christmas parties, Minute-to-Win-It games, our Valentine’s day glow stick party, our walk to raise money for Miss Tarina’s battle with cancer and years of bake sales held to raise money for The Make-A-Wish foundation.


Rusty walked in, smirking at my sentimentality.

I know it is just a place but it is the place where my children grew up and discovered who they are, and for that reason a piece of my heart will always belong to the New Castle Star Co-op.

Thank You for the memories, dear friends…

Its been a beautiful season of life!

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This is the house that Rock built


Tuesday morning began early…4:00 am to be exact…as we prepared for our field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The field trip was being offered through Gracie’s cyber school and last month she asked if we could go. Although we attend many outings sponsored by the kids’ schools we have never gone one of Gracie’s school trips simply because most are on the eastern side of Pennsylvania where the school is located. When we saw that a trip was planned for western PA we decided to sign up.

The Rock and Roll hall of fame is about two hours from our house (we sit on the PA/Ohio border) but due to the school’s policy of families not being allowed to drive themselves to outings we had to load up the car at 4:30 am and drive 1 1/2 hours east to catch a bus that would take us west, back past our home. 🙂 Although it was nonsensical I tried to look at it as an adventure for the kids. They were excited about riding on the bus. Rusty later told me that the bus ride was his favorite part of the field trip SO I guess that made up for the 3 extra hours of unnecessary driving. 🙂

We arrive at the hotel.

We arrive at the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel where we were meeting up with Gracie’s teachers and other school families. At 6:00 am and we filed onto the bus. It was a beautiful bus. It wasn’t the “school bus” ride I expected. The seats reclined, there were cup holders for drinks as well as TV screens for watching movies. After loading the bus the teachers handed out bottles of water and breakfast bars for us to enjoy while we watched a documentary that the teachers filmed on the history of Rock and Roll. The time flew as we watched the show and enjoyed our treats and before we knew it we were in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ready to go...

Ready to go…

As we rode through Cleveland, Ohio Gracie pointed out the theatre we were at only a year ago to watch the R5 concert. It was then I was very grateful to be on a bus. I remember the nightmare of trying to navigate Cleveland. 🙂

For the field trip everyone received t-shirts to wear with the school logo in honor of the two big end of the year field trips: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the west and Baltimore Aquarium out east.


After going over the schedule for the day we were set free to explore on our own.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It was an amazing museum and even though it wasn’t a place I probably would have visited on my own, we had a lot of fun and learned a lot.


“Music to me is like breathing- I don’t get tired of breathing, I don’t get tired of music.” – Ray Charles




“Music is the soundtrack of your life” – Dick Clark


“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable” – Ludwig Van Beethoven

Gracie's enjoyed practicing her piano pieces at the "play me" piano in the lobby.

Gracie enjoyed practicing her piano pieces at the “play me” piano in the lobby.


Molly's favorite song on the jukebox..."Good Golly Miss Molly." :)

Molly’s favorite song on the jukebox…”Good Golly Miss Molly.” 🙂



“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” – Leopold Stokowski


Gracie’s favorite part of the museum was the signature wall of Hall of Fame inductees. It was neat comparing the different artists’ signatures.


“Sometimes it is not the song that makes you emotional. It’s the people and things that come to mind when you hear it.”

It was a beautiful day of traveling down memory lane to the songs of my past as well as a creating new memories with my three oldest kids to enjoy in the future.


Silly Molly