On this site, I hope to encourage moms that home educate and work for income at home as well as provide tips for better lifestyle and productivity. One way to do this is to look at the lives of women who fill both of these roles and see how they do it. When sharing these interviews, I do not intend for you to compare yourself to these women or to copy their unique lifestyle. However, I trust you can glean some ideas or encouragement from seeing how another mom operates.
Toneka Cooper is married to a youth pastor and mothers 5 little girls under the age of 6. She homeschools her daughters while studying for a Bachelors in Religion with a minor in Christian Counseling degree herself. She operates her Etsy business, Luxe Couture Boutique by Mom of Many Coopers and blogs about it all at Mom of Many Mini Coopers. Here is the conversation we had over e-mail in the “fringe” hours of our days:
Toneka: I run an online boutique for little girls. My inventory has expanded some this year from just bows and headbands to petti-skirts, shoes, and even some ties for boys.
Me: Not too many moms have so many little ones at once. What is life like living essentially in a preschool daycare center?
Toneka: It is definitely a challenge every day! I’ve been told by other moms a lot that it just seems like we have it all together, all the time! Well, if they spent an hour
in our home they would know that that is far from the truth! We have to remain flexible at all times, never expecting anything to go according to plan.
Schedules are great and are wonderful for structure; however, we have yet to keep one! I always have the best of intentions, but I’ve had to just realize that it’s not going to work out.
I think our biggest problem we have come up against is sickness. I have actually tried to avoid going places this winter as much as possible in order to keep my children from getting sick. Once one gets sick, they all get sick! Then we have an entire month of trying to get them well.
While our life is very chaotic- I love every bit of it! I’m far from a supermom like people like to claim. I think some people think that anyone who has 4+ children is just amazing, but you do what you have to do because you love your children. Sure, at the end of the day it is more exhausting, and you have a greater amount of work to accomplish than someone with just a few children, but in the end we all have the same goal: to raise the best children we can raise!
Toneka: We currently use My Father’s World curriculum which is based on the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. For those who may not be familiar with Charlotte Mason style, the best way to describe it is to think about how school used to be back in the old days. One room school houses with children of all ages. That is how we homeschool. Together we do Bible and math, and then each child has their own individual language/spelling lessons.
We have had to rearrange things a bit in order to fit us well but overall we love My Fathers World. We’ve also stepped out a bit and tried workboxes this year which have been great! It has really given my older girls more responsibility and independence in their school work.
Toneka: I would say that you can do anything that you set your mind to. I have learned that everything, no matter what it is, can seem overwhelming at first but once you really get into it and figure out how it fits in your life, you can look back and see that it wasn’t so bad after all!
Also, make sure you do not let it take over your life. The most important thing is going to be for you to set your hours for when you are going to deal with your business, this includes: emails, phone calls, orders, paperwork, and crafting; then make sure you stick with that! Otherwise it will quickly take over your life and you will get overwhelmed!
Toneka: When I was 19 I was hired at a local bank as a secretary for the Collection department. My boss was an older man and the first thing he told me was, “Do not look at all you have to do and get overwhelmed and stressed that you cannot get it all done today; we work 5 days a week so that what you don’t finish today you can finish tomorrow.”
I’ve kind of made this my philosophy in life. I get up in the morning and look at my house and all I have to do, homeschooling, meals, cleaning, mounds of laundry, taking care of the pets, filling orders for my business, and my college courses, and things can get pretty overwhelming. But approaching it with the attitude that “I get done today what gets done and everything else will get done tomorrow,” has helped tremendously.
I also like to make sure I am always keeping my priorities in line. Is it REALLY necessary to clean my house right now while my daughter is having an emotional day and needs some snuggle time? In the end all that matters is that I have invested into my daughters and they are happy, not if my house is clean- that can always be done tomorrow.
Toneka: Going to bed at a good time and getting up in the morning is my biggest struggle. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who is very helpful in that area and gets up in the mornings to help with breakfast for the girls. I am usually stuck in the bed drinking coffee and trying to talk myself into getting up and starting the day. I am the worst morning person.
I also have a tendency to stay up later than I would like usually trying to finish up school work before a deadline. People say that when you have kids you become a morning person, but I don’t think my body has gotten the memo yet!
Toneka: One of my personal struggles is that I have become extremely self-conscious of what people have to say about me or my family. We have had many ugly comments about our family size, and it has put me on edge when we go out in public. We get a lot of pointing, whispering and comments.
I went through a time where I had to make sure that everyone always looked clean when we go out, everyone has to do this or behave like that because I did not want people looking at us and saying stuff like “wow they shouldn’t have that many children.”
God showed me through this struggle that what others think of our family is not important. What others say about me as a parent and what they think of my parenting is not important. My children belong to God, and it is Him that I need to be worried about, not other people and not other moms who seem like they are doing a better job than me.
So mom, I just want to encourage you to never get discouraged at others’ comments, and most importantly do not ever look at another mom and think “why can’t I have it all together like her?” I’ve learned that none of us have it all together and God has chosen each of us to parent the children he has given us because he knew that we would be best parent for that child! Prayer is a huge part of our journey as parents and the best resource we have, don’t neglect to use it!