Eleven-year old Clare threw down her pencil in frustration. "Mom, I just don't get this long division! What's wrong with me?"

I picked up the pencil. "I know it's not easy, Clare, but if you--"

"Mama?" Three-year-old Daniel interrupted my explanation with a tug on my pant-leg, his expression desperate, his eyes about to brim over. He lifted his arms up to me.

My nine-year-old, Caitlin, raced into the room as I bent to pick up my unhappy son. "Mommy, will you help me?" Caitlin asked, breathless. She was building a cage for the injured mourning dove outside our living room window, determined to nurse it back to health. "I need more sticks and branches."

The phone rang before I could answer. Clare picked it up, said "Hello," handed it to me. "It's Mrs. Stewart. Mom, do I have to finish my math right now?"

"Christine?" Denise Stewart's voice came over the phone. "Just calling to confirm our dinner engagement this evening. Is there anything I can bring?"

Dinner! I had to get started on the cheesecake or it wouldn't set up in time. Thank goodness I got the quick-and-easy packaged version. "No, I've got everything I need. But thanks for asking, Denise. We'll see you about six, then?"

I've got to get to that scum in the downstairs bathroom before the Stewarts get here, I reminded myself.

"Mommy." My six-year-old Grace touched my arm. Her voice was anguished. "I really need to talk to you."

"About Melissa?" I asked, sympathetic. Grace's best friend, Melissa, informed her yesterday that she didn't want to be best friends anymore. "I feel so bad." I offered a quick, silent prayer for Grace's hurting heart. "I know, sweetheart."

"Daniel stinks," Clare interrupted, screwing up her face and holding her nose. He did. Literally. What's more, he was leaking all over me.

"Oh, Daniel!" And I still hadn't put that load of laundry in--the one with my other pair of jeans and the pretty skirt I was planning to wear tonight for dinner. For that matter, I hadn't washed the kids' sheets and pillowcases either. Where had the time gone?

"It's going to be too dark to find more sticks if we don't look now," said Caitlin. I looked at my watch. Good grief, Mark would be home any minute now! Had I reminded him this morning that the Stewarts were coming over? He had that whole long list of work and family concerns he wanted to talk about over dinner.

"I give up," Clare announced, once again throwing her pencil down. "Who needs long division anyhow?"

Does this real-life, Field-family scenario sound familiar? If you're a mom who's taken on the challenge of home schooling, it probably does. You've had days as hectic as mine, maybe even more so. You know what it's like to be pulled in a dozen different directions at once.

We're moms, you and I. Some days that would be enough. But as dedicated home schoolers, on any given day we're Mom Multiplied: mother, teacher, disciplinarian, wife, hostess, cook, maid, laundress, prayer warrior, recreational director, contributing church member, consumer, banker, bookkeeper, nurse, storyteller, community member, and more. Every minute of every day we have to decide which need to prioritize, which role to play, which action to take.

It isn't easy, but it's doable. I know from experience. So do the many home schoolers from across the country who contributed to this book. My prayer is that this sharing of common struggles, along with some practical solutions, will bless your home-schooling effort. As a model of interdependence, the family was illustrated as a suspended mobile by a speaker in the mid-80s. One piece of the mobile could not move, even in a minor way, without affecting every other piece of the mobile. In the family system, that which impacts one family member has an impact on all. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the consequences of one action are like ripples extending throughout the body of water.

Similarly, home schooling touches every area of family life. I once thought my professional life was fairly complicated. In my former profession as a lawyer, I was often called upon to make decisions involving matters of life and death, liberty or confinement. As a criminal prosecutor, I made the decision to arrest or not arrest, to press criminal charges or not, to prosecute or decline prosecution. The judge would ultimately decide on a sentence in any given case, but the prosecutor's recommendation was given great consideration. As weighty as these days seemed on my shoulders, they pale in comparison to the variety and complexity of my current roles.

How does home schooling affect your life? Tremendously, and in every aspect. What once seemed simple may now become enormously complex because home schooling has been added to your family equation. Everything that happens at home is now a "group project," from going to the bathroom to stocking up on family groceries because you are together at all times. This has tremendous blessings, but it is often accompanied by challenges, frustrations and complications.

My friend Norma quips, "I don't really remember my lifestyle before home schooling very well!" I think the key may be in the recognition that it is indeed a lifestyle, not just an educational choice. As such, you can expect it to have far reaching implications for the whole family. How can we balance them? Luanne Shakelford, author of A Survivor's Guide to Home Schooling, says, "Home teaching means lengthening the list of things you must make your kids do. (When you send your kids to school, you are hiring someone else to do some of the dirty work.) In addition to making them brush their teeth, straighten their room, set the table, be home by 5:00 P.M., you must also make them read aloud, do math problems, write compositions, etc." (1)

This is at the heart of the stress we experience in home schooling. There are simply too many demands and too much to do. A friend told me recently, "The part I don't like about being my children's 'teacher' is that I feel I do a lot less 'mothering.' I'm always having to be on top of them, trying to move things along, have them get their work done, etc., etc. I feel more like 'Sergeant Mom.'"

The home-schooling lifestyle reminds me of the plate spinner on the old Ed Sullivan Show. He could keep several plates spinning precariously balanced on upright sticks and rarely broke one. Once in a while, one would start to wobble and he would quickly tap it to set it right. In my life, plates are spinning, falling, and flying across the room most of the time, it seems.

In parts II and III, Christine will look at some of the multiplied roles of the home schooler.

/p>