Cait’s homeschool day in the life (with a 4-, 6-, and 7-year-old)

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Written by Caitlin Curley of My Little Poppies.

When I was a little girl, my parents had this morning rule: I had to turn up the heat, make the coffee, and wait until the coffee had filled to the 10-line before I could enter their room and wake them up.

That’s a bit of ’80s-style parental genius right there.

What I’m trying to say is: I’m an early riser. 

It’s in my blood.

Being a morning person has served me well as a homeschooling mom. Waking before my kids gives me plenty of space for the things I love, like reading, writing, and exercise. Our days run more smoothly when I do these things. 

But…

I’m going to be honest: It’s winter here in New Hampshire and the mornings are dark and cold. I’m awake at 5 or 6 a.m., but I’m not doing all those important things that help our day to have rhythm.

Instead, I lay in bed dozing, or reading, or silently scolding myself for not getting up.

I guess you could say I’m experiencing a bit of homeschool hibernation at the moment.

That’s so typical of homeschooling, isn’t it? There are homeschool seasons. Right now, we are in a bit of a slow-down.

Come spring, when the mornings are brighter, we’ll have more energy. I’ll return to my more-efficient early morning self and the kids will feed off of this energy, just as they always do.

But, for now, this is what a typical homeschool day looks like:

A homeschool day in the life 2016

EARLY MORNING

I hear my husband rise and I know it is 5:00. I think about getting up and accomplishing all the things, but then I roll over.

It seems that only a minute has passed when I hear my oldest singing at top volume. This child of mine is either asleep or LOUD, there is no in-between. I peek at the clock and it’s 6:20.

I must have dozed off.

Again, I think about getting up but I grab my book instead.

At 7 a.m., my door creaks open and in pop my 4- and 6-year-old. “The green light is on!” they exclaim in unison.

You see, I’ve modernized my parents’ early morning rule. In the age of automatic thermostats and coffee pots, I rely instead on sleep clocks to keep my early risers in check. The green light is my cue to get up, for real, and so I stumble into my slippers and head downstairs.

MORNING

Thankfully, coffee is waiting for me.

Weekday breakfasts are self-serve over here. Last year I discovered that this independence cuts down on morning bickering. As my trio gather their bowls, pitchers, and cereals, I grab our homeschool bin:

Cait's homeschool day in the life

This is how I store our most frequently used materials. I pull out what I’d like to accomplish, but I know that we probably won’t get to all of it.. and that’s okay. 

We recently added another homeschooler to our fold and I’m trying to be kind to myself as we find our new rhythm. Right now, I consider it a success if we manage the following:

  • Read aloud
  • Math
  • Writing
  • Piano (for my oldest)
  • Play (preferably outdoors)

Reading aloud is the heart of our homeschool. We are currently wrapping up Little House in the Big Woods, and my kids are fascinated by the fact that the Ingalls family made their own maple sugar. So, for this morning’s read aloud, I choose Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky. I like to read books that are related to our current chapter book. I find that I can cover a variety of school subjects by reading aloud.

As I read, my children finish eating and then doodle while they listen.

When we finish, it’s time to clear the table and brush teeth. This is a perfect movement break and it gives me a minute to mop up any spills and grab another cup of coffee.

When the kids return to the kitchen, it is time for math. Today, 6- and 4-year-old work on their Singapore Math while my oldest tackles his Beast Academy. I’ll often read a Bedtime Math or Life of Fred chapter too, but today I need to pay some bills while they work.

Cait's homeschool day in the life

As we work, we discuss our plans for the day. We usually have something planned for the afternoon, whether it is an extracurricular activity, hike, field trip, or meet-up with friends. Today we are going to have a wood stove installed, so we need to stay put, but the kids are excited to watch it happen.

Then it’s time for play. My oldest decides to get his piano practice out of the way before joining his siblings. The kids will often listen to music or an audiobook while they play. Today, I pop in this one because Martin Luther King Day is on the horizon and this audiobook contains a Rosa Parks poem and King’s I Have a Dream speech.

I head upstairs for a quick shower while they are occupied, much later than I would like due to my morning hibernation.

Cait's homeschool day in the life

AFTERNOON

Lately, we have been enjoying this book during lunch, but today the wood stove guys show up just as I’m about to make PB and Js. I turn on Sparkle Stories and let the kids make their own sandwiches. When I return, the kitchen is very sticky, but everyone is happily eating and enjoying a story about Valentine’s Day.

While they are busy, I catch up email and head over to Facebook. When the story is over, we head to the playroom to finish the last chapter of Little House. 

Then it’s quiet time. The kids head up to their rooms, where they read quietly, do puzzles, draw, or take a quick nap. As an introvert, this hour is sacred to me. I try to ignore laundry and cleaning and instead use the time to read, write or exercise. And I always have some music playing. These are the things that make me feel renewed and they are especially important today since I didn’t get up before the kids.

LATE AFTERNOON

After an hour, the kids make their way downstairs. Depending on which day it is, late afternoon is a time for outside activities, friends, or games, but today is a stay-at-home day. The only “must do” that we have left for the day is writing. Today, we decide to write letters to a friend who is in the hospital. My oldest also works a bit on a story he is writing. I brew a pot of tea to enjoy while we work.

Then, the kids head outside to play in the backyard. It is bitterly cold today and I elect to stay inside and catch up on my writing. I’m trying to get ahead because I’ve decided to take the kids out of town for a few days. I love that homeschooling allows us this flexibility.

EVENING

The kids stay outside until it starts to get dark. Then it’s clean up time and those who are interested help me make dinner. We turn up the music and sing and dance during this time. This silliness started as an act of witching hour desperation but has become a family tradition.

Just as we are setting the table, Daddy gets home. The kids share stories from their day and then it’s time for a tub, books, and prayers. We aim to get the kids in bed by 7:00 since they are early risers, but this doesn’t always happen. When they are tucked in for the night, we head downstairs to read or watch some television before heading to bed ourselves.

Cait's homeschool day in the life

Some days I feel like a homeschool rock star. Other days are crazy-hard. Most days, I feel like I did an okay job, but even our best day is far from perfect.

This day was pretty typical for us, but I’ve left out the spills and the tears. Please know that they were there.

Do you tend to switch up your routine and hibernate in the winter a bit more, too?

About Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. You can also find her hanging out with Kara at The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.

Comments

  1. SO glad I’m not the only one contemplating hibernation this winter. I have been having the hardest time dragging myself out of bed these past few weeks!
    Mother of 3’s latest post: Choose Joy

  2. I get up later and later during the winter. Today my 7 yr. old woke me up at 8:50. So much for getting an early start on things. School-wise, I actually do a bit more with them in the winter because it helps keep some structure when there’s so much time spent inside. (I have 10 at home, so I NEED that structure.) Winter is the perfect time, though, to forgo math books and do some baking with them, instead. We may do more during these months, but we make it fun.

  3. You are so organized! Love all the resources you’ve put in here, and your honesty, Cait. Hope to see you around these parts more often 🙂

  4. Ah…sounds so perfect! Though I know it’s not always so, we all live for those idyllic days!

  5. I hibernate every winter, but I thought that just due to the seasonal aspect of my depression. 🙂 My kids also hibernate, and it’s hard to get them to want to do any formal learning. Spring and late summer/early fall are better for us all!

  6. I love this on so many levels! Thank you for sharing your day! Let’s just hope this isn’t a long winter, I’m ready for hibernation to end!

  7. I do wake up at 5:30, but some days it’s harder than others. And yes, I also LOVE the self-serve breakfasts on weekdays (okay, and some weekends, too.) Thanks for a glimpse into your life.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Why Educating My Children Does Not Scare Me

  8. One big “whoop” to see you on Simple Homeschool! 😀 Thanks for sharing your day. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to improve the structure of our day lately, and you’ve given me some good ideas.

  9. okay, this is completely shallow and has nothing to do with homeschooling, but… I love your kitchen! The yellow with little bits of aqua and the dark counters (or so it looks in the small picture) – so pretty! And so clean! I’m just going to tell myself that the mess is outside the frame! Anyway, I got some decorating inspiration along with my dose of homeschool inspiration.
    Your day sounds lovely, and peaceful. I seem to have hit the February homeschool slump a few weeks early this year so I’m really getting some much needed inspiration from this series. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Oh, yes, definitely! I tend to get up later and turn in earlier. We still tend to get a lot of schooling done, though, because here in CO, it is just too cold to do much outside. Especially if one of us gets a cold or is not feeling well.

  11. I really enjoyed reading about your days! It gives me lots of good ideas for structuring our homeschool. 🙂
    Samantha’s latest post: Valentine’s Day Grid Math Game with Mini Erasers

  12. I’d like to know where all the resources(books, audiobooks)you linked to come from. Are they family copies or borrowed from the library or others? As homeschoolers, the resources are inevitable but my space is limited. And if you do borrow them, how/when do you find them ? I struggle to get time to research good resources. Thanks for sharing your day!

  13. Wait, when do you do the never ending chores? If I don’t do dishes, laundry, and clean throughout the day then our whole house totally falls into filth and disarray very quickly. Trying to do all of the chores and homeschool is exhausting, and definitely doesn’t leave moments for me time when the kids are distracted! If the kids are having quiet time I’d better be doing the dishes or soon we won’t have any clean silverware or empty space in the sink and I won’t be able to deal with dinner dishes on top of breakfast and lunch dishes…

    • Hi, Amy. Oooooh the chores. I do at least one load of laundry a day [and then it sits in laundry baskets, unfolded, until I get to it on the weekends]. The kids pitch in A LOT. They load/empty the dishwasher, take out the compost, wipe down counters, and vacuum/sweep in the kitchen after lunch/dinner. They also help with meal prep and they put their laundry away. They complain about it, and the way they do it certainly isn’t the way I would do it, but I need the help or I’d go crazy. I need that hour to myself or I’m one crabby mama.
      Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Have Books, Will Travel: How to Homeschool on Vacation

  14. Dana Holshouser says:

    Sounds amazing!! But how do your kids listen so well lol! I have a 4 year old. She won’t stay in her bed no matter what we’ve tried. And she does not play well on her own so I don’t think she would do the rest time. She always wants someone with her!! Maybe it’s b/c she’s an only child and always relies on us. I promote independence any way I can but she always wants someone with her. Which is obviously exhausting for me! Any tips? I’m an unschooler so maybe I need more rhythm?

    • Oh, Dana! They don’t! Ha ha ha! I repeat myself all day long, just like all the other mamas. 🙂

      As for the quiet time, this is just something we’ve always done so they don’t know any different. My oldest two napped until age four and then I just rolled naps over into quiet time. My husband works long hours and I need that one hour to myself. Does it always happen? Nope. My youngest is an extrovert and he craves interaction during that hour. He will come downstairs to ask me questions and get another drink of water. You know the drill 🙂

      Just this week, we are trying something new where all the kids read quietly together during this hour. I’m hoping it will help him to get that interaction he craves while also allowing the introverts to have some quiet. Only time will tell!

  15. Hey Cait! This is my first year homeschooling 🙂 Do you use other curriculum, I saw you posted Singapore for Math. I’m trying to figure out what all I need next year for my 1st grader. This year we did My Father’s World for Kindergarten and it didn’t seem like quite enough.

    • Hi, Kindahl!
      Congrats on your first year 🙂 I use a hodge-podge of curriculum. My children are very asynchronous so they do not fit a grade level box. I do have a couple posts on curriculum choices, but we don’t really follow one book from A-Z, if that makes sense. Is there a specific subject you are concerned about? Simple Homeschool has some fantastic curriculum recommendations, too.
      Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: I don’t need a third strike, folks. I’m out.

  16. Honestly, it is so much harder to get up in the winter. It’s dark and cold and who wants to get out of bed?? I think the homeschool hibernation sounds perfect! I also love that you take that quiet time to yourself in the afternoon. It’s so easy to drain mom’s batteries and not take time to recharge! Good for you. 🙂

  17. Tess Maxwell says:

    I will have to consider self serve breakfast. I do make a wonderful granola that we scarf down Sunday morning because Mass here starts at 8. Maybe we should eat that more. I have a meal plan for breakfast and lunch that is the same week to week, but it includes things like French toast, pancakes, fried eggs, and muffins. I come from a family where so much revolved around wonderful food – my mom owned a bakery and is an amazing chef that I can’t come close to. I do my best, and I am pretty good, but in my mind it is never like ‘hers.’ My brother is a great cook, too. So food is one of the hardest things for me to simplify and still feel that I am a good mom and wife.

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