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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.
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:
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.
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:
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?