Cheryl’s homeschool day in the life (with an 18-month-old and 5-, 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds)

The following is a post by contributor Cheryl Pitt of

I‘ve been homeschooling since 2001.  The journey has been so much more — more exciting, more difficult, more blessed — than I ever imagined it would be!

As you read the Day in the Life series, I’m sure you’ll notice the fact that everyone’s day is vastly different. That’s a blessing of homeschool, we can do life with school.  I’m a prime example of that right now.


When I began to write this post, I was very tempted to write what our day “should” look like, what I want it to look like, rather than the real thing.  Why? Because right now our life is a mess.  A beautiful mess, but still a mess.  I’m schooling 5 kids from 18 months to 18 years.  Plus organizing a bloggers conference, caring for my ailing grandfather-in-law, and all the other little bits of life like meals, bills, errands, etc.

That’s why I’d like to share more about my life, rather than the nitty gritty of our day.  Hopefully it will demonstrate the grace that is built into homeschooling.

One thing I can promise you about homeschool is that your “day” will look different from year to year and month to month.

Chocolate Moustache

Let me share a little about our cast of characters I’m raising.  Three of the children are officially mine, they are ages 17, 5 and 18 months. The other two are my brothers-in-law. They have been living with us for 3 years (plus on and off through the years before that) due to some difficult family situations. They are ages 18 and 16. While they are not “mine,” they’re part of the family.  So that leaves me with 2 seniors, 1 sophmore, 1 first-grader, and a wee one.

Tony, 18, brother-in-law: Classic type-A personality, respectful, self-starter. Afraid of “new”, doesn’t drive or work yet.
Fox, 17, son: Independent, hard worker, honest, a real go-getter. Flighty and has very little interest in actually graduating.
Billy, 16, brother-in-law: Calm, kind-hearted, intelligent and hands-on. Struggles terribly with reading and other “heart-issues.”
Bram, 5, son: Energetic, loving, hilarious and cuddly. Very science-minded, wants nothing to do with reading.
Amelie, 18 months, daughter: Sweet, curious, adorable. Very calm as long as mama is holding her.
Lester, 81, grandfather-in-law: Talkative, ornery, obstinate. Some coherent days, some not.

You can see there’s quite a range of personalities and issues. One child does school without issue, two need guidance, one fights it.  The little ones wreak havoc — the good kind with toys strewn about the house and giggly interruptions. The grandfather talks my ear off daily and unwittingly throws off our “schedule.”

No day looks the same – and that’s okay! It’s life.

The one thing that keeps my sanity is that we have a routine rather than a schedule.  There’s a list of “must-dos” and as long as they’re finished before 8 p.m., I’m happy.  So, without further ado, here’s what a good, no-interruptions, average day looks like in my home.

6:00 – I’m up, showered, and at the computer. I like to get up earlier if I can because once the kids wake I don’t usually sit down at the computer to work. I do little bits of work from my phone. Everything else waits until the next morning. I cram in as much productivity as possible.

7:30 – The little ones wake around this time and we cuddle, chat and try to start our days with smiles. I get them dressed before heading downstairs.

8:30 – Whomever is home meets the kitchen for a “togetherly breakfast.” Usually Fox is at work. My husband’s work hours are erratic, sometimes he’s home to join us, sometimes not. Lester sleeps through breakfast. By this time the teens will have been up, dressed and finished their morning chores.

9:00 – School starts for the big ones, they are 99% independent workers now. I tackle a quick chore or two while the little ones play. Usually I’m starting or finishing a load of laundry.

9:30 – 11:30 – This is my time spent with the little ones. More often than not it is interactive, educational play with Mom. We’ll also watch educational videos like Wild Kratts and Magic School Bus.  Amelie gets fussy toward the end of this time so we cuddle and  nurse.  She’ll usually take a 15 minute nap somewhere between 11 and 1.  Naps are sporadic … different times and lengths each day.


12:00 – 2:00 – I wake up Lester.  This is about an hour long process.  Getting him awake, his coffee, medicine and a loooooooong talk.  Most days it’s the same stories we’ve all heard many times. But it’s good for him to talk, so I listen, ask questions and nod my head.  A lot.  Then I get him up and moving out to the kitchen for his “breakfast” and we all have lunch. We talk some more.  The little ones wander in and out of Lester’s bedroom or the kitchen, playing, joining the conversation, or just sitting with us.  When the littles are extra bouncy, the big boys help entertain them for a half hour — that’s a HUGE blessing.

2:30 – Mommy’s decompression time.  I’ll be very transparent here and say I need to decompress after my time with Lester. He’s a difficult personality — he had a troubled childhood and likes to talk about lifetime negatives.  I do my best to steer the conversations to the positive.  But there are some people who choose to be miserable and we have to do our best to love them anyway. Sometimes my decompression time is productive, taking the kids outside or playing a board game. Other times it’s purely selfish, and I plop on the couch to watch Food Network while I nurse Amelie (again).

3:00 – This is when I try to get serious about Bram’s school. I am an advocate for delayed academics, and he’s only interested in animals.  So we generally do a little bit of letter recognition then something he likes — art, reading (about animals), or whatever has grabbed his attention that week.

 4:00 – By now the teens have finished their work and had some down time themselves. Fox has usually returned from work too. Each day I expect each teen to spend one-on-one play time with Bram. He gets left behind whenever the big ones go out.  This is their time to help build solid relationships with him. Somewhere between now and when I’m in the middle of cooking supper Amelie decides she needs to be nursed again, and takes a longer nap.

5:00 – I start supper.  Somehow, no matter what I’m making, whether it’s a T.V. dinner or a 4 course meal, I can’t seem to get supper on the table before 6.  Is it just me???

6:00 – Supper is (usually) ready, Ameilie has napped and we all sit down for a family dinner.  Depending on the day there can be lots of conversation … or not so much. There are always lots of interruptions from Bram, my finicky eater, and Amelie, who seems to think only the food on Mama’s plate is worth eating.

7:00 – Family clean up! I got this idea from my friend Dana at A Slob Comes Clean. It makes cleaning up after supper a fun time to chat and goof around. Plus it’s easier on me because the last thing I want to do is spend an hour doing dishes this late. I will admit it doesn’t make clean up any faster for us ... but that’s usually because we’re goofing around a bit.  There’s usually towel snapping involved.

8:00 – The teens spend their evenings on the phone, T.V. or computer. I take the little ones upstairs for bath time. Of course I should start calling it “water play time” instead of bath time.


9:00 – Time to put the little ones to bed. The teens make it to bed by 11:30 on school nights.  Yes, they have a bedtime. I know that sounds strict, but I need to sleep, so that means quiet. Fox usually goes to bed somewhat early for work.

9:30 – Once the little ones are asleep I take a few moments to do all those “little things” that popped into my head — setting out meat to defrost, retrieving a toy from under the couch, gathering up water glasses I left in my room — those kinds of things.  I’m usually in bed by 10:30 – 11. And that is a huge accomplishment for this once-upon-a-time night owl!

Again, this is just the bare bones of our day.  It’s what we reach for. There are always those times when Lester needs to go to the doctor, a friend or family member needs help with something, Mama is just plain tired.  Fox and Tony are running to activities at least a couple times a week. If I need to run errands I do them first thing in the morning, or we set out during my break time.

Having a basic schedule helps keep everyone on track, even when the conductor has left the station.

Do you have homeschoolers who need different kinds of learning support because of their ages or learning styles?

About Cheryl Pitt

Cheryl has been homeschooling since 2001; she home educates 5 children from baby to teen. She is a brand consultant and avid social media user. Her heart for strong family values and the companies that promote them, led her to found the 2:1 Conference - the only conference for homeschooling parents active in social media. You can find Cheryl at her blog Cheryl Pitt.


  1. I am loving this series. So fun and interesting to see how homeschooling manifests so differently in every one’s life. Thanks for the peek.
    sheila’s latest post: Cutting the Food Bill

  2. Wow Cheryl, that is quite a story. I’m so looking forward to meeting you at 2:1 and getting to know you better. Girl, could we talk!!

  3. I love your honesty here. Our first week back after Christmas has been tough this year because we are trying to sell our home and we decided to paint the entire interior last weekend. I’ve been beating myself up about homeschooling, but we’re getting it done, we’re following the “routine”, just not in my favorite, organized way with a put together home.

  4. Love this series! And God bless you for being so giving to others with your life and time! Praise be to Him for the work He is doing through you!

  5. Valerie josephson says:

    I appreciate the honesty, and sharing the realities of your life. This post was encouraging to me. I had a mild traumatic brain injury a year ago, and our past year has been fairly hit and miss when it comes to formal school time I experience a lot of fatigue and sensitivity to noise, so some days we just survive. It is easy to get discouraged, but this post is a good reminder that families are a unit, and we all learn to do the best with what we have.
    “The journey has been so much more – more exciting, more difficult, more blessed — than I ever imagined it would be!”
    So true! Homeschooling is quite a journey. Thank you for the encouragement.

  6. Keeslermom says:

    I’m so glad to know there are other mamas juggling teens and toddlers, and trying to keep it all together!

  7. I love this series! I am new to homeschooling. I love all the ideas I read & different styles of schooling. I love the picture of the grandfather & grandchild ‘working’ together. This Is what it is all about.

  8. I love hearing about the different ways that different families approach scheduling. Because we have a mostly unschooling way of life, we tend to keep a very flexible schedule. But that doesn’t mean that the kids aren’t learning. It’s interesting to see how another family fits it all in.
    Kim’s latest post: Why We Do What We Do

  9. I have ten kids still at home- ages 14, 13, 12, 9, 8, 6, 5, 4, 2, & 8 months. We’ve homeschooled for five years now and have gone from school-at-home to unit studies/eclectic to, just recently, unschooling. Eclectic homeschooling was going well, but I think the unit studies were more interesting to me than my kids. I noticed they were learning more from their own pursuits than from what I was teaching them. While they are now free to take the reins, I did tell them that they should try to have some sort of ongoing project to do everyday. Otherwise, several of them would sit on their phones or tablets all day. I know some people think that’s okay, but I live in PA, and the school district would have something to say about that! Incidentally, my 14 year old has chosen to continue her independent textbook driven approach because that’s how she’s most comfortable.
    Shelly’s latest post: Changes in the Air

  10. What comes to mind is, “Wow! You’re such a servant!” God bless you for caring for brothers-in-law and GFIL.

  11. Wonderful! It’s lovely to see REAL days. Thank you for sharing yours and not what you would ‘like’ it to look like!! 🙂
    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s latest post: Tiny Tidbits 12.13

  12. Very interesting reading about a family with ends of the age spectrum! My oldest is only 12 and with eight children I am just now wading into middle school waters. I love where we are at but each new year I love the changes as well. Thank you for sharing a peek in your homeschool day!
    Tristan’s latest post: Books I’m Currently Reading

  13. Love these!

  14. You are amazing and truly a servant of others! I am guessing that picture is Lester with your little one, so sweet. Your kids are learning so much about loving and caring for others by watching you. You are a blessing, thank you for sharing your “real” day!!

  15. Cheryl,
    What a great post! When my two daughters (they are about 16 months apart) were very young (preschool) I would read to them faithfully every night. They picked out the book and I did the reading. As they got older we continued this only we would share the reading. I would read a page or two and then they would read a page or two. Today (they’re both in their teens now) I don’t read to them anymore (sigh, LOL), but they still enjoy reading (though the oldest not so much.) But with the onslaught of the internet, electronic games, etc. etc. reading like this I’m sure has become more of a challenge for moms with younger children. Well, hang in there, it sounds like you have things well under control! Thanks for the light and enjoyable post!
    The Funster’s latest post: Angry Birds Air Swimmers Review!

  16. Cheryl,

    In reading this, one thing just jumped out at my heart very strongly. You mentioned that Billy struggles with reading “and other heart issues.” I take that to mean that you’re calling reading a “heart” issue. I’ve never heard that link before and am very interested in what you may mean. Please tell me more!!!

  17. I loved reading your honest account of managing and living with so many people and such drastically different personality types. This is real life, isn’t it… thanks for writing this.
    Maggie’s latest post: Operations Underway

  18. LOL…. It’s good to know that someone besides me has the issue with dinner taking at least an hour no matter what you’re cooking. I even start earlier some days (as if I get a chance very often) and I still can’t get it done before 6! Personally I think there is some sort of time warp that I step through as soon as I walk into the kitchen!

  19. Wow! I loved this! I don’t have teenagers yet, but I have three kids and a 71 year old father-in-law! Our life has drastically changed since he came to live with us, and I completely understand what you are talking about with needing to decompress and his negativity! That’s how both my husband and I feel daily! After a year, I can finally say that we are beginning to have some semblance of a routine again. For many months, and cirrcumstances not only related to my FIL, we felt like we were just hanging on by our fingernails. You’re a great mama, no matter the technical relation, and I’m sure they are all grateful to have you a mainstay in their lives. Well done!
    Judy’s latest post: 3 for 30 Challenge

  20. This is tough for me. When I see posts like this, which are very common, I want to scream. From that whole schedule you only had an hour of any kind of schooling. I guess if you’re not considering him in Kindergarten yet then you wouldn’t have much school for him. I see this a lot in homeschooling and I don’t see that as homeschooling. I see it as you taking care of a house (which is a lot of work) and your older children schooling themselves, while your 5 year old plays all day long until his one hour of “learning play’. I think things like this give homeschoolers a negative rap. It gives us a negative rap because a lot of times this kind of schedule doesn’t change when the children become 6,7, and 8. The older kids school themselves while the 8 year old does 30 minutes of something and that is supposed to be their education. However even though I disagree I do believe parents have the right to school their children however they see fit. Whether they actually teach them or not that is their call, not societies, no matter how much anyone disagrees.

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