Jamie’s Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 5-, 6-, & 7-year-old)

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Are you enjoying this series on homeschool days as much as I am? There’s something quite vulnerable about getting to peek behind the curtain of another mom’s living room and see how she keeps all her plates spinning.

One word of caution, however: Don’t you dare leave any of these posts in a comparison mode, thinking, “She does so much more than me–now I know I’m screwing my kids up!” Do what you know is right for your own children–that is all they need.

You won’t feel the need to worry about “more” when it comes to my family’s rhythm–I don’t do it all, I purposefully take it slow, and I focus my days on enjoying my children.

My family is unique in that there are only 22 months separating all three of my kids in age, and even less separating them developmentally. I also work 15 hours a week blogging both here and at Steady Mom, so our rhythm takes into account Mommy’s writing time.

I believe my main goal should be to nurture the relationships in our home. When relationships flourish, I find that the academic side of learning naturally springs forth in an unforced way.

Here’s what that looks like practically.

I typically wake up at 6:45 am on a weekday. I’ve written extensively on Steady Mom about my morning routine and what we do before our day officially begins, so head over to read that if you’re interested.

At 8:20, my kids come out of their rooms to get dressed. Does 8:20 sound specific enough for you? No, I’m not a scheduling nazi–but my six-year-old has a clock in his room and takes it upon himself to announce dramatically at 8:20 – “It’s TIME!!!!” That’s how I know it happens at 8:20, you see.

Early Morning

The kids play while I tidy upstairs, then I help everyone get dressed. We head downstairs, where we have our circle time, then it’s on to the breakfast table. After a quick meal the kids clean up with me.

It’s been too cold lately to do our usual morning walk, so we typically meet again in the living room for a few minutes of music and movement.

Learning Time

By now it’s 9am, and we begin what I consider our “learning time.”

The kids pick out a few books they want me to read, or sometimes I’ll have a selection chosen beforehand. We sit on the couch and read together, then move to the dining table where we do one or two of our Oak Meadow Kindergarten activities. (I intentionally start academics later and follow a better late than early philosophy, which has enabled me to more or less keep all the kids at the same level.)

After this it’s time for what my kids call sections–I can’t really remember how it got this name, but don’t try to call it anything else in our house or the kids will come after you! This time is loosely based on the idea of “centers” in a preschool–my kids rotate spending 15-20 minutes playing in different areas of our house.

The idea, from my point of view, is to follow the leadership education philosophy of structuring time, not content. It gives me the chance to make the most of one-on-one learning opportunities.

Often my older two will work on a story or project and need help spelling words. Sometimes my six-year-old son gives me a math lesson. (Yes, you read that right.) There’s also plenty of Legos, artwork, playing, and drumming that happens as well. During this time I work on laundry, meal prep, or other house organization/cleaning I can do while still being available to the kids.

Early Afternoon

After sections, it’s usually close to noon–time for lunch, then the frigid outdoors for a quick walk and playing in the backyard.

When we come inside, I put on a DVD for the kids while I work and write upstairs (for about 45 minutes). When the video is over, it’s rest time–where the kids play quietly (at least it’s supposed to be quietly!), read, draw, and rest for an hour and a half. During this time in our day I’ll do more computer work and also try to rest or read for 30 minutes myself (Mama recharge time).

Late Afternoon

When rest time ends, it’s already 4 or 4:30 pm. Trishna, Jonathan, and Elijah play while I put away the laundry I folded in the morning. We head back downstairs where I give the kids a quick snack and we read a chapter of our current read-aloud. (Right now, it’s The Burgess Bird Book for Children–highly recommended!)

Then it’s around 5pm–time to start dinner. One of Trishna’s current household duties is dinner helper, so she comes to the kitchen with me while the boys play for a while (until they start arguing–yes, this is a real home I’m talking about!).

At that point I put on another short DVD for them while I finish dinner.

Evening

After dinner comes the usual: clean up, family time, baths, and bedtime for the kids (around 8 pm).

I usually tidy the downstairs quickly, work a bit more online, and try to unplug around 8:30 (emphasis on the try). Then I spend time with my husband, take a shower, and happily head to bed (I aim for 10 pm, but it’s been more like 10:30 lately).

Variations on the Day

This routine varies on certain days. At least once a week we go on some type of outing–to the library, a museum, or maybe for a walk in the woods.

One day a week I have a sitter in the mornings, so she follows our general rhythm with the kids at home while I head out to write. And of course we also enjoy the flexibility to change things up, so we can meet with friends or ditch the plan for the unexpected.

The Secret of a Good Day

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the secret of a good day is … me. I try to keep in mind this quote by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

This post is brought to you by List PlanIt, providing hundreds of lists to put your world in order. Check out their new series of homeschooling lists!

Have any questions about our day? Ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. That is wonderful, thank you so much for sharing!
    Anastasia Borisyuk’s latest post: G2V Products Stainless Bottles Review

  2. Tracy Wallace says:

    Thank you for the posts on families with teens/preteens. If there are any out there that involve special needs (physical or emotional) teens, I would sure love to hear from you or find some blog links for inspiration and support.

  3. Robyn says:

    What kinds of activities do you do during your “center time” ? I have a three year old and an eighteen month old and I’d love to try this . . . not sure if I need to wait longer for the little one, but it would be interesting to try. I’d love for them to play individually a little so I didn’t have to referee constantly!

    • Jamie says:

      Exactly, Robyn – that’s kind of why we started doing this in the first place.

      Generally, the kids play with whatever toys are in the section they’re in. So in the dining room we have our art supplies, in the living room we keep a few toys, puzzles, dress up, and books, and so on. Then I’ll usually bring up a toy from the basement (where we keep a few things in rotation) to add to the living room or other area as well.
      Jamie’s latest post: Jamie’s Homeschool Day in the Life with a 5- 6- &amp 7-year-old

  4. Cari says:

    Thanks for this candid perspective; I am really appreciating this series. I love the quote you included and am excited to take a closer look at The Burgess Bird Book for Children.
    Cari’s latest post: Thoughts from the Fall Term

  5. katie says:

    thank you for letting us into your real life, and not keeping it just “do this” and “do that.” also, what a GREAT quote you ended with. I think I will print it and put where I can read it every morning. happy homeschooling :)
    katie’s latest post: Costco freebie

  6. bethany says:

    Good Morning, Jamie!

    Welcome back. I hope your holidays were lovely! We had a quiet holiday here in Maine. We usually head down to Hamden, CT to my uncle’s house but, my husband started a new job this Summer and could not take time away. I certainly miss going home to CT but, there is always next year.

    My question for you is: Where did you get that “Thank God for Today” Chart? It looks like a beautiful way to introduce the calendar to my boys.

    God bless you in the New Year!
    Bethany
    bethany’s latest post: Always guessing again

  7. Sara S says:

    Thank you for the quote at the end of your post. WOW! I’m going to post that one in my home. Also, may I ask where you got the Thank God For Everyday calendar??

  8. Jessica says:

    Favorite Day In The Life so far.
    Jessica’s latest post: My Sunday School Social can beat up your Sunday School Social

  9. You know how much I love this post. I don’t feel like such a slacker homeschooler when I read about how you structure time more than content, which is much the same in our household.

    Oh, and I’ve picked up the Leadership Ed book again this new year. I never did finish it last year and it’s just so good. Thanks again for your part in that.

  10. Leah says:

    Thanks for sharing. I LOVE that quote at the end. So true.

  11. Anne says:

    Love the quote! When i taught in the public schools I had that quote on my walls. So powerful. Thank you for letting us take a look into your day. Love this series!

  12. Linda says:

    Love, love, love the quote! What’s the source? And where did you get that wonderful “Thank God For Today” calendar center?

    Thanks!

  13. andie says:

    great quote about the best part of the day. very convicting :)
    andie’s latest post: most popular post

  14. Rana says:

    I love that quote. I printed it and posted it in our home. Thanks for sharing your routine with us. I am really enjoying this series.
    Rana’s latest post: On the move

  15. Debbie says:

    We are just starting our school year in South Africa and this was really helpful – particularly liked the idea of stucturing time rather than content. I enjoy starting the day with our candle lighting and singing (inspired by your circle time video which my 3 and 5 year old boys watched and wanted to emulate immediately!)

    Thank you for your encouraging writing.

  16. Julie says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I was planning on studying birds with my first grader this semester but had never heard of the Burgess Bird Book for Children. I looked into it and love it. I downloaded it as an ebook for $3 along with The Burgess Animal Book for Children for $1.99! I started reading it with my son and he didn’t want to stop. Thank you for letting us know about the book.
    Thanks so much for the quote also. It is so important to remember how much our mood and attitude impact our home.

  17. Thank you for sharing your day! I have a three year old and five year old and we love our circle and storytime too.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: Booking It in 2011

  18. Mary C. says:

    Thank you for sharing! It is always an inspiration to me to know what other homeschoolers do — no matter the age. :)

  19. Betsy Fox says:

    LOVE the quote– Just what I needed to hear! I home school my six kiddos–ages 5 months to 11 years old. I’ve just found this blog and it is inspiring me and reminding me why I love home schooling. I’ve gotten a bit overwhelmed with life lately and the articles are so gentle and encouraging. Thank you!

  20. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much! This is so HUGELY helpful. We just started homeschooling our 5 year old this school year and I have 3 year old twins in tow. I always feel like I am “not doing enough.” This really helps my head get around some structure for our days. Thanks!

  21. Stephinie says:

    I am totally loving the series….. thanks for letting us peek into your day :)
    Stephinie’s latest post: Monday Bites – Berthas Hard Run Fuel

  22. sarah says:

    Um, where’s the “school” part? You read to them, and part of your rotating play time sometimes involves spelling or math? Not bad for the 5 year old, but your older kids ought to be reading by themselves, practicing arithmetic, and what about science, history, etc?

    • Hi Sarah. There are different philosophies of education out there, and not everyone has the same feelings about what kids at certain ages ought to be doing.

      We follow educational principles from both the leadership education philosophy and the interest-led philosophy, both of which focus mostly on play for children at this age. We don’t really want a “school” part to our day, especially at this stage, but hope our kids grow to feel that learning is something that happens all day wherever we go.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Jamie’s Homeschool Day in the Life with a 5- 6- &amp 7-year-old

  23. Aimee says:

    I loved reading this, Jamie! So happy they you have a kitchen helper. =)
    Aimee’s latest post: Weekend Links

  24. Jessica says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I loved the post. I am a working mom trying to figure out why my son’s teacher keeps sending home the same math sheets for homework daily! my kid is bored and understimulated by traditional school – he actually told me that they do the same thing over and over everyday in class.

    I greatly admire your dedication in the “interest led” philosophy. My kid deserves more!

  25. Wow, the comment from Sarah was pretty rude! Not very educated about homeschooling either, IMNSHO. :) You are more “schooly” than we are and I can absolutely say that you don’t need to sit down and do history or make the kids do math in order to have kids that academically excel.

    Your rhythm and routine sounds absolutely perfect for your kids’ ages! I love the focus on reading, self-direction and centers. I also love the quote at the end!
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: The Wisdom of Simple Children’s Books

  26. Nola says:

    OOO I like the “center time” idea. Now why didn’t I think of that? :)

    I’ve missed reading this blog for a while…shouldn’t have stopped reading it. Great ideas here I will have to go back and read some more when I have some time.

  27. Maureen Ruble says:

    I really appreciated this post…my little ones are 3, 4 and 5 so they are very close in age too. I have wondered if at some point I will be able to get them working on variations of the same curriculum. My biggest frustration is the interruptions in our learning by my three year old who doesn’t have the same attention span yet. It is good to know that there is hope!

    Thanks
    Maureen
    maureeenruble@yahoo.com

    Simply Stacie Blog Team
    http://simplystacie.net

  28. Andrea says:

    Hi Jaime – I just spent about a week refining my daily schedule, based on the ones in Steady Mom. I really appreciate the aspect of writing down what I’m doing (or supposed to be) along with what Grace is doing. I now call it my parallel schedule and have one printed out for each weekday. It’s been an eye-opener in terms of what we actually accomplish versus what I thought/ought we should. I loved hearing about your day; thanks so much for opening up your home to us.
    Andrea’s latest post: Snow Day Toddler Table Butcher Paper Family Harmony Tip 5

  29. AprilS says:

    I am so glad you guys did this series. It is PHENOMENAL and just so interesting to see how different folks handle homeschooling. The fact that you are able to balance writing and homeschooling 3 kids is amazing. Plus, you sound so calm and relaxed about it that I’m certain this is a great experience for you all.
    Good luck and good homeschooling!
    AprilS’s latest post: Physics – Free Falling Objects

  30. Thanks for sharing a peek inside your day with young ones. I love the quote at the end of this post. It applies to stay-at-home/homeschooling mothers perfectly. I am going to print this and hang it somewhere I can see it daily to remind me that I am (most days) the only source of encouragement my young children will receive and so I should take care that my words build them up not tear them down.
    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds’s latest post: Routines

  31. Gail Pace says:

    So, I am curious, have things changed now that your kids are a little older? Now that my 22 month old’s schedule is getting a little more manageable, I am looking at how to do an overhaul on my homeschool approach. My son is 7 and finishing 1st grade. I have been trying different things with the “schedule,” but I am still trying to figure out how to “get it all done”! One thing I do know is it has to change for me to stick with this long-term. Thanks :)

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