Kara’s homeschool day in the life (with a 6- and 9-year-old)

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The following is a post by contributor Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera.

A whole bunch of years ago, before I was a homeschool mom, I was a newspaper lady.

And my absolute favorite part of the job was that no two days were ever the same.

Some days were slow and easy. Some days, I found myself chasing down cops in high heels. (Me, not the cops.)

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But every night, we put the paper to bed.

And every morning, we started all over again.

It was good training for this work we do as homeschool moms.

My newspaper days taught me that even when you are dealing with huge variables in your day, certain things stay static. And those are what you cling to.

Those are what keep you from Losing. Your. Mind.

For us, we have certain touchstones throughout the day – meals, read-aloud time, work time, school time, our weekly rhythm activity, bed time. Here’s what that looks like for us in an average day:

6:15 I hear my alarm. I do.

6:35 I roll out of bed and go downstairs to make myself some hot water with lemon. I check that there’s fruit and muffins for everyone. We’re doing this new food thing – and so I like to have something ready for everyone to grab if they are hungry when they wake up.

6:50 Yoga or a run.

7:45 I start to hear small people stirring, and my husband is up in the shower. When my son, 9, wakes, he curls up with a book. My daughter, who is 6, likes to listen to an audiobook while knitting.

I sit down to work for an hour.

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8:45 I’m working on a story due next week. I struggle to pull away, and remember I’ve got two work blocks set aside Tuesday night and Saturday morning. Whew. The work blocks are saving my sanity lately.

9:20 a.m. As we sit down to really eat, I put in a Bill Nye video.

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9:45 to 10 a.m. Breakfast clean-up and work time. The kids and I each have notebooks  where we keep track of stuff like our morning routines.

10:15 a.m. School time. At the beginning of this year, we made a decision to take a more interest-led approach to school. We embrace a lot of Waldorf principles here, and my daughter adores workbooks. So I haven’t figured out what to call that.

My theme for this year: If you like it then you shouldn’t put a label on it.

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Every day is a little different – we’re trying the notebooks to set out some basic guidelines:

  • For my son, I like for him to have reading time and practice music each day.
  • For my daughter, she and I are working on reading together.
  • Ideally, we do math together most mornings.

And while our weekly rhythm gives a focus to each afternoon, mornings vary a lot.

We might do some science or geography; we might play board games or pull out measuring tools.

We might listen to The Story of the World, or draw, bake or build.

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We might watch more videos together, tumble rocks, write letters or make concoctions.

We got a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and we’re working to figure out how to best incorporate that into our school time.

After reading the Percy Jackson series, my son has developed an interest in Greek myths, which has led us to a unit study on ancient Greece. Books often take us down a homeschooling path that if followed, leads to so much discovery.

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12:09 My phone rings. It’s a source for a story who I really, really need to talk to. “Guys, this is a work call,” I say, and now, at 6 and 9, they get what that means.

(I miss when my kids were tiny, but at moments like this, their bigger kid status has me feeling incredibly grateful – no more jumping on the couch, pulling everything out of the cabinets or flushing Matchbox cars while I take a call.)

Luckily, the source just wants to set up a time to talk later in the week.

12:11 We take a little break while I get lunch ready. I’ll often try to find something cool to show the kids a couple of times a week at lunch, like a NASA video, or a new book I found at the library. But today, I accidentally left a ruler on the table.

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“Mama, how big was I when I was born?” my daughter asks. As we start talking about measurements and babies, somehow the conversation leads to our world map, and that same little girl pulls over a chair and begins “playing teacher,” by quizzing us on which countries border Russia.

I’m not sure how it happened, but it was both adorable and educational, so I’ll take it.

Our conversation went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, and it’s a little harder than normal to reign everyone in for read-aloud time. We make it through just one chapter.

1:15 As we clean up from lunch, I can feel myself getting antsy. It’s almost Quiet Time.

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My kids view Quiet Time as the Appendix of our Day.

We don’t need it.

It’s just a left-over from a time when we did need it.

Plenty of people don’t have it and they are fine.

I view it a little differently: It’s like the Skin of our Day.

Without it, I would be falling apart all over the place and scaring small children.

I try to keep Quiet Time to about an hour.

And really, the only quiet person is me. They can read, do art projects, listen to audiobooks or Sparkle Stories or watch a video … But I need to stuff my face in a book about vampires or zombies or witches or star-crossed were-pandas or something and get a deep breath.

2:35 I’m feeling refreshed, and two small people seem a little calmer too.

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So we hit the road. We swing into the coffee shop for a treat, and then go to our library.

We try to go to the library every week. We are routinely at our limit on books and videos, and we do often have small fines.

But the library is a yes place, and we love our weekly visits. (So does my chiropractor.)

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4:30 We’re home. The kids have new books to look at, and I remember my story due next week, so I squeeze in some writing.

5:30 The kids take turns showering, and I start dinner.

6:30 My husband gets home and we eat. While he cleans up dinner, I jump in the shower.

7:45 With everyone in comfy clothes, we snuggle in for some more reading.

8:30 The kids are in bed, and I start settling in for the night too. My husband and I watch a show together and fold laundry. He is the best laundry folder. Really. I let him do a lot of it. Why get in the way?

10 p.m. I’m in bed, with a book again. Sometimes, it’s fancy or challenging. Sometimes, it’s still silly.

But remember this year’s theme? If you like it, then you shouldn’t put a label on it.

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So as I drift off to sleep, I find peace in knowing exactly what tomorrow holds – plenty of surprises certainly, but also our little rhythm, and the many comforts of home.

What from your life before kids helps you in your homeschool day?

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, driven by an unknown force to write everything down. She takes too many pictures, and never leaves home without a notebook. Read about her adventures with her two amazing kiddos at Quill and Camera.

Comments

  1. I was always someone who loved to write and follow schedules. I’ve relaxed on it a bit, but the concept is still there in our unschooling day. We have certain times for meals, chores, family reading, silent reading, and a ”media blackout” period each day. (The purpose of this is to get the kids off of their tablets for a few hours.) I also schedule one subject per day that I would like the kids to do at least one project in that area. I really don’t like breaking things into subjects like that, but we live in PA, so don’t even get me started on that!

  2. To clarify the whole PA comment, it’s one of the strictest homeschooling states.
    Shelly’s latest post: Five Things I Learned from My Kids Yesterday

  3. I love the ‘skin of our day’. I can really relate to that statement!

  4. Your days sound a lot like ours! Our days just kind of unfold in a semi-organized way. And we are also very big on the library. Except we are usually there three or four times a week, dropping off things that are due and picking up new things we’ve ordered. I can’t imagine life without our cute little library just a mile away!
    Thank you for sharing! :-)
    Sallie’s latest post: How I Teach Science – Relaxed Homeschooling in the Early Elementary Years

    • Yes Sallie! We love our library. And we’re often there a few times a week too — except then I get all confused when things are due ;) It’s even worse when we visit neighboring libraries too!

      • Can you do it all online? We can order and renew online as well as check due dates. It is SO HELPFUL to have this option!

        • We live in ND in a tiny town. We have a small library about 14 miles away that we love to go to. We always have loads of books and videos. The state library is over an hour away but I can get on-line and order from any library in ND and they will send it to me in the mail. It doesn’t cost anything unless you send it back in the mail and then it’s library rate. We just drop them off when we’re in Bismarck and they get them back to the right library. It is perfect during our very cold (this year -60 at times) ND winters!

  5. What a beautiful day!

  6. What lovely days. This is my favorite of this (Day in the life) series :) I feel more relaxed just sharing in your day. Thanks!
    Tina’s latest post: Just don’t feel like…

  7. As Tina just said, I feel completely relaxed after reading this. As a new homeschooling mom, I haven’t been able to completely let go of the fear that I’m not doing enough or doing it right. I teach college, so it’s not that part. It’s…I guess, getting used to the unknown and that all is good. I’m thrilled to have found your blog. And I like the idea of including more rituals into our day. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Maddie! In the beginning, I was really overwhelmed with the idea of having to replicate school (in my case, a Waldorf school, since Waldorf philosophy really appealed to me) in my home. But I’ve found the more relaxed I can be, the more relaxed everyone is, and we actually get more done that way. (But full disclosure — I still worry some days that we aren’t doing enough! I even wrote about it a while back here at Simple Homeschool!)
      Kara’s latest post: Snow picnic. (Much needed.)

  8. Love your day! Ours are often really varied, too. Most days involve me needing to find someone a pencil and having to reheat my coffee several times.

    • Oh the missing pencils! (And erasers, markers, scissors, book, etc.) Yes! A part of each day here is The Case of the Missing School Supply! I used to get really stressed that this meant I wasn’t organized, but I’m trying to shift my focus and just be glad that we’re using things — a little disorganization usually means we’re busy and having a good time … usually ;)

  9. Caitlin Francis says:

    This has been my favorite post in this series so far. All of the other ones were overwhelming me with 4:30-5 am wake up times and so many children…hehe. Thanks for sharing your method of “if you like it , then you shouldn’t put a label on it”. I think that may be the direction my life is heading as I begin my homeschooling journey in a few years.

  10. Love this! I’m planning to homeschool in the next year or two (my boys are 2 & 4). I’m so happy I found your blog! I really like to research before i commit to a plan. I was a counselor before I had kids. I like planning out my day, but being flexible at the same time.

  11. Yes — you can do both! :) Good luck as you begin your homeschooling journey Angel!
    Kara’s latest post: Snow picnic. (Much needed.)

  12. I love this idea of unschooling. Right now my daughter is in the 1st grade in public school. I have a 2 year old who is about to start pre-school. I am just not sure about it all. I was homeschooled and did very very well with it. I would not want to teach them what I was taught though (very religious). The oldest has ADHD though and I am not sure I could handle her. Any books out there that you recommend I read? Any online sources for curriculum? My husband does not want me to homeschool, so has anyone else dealt with that? I do have a 4 year teaching degree with years of teaching experience, but he doesn’t think it would work out well. Thanks for the advice. Your day looks lovely and I am looking forward to big kid status with my toddler!

  13. Hi Laura,
    There are so many amazing resources out there! The books that I go back to again and again are Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and books by John Holt. There are actually a lot of free or really affordable Kindle books on unschooling available too. The book Free Range Learning is great as well. I think it is actually pretty common for one partner to be a little (or a lot) skeptical about homeschooling. Maybe you can begin some simple rhythms with your 2-year-old and see how it goes? Perhaps if you find your groove, you’ll be able to see how homeschooling your older daughter could work too?

  14. shawynabelle says:

    I would like some advice. We have done a online school for Kinder and first . In june i will start ‘”going it alone”. I will take any advice we have a curriculum for math and Language but not for history, science and art. We have decided to study what we are interested in for those. I have a three and six year old. Thanks

  15. I love this so much. My daughter is 14 but ours days flow much like this. I LOVE the “if you like it you shouldn’t put a label on it”. Exactly. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Nice to see a families day.
    I’m curious though…do your kids get outside to play and get exercise? Do they have classes they attend regularly?
    I’m just asking because I find my kids (5 and 8) need so much outdoor time, (at least 3 hours a day) and we have about 3 classes a week (Gymnastics, Violin, ice skating etc.) that it’s hard to keep a solid inside routine.

    • Hi Dawn,
      Yes! I’m glad you asked about that! We attend a homeschool co-op each week, and often visit friends and host playdates. We do get outside a lot, between caring for our chickens and general adventuring (the kids built an awesome sled run this winter with their dad!) We often visit parks and nature preserves together too. It’s been a little more challenging this winter (-17 degrees! really?), but being in nature and visiting with their pals are huge parts of my kids’ lives. :)
      Kara’s latest post: Snow picnic. (Much needed.)

  17. Best description EVER of quiet time! I wholeheartedly agree. :)

  18. Ha! Thanks Tsh :)

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