Kara’s homeschool day in the life (with an 8- & 11-year-old)

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Written by Kara Anderson.

A few months ago, someone asked me if my kids ever don’t want to do school.

I smiled, because that was the type of question I wondered about early on, when I didn’t really know any homeschoolers.

I kind of knew one, and she was sort of mean. I was scared to ask her anything, because one time another mom asked her if her son could have the blue cup and she snapped: “We don’t do that here.” I knew then that the best course of action was just to run for my life.

So instead of asking her my homeschooling questions I took to the Internet, which was a huge mistake. Because the Internet has everything on it and that can be a bit overwhelming.

A homeschool day in the life 2016

You read the blogs – doesn’t it feel sometimes like everyone else has it figured out?

I want to tell you that I don’t. There are definitely days when my kids just don’t want to do school.

There are resources we have tried that people swear by, and one or all of us hates it.

There are things other mamas do that frankly look like a lot of work, so I pin those things and never look at them again.

But every morning, I get up, I make my tea, and I start anyway. Here’s what that looks like on an average, imperfect day:

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EARLY MORNING

I wake up in my warm bed and grab a sweater and my slippers and my glasses and creep downstairs. The cat is there. He literally stalks me like a lion until I feed him. I make tea.

I pull out something nice to read. A passage from this, a page from this. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Mary Oliver’s poetry.

P.S. My stove looks disgusting. It got overlooked last night, and there are food splatters everywhere and I can’t handle it. So I wipe down the stove, and it’s like if you give a mouse a cookie —  I suddenly want to spend the day cleaning my house.

But no. Homeschool!!

I look at my calendar. Having a calendar is one of the things that keeps me from losing my mind.

I either walk the dog if the weather is okay, or I jump on the computer to do a few work tasks.

(I work 20-24 hours a week. Exactly. I have figured out that any more than 24 hours and no one has clean underwear or towels and we eat too much pizza.)

My husband works full-time away from home, but is doing a weekend presidential unit study with the kids.

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MORNING

A child emerges. I shut down my computer and we chat about the day ahead. My son, 11, identifies strongly as an unschooler, which means he likes to feel like he is in large part responsible for his education. My daughter, 8, prefers a little more structure. I prefer doing as much as we can together, and lots of reading for everyone.

I listened to a Periscope with the amazing Julie Bogart about how a lot of kids need transition time in the mornings, so I’ve been trying to give my kids a half-hour to wake up. I spend that time getting dressed and ready.

Then I start breakfast. I listen to a podcast, audiobook, or Periscope. The kids get dressed, brush teeth and hair and help with the pets.

At breakfast we chat some more about the day ahead. Then we clean up breakfast and start school.

Last year I learned more about Morning Time, and it has revolutionized the way we do things. I pull out our basket of books and we hop through several subjects together.  It’s mostly me reading and the three of us chatting. The kids will build with LEGOs or make perler bead creations, or play with clay.

I’ll read from our current read-aloud. We’ll have some tea.

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After morning time we do subjects that require our notebooks. Each of my kids (and me too!) have a large, unlined notebook where we keep our work. It’s nothing fancy, but it keeps us from having a lot of paper floating around. The notebooks live in our homeschool crate, so I always know where they are.

Almost.

Sometimes.

Right now we do Life of Fred for math and we’re working through Draw Europe. They can also draw in these notebooks during our morning time. These aren’t books to show relatives or the state – these are just for us.

We wrap up school – the kids disappear. I start thinking about lunch. I hate lunch.

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AFTER LUNCH

Following lunch, we have reading time. This used to be Quiet Time, and now it is just Mom Needs a Deep Breath time. Sometimes I’ll set a timer. Often, they know it’s time to find me when they hear the kettle whistle.

Following reading time, sometimes we’ll do a project. Sometimes we’ll play a game. Sometimes we’ll have cocoa. Usually we’ll eat a baked good. It’s winter.

MID-AFTERNOON

I start my concentrated work time and open time for the kids to pursue their current loves. Today, we have a library program at 4, so we’ll work until 3:30 or so and then I’ll bring my work with me to the library. The kids go sledding and then work on animation projects.

3:30 – We look for coats, shoes, and library books and head to the library.

When we get there, the kids do their programs and I have an hour to work.

Following the library program, we head home with two bags of books, and that’s all it takes for the kids to stay busy until dinner. I do a short yoga practice.

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EVENINGS

I start dinner. My husband gets home. The kids start our evening clean-up which will continue after dinner. Nothing huge – just resetting the house, mostly clearing off the table from the day.

I’m trying not to do lots of “chores” every day right now – it feels like too much, so we set aside a weekend day for that. The other weekend day I work 6-8 hours.

Eventually we start settling in for the night. This takes forever now, because my kids are older. So often I take a shower and I put myself to bed around 9 with a book, some tea, my essential oils, and 11 pillows.

The kids pop in and out. My husband and I might watch TV and fold laundry.

It sounds simple, really – writing it all out like this.

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We have days when it feels much harder, and we have to stop everything and get doughnuts or ice cream and reset. We have a crazy dog. We have meetings and see friends and go to the Y. Some weeks I work more or less.

But I’m starting my 8th year of homeschooling now, so it is easier than when I was starting out and didn’t know who to talk to or what to do …

I’ve found my homeschool people, both locally and online.

I’ve gotten okay with not doing it all, and figuring out how to combine what works for the kids with what works for me.

Mostly, I’ve decided that we don’t have to have it all figured out, we just have to bring the love.

Because it’s enough, and then we are too.

Have you found what feels like “enough” in your homeschool? How do you feel about not “doing it all?”

How the days have changed:

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, with a goal of encouraging fellow mamas in real-life homeschooling. She also's the happy co-host of The Homeschool Sisters podcast.

Comments

  1. I really love reading these day in a life homeschool things! I think it’s neat how everyone has a different way of homeschooling and also structuring their days. Yours sounds a little like ours in some ways. Thanks for sharing.
    Rosanna’s latest post: How We Save Money-Part 4

  2. “There are things other mamas do that frankly look like a lot of work, so I pin those things and never look at them again. “– I think this was my favorite line! Glad to know I’m not the only one who does this!

  3. Oh I was so excited to see this in my inbox this morning. I grabbed my coffee and sat right down to read. I just LOVE these posts!
    Of course then I had to share on Facebook and Pinterest! Personally I think every homeschooler and everyone that knows a homeschooler should read these, why?? Because I truly believe each homeschool looks different, and sometimes it looks different each moment of the day.
    Thank you so much for sharing these, looking forward to the next one 😉
    Jen’s latest post: Book Review For January: Sherlock Holmes, His 1st Case

  4. Must have details on the weekend presidential unit because we are a little bit president-crazy over here. I *might* have just bought Abe Lincoln knee socks. For myself.
    Kortney’s latest post: Confessions of a Planner Convert

    • Yeah. I’m going to need a photo of that Kort. 🙂 He is awesome — he has it all planned out. There are binders! Everyone got a new marker! He puts videos and books on hold at the library and factors in time for “open discussion.” It just goes to show you how your own enthusiasm for a subject can make you an incredible teacher.

  5. Loved reading about your day, it’s very similar to ours..through the years I’ve always felt we didn’t ‘do’ enough, as we were always the most relaxed of any of the homeschoolers I knew/hung out with..but somehow this is the way that works for us, and I just try not to think of what ‘others’ are doing..my daughter is now 18 and has just gotten her first job, a dream job interning at the main library in our county, doing just what she loves, working with books and people, introducing them to each other..I realize that’s what it’s all about, helping our kids find and go after their passion..the other stuff doesn’t matter much in the long run (she hates math, for example)..Thanks again for sharing about your relaxed and simple homeschool day, it encourages me that we’ve been on the right path all these years..

  6. Megan toro says:

    I love the ice cream reset!! So real 🙂 and the Pinterest posts you never get back to – yes same here!

  7. I always enjoy your thoughts and humor. I am wondering about your mention of Y time. I am considering joining but wondering what my 12 and 8 year old would do while I am in a class or working out. They don’t want to be in the daycare area obviously. Thanks.

    • We are really lucky — our Y has a supervised indoor play park area for the kids. But our favorite activities are walking the track, rock climbing and playing basketball and racquetball together. 😉

  8. Thank you for sharing your day-in-the-life! I had the same starry-eyedness in the beginning and am firmly rooted in reality now. Our rhythm is pretty similar to yours — thank you so much for sharing!

  9. I loved reading this. I too work part time, have an 8-yr old girl who likes some structure and an 11-year old boy who “strongly identifies as an unschooler.” I would love to hear more about working with children who require autonomy in their education, i.e. how to get out of their way while still providing guidance while not feeling like a failure. Next series, perhaps? 🙂

  10. Thanks for writing a day that sounds so so SO much like ours. I feel like I’ve left my head behind at least six times a day! We’re starting year four of our grand adventure, and while I’m learning that my three kids will get it done if there’s a list (haha), I totally don’t feel like I’ve got it all in hand. And I just might be panicking because my eldest just became “a freshman.” Lol. Step by step, right? Thanks again!

  11. I seriously wish you lived in NH. We have such similar styles, from the tea (although I start with coffee first and then switch over) to the blank notebooks to the morning time to the library to yoga. I need to get my husband doing unit studies- genius!

  12. Thank you for welcoming us into your home for the day. We are only 2 weeks in on our homeschool journey. Already hooked because we can see how it has changed the overall mood of the family.
    Melissa’s latest post: Healthy Spinach Farro Lemon Chicken Soup

  13. Can you explain to me how you actually do/use Life of Fred for math? I have the first four books and they honestly just sit on my shelf.
    Jodie’s latest post: January 2016

    • Hi Jodie! I can totally see that — for a while I felt like Life of Fred wasn’t enough math for us, but we’ve really settled into a good routine with it, and we all love it. I think I’ve had to let go of some old preconceived notions about math! (Jamie’s series last year helped!) We do LOF at the table, and the kids have notebooks available. At the end of each chapter, we go through the questions together, and they can write down the answers or tell me. Some days we do one chapter, other days we do more. I remember one day sitting on the porch going through almost a whole book together! 😉 I pace it based on if they are getting the concept. If not, we’ll stop there and I’ll do some reinforcement stuff, like writing multiplication tables on the windows or playing math games. I hope that helps! 🙂

  14. So fantastic to read about a day in the life of your homeschool because this: “You read the blogs – doesn’t it feel sometimes like everyone else has it figured out?” I’ve been reading the blogs and trying to figure it out, and it seems like everyone else knows what they are doing. (Quick side note: we haven’t started homeschooling, won’t start until later this spring, maybe not even until September. I’m recovering from surgery and my kids are in early elementary grades at our local school.) But your post, really great. So great to read that someone is doing it this way. This is how I envisioned our homeschooling happening and my kids have similar personality traits to how you described your kids. So it is possible, and it is messy, and sometimes it’s hard. But after reading this…I’m okay with that. Thank you.
    Nancy’s latest post: Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls

  15. My kids are 9 and 11 so this was helpful to read. I like the relaxed pace. So is your morning routine when you do science and history? I’m trying to get a routine that works but nothing sticks for long. I love the idea of letting the kids do their own thing after lunch, and that’s my plan, but their assigned work often goes past lunchtime so then they have less time to explore their own things after lunch, before outings and activities start.
    Elaine’s latest post: 2 Years Already!?!

    • Hi Elaine!

      Yes — morning time is when we cover science and history mainly. Although I am finding us more and more like Finland, and sort of losing track of defined “subjects!” 😉

  16. Thanks for sharing your day–i loved reading this post; it helped me feel much more calm/relaxed about how we’re “doing school”.

  17. Kara your writing always makes me laugh out loud! Love this peek into your homeschool. I like the way you roll.

  18. I love this. How many hours a weekday do you think you get done working? Starting this year, I work “full time” from home and a lot of it feels like I’m running backwards. I currently homeschool my 10 year old and then my 3 year old is usually making messes, crawling all over me for attention, etc. I’m really trying to work on the balance. I miss the days of baked goods and library trips – they’re becoming more far and in between.

    • Hi Leah — It definitely varies day to day, but I try to work for an hour in the morning or in the evening when my husband is here. I try to keep my work time during the day to 2 hours unless my kids have an activity (library event, class, etc.). But one weekend day, I work like crazy. 😉 I try to take the other weekend day off. Does that help at all? It’s tough to balance sometimes, isn’t it?

  19. This sounds a LOT like my day – including the disgusting stove top. Haha! Love it. It’s nice to read about someone else doing the same thing. 🙂
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Homeschooling Moms Are Happier

  20. Thanks for this – always helpful to read honest accounts of how others are spending their days. Also good to know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and inadequate when I turn to the internet for inspiration!
    Catherine’s latest post: Homeschooling in the UK – 5

  21. I always love reading your posts, Kara, because, not to sound creepy, but I think if we knew each other in real life we’d get along well. (Or at least completely relate!) Not to mention my kids are the same ages. And Julie Bogart’s Periscopes are the breath of positive fresh air my homeschool has been needing. Love her. Glad you found your on and offline people! Your hygge post is one of my favorites. 😉
    Nicola’s latest post: 366: 14

  22. I loved this read — it felt like a breath of fresh air and a happy sigh. <3

  23. Thank you for sharing! 🙂 Your days sound so peaceful, and the flexibility you give the kids sounds like a great environment for learning.

    And…
    11 pillows, lol.

  24. Thank you so much! Hearing your routine is so encouraging and gives me hope!!
    You mentioned having large, unlined notebooks and subjects that require those notebooks. Please elaborate 🙂
    What subjects and what do you do in those notebooks?

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