Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 4- & 7-year-old)


Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane

Monday, February 3rd

Welcome to The 1601, our home. The cast of characters within these walls (pictured above) include my husband and myself, our two kids, our friend Debra, and another (precious!) housemate who’s in drug rehab and preparing to go to jail. We range in age from 4-60.

We’re church-planters. I travel on weekends to speak at women’s events. On the day this posts we’re doing our homestudy in the adoption process. I call our education approach “Classical Unschooling.”  So, there’s nothing very “normal” about any of this, but we’d love for you to join us in this hodgepodge adventure we call homeschool.


Of course, on the day Lacey Meyers follows us around with her camera we are all bathed and looking rather fresh and peppy, whereas we usually don sweatpants and my hair’s in a tangled bun. So imagine all of this a little messier and you’ll have a more accurate portrayal. Deal? Here we go…


Way-too-early AM My morning ritual: Stand at my beloved kitchen sink and drink my mason jar of lemon-water, then pour a hot cup of coffee and head back upstairs. Now is my sacred alone-hour for prayer and Bible reading.

5-something-ish — Begin writing. Jeff is out running. The house is still quiet.

7:00 — I close the laptop and unplug from the outside world. At some point my two littles have wandered, sleepy-eyed, into my bed.  They were quiet until about 10 minutes ago. Heidi protests, “Dutch, stop breathing on me!”  We all get dressed, make our beds, and tidy our rooms. Dutch reads The Action Bible before heading downstairs.

7:30 — I begin making breakfast. People pop in and out of the train station kitchen, as we all scurry to our places for the day. Dutch peppers me with history trivia as I stir oatmeal and chop veggies for lentil soup.


8:00 — We say The Lord’s Prayer together and dive into breakfast around our kitchen counter. Dutch reads this encyclopedia while he eats and Heidi looks at this one. After breakfast I continue to chop veggies (I think I’m always chopping veggies) and tidy the kitchen. Jeff takes Dutch outside for some fierce fencing with foam swords. Heidi draws pictures of our family (above).

9:00 — Dutch bursts in from outside announcing his victory over Daddy. I congratulate him and send him upstairs to wash up for Learning Time. This typically runs from 9am-12pm. We begin with reading and exploring topics together. Each child picks one to begin.

Today Dutch chooses to study Ancient Empires. Again. He’s fanatical about ancient empires. I offer to read to him, but today he opts to read to me. I’m terrible at history, so the truth is I have taught him nothing. I put Kingfisher and Usborne encyclopedias on the Amazon wish list, generous grandparents do their part, and Dutch does the rest. The stack next to his bed is two feet high right now.


After this Dutch asks if he can make maps of all the ancient empires. Ummm… Yes! So he sets to work on studying up in preparation for mapmaking.


This is his #2 favorite book of all time.


This one he read until the cover fell off. He carries it with him everywhere he goes.

Now I give more attention to Heidi (almost 5). We’re working through Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons.


Teaching her to read is about a zillion times easier than it was Dutch. Every kid is different.


Around 10 we have a snack and Dutch (reluctantly) heads to his desk for math and spelling. Spelling and handwriting is a struggle for Dutch so we’re trying Handwriting Without Tears next. He isn’t fond of worksheets so I keep this time brief: 15-30 minutes.


After reading, Heidi works on a kindergarten workbook. (Not because I make her, but because she loves doing workbooks. Boys and girls are sooooo different!)


We also do a bit of Classical Conversations  memory work and dance and sing to the Timeline Song. We LOVE the Timeline Song. In the past we did Letter Lessons. Some days we have other activities: Tue: Bible Study, Wed: Daddy’s day off, Thur: Visit Oma & Papa (the folks who homeschooled me!).

12:00 — Lunch together. After lunch we clean up and head outside (sometimes we walk to the library or to the local produce stand for groceries). Today Heidi is making mud meals, mixing up delicious earthy concoctions.


Dutch explains, “I’m making mud bricks so I can dry them and build the Pyramid of Giza.” (The ancient empire deal shows up everywhere.) Then he inevitably wants to play World War I. He’s built bunkers in the backyard out of bricks and sticks, so we crouch low behind them and launch chestnuts at each other. It’s fierce.

Afterwards he wants to dig the Nile river and make a virtual world out of our yard. He explains where all the different continents are, based on where the sun rises and sets. His imagination is sort of crazy.


2:00 — Quiet reading time. They protest. I lure them inside with the promise of hot cocoa.  We curl up on our beds for reading.


I bring them a little snack in a baggie or bowl to nibble while they read.


My only rule is that everyone must be quiet on their beds. Even me. Mama needs this too! Today I’m reading QuietMany days I have to enforce the quiet rule with Heidi, who chatters incessantly, but today everyone’s content on their beds.


3:00 — Quiet play time. Kiddos play (somewhat) quietly: Legos, puzzles, stickers, coloring. Today Dutch continues reading and Heidi makes her own stickers. This is my time to work. I reply to emails, respond to blog comments, and do admin for upcoming retreats.

4:00 — “Mommy, can you play with us?!”  Laptop closed! We’ve had 2 hours of quiet and these kids are ready for some action! Today they want to play Olympics, so we each choose which country we represent and take turns competing in bizarre events like twirly-contortions and long-jump off the couch. At 4:30 we have a house-meeting and prayer time with Debra while the kids play Legos.

5:00 — Dinner prep and dinner.  This is Daddy time. Wrestling, wild play, and mayhem ensue. I escape to the quiet of the kitchen.

As everyone returns home the kitchen is a whirlwind of activity. Sometimes we dine together, sometimes we don’t. We all mostly eat according to The Plan so we share and it works out.


6:00 — Family time or evening activities. Monday nights are house-meetings, Tuesdays we have people over for dinner, Wednesdays and Thursdays are family nights, and weekends vary based on speaking events and church and social activities.

7:30 — Bedtime. Bedtime routine is bath and jammies, then Jeff reads Lord of The Rings to Dutch while I read storybooks to Heidi. Tonight it’s this book. We snuggle them under their blankets, briefly pray, and bless them saying, The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Then the kids read in bed (and inevitably ask for more snuggles about 500 times) until they fall asleep.

Not-much-later-than-that — Jeff and I collapse into bed gloriously exhausted. Life is good.

Goodnight. Thanks so much for visiting us today. 

Do your kids have one special interest right now that keeps them busy?

About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family live out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler she espouses the same philosophy her own mom did in the 80s: Cultivate a love for learning and one's education will never end. She bakes bread, brews kombucha, speaks at conferences & writes at Sacred Mundane. Her new book Sacred Mundane is available now.


  1. Like you, we are unschoolers, but our only formal subject is math with the older kids. It is amazing watching their interests take off into different directions. My 12 year old daughter loves theatrical makeup. She watches tutorials, has her own business where she charges a quarter for face painting, and she makes her own tutorials on YouTube. My 13 year old son loves Minecraft. He researches maps and skins for it, then makes YouTube tutorials on how to download and install them. He also writes about it on his blog to promote the videos. It was a scary transition from homeschooling to unschooling, but it’s so much fun watching them pursue their interests to the fullest!
    Shelly’s latest post: When God Answers…Make Sure You’re Listening

  2. Elissa Teal says:

    Classical Unschooling. Love it! I pray God’s richest blessings for you and your family.

  3. Have you ever heard project-based learning? Reading about Dutch’s interest in history and ancient empires makes me think of this.
    The lady behind the site is fabulously responsive and her book is terrific. The great thing about project-based learning is it can be incorporated into any homeschooling approach. (We are project-based unschoolers, if you will; my son has a strong engineering bent.)
    P.S. Great post! 🙂

  4. We are a church planting family too! I’m about to dive into homeschooling this year with my soon to be 4 year old who might like to learn the same way as Dutch. He hates sitting down for too long (5 minutes) and using workbook type activities, and is currently in love with all things about Egypt and fighting with swords. This is encouraging. I love reading about other homeschool families.

  5. Thank you for this view into your homeschooling world. I have four children, ages 8, 7, 5, and 2. We are slowly shifting to a more unschooling approach to our education. Some days I wonder if we are doing enough, And it’s hard to know what to do with the child that doesn’t seem to have any interests. Anyway, it helps and is inspiring to read about others who are on the same path. My question for you is – when does housework like laundry and cleaning get done? I feel like we are constantly interrupting our day to get it done or we get way behind.

    • Great question, Jeannette! I have the same question. 😉 My answer is 1) I have low standards ;), just meaning that I think a less-than-perfect house just goes with the territory of homeschooling. Plus we follow the simple 4 rules of neatness I shared here: http://simplehomeschool.net/lazy-girls-guide/ 2) My husband (a pastor) has Wednesdays off, so having another adult around during schooltime usually means I can sneak in some cleaning and laundry. 3) Our housemate who is in drug rehab stays at our house for free, but she does a lot of cleaning when she can, as she loves to contribute. 4) I do Jamie’s Once a Month cleaning system, so I just let a lot of things go and then do a blitz once a month. But I also feel like I’m always behind in cleaning. Oh well! 😉
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 4 & 7-year-old)

  6. It was so wonderful reading this, Kari, and even better to witness so much of your family’s time together in-person. Maybe Dutch can home school my boys?? 😉 I’ll hire him to do history. 🙂 Love you!

  7. I loved reading this! Mostly I love that I can relate to just about all of your day except for the housemates:-) You amaze me, thank you for your wisdom and words! Love you sweet friend!

  8. Thank you very much Kari for sharing this wonderful moments from you family. I have two boys 5 and 3 and I live in a country that people do not do homeschooling. My husband and I are thinking and praying a lot that I can do homeschooling for my children. As christian, even we do not know each other please pray that this can start in our family.
    God bless you and your family.
    Bardha Celanji

  9. Stephanie Loza says:

    Love love love the blessing you pray over your children at night. Its the same one that I pray over my little one at night too! It was also my father’s blessing over my husband and I when we got married. Cant get enough of that scripture!!


  10. Lia Mitchell says:

    The fact that you have “Learning Time” from 9am to 12pm clearly indicates that you are NOT ‘unschooling’ Unschooling is about learning ALL the time and there is no need to label a special time for it. Perhaps you can rename what you do simply as ‘homeschooling’, because that is what it is.

    • I’m sorry, but this is a jerky response. I thought there were no rules in unschooling. So if you want to call something learning time, you can. It’s still student led.

  11. This sounds amazing. This is what I’d love my life to look like in 3-4 years! Thanks for giving me the vision!
    Amy Simpkins’s latest post: Airport Playscapes: Philadelphia

  12. Loved reading this day in the life! It gave me some ideas for doing a reading time and bringing out the encyclopedias more. I also love the author’s long hair, so pretty!
    Bev’s latest post: Homeschooling Isn’t Just for the Child

  13. This may be a silly takeaway from this post, (first time reader!) but what on earth do you do to your hair? It’s beautiful!!! Would love any tips you recommend. I have a 21 month old and another due in May. So we aren’t ready for school quite yet, but I enjoy reading about what others do in their homeschooling routines! We may homeschool someday, but are still waiting to see where life has us 🙂

    • Haha–never wash it! There’s my super duper recommendation. 😉 That is very sweet of you to say, and usually it is just pulled back in a bun but I really do less-frequent washing (I do 1x/week) will make your hair healthier (and save $!). Plus eating healthy. My husband cuts it (straight line across the back) to save money and I do splurge for a partial weave highlight every 4-5 months. Welcome to the site; so glad you’re here! 🙂
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 4 & 7-year-old)

  14. so busy!….I’m trying to simplify our day (I have 4 kids from 14 to 4)….but it is so hard to say no to activities!

  15. You can still order that Usborne History Encyclopedia from a UB consultant (instead of Amazon) too! =) It’s such a great resource!

  16. I love the way you have the quiet hour of reading AND the quiet hour of play. Will be implementing that one this summer! We only have 1 and it goes back and forth between play or reading.

  17. Bethany says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. My oldest is 4 and my youngest is 1. Any tips for starting a routine? (We are not morning people either, if that helps?) Anyway, I feel like my baby is constantly getting into things and that it’s hard to teach him and keep her occupied?

  18. This sounds similar to how we are currently working, but with housework interfering way too often. How do you fit that into your day (or week)? Cooking is one thing, but what about vacuuming? …a must, since we have a 4yo, 2yo, and 7mo (Remember the days of the food carpet under the table?) We’re in a small apartment with little built-in storage, so I feel I must constantly organize, or it will all collapse in on us and we’ll have our own little black hole. Unfortunately, organizing (and then finding a place for everything again) uses up precious time.

  19. Kari! I love that you say your method is “classical unschooling!” I thought I was the only one. Thanks for giving me a peek into your routine.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: To Teach Boys to Read, Give Them A Reason

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