Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 5- & 8-year-old)


Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.

So here’s the thing: This is a real day.

I’m always tempted, when doing this day-in-the-life-deal, to write a sort of conglomeration of various days melded together to create what I consider “typical.”

This is well and good, but unfortunately I am hopelessly optimistic, so by trying to share “typical” I wind up sharing “ideal.” And the truth is that my biggest challenge with homeschooling is that my real day does not match up with the ideal day in my mind.


So scratch the ideal day, or even the “typical” day … here is a real day.

Wednesday, January 7th, in all its mundane glory:

5am: The Christmas break was just long enough to form terrible habits, so now I’m back to the brutal battle of getting up early again.

I make my husband promise to not leave for his run until I’m vertical. So this morning, even though I said at least a dozen times, “Go ahead, Babe. Go run. I promise I’ll get up in just a minute,” he didn’t fall for my pathetic tricks. Instead he pulled back the covers and let the freezing cold morning air make me so miserable I finally got up. Good man.

After coffee things get better (they always do), and I enjoy my time in prayer and reading the Scriptures. I read through the Bible every year, a long-held and much-loved habit that feeds my soul like nothing else. I write, answer emails, and gather up sleepy-eyed littles as they rise.


7:30am: I get the kids going on their chores (chore-cards inspired by The Homeschool Experiment), make breakfast, and dress for Jazzercise. (No, not a leotard and leg-warmers!)  Jeff stays with the kids as they finish morning chores.

9:00am: Back home from exercising, kids are done with chores and are off playing or reading. They are quiet so I don’t check. Jeff is off to work now so I enjoy breakfast alone, do dishes, clean the kitchen, shower and get cleaned up for the day.

Last year, after much morning frustration, we switched our concentrated “school” time to afternoon.

I know this is unusual, and almost every single book recommends the exact opposite (start early while everyone is fresh!), but for us afternoons are a better fit. I can’t exactly explain it, but after I let my kids have ample free time to learn, explore, and play, they focus so much better.

Plus, this enables me to get my daily exercise, housework and meal-prep done in the morning, making me feel more mentally ready to turn my full attention to them for the afternoon. For whatever reason, this works well for us!

10:00am: “Typically” (ha!), the kids are free* from the time they finish their chores until lunchtime, but we need to run errands today, so we do a quick clean-up of the house, which leads to a scuffle between children which leads to hugs and I’m sorrys which leads to 20 minutes of snuggles on Heidi’s bed. It’s 11:20am when we’re finally out the door.


*Although our kids have lots of “free” time, they are surrounded by educational options. Not electronics or too much twaddle. They have craft-supplies, good storybooks, encyclopedias, science experiment materials, a big yard with dirt and worms and chickens, as well as toys like Legos and stuffed animals.

1pm: “Typically” (ha!) we start school about now, but we just got home so I fix lunch and start washing 30 lbs. of apples to have ready-to-eat in the fridge. The sun comes out so the kids eat their lunch outside (when it’s sunny, in January, in Oregon, you go outside immediately). I eat lunch standing at the sink while washing apples. (I haven’t kicked all my bad habits yet!)

2pm: Finally! We are sitting down for “school.” The kids stand and recite their memory verses, then we curl up on the couch and pray together. Dutch dives into math on his own and I help Heidi with hers.

(Some days it takes him an hour to do a lesson, some days it’s more like ten minutes. I love Singapore Math but the length of lessons varies widely. Today it’s ten minutes to do two lessons. Glory!)


Then Dutch does Handwriting Without Tears and Spelling Workout on his own while Heidi reads Bob Books to me. We finish with First Language Lessons Grammar together.

Dutch reads science and history encyclopedias for fun, plus loads of other books, so I don’t enforce any additional reading or science/history lessons.

Heidi is always drawing and writing so although she has a handwriting workbook as well, I don’t require her to do it every day. For these little years I pretty much focus on character formation and basic academics (The 3 Rs: Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic). I want to begin foreign language but we just aren’t ready to add that into our day. Next year!

Variations: Some days we do drawing tutorials, read aloud, look up something we’re curious about, do a sewing or craft-project, go outside, walk to the library, or visit friends.

Tuesdays we attend Bible study where I get much-needed spiritual nourishment and time with girlfriends, Heidi gets her much-loved social time with little friends, and Dutch gets an entire morning alone with Daddy, just the two of them. The whole family enjoys the Tuesday morning routine!

Thursdays are strictly home-days where I do the week’s laundry and focus on keeping the house from falling apart. I travel for speaking events several weekends a month, so that also shapes the week’s activities.

3:20pm: We turn on the Classical Conversations Timeline Song and sing and dance around the room for exercise because now it’s too cold to go outside. Mid-song my dad surprises us with a visit.

He asks me to look online for something for my mom, so while the kids talk his ear off I flip open the laptop and start searching OldNavy.com only to soon be sucked into shopping for another friend too and then, inevitably, for myself. *sigh* I look up and wonder how on earth it’s 4:19pm!

Where did the day go?? 

Now the kids are happily finished with all their day’s responsibilities, so they slip away to play Legos together, and I sit down to write this post, so far. Soon Dutch curls up near me with his encyclopedia and Heidi drifts off into her room having sing-song conversations with her stuffed animals.

5:30pm: Dinner! Jeff walks in the door and we gather around the table. It’s happy-noisy chaos as both kids fill Daddy in on the day. Then the big question: What should we do for Family Night?!

Many evenings we have commitments or company over, but Wednesday night is always Family Night. It isn’t fancy but what matters is that it is. It’s always there. We all clean up, Dutch heads out to put the chickens in for the night and Heidi tackles floor-crumbs with the Dustbuster.

6:30 We decide on Settlers of America, the new board game we were given for Christmas. It’s complicated, so by the time we get set up and understand the rules, it’s almost time for bath. But thankfully we have two dining room tables, so we leave it set up so we can continue it later this week.


7:00 Baths and bedtime routine begin, which somehow lasts so much longer in real life than it does on my paper schedule. It’s 8:15pm when the chapter’s finished (currently Jeff’s reading aloud Lord of the Ringsand they are actually tucked into their beds.

Heidi goes to sleep but Dutch stays up and reads encyclopedias because … well, that’s just Dutch.

And now, it’s 8:30pm as I type these final words and this Mama is ready for bed herself. It strikes me now how very unremarkable our days really are. They’re much more impressive on paper. (smile) But these are the days we live, the real days. And I love them in all their messy glory.

Thank you so much for joining us today. 

How does your “ideal” day differ from your REAL day?

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. I absolutely love that you selected a day right after the holiday break. Thank you for doing that, and for being real 🙂
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: Homeschool Flexibility

  2. If we ever end up homeschooling again, (we homeschooled for a year and a half, but ours are all back in school) I think the afternoon school time would work best for us as well…never really thought about it, but our days flow quite similarly!

  3. It takes us so long to get going in the mornings that I find afternoons are better for us too. Plus, the toddler naps then, so my 4 and 6 year old can actually have some of my attention at that time. I love that your son read encyclopedias! My son is all about non-fiction, too. 🙂 Thank you for a glimpse into your day!
    Amy’s latest post: Learning to Trust

  4. Love your real day. You have a beautiful family and a beautiful life.
    Camie’s latest post: The Andean Culture- Part 4

  5. Thank you so much for being real in this post! I too love that you chose a day right after the holidays.
    julie’s latest post: julie’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7 and 5-year-old).

  6. Loved the article! We do homeschooling in the afternoon as well 🙂 I think a lot of people do afternoon schooling. I wish this morning is best standard that produces so much stress and guilt in homeschooling families would stop. Every family is different and what works for one, might not for another, including what time we do our studies. Think of how much stress could be avoided if families didn’t feel pressure to have school started by 8 AM !

  7. I love that you do what works for your family with the afternoon. For us, it would not work out well (at least in this season) for the afternoon as that is the time when we all are tired and need some space. Its very interesting that everyone is different!

  8. This was great! I have two boys also (7&8) so I felt like I was almost looking at our day 🙂
    danielle’s latest post: Last days as a 6yr old ~Make

  9. Wow, our homeschooling lives are so much alike! Almost eerie 🙂 Just about everything except I don’t have a speaking gig. Thank you for sharing a real day — it’s comforting to know what works for us works for others too (b/c we’re unusual among the homeschoolers we know).

  10. I love reading about homeschoolers who are so similar to us; it makes me feel a lot less guilty about our afternoon homeschooling and our lack of formal history and science instruction! Thanks for authentically sharing your real over your ideal. 🙂
    Cynthia | The Hippie Housewife’s latest post: Be A Good Recipient

  11. Thank you for such an honest look at your day. Inspiring.

  12. Sara Harms says:

    Okay, wait – so did you really mean 30 pounds of apples? And not 3?? That is a LOT of apples!! Thank you for sharing, it’s so fun to see how another mom “typically” schedules her day =) I love that you are able to structure your home school around what works best for your family.

  13. Loren Weber says:

    After years of trying every different scheduling idea, tip, and trick I finally realized it wasn’t WHAT we were doing. It was WHEN we were doing it! I’ve been using a magnetic wet erase schedule that you can actually wipe clean easily and re-write a new activity. The best part is that it gives enough room for every member of the family to have their own schedule for the day. This is where I bought it: http://www.lovemyschedule.com

    All of my kids have school from 9:00 to 12:00 (Language Arts, Khan Academy Math, flash cards, and crafts). Then we eat lunch and do one more hour of school from 1:00 to 2:00 (quiet reading, Rosetta Stone Spanish, Typing, Journal Writing). Basically, every kid checks their schedule and knows what to do without even asking me. When they come to me to turn in all the work for the day I ask if they did everything on their schedule. Sometimes they have to go check to make sure because they have been using it for long enough that sometimes they need it and sometimes they don’t.

    Our schedule makes ALL the difference.

  14. Stephanie says:

    Loved this post. Our family sounds so so similar to yours – 2 kids, same ages, older boy younger girl…and chickens! We love singapore math and spelling workout. Just after the holidays we started Latin – we do it as a family right after dinner – we all really enjoy it. My husband actually does most of the day to day teaching/guiding and likes to get it done first thing but when it’s my turn I always find I am so distracted by everything that I need to do for the day and I lack patience. Maybe we will try to flip the days and see how it works out!

  15. The real day is a great idea! Lovely post! Thanks! Greets, Millwall Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  16. Love this! We did and still do a lot of afternoon schooling! I have graduated three, two more high schoolers to go. As they get older we have started doing more and more night school as well. It just works for us. Enjoyed this article.

  17. Deep sigh. That’s what your “typical” day’s description did for me. It allowed me a deep sigh of relief. Thanks for sharing. I’m just starting first grade with my first born. Kindergarten was a sort of hit-and-miss type of thing. Now with my oldest and a 3 year old and 1 year old in tow, I’m ready to take another whack at it. And I know deep in my heart, mornings will not work well for us. But I hadn’t even really considered that I could continue the rhythm of our lives and let them play during the morning as I prepare for the day and then tackle school in the afternoons. Thanks for the inspiration. =)

  18. My husband & I own a commercial cleaning business that requires us to work at night. When we started homeschooling (started with 3 girls, now have 7), I tried to fit our family into the “morning is best” routine & couldn’t make it work. Thinking I was a failure, I desperately decided to tackle their studies in the afternoon/evening so everyone could sleep in & then play & create when they got up. Viola! It worked perfectly for our family. I still felt like I was “cheating” somehow, but I knew it was right for US when my girls would ask to do “night school”! Trust yourself, & do what works best for YOUR family!

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