Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7- and 9-year-old)

Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane

The title of this post should be Kari’s homeschool day in the life (with Dutch)By this I simply mean that the age of my children isn’t primarily what influences our days. It is Dutch who influences our days.

I say this with love and with all the proud-mama vigor you can imagine. I adore my boy. He has Asperger’s syndrome, a character trait (as we call it) that gives him a certain set of strengths and weaknesses.

Every child, of course, has strengths and weaknesses, but Dutch’s are extreme. My daughter Heidi, on the other hand, is typical. She is predictable. She potty-trained herself and could probably raise herself. I could homeschool her in my sleep.  I often joke that if I had had her first, I would’ve written a parenting book. *smile*

But I didn’t. I had my precious son first, and spent the first three years of his life crying, convinced I was the worst mother in the world and how on earth did everyone else have this mothering thing nailed while I was at my wit’s end?

A homeschool day in the life 2016

He’s just unique. Glorious and gifted and destined for greatness, but often our days are difficult.

Please don’t read that I don’t enjoy homeschooling. I do. Please don’t read that I’m disappointed by Dutch. I’m not.

I’m simply attempting to share with you an honest glimpse of homeschooling a challenging child, and I trust that ten or twenty years from now he and I will both be reaping the benefits of persevering through these hard days.

So, what are these days like?

Early: I wake and read my Bible and pray (my lifeline!). Heidi crawls in bed with me at some point and snuggles while I read and pray.

7:15 a.m. — Dutch’s alarm goes off. glorious game-changer for us this year is allowing Dutch to take a small dose of melatonin at night. He used to have terrible sleep issues, often taking until midnight to fall asleep, then not able to wake up until late. Now he falls asleep between 8:30 and 9 p.m. every night, and sleeps until 7:15. The regularity of his sleep schedule has helped tremendously!

MORNING SONG: It sounds silly, but creating several short songs has significantly helped our habits. Dutch does well if things are consistent and predictable, so I created some simple jingles to remind him of our day’s rhythm. The morning song goes like this:

Make bed and get dressed, read Bible and pray,
Eat and brush teeth and I’m set for the day!

7:30 a.m. — Bible time. The kids are reading through the New Testament this year. Dutch does his reading on his own, and I help Heidi by choosing a passage and helping her read aloud. Then we pray together. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday my husband then comes home to make breakfast and be with the kids so I can exercise.

8:00 a.m. — Breakfast. Dutch needs everything the same, always, so he has had oatmeal with blueberries almost every day of his life. After the kids eat and brush teeth they are free until lessons. They usually play together, read, or play the piano.

10:00 a.m. — Lessons. This little jingle reminds us to SMILE when we hear the school-bell chime on my phone:

Ten is when we begin with a grin!

We gather at the dining room table, and our lessons go like this:

10 a.m. -10:45 I help Dutch with math while Heidi does art in her art notebook. This is the most difficult part of the day as math is a struggle for Dutch. It isn’t necessarily the actual math problems, it can be the way the page looks, how he feels that day, whether there are birds outside the window.

Seriously, it’s virtually impossible to predict.  I try to just sit close, stay calm and kind, and help him press through difficulty. It works well if I say, “If you can do the first 3 problems correctly on your own you can skip the next 3,” or something like that, to keep him motivated.

10:45 a.m.- 11 a.m. I help Heidi with her math (although most of the time she can it on her own) while Dutch practices piano or does art.

11 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Spelling for both kids. This was a surprising switch. Dutch hated Workout A. Then he loved Workout B and C. He used to dread spelling but now enjoys it. Go figure!

11:20 a.m. -11:30 a.m. Writing for both kids. This is fairly simple and both kids enjoy it. We try to read aloud the books referenced in each lesson.

11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Reading and piano. These aren’t formal lessons, both kids love to read and play piano so they take turns doing both.

Noon – Lunch prep, eat, clean-up together. 

1:00 p.m. Everyone outside! Jingle:

At one o-CLOCK we do a nature WALK!

Recently, the “Nature Walk” thing somehow became another trigger for Dutch. He started sobbing and hyperventilating when it was time for our nature walk so now I just say “everyone outside!” and he doesn’t get upset.

He loves being outside but the “walk” part is unbelievably stressful for him, and I’m not sure why. I’m still sorting through this dilemma.

To me, the important thing is that the kids get fresh air and exercise and learn about nature. They can call it whatever they want!

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Salamander in the yard!

Note: We don’t do formal history or science lessons right now. Dutch has an unbelievable aptitude for science and history. He remembers everything he reads, and that’s a LOT. Dozens of encyclopedias, and hundreds of books.

Heidi learns loads of information from him, and genuinely enjoys it herself, so there doesn’t seem to be any point in making it a formal lesson at this point. Mostly we just listen to Dutch talk all day and try to remember half of what he says. 🙂

2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Kids have free-time (quiet) to read, play Legos, do art, play outside with friends, anything. This is when I do my online work, writing, and prep for speaking. Thankfully, the kids play well together and truly thrive on this unstructured time to create and play.

4 p.m. Clean-up! We tidy the house together so we’re ready for the evening. Jingle:

When the clock says FOUR, everything off the FLOOR!

4:30 p.m. Read aloud. This isn’t 100 percent consistent, but when we have a book we’re all into, we sit for 20-30 minutes and I read aloud. If not, they just read on their own, or have more free time to play piano, do art, create, explore.

5 p.m. Dinner prep, Daddy comes home, dinner together, clean-up together. We have commitments 2-3 nights a week, and I am sometimes away speaking on Fridays and Saturdays, but we aim to keep 2-3 nights a week where we’re just home together as a family.

8 p.m. Bedtime for kids, and their parents aren’t far behind! 

Thanks so much for visiting the Patterson home. Wouldn’t you know it? Within days of writing this post, our sweet Dutch had a big breakthrough!

I know you probably have gloriously unique children too, and I pray for patience, joy, and unconditional love to be what characterizes our homeschools, even on the hard days. Thanks for reading.

P.S. I had a helpful (and humbling) epiphany the day after writing this post that helped adjust how I viewed and related to my son. I share the experience here; thanks for reading!

How the days have changed:

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 enjoy every one of these posts, and this one is especially beautiful! Thanks for sharing your heart!

  2. I have a challenging first-born son as well so I can relate to what you write. It continues to get better as he gets older. And I read about Dutch’s breakthrough so I’m happy for you.
    Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. I REALLY appreciate your posts. This one is, as so many of yours are, timely. I was just thinking how I wondered what others’ homeschool days look like. Thank you!! So well stated too.

  4. Ha ha your a genius, my daughter is similar to Dutch. And i understand the struggle is real , but i’m so gonna try your jingles, I seriously think it will work for Emily. Emily is addicted to Horrible Histories and all the books and episodes at the moment and has a felt fabric obsession aswell.

  5. So beautifully articulated, Kari. Thank you so much for sharing with honesty, and obvious love for both of your children.
    (And melatonin made a huge, life changing difference for us too! I am encouraged by your choosing to include that little tid-bit.)
    Shawna Wingert’s latest post: When I Don’t Know How To Help My Child

  6. Beautiful. Just beautiful! While none of my kids have Asperger’s, one of my very close friends has a son with it and this sounds a lot like her day. She homeschools them too; thank you for the peek into your life.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Teaching Is Not a Performance – It’s a Conversation

  7. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your experiences. My version of Dutch is 11 and is smart and sweet and… unpredictable, which affects us all. Rhythm, sleep, plenty of food, and movement are all essential over here, as is managing overwhelm. Your love, respect, and admiration for your son shines.
    Nicola’s latest post: Valentine Camping

  8. You have such sweet ways of talking about your son, Dutch. I have a daughter (who’s 8) that hasn’t been diagnosed with anything, but she’s difficult. She is sensitive, easily nervous about things, sometimes temperamental, and loves to please people. Your patience is amazing! I honestly don’t have that patience for her, yet I love her with all my heart. I will keep in mind what you said about how you run your days.
    Rosanna’s latest post: My Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 5, 8, and 10 year old)

  9. Hey, Kari. I’ve shared before that I have a boy much like your Dutch, except that he doesn’t have the external reactions to stress – he tends to internalize. Which is harder for me because I can’t always tell when something is bothering him until it gets really bad. He also adores encyclopedias, history and science, and making things. I just wanted to suggest Life of Fred Math. Judson loves it – reading fun stories that include his favorite subjects, then doing a few written problems. It covers a lot more ground than conventional math books, without all the busywork. The sheer number of problems to do when he already gets it may be what’s overwhelming Dutch. Judson will often do math on his own while I get breakfast or get his siblings dressed. He then takes various ones to his room to read, so he’s probably read the whole series at some point, but we have one that he’s officially working on and writing down the answers. Isn’t it crazy to think of where they might end up one day?

    • Oh, and we also recently started melatonin, and he’s gotten on the exact same sleep schedule. He wakes up happy before the other kids! Amazing!

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