Sarah’s Homeschool Day in the Life (with an 11-year-old and 14-year-old)

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

The first thing I had to do when asked to take part in this year’s “Day in the Life” series was to look back at my post from last January.  I wondered how much our daily life had changed in a year.

Well, a lot.

Long gone are the exhausting, bustling days of going from child to child with a little one playing all around us. Gone are the sticky crafts and, blessedly, the endless games of Candyland. Gone are those evenings spent “doing bedtime,” with baths, books, snacks, and one-more-drink-of-water. And in the not-so-distant past, my days were filled with hustling about, trying to figure out schedules for an elementary, a middle-school, and a high-school student.

In many ways, I feel as if I’m homeschooling only one this year.

Our oldest is a sophomore in college, three hours away. This year, our daughter, a freshman in high school, is taking nearly all her classes through our homeschooling co-op. On Mondays Laurel takes physical science, art history, cooking, and drama (she finished computer skills and health first semester), and on Fridays she takes British Literature and European history. Her teachers provide students with assignments to be completed throughout the week. That leaves us with only algebra at home. Since she is doing Teaching Textbooks, my involvement with her math is minimal.

For most of every day my high schooler works in her room or on the computer. She manages her time beautifully, spreading her homework out throughout the day and evening. She knows what she needs to get done and when it needs to be done. She is learning organizational and time-management skills that will be essential in college and beyond.

And so for the most part, Duncan, my 5th/6th grader (See Stepping Outside the Grade Level Box), and I are on our own. So what do we do all day?

One thing for sure hasn’t changed from last year: every day is different. We still have co-op all day on Monday and another one for Tuesday afternoons. We still have Cub Scouts and American Heritage Girls twice monthly on Thursdays. My Friday afternoons are now devoted to teaching British Literature to 20 students, including my daughter. Duncan rotates among friends during that 3-hour time period.

But we do still have some days that we are home for the whole day, and our mornings are basically the same regardless of what happens after 1 p.m.

Here’s a typical Wednesday:

7 -8 a.m.: I wake up and have my essential morning quiet hour, without which I may not function well!

8-9 a.m.: Morning run with my husband. Kids still sleeping.

9-10 a.m.: Kids wake up and get a little techno time in (computer, Wii). I shower and do housework.

10-10:30 a.m.: Both kids do math. Duncan does the lesson part of Teaching Textbooks on the computer, and then we (and an army guy)  go over the exercises together. For Laurel, it’s a math test day.

10:30-11:30 a.m.:
Duncan and I head over to our school room and do:

  • Bible: Currently, we are going through a devotional book for boys.
  • Poem-a-Day: We read poems by Carl Sandburg together and discuss. I ask leading questions (e.g., what words did you like?), and we find elements like personification and alliteration.
  • Geography: Using Sonlight’s 100 Gateway Cities, we read about two cities in China and locate them on the map.
  • Literature: I read one chapter of our read-aloud, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze.
  • Vocabulary: As we read, Duncan records several words with which he is unfamiliar. I briefly give him a definition; he will look these up and write the definitions later.

In the midst of our reading Young Fu, Laurel pops her head in and says she needs help with math. I ask her to work on something else until I get to a stopping point.


  • Duncan does one page of Easy Grammar and his cursive writing practice.
  • For the next 50 minutes, he watches an episode of the documentary Wild China on Netflix.
  • I work with Laurel on math. She is frustrated, disappointed in herself for not doing well on the test. I go over the problems with her, reminding her of all the different steps in algebra. She knows this stuff! I leave her with the rest of her math test and insist that we are going to start doing math every single day, even on weekends. Even I, the queen of flexibility, am starting to feel behind.

12:30-1:30: Lunch break for Duncan and me. After eating, Duncan plays on the Wii and I go back to check on Laurel’s math. We discuss some of her problem spots, and I give her a few more exercises to do.

Duncan and I head back to the school room.

  • Spelling: We do our weekly test in Spelling Power.
  • We read another chapter from Young Fu.
  • We look up definitions for his vocabulary words.

2:45: Duncan reads a chapter of his current book. I take Laurel to a coffee house, where she’ll study for two hours—as she does every Wednesday— with her friend. They’ll do homework from their co-op classes: today, physical science and art history.

Coffee house girls

3:15-5 p.m. Duncan and I visit with my parents, just down the road. We play a game of Quiddler with them.

5:15 -6 p.m.: It’s Laurel’s night to cook supper!
• Duncan plays the Wii (he gets a total of 2.5 hours of “tech time” per day)
• I work on lesson plans
• Dad comes home

6-6:30 p.m.: Supper. The Thai chicken curry, prepared by Laurel, is fabulous.

6:30-7:30 p.m.: Family game time! We play Quiddler with Dad.

7:30-8 p.m.: House straightening time. We can get an amazing amount of cleaning done in just 30 minutes when we all work together.

After 8 p.m.: We all just kind of do our own thing. We relish having an evening at home. Before Duncan goes to bed at 9:30 we read one more chapter together. Laurel does some more homework before going to bed at 11 p.m.

Are you amazed at how your days change from year to year? If you are a parent with little ones, can you imagine a day when they will be largely independent?

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.


  1. This reminds me that the intensity of having a 3 and 5 year old will soon pass and thing will continue to change.
    Karen @ New and Green’s latest post: Why I love New & Green: Mama L

  2. It is very interesting to see how homeschooling can work so differently for so many different families. We are finally out of the “little kid” stage that you mentioned in your post. It has been a struggle to move on from there. Your day sounds lovely and manageable. When a day is stretched out and described like you have done, it makes one realize that each day has a lot of potential. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This post gave me hope. I am still at a very different stage (10, 8 & 2 y.o.s). As I was reading, I thought, she actually can get a whole hour in? She can actually run with her husband and leave the kids at home? Though slightly envious, I realize this current season of my life is GOOD, even with all the demands, and it will change into a different season with its own pros/cons in just a few years. Thanks for a peak into your life.

    • Yes, it really does happen! I still marvel myself sometimes that I can actually run to the grocery store without kids. Being able to exercise with my husband has added a whole new dimension to our lives! But each season is so precious, and sometimes I do miss toys sprinkled throughout the house and sippy cups. (OK, actually I don’t miss sippy cups!)
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: My Day-in-the-Life Post

  4. I enjoyed reading about your day, but I especially appreciated the link to “Stepping Outside the Grade Level Box.” It is reassuring to hear your perspective. I always feel kind of odd answering that question, because the kids don’t fit in the box.
    sarah in the woods’s latest post: Preschool Science: Airplanes

  5. My kids are 3 and newborn, so I have yet to delve into the throes of homeschooling! But I am so looking forward to having them grown up and independent so we can enjoy the more laid back homeschooling years the way you describe. Thanks for sharing!
    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz’s latest post: Valentine’s Day Handmade Gifts and Recipes

  6. Wow, you made that sound so heavenly and smooth. Just lovely. Thanks for sharing your day.

    • Iam so inspired,although my great grandson is out of control with school and i am so overwhelmed that i gave up.He has been out of school for 2 years ,,he is 11,,very intelligent I must say.this sounds so unreal but yet like a dream that im in and want for him.

  7. When I was a new mom, I dreaded the teenage years. I had so much fun with my babies! Now I realize how much fun the teenager years are. It’s wonderful to be able to do things with or without them, and they are such good help and company! I have my kids cook dinner one night each week, too. We all enjoy it. Now, I dread the next step: kids away from home. Thanks for sharing your day.
    Jen@anothergranolamom’s latest post: Art Project: Blind contour drawing

  8. It’s encouraging to know sippy cups won’t last forever and to hear a mom of teenagers thoroughly enjoying her almost grown kids instead of wishing she could go back in time.
    Steph’s latest post: A Story on Transitioning to Motherhood

  9. This was a very timely article! I needed a reminder that this too shall pass, as I spent a not so great morning trying to teach language arts as my 20 month old climbed, screamed, and pushed toys at us! Today, i look forward to calmer days. 🙂
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site’s latest post: Ferber or Weissbluth?

  10. Hi! Please email me, I have a question for you! 🙂

  11. Sigh… This post gives me hope, Sarah. Today I took the toddler off the table about 18 times while trying to teach the basics of copywork, contractions, and addition to the 7-year-old. And constantly trying to keep the 4-year-old either entertained, content, or otherwise reminded that he has a room full of toys and books, and that the backyard is lovely. Gnashing of teeth, as though I told him he had to scrub the floors with a toothbrush.

    All this to say, thanks for the reminder that things will change, eventually.

  12. Yes, it changes so quickly. My son went to highschool this year so that was a huge change in our home. My middle daughter, 12, works independantly, apart from occasionally asking a question here or there. Her big brother talked more, wanted more interaction/discussion with me. My youngest, just 6, is just starting out but homeschooling her is going to end up quite different than with her siblings. She is a different person with some different needs. Weird to consider that at some point she really will be the only one of our kids at home, homeschooling. I really like this season with kids a bit older; in part because I get to spend more time learning again/have a bit more flexibility. Plus, it is great fun to get to know your own children as they emerge into young adults, isn’t it?
    Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Homeschool Field Trip :: Telus World of Science

  13. Your day sounds absolutely ideal!

    I can’t wait for days like that (although I wouldn’t wish away the days I’m having now with my 7 and 3 year olds for anything)!

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