Sarah’s homeschool day in the life (with twin 1-year-olds & a 2-, 9-, 11- and 13-year-old

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Written by Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things.

Three school-age kids, three toddlers. Sometimes I wonder if my blog’s name should actually be Amongst LIVELY Things. 🙂

Let me give you a little background on us.

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We’re classical homeschoolers in the CiRCE sense- meaning that we believe true education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.

Of course, those first books read at the beginning of a homeschooling journey play a major role in a homeschooling mom’s understanding of education and the learning process, and so both Charlotte Mason and unschooling play parts in our homeschool, as well. Within the context of real life, it works.

Sometimes it looks like school and sometimes it looks like life. Did I mention that we have three toddlers? Yes, that.

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Every single component of our homeschool- from curriculum choices to the fleshing out of a daily schedule- is impacted by the presence of little people who need to love on mama and generally cause a ruckus around the house.

For my older kids, work times are punctuated by periods of being on toddler-duty, taking the little ones outdoors to blow bubbles, or making play dough critters to keep the 2-year-old happy.

Flexibility is key here- when I get frustrated by the daily juggle of bigs and littles (and I do), I have to remind myself: you are where you are, and God meets you right there.

I’m not sure any two days really look all that alike, but the general flow is this:

5:00 – I’m up. Over the past year, I have trained myself to become a morning person. This is the only time I’m almost (though not quite) guaranteed some quiet time to pray, write, and work. I know better than to squander these precious hours, so I drink about a gallon of coffee and get to it.

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7:00 – The babies wake up around 7. I feed them breakfast and begin the ritual chasing of the toddlers while getting a handle on the general plan for the day.

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8:00 – I wake up big kids. I really should wake them earlier than this, but I never seem to manage it. After eating, they do a few quick morning things (brushing teeth, making beds, taking out a garbage or wiping down a bathroom) before our school day technically begins.

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9:00 – The three school-age kids begin working on their independent work. We use simple spiral notebooks to keep track of what needs to be done.

While the children work, I take care of the toddlers- generally running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to convince the twins not to climb on the kitchen countertops and the 2-year-old not to color on the walls with Sharpies.

It’s… lively.

When a child needs help with any independent work (or if it needs to be taught by me- like reading lessons or a tricky math concept), he or she brings the work to me and I try to help on the spot, if possible.

I also try to correct math assignments immediately, because if we let those pile up… bad things happen. (As in, they don’t get corrected at all.)

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11:30 – We all eat lunch and then I put the toddlers down for naps. I send the big kids outside for some playtime (unless it’s below freezing!) and then they come in and find a warm, snuggly spot for Quiet Reading Hour- arguably the best time of the day.

I usually sneak back online to get in a little more work and to see what exciting and wonderful things happened on the inter-webs that morning. 😉

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1:30 – Toddlers wake! The big kids all need to finish up any schoolwork they haven’t completed from their notebooks. Then they can grab a snack before doing their afternoon chores and getting some free time.

Usually there is baking happening. Art. Piano practice. Once a week, a few friends come over and discuss something of historical importance, scribble on maps, and run around the backyard. That’s our favorite day of the week.

During this time, I’m herding toddlers, folding laundry, or getting things done around the house. Sometimes I’m sneaking on to email or Facebook, but that never ends well. (You’d think I’d learn.)

I also tend to do any housework (not much, mind you) into this time slot. 😉

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4:00 – Time to pair up the kids. I want to make dinner without worrying that little fingers will find their way to the stovetop, and usually about this time I’m needing a break myself.

Each big kid gets a toddler and is sent off to play, run around outside, read books, build with blocks- whatever, and I put in some earbuds and prepare dinner in (mostly) peace. 😉

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5:00 – Three toddlers and a late dinner do not a happy mother make, so we eat early. After dinner, two kids help one parent clean up the kitchen, and one helps the other parent give toddler baths and get them ready for bed.

From 5-7 our house is generally a chaotic wonder. If you come visit us during this time period, bring earplugs (and maybe blinders, too). It’s…. loud (and messy).

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7:00 – Bedtime for toddlers! Sometimes the 2-year-old stays up a bit later- especially if she fell asleep during nap time that day, but the twins are down for the count.

Now it’s time for Symposium. Nope- our school day isn’t over! We used to call this part of our day Morning Time, but it can’t happen peacefully or well in the mornings anymore, so we moved it to 7pm after babies are in bed.

The word symposium comes from Greek, meaning “a conference, meeting, or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet.” It’s where we fit in our read aloud, memory work, and any socratic type conversations we’re having about something we’re reading. Sometimes we listen to and discuss a composer or artist.

The basic principles for symposium are reading, discussing, and memorizing. Even though we do it last, it stands as the heart of our school day.

Sometimes we have a piano concert, youth group, or soccer practice that interferes with symposium, and that’s okay, too. As soon as I can move this part of our day back into normal school hours, I will. This is just a (crazy) season, so we get it in as often as we can and are happy with that.

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8:30 – I send the kids to brush their teeth and read for a bit before bed.

I’m usually just about fried by this time, so I try to stay off the computer and just hang out with Andy or decompress with a book. Usually the house is still a wreck, so I (might) (if I have a good podcast to listen to) clean up a bit before hitting the sack.

Are you homeschooling with little ones too? How do you make it work during this busy season?

About Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah is a smitten wife, mama of six (including twins!) and the author of Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace.
She hosts the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast and spends her time running the vibrant, active membership community there.

Comments

  1. Isn’t it wonderful to have early morning time? I FINALLY got myself into an early morning routine, so I could have “extra” time in the morning. I start at 6, so great job with the 5 AM wake-up! I hoping to get there someday 🙂
    And yes, it’s coffee and get to it!
    Emily’s latest post: One Simple Task to Help You Follow Through On Your Goals

  2. My twins will be 5 this month– it was a super crazy time, so much easier now! It sounds like you are managing very well- not an easy task!
    Amber’s latest post: Field Trip– See Science Center   Recently updated !

  3. Sharpies on the wall! I do remember my twin boys at that age.
    Now they are my youngest at 10, and life looks a whole lot different. One aspect that I use as well is evening time; It’s when I read aloud to the kids. I love what you call Symposium. I might move over to that term. I like taking advantage of the evenings because I work from home during the day, so evenings are my time to really focus on learning. In a way my schedule looks a lot like yours, minus the toddlers, but it is structured the same way. You could think of the job as my “toddler”, (not really of course, but in the way it takes me away from being very hands-on with instruction during the day). I am available for help during the day, but not active teaching. My kids have become independent learners. We work alongside each other.
    I love your blog, by the way!

  4. I only have 2 in school, with four in the 4 and under category, but our days look a lot like yours. I am always trying to remember that this is only a season, but seeing someone else’s days is a huge help.
    sarah’s latest post: No Spend 90 Challenge

  5. I like your idea of symposium before bed, I like the name too. that is something I want to add to our days.
    Jenny’s latest post: The Dirty Hymnal

  6. My kids are older now (13, 12, and almost 11) but we still do Morning Time with relish. I can’t imagine us giving that habit up anytime soon. It makes for a better day, sibling arguments and looming math tests notwithstanding!
    Hannah’s latest post: Little Changes in 2015 to Minimize Resistance

  7. I love this and every thing about your crazy, beautiful day. Thank you so much for sharing…makes me feel encouraged that homeschool with wild and unpredictable toddlers is possible.

  8. Its so nice to see the reality of your day — thank you. I am a homeschooling mom of five — 9, 7, 5 and twin girls who will be three in a week. I feel like we’ve been in survival mode the past few years but there is light ahead. However, we first need to traverse the reality of giving up naps and potty training while living overseas. 🙂

  9. I love that you are embracing where you are on this journey. Our days look a lot like life sometimes too. Thanks for your wonderful blog, we are embracing the concept of flow in our homeschool and connection through read a louds thanks to you! I also rely on your read aloud revival podcasts to get me through kitchen clean up. They are just wonderful!

  10. Sarah, Your hands and heart is so beautifully full! I love reading about your life and I absolutely love your book! I’d love to know what curriculum you’re using this year!

  11. I love this peek into your day Sarah! It’s nice to see how you fit a little bit of time for self-care throughout your day. It is something I really struggle to do, but need so much!
    Amanda Medlin’s latest post: What We Do With Our Christmas Cards After Christmas

  12. What an inspiration! And I love the symposium idea. I simply have to incorporate that into life
    alyssaz’s latest post: Garden Cover Reveal

  13. Sarah.
    Thanks for sharing! I love your blog and podcasts. Your podcasts get me through dinner prep and dishes, as well. In fact, I look forward to those times when I have your wonderful podcast to listen to.
    Blessings!!!

  14. I adore this! This is my first year homeschooling and so I’m still learning all the different ways folks pull it all together. I love the idea of a symposium! And I hear you on the math worksheets. I have a stack that I need to correct. If I don’t do them right then, they tend to sit somewhere and collect dust. I love how you pair the kids up so that you can tackle dinner. Great job, mama!
    Cait @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: Learning for Learning’s Sake: Beyond the Grade

  15. Thank you for sharing this! I have four kids 8, 6, 3 and 1. Your day sounds a lot like mine and it was so encouraging to read your post! I appreciate your ideas of how to handle the supper prep time and time for yourself and hubby while letting the older kids have a slightly later bed time. We are venturing into that season too where Momma is “fried” but the older kids aren’t tired yet!

  16. What a beautiful family! I love the use of the spiral notebooks: simple and cheap! I love how you end each day. It sounds so relaxing and memorable. Something to consider doing. Thanks for sharing!
    Katie | The Surly Housewife’s latest post: Hello 2015!!

  17. Thank you for sharing your day with me! I have 5 children (9, 7, 4 1/2, 2 and 6 months) and homeschool three of them currently. Truthfully my toddler is who really shakes up my day. I have been in “survival mode” since he was a month old! Just this year we had to adjust our schedule around his naptime because it was just too chaotic. I am encouraged to know that your homeschool day goes past the norms of a typical school day. I may need to visit some of your ideas and discuss with my husband about how to incorporate some positive changes. Thank you again for your transparency.

  18. I really loved reading this one as I have babies and toddlers! 😉 With a just-turned-7-year-old, 4, 3, 1, and very soon a new baby things are loud, crazy and chaotic! Thanks for the real life picture!
    Johanna’s latest post: A real life holiday season

  19. Thank you so much for this post! I have 3 toddlers myself and am new to homeschooling…seriously, it’s day 6! I feel great about this decision, but sometimes I wonder how I will get it all done day after day. Your post was exactly the right encouragement I needed today!

  20. Great post! You do an amazing job juggling everything. I school 8, 8, 7, and I have a 2.5 year. My strategy has been to remove the toddler-Haha! He rotates his mornings between early preschool and grandma’s and the big kids and I motor to get everything done in three hours before he gets home. Any day he is home takes at least twice as long to get our work done. I just keep reminding myself it is a season…and two year olds are pretty cute!

  21. Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your “crazy” schedule.

  22. Thank you so much for this glance into your lovely and chaotic life! May I ask what time you usually go to bed? I’m working on thinking about working on (yes) transitioning from a lifelong night-owl into a morning person, so I like to hear how early moms actually manage to get to sleep 🙂

  23. I LOVED reading this. Sometimes I feel like our days are so chaotic and I envision other homeschoolers peacefully going about their work. I am glad to know I am not the only one who lives and schools in chaos!

  24. I’m sorry but when do you have sex?!

    I have 2.5 year old and one month old. I am still considering home schooling but for the past month I’m not sure I could handle it. With breastfeeding my young one wakes up every three hours, I continuously feel sleepy and I really want now a nanny or kindergarten for few hours for toddler. When do you do shopping for yourself? When do you have time to go to a concert or a date with your husband? Do you ever get to be without kids? Is it possible to do all this and cleaning and cooking without outside help? How do you do that? 🙂 Does one just get used to this life along the way or am I just not fit for homeschooling? Either way, I bow to you in awe.

  25. Thanks for sharing a peak into your day. Night time usually works the best for me to get in some good quiet after everyone’s gone to bed. Being an introvert, I really need some sort of quiet time every day to recharge; so an hour or two at night after everyone has gone to bed usually works out really well because that is pretty much the only time throughout the day that it is truly quiet in the house. 🙂
    Karen @ The Simply Blog’s latest post: Finding the Right Fit: Getting Perspective

  26. Elizabeth says:

    hah! We had sharpies on the 2 day old leather couches! I don’t truly know how you survive with all you have going on, I still have post-traumatic stress disorder from having 4 kids in 3 years, I feel like I cn finally see the light with the youngest pair at 7! And boys are another world! ❤️
    Keep up the great work Sarah!!!!

  27. Thanks for sharing your day! I love your idea for spiral notebooks – my biggest challenge at this point is fostering independence in my two oldest. I work from home, and if mom isn’t ready to get started, they will wait all day rather than getting started on their own.

  28. Wowza! Thanks for sharing! You do so many things in a great way, it’s inspiring and helpful!

  29. I can hardly keep up with life and I only have one 19 month old (and 4, 7, 9 year olds, all boys) – the chaos is constant and sometimes I find myself yelling to be heard over the ruckus while I attempt to read aloud and second-guess myself, thinking, “surely something is amiss here!!” LOL, mainly my timing and strategy, but then I realize . . . when IS it quiet?? Only when they are asleep.
    Anyway. Sarah, I really appreciate your sense of humor and ability to highlight the strain of surviving this phase of life with grace. Spiraling into negatively does more harm than anything, but laughing at the inevitability of survival mode and the antics of children at this age . . . ahhhhh . . . it does a body good. Yes.

  30. Thanks for sharing a peek into your busy life! I love seeing how others manage their day. I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone 🙂
    Melissa’s latest post: Valentine Eve Drama….and Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

  31. I am in my 6th year of homeschooling 10,10,8,2,2 kids. The younger twins are a force to be reckoned with!. I now get up at least 1 hour earlier than the kids to exercise (which really helps with my patience) and we have a very start and go school day. I read aloud during meals as most kids are quiet when their mouths ate full 😉
    I know its just a season, but how I react to the challenges brought by this time will have the greatest impact on my older children. Keep up then good work. Twins are a special blessing that God only sends to the bravest mothers!

  32. I had a very challenging day today…actually got online to try to find something just like this. I have 6 and 5 year old girls, and twin boys at 2 1/2. My husband works long hours and often 6 days/week. The twins are really a challenge right now. Sometimes we all sit together at the table and I can keep them engaged in something like coloring/puzzles/playdoh while the girls work, but when the day goes smoothly, it is because I am working constantly to keep everyone on task/under control. The days my kids really have a good day I am usually at the end of my rope because the house is a giant mess by bedtime. Sometimes I am just too tired to hold it all together. I appreciate hearing others share their challenges and ideas for managing the crazy times.

    • I wish I could could MORE on the fly! I'm still so unsure about how things taste together (like different spice combos)…..but I'm getting a LITTLE bit better. 🙂 That stew looks deeelicious. I'm ready to have my first butternut squash of the season!

  33. I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one who has the chaos at home with little ones. I have an 18 month old, a 3 year old and a 6 and 8 year old. Its been a frustrating couple of weeks. The 2 little ones are into everything and demanding everything. Argh!! So hard to accomplish anything!!! LOL

  34. Thanks for sharing this! Very helpful ideas! My kids are 9, 7, 5 1/2, 3 1/2, and I have twins who are 2. We are still figuring it all out!! 😉

  35. I just read ur homeschool for this day and felt similarities in some ways but then I read this posts! And I realized how much you and the day have evolved!
    I currently have 6,5,4,3,1 and 30weeks pregnant,
    I used to love morning time for the richness it added but we have such a good system going with notebooks and learning how to read I didn’t want to mess up what is working….
    I may just take a break from morning time for the end of the year….. We do read chronicals of Narnia as a family at night , and pray , maybe I’ll add presidents to that lol! My husband loves history.
    Thank you for these realistic posts !

  36. Julie biffel says:

    What do you use to schedule your day with? I saw in this post a picture of a color coded schedule. That’s what I need to keep me on track throughout the day!

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