Sarah’s homeschool day in the life (with twin 2-year-olds & a 3-, 10-, 12-, & 14-year old)

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Written by Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival.

This year we’ve got quite the crew:

  • 14-year-old (8th grade) girl
  • 12-year-old (6th grade) girl
  • 10-year-old (5th grade) boy
  • 3-year-old girl
  • 2-year-old twin tornado boys … or as I’ve seen referenced elsewhere: twinados 🙂

A homeschool day in the life 2016

5:38 am

My two little identical alarms run into my bedroom and wake me up. I miss the days of rising before my crew and having just a few minutes to myself, but this is not the season for it. The twins keep me running hard and long most days, so I sleep until they wake me.

The 3-year-old is not usually too far behind them. They pile on the couch under blankets and we do the early-morning-snuggle routine before getting started with first breakfast.

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7:00
It’s time to wake the big kids. They have breakfast, and the toddlers settle in for second  breakfast. 🙂 Then I sneak off to shower while bigs entertain littles.

Big kids get ready for the day and do a morning job each (like emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash), and I try to kinda-sorta tidy the kitchen in preparation for the day ahead.

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9:00
Time for school! I used to start our school day at 8. I’ve found my stress level has decreased significantly since I took the pressure off myself to start that early.

It seemed we could start 8 if (and only if) I was a drill sergeant, so now we start at 9 and I try not to bark orders. 😉

We begin our day with morning time. In many ways, it’s the bread and butter of our school day. It’s where I immerse my kids in truth, goodness, and beauty. We all sit together to read literature, memorize scripture, and take a dip in the liberal arts – Shakespeare, composer study, picture study, or something of that nature.

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This isn’t a picture from today, but lest you think our morning time is quiet, tame and orderly — well, I can’t have that. 🙂 This is what morning time looks like at our house most days. We read, memorize, and discuss, and the toddlers cause general ruckus and mayhem.

Morning time is short, important, slightly stressful, and the best part of everyone’s day. (I shared more of the nitty gritty about what it like in our home on Periscope.)

9:45

Twenty to thirty minutes later, we move into the next chunk of our day- something we call Morning Rotations.

Getting one-on-one time with each of my school-age kids can be tricky with so many toddlers mucking about. Morning rotations are how I make sure to get some good quality time with each child every day.

Each term, I choose a subject that my kids need focused 1-on-1 time for, and we do it during this time block (right now it’s writing for all three of my school-agers).

I simply take the child I’m working with into a separate room and we close the door. One of the remaining big kids is left to supervise and entertain the twins; the other reads and does preschooly things with the 3 year old. Every 30-45 minutes for the rest of the morning, we rotate. One big kid works with me while the others watch the littles.

It’s a great system, if I do say so myself. 😉

By noon, we’ve completed morning time and each big kid has had 30-45 minutes with me 1-on-1. #win!

12:00
Lunch. Then the big kids clean the kitchen, and I take the littles up for rest time. Naptime boycotts are in full force, so there’s not usually any real sleeping being done these days.

Regardless, the toddlers have to stay in their bedroom to play (and make a huge mess) to give the rest of us some peace to relax and read.

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1:30
What happens now depends on which day it is. Most days, it’s time set aside for the big kids to work on their spiral notebooks.

The kids more or less do the work listed in their spiral notebooks on their own. These are co-op homework assignments and anything else they can do on their own, like practicing piano or typing, listening to their history audio book, or completing a notebooking page for science. 

Basically, if it’s not part of our morning time and we aren’t doing it during our 1-on-1 time, it gets listed in the spiral notebook. (more on that here)

Two days each week, our math tutor comes during this time and teaches the kids their new lessons.  

This has been a tremendous help as I am, quite frankly, not a great math teacher. He assigns their work for the rest of the week while he’s here.

On Tuesdays, friends come over to do a socratic-style history and humanities class. My brilliant friend Angela teaches this, and it is easily one of the best parts of our homeschool curriculum. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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(They’re having tea and conversation about the Boston Tea Party in this picture).

3:00-ish

Late afternoons afford the kids a bit of free time. They almost always spend it reading, though I do try to convince them that there are other worthy pursuits … like listening to audio books. 😉

Actually, when the weather is nicer, I’ll often kick them outdoors, or load them all into the 12-passenger van and head to a nearby park. If it’s a day our friends come over for humanities class, we just hang out and play with them.

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4:00

Around 4, it’s time to rally. The house is usually a disaster zone by now, so we start tackling it together, and then I pair toddlers up with big kids to play while I make dinner.

5:00
My husband comes home, and we eat early. Big kids have assigned after-dinner chores, my husband takes over the whole crew, and I head to my corner bedroom office to work.

I run a podcast and community for parents who want their kids to fall in love with books. It’s nearly a full-time job, and I do most of that work during evenings and weekends.

I’m always a bit giddy to get started.
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I posted this picture last week on Instagram right after working for a couple of hours. You know what I’ve discovered this last year? That as an extrovert, working outside of my homeschool is a really, really important way to take care of myself and feed my joy- it gives me so much energy!

I used to feel guilty about that, but I’m learning not to.

On evenings like this one, I head upstairs until about 9 p.m. On the day I’m documenting this post, I spent my work time preparing talks for the four GHC Conferences I’m speaking at this year. Those’ll be here before I know it, and I want to be ready!

Usually when I’m working, I’m recording podcasts, creating master classes and resources, and working with my team to line up award-winning authors like David Macaulay and Avi for our membership families to meet at live online events.

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That’s John Erickson of Hank the Cowdog fame at one of our Live Author Access events, answering the kids’ questions from the chatbox. How could I not love work like this?

It can be a real challenge to juggle the demands of a career with homeschooling, homemaking, and raising my passel of peeps, but I’ve found so much energy and joy in making it happen.

9:00
Before making some tea and grabbing a book, I’ll try to look over spiral notebooks one last time, draft the kids’ school lists for the next day, and then spend some time hanging out with Andy.

It’s very likely I’ll stay up too late.

And then it’s another day. 🙂

How the days have changed:

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. I so enjoyed reading this, as well as going back to revisit your post from last year. My babies are a year old this week, and I have a bunch of other toddlers and preschoolers and big kids, too. Even though I have twice as many children as you do, your description of your days is refreshing and encouraging for me. 🙂
    Anne’s latest post: A Week, Briefly (#20)

  2. I am exhausted after reading your post! Wow! You have a FULL day. I like what you say about making a point to go outside of the house to work-that it energizes you. I am struggling with this. I am extrovert too and am in an introvert situation. LOL. I think that I will meditate on that one. Thank you for bringing that me that awareness! Love your notebook and one-on-one ideas.
    Sharon’s latest post: A Day in the Life-Friday

  3. Your day sounds quite a bit like mine, although I don’t get up as early as you! (I’m usually lucky to be awake by 8:15. We also have a morning time routine and rotation, but I have to break it into two halves- the 4, 6 and 7 yr. olds first, and then the 8, 10, and 11 yr. olds afterwards. My 14 and 15 yr. olds alternate weeks of watching whichever kids are not being worked with at the time, plus the 2 yr. old. Since we have so many school age kids, I’ve found that it’s easier to let the 14, 15, and, 16 yr. olds do their work at nighttime. It’s much easier for me to focus on geometry and physics when some of the kids have already gone off to bed. Most of my teen’s work is done independently, however. Thanks for taking the time to let us into your day!

  4. Such a blessing to read this! I have 6 kids as well and am working toward getting my writing/homeschool business off the ground. The day certainly feels full! One question, do you have times when you get to exercise or just go for a walk? I try to run most days of the week but I often feel like I have to choose between caring for myself or working on the business. So hard to choose when the exercise helps me think more clearly and be a better mom. But I need to.put in the time with the business. Thanks for sharing!
    Angela’s latest post: Creative Copywork

    • During the spring, summer, and early fall, I quite often go for a “run” which means walk, but run sounds better 😛 — early in the morning or with the babies in strollers just before bedtime. But once winter hits– it’s hard! We have a treadmill but I haven’t carved out daily time to make it happen. I need to though- I feel so much more energetic and whole when I do!

  5. I’m amazed by how you fit it all in! I am a momma of just three kiddos and am trying to get the work from home thing down. I’ve only been at it for 3 months, but I am finding it hard and discouraging a lot of the time. Previously, I was very comfortable to just sit and home and just be Mom. I have needed/wanted a change of pace for a long time, but it always seems harder than one expects.
    Rosanna’s latest post: Faith instead of Fear

  6. I love reading how other homeschooling mamas structure their days. Thank you for sharing! Thank you too for your transparency, particularly in not getting up before the kids. In some seasons it is simply not productive and it is freeing to hear other moms say that. I am just coming out of that season and truly cherishing my morning time again!

  7. I love that your morning time and mine seem pretty much the same! I don’t know why littles are crazy in the mornings but I am also beginning to learn to work with it and not against it. I also absolutely love that you have a creative outlet outside of homeschooling that feeds directly from and to it. I do as well and I feel like it keeps me sane, even if it makes my life a little busier. I really, really liked this post.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: To Teach Boys to Read, Give Them A Reason

  8. How do you motivate your children to do their work? We use an hour of screen time as a motivator, but I don’t see any mention of screens at all in your day. I’d love to hear some other ideas for helping kids WANT to do what needs to be done.

    • Yikes. How did I write a whole post about our day and not mention screens? Eeeek. Yes, we use screens as motivation. My kids’ favorite thing to do is read, and they don’t get to have free reading time (except for that hour mid-day) unless their work is done. No playing with friends time either until the work is done.

      I try not to put *too* much on their lists, so that they do have a bit of free time each day, and my kids all seem to spend at least some time on screens each day (some more than others!).

      Hope that helps a little!
      Sarah Mackenzie’s latest post: RAR #38: On Dads, Boys & the Importance of Building a Family Culture Around Books, Martin Cothran

  9. I *LOVE* the morning time action shot. Keeping it real 🙂
    Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Verosty The Dragon Hero (By: Leo, age 7)

  10. Even though we use a boxed curriculum and the thought if having 2 people over a week makes this introvert want to hide, our days look surprisingly similar. Thanks for the peek into your day.

  11. Hi, Sarah!

    You didn’t mention when you do assessing and checking of daily work, not to mention other pesky paperwork for your homeschool. Sometimes that is the hardest one for me to stay diligent to complete – usually with my hot tea instead of the good book I’m longing for. 😏

  12. Helen Brindell says:

    Good post Sarah. You didn’t mention how you squeeze in devotions for yourself, when you find time to actually cook a hot meal for your family, when you have time to do regular housework and organization…other than the times you all pitch in to pick up all the days tornado happenings? Or do you get some hired help in the deep cleaning arena. That would be the best. I have always struggled and wondered about this when blogging homeschooling moms share their daily and weekend schedules. Some have mentioned that Saturday is for me and/or extra family time, curling up with a good book or taking the kids to the park on Saturday mornings and playing family games Saturday afternoon…and I think “how do they do that”? I am so deep into tending to my home and preparing meals and baked goods to get into the freezer that there is no relaxed ME time. My DD’s are 6 & 7 so they want to help in the kitchen every time I am in there, so that slows down progress considerably, but a necessary teaching/training opportunity nonetheless . Any thoughts?

  13. I wondered also about when you get your housecleaning done. And read alouds…are you accomplishing all the read alouds you mention in just your morning time? And your reading list has been impressive to have so many young ones! Or I thought maybe your husband reads aloud to the kids a lot in the evening. You have a gorgeous family and it’s great that you seem to know what you need to keep your soul alive in the middle of all the daily work of 6 kids!

  14. Thanks for your post Sarah. It just so happens that I am finishing up teaching from rest right now. it was great to see your actual day after reading the theory. i’ve had it for almost a year and just couldn’t bring myself to read it. looking back, i’m actually glad i didn’t read it until now. i now realize that the lord has been patiently working with me, especially in the last few months, leading me to a place where the words you shared could take root in my heart. our homeschool is definitely kinder, our home more peaceful, and life better. you’re great. oh, and i’m glad we’re not the only family that has breakfast one, breakfast two, and sometimes breakfast three.

  15. How nice to read a real life day after following your work for so long, to be able to see how it all plays out on the ground. Congratulations on your beautiful family, homeschool, and work! You are blessed and we are blessed by you living out your vocation. 🙂

  16. This was very helpful. I’m homeschooling our oldest (9.5 year old boy) and have been all along. We decided that our daughter would be served by our small local elementary school for kindergarten and it has been the best decision we’ve made. She is thriving, and I love being just her Mommy. We are trying to discern the future for our son, and one huge hurdle for me with homeschooling is his lack of motivation. He dawdles. And it makes me c.r.a.z.y. I have gotten far too angry at times with his wasted time, and I’m concerned that it’s harming our relationship. A local mom who homeschooled most of her children K-12 suggested he might need to be accountable to someone else for his schoolwork and suggested maybe we should consider school for a year (or more). I LOVE what I see on your blog and other homeschool groups, but I’m concerned for my relationship with my son and need input: how can I motivate him to work more swiftly so that I’m not freaking out when I leave the room for 10 minutes and he stares out the window the whole time? He doesn’t have a lot of “privileges” to remove as consequences so I feel somewhat stuck.

    • My son is the same way. I have noticed that simplifying his assignments helps. If he knows how to do something correctly, I don’t keep making him do it. A math teacher told me, “If he can do 10 problems in a row with no mistakes, he knows it.” This doesn’t fix the problem, but it does help greatly!

  17. Thank you for the peek into your day- I have graduated 3 of my 6 children. Every new school year brings about a whole new ball game. After home-schooling for 20 years, you would think you have it all figured out and it would be easy. I now home-school a 7 year old, a 16 year old, who struggles and a 19 year old with down syndrome-asd who still requires one on one most of the day. It has taken me months to “get into the groove” of what works. I have found some good things on your reading aloud podcasts that have encouraged me to keep going, keep reading and keep learning. Thank you.

  18. What a fun insight! But I have to ask, what time do your kids go to bed? And does your friend that teaches the amazing history/humanities class use a specific curriculum? Since she can’t come to my house I wonder if I can do something similarly wonderful.

    We’ve been using the spiral notebook method since school started this year and it’s really helped my kids stay on target and get their work done. (all boys, ages 15, 15, 12, and 9)

  19. Danae Anderson says:

    Hey Sarah,
    So refreshing to hear your schedule. I have a 8 year old, 4 year old, and a 2 year old. After I had my two year old I was so stressed with homeschooling my oldest , nursing, and toliet training…but it is getting better and I am currently reading your “teaching from rest “…and LOVE ..it…I have been realizing how I have set too many unrealistic demands on myself…and my oldest. ..And freeing up margin and cutting things out…have been so much better for us!….Its freeing to know that we don’t have to do every “good” idea that comes along. I love the honest and simple schedule you have…Its so refreshing when we let others know how life really goes on..and not try to hide that we are not perfect…and we are content with Gods grace. Your book is a God send. Thankyou…and your kiddos are darling😉

  20. I love reading your posts! I get most of my library request ideas from you 🙂 Hank the Cowdog huh? OK…request done! Thank you for being an extrovert 😉

  21. Thank you for this post! I am currently homeschooling ages 8 almost 7, 6, and twin 3yr. olds. Just reading that you do school with the twins wreaking havoc all around is encouraging to me. I worry at times that the general ruckus and distractions will be detrimental to learning, but so far they seem to be doing alright. My oldest struggles with staying on task so I have worked on simplifying our homeschooling to eliminate unnecessary busywork.

  22. Cindy Brown says:

    “socratic-style history and humanities class”… can you do a podcast on what this looks like and how to go about it? I’ve been trying to figure this out by reading things here and there, but can’t wrap my head around how to do the actual discussion. Maybe I’m making it too hard? Any links, or especially that podcast, would be awesome. 🙂

  23. In your book “Teaching from rest” you spoke about a daily morning prayer that you all say aloud each morning. Do you know what it was called? I would love to print it out, and we read it aloud as well. Thank you in advance!

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