Sarah’s homeschool day in the life (with a 12- and 15-year-old)

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

The sky is just starting to lighten. From my regular perch I watch a new day come, wait for the riot of color as the sun pops up over the mountains. The next few hours are mine. This is the “me” time that stay-at-home moms crave: my creative time, productive time, devotion time, exercise time. I write, pray, run, plan, catch-up, check things off—and add things to—my to-do list. I shower quietly, without my ears tuned to the cries of “Mommy!”

You with little ones don’t have this—I know. Your little ones are your alarm clock.


But one of these days, you’ll have middle and high schoolers who sleep in late—and you won’t.

My kids often sleep as late as 10:15; in fact, I have to awaken my 12-year-old most of the time. I have heard variations on this statement more than once: “They’ll need to wake up early in the real world! You’d do better to prepare them for that now!” Indeed they will. Possibly for the rest of their lives, our children will have to awaken by 7 a.m. or earlier. This is a luxury I can give them as teens, when they need sleep even more than they did as children.

My kids’ school day begins roughly at 10:30 or 11.

Studying WWII

My goal is to get two hours’ worth of school in with my seventh-grader before we break for lunch. On Mondays we have a full day of co-op classes, so we follow the same schedule Tuesday-Friday.

  • Bible. He’s currently working through various reading plans on
  • Math. Teaching Textbooks (algebra).
  • Language Arts. Easy Grammar, Spelling Power (Wednesdays), basic essay writing (my materials), reading comprehension workbook (for ACT prep).
  • Independent reading. My 12-year-old does not love reading independently, so we have to actually schedule this in.
  • History. We are studying World War II in depth this year, so we’ll read together from a history book and our novel du jour. (See my 2012 curriculum fair post to read more about our specifics.)

My daughter, a sophomore, completely sets her own schedule. She takes all her classes through our co-op (my husband and I each teach one of hers): American literature, U.S. history, U.S. government, ecology, and geometry. She knows what she needs to get done and when. I check in with her periodically throughout the week, but she is a responsible, well-organized, and self-motivated girl. She gets it done and asks for help if she needs it.

I am protective of our mornings at home, keeping appointments and activities to the late afternoon hours as much as possible.

About once each week we have a golden day spent entirely at home. Those are days that we’ll do a week’s worth of science in a couple of hours, work on a Boy Scout merit badge, or just spend some time playing a board game with my parents.

But normally, once afternoon hits, my day is most often spent being a chauffeur. We have something different every day, from regular activities like guitar lessons and geometry class, to bi-weekly orthodontist appointments and teen outings with our homeschooling group. We also have regular evening activities like Boy Scouts, youth group, dance lessons, and government class. Our schooling is by no means limited to daylight hours or weekdays.

At this point in our homeschooling career, our focus is on:

  • Working independently
  • College prep
  • Self-discipline
  • Clear thinking
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Service to others
  • Deliberate academic, social and spiritual maturity

If you are a parent, you know it: learning happens all the time, not just in the traditional school hours of 8-3, and certainly not just between the pages of a textbook.

A look back on Sarah’s homeschool day:

Do you find that your determination to “get things done” in a certain time frame ever undermines your homeschooling vision?

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. Sarah,
    Love this post. Our days are slightly different with a 11 year old as my oldest, but I can so relate to many of your thoughts and philosophies!

    Hope we can keep this up long enough to be in your shoes one day!


  2. I’ve never understood the thinking that we have to train our kids as children to get up early in case they have to as adults. My kids naturally sleep late. So does their Daddy. Yet everyone can get up early with an alarm clock as needed!
    Margaret’s latest post: New Year’s Eve at the Schoolhouse

    • I so agree! I am NOT a morning person. I despise getting up early and I am an adult. However, when I had a job, before having kids, I was up at 5:30am every day to get ready and get to work by 6:30. I did just fine, was able to get up and was never late for work. I have 4 (soon to be 5) kids ranging in ages from 3-8, my 8 year old gets up early, but my 5 year old sleeps until 8:30 or 9 many days of the week. I love that our homeschooling schedule allows that. She goes to bed at 8pm by the way. If she went to public school and had to be up at 6:30am, I’d be having to put her to bed at 6:30, or earlier, for her to get enough sleep. I would barely get to see her in a day!

  3. What a refreshing reminder to me to not stress over my 13 year-old’s hours. He’s still in bed, and I can go take my shower now and school him when he gets up. I’ve been home schooling 21 years, and I’m always still trying to find the balance that I am comfortable with. :sigh:

    Thanks for your post. I am often finding that what I had hoped to get done gets in the way of the learning my son wants to focus on.
    Diana M.’s latest post: Inspiration for the day

  4. I love hearing how you let them sleep. I get that comment about waking up & the real world, too. It makes me crazy. It sounds like people can not adjust to changes in their lives. Just because I always slept until 10:30a does not mean I can’t adjust and get up at 5a. And if I can do it, so can my kids. So lovely to read someone on the same page as myself.
    Becca’s latest post: The Homeschool Mother’s Journal – January 17

  5. My 12 year old daughter has been known to awaken closer to lunch. She’s one of those people who is just picking up steam as I’m ready to crash. I’m happy that we homeschool and she is able to work at her own rhythm – she gets a ton of things accomplished on her own schedule and I expect that in the “real world” she’ll pick a vocation that allows her to do the same.
    Eddie – The Usual Mayhem’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-up: What DID we do?!!

  6. Thanks for your perspective on mornings. Our mornings start pretty late too, but I don’t feel it’s intentional.
    Do you mind answering the following questions:
    What time do your kids go to sleep? Is this acceptable to you?

    • My 12-year-old goes to bed between 9:30 and 10, but he probably doesn’t fall asleep right away. My 15-year-old goes to bed at 11 and usually reads for a short time.
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Tea, cribbage, popcorn, and my beautiful mother

      • Hi Sarah,
        Often I too hear about waking up and the real world, but it’s me saying it. I have a 15 year old and a 10 year old and left on their own my son (15) would wake up at 12 or 1pm and my daughter (10) would wake up at 11. They both go to bed at reasonable hours, 11 and 9:30 respectively. And honestly I would let my son sleep in and wake up on his own if I thought he’d get enough work done, but he works on his own slow and steady pace. He’d be working into the evening if I didn’t wake him up at 7:30 so that he can start around 9:30. My daughter is more focused and would probably get the work done at a decent hour. Any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas for me? My children don’t give me a hard time about waking up at the hour they do, but I know they’d love it if they could get up later.

  7. AaaaahhH! Your family uses TT! I’m *this* close to ordering it. I’m at my wits end with Saxon for my 7th grader. I know you must be so busy, but if you have a moment to email me, I would be SO grateful to hear what you think about it. (I mean, obviously, you like it, or you wouldn’t use it…) but I’d love to hear more.
    On a different note- I am the late sleeper- my son is up at 6:30am! My daughter gets up around 7:30am…Oh, how I’d love to have late sleepers. 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for the reminder that someday my 2 and 6 year old girls will be teens… Sometimes we get bogged down in the day-to-day moments and forget the long view. I really enjoyed reading your post and gaining some perspective on my own future. Blessings to you!
    Tori’s latest post: On the Road

  9. I love that you just let your teenagers SLEEP. So many teens desperately need extra sleep, and most of them don’t get it. Kudos for recognizing this need and respecting it!

    Diane… if I can jump in with some advice here… Lose the Saxon. Doesn’t even matter what you replace it with, just get rid of that curriculum if it’s not working for you. I used it for several years as a teen, as did several other girls in my homeschooling group, and every last one of us has struggled with math ever since. The books aren’t good at explaining concepts or providing a solid foundation of the basics — and the basics are SO important, especially once you hit algebra and upper-level math.
    Kjerstin @’s latest post: Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013

    • Our experience with Saxon is different. My two older kids have used and excelled with it. I’m sure it boils down to learnining styles or personal preference.

  10. I’ve heard “the real world” comment a lot too in homeschooling in general but “the real world” isn’t mon-fri 9-5 for a lot of people anymore so it seems like a silly argument. I’m a nurse and work mostly nights….before kids I slept in all the time! 🙂
    Jenn’s latest post: It’s graduating time!

  11. My “real world” job sometimes starts at 8am. And sometimes at 2pm. When I’m not working, I tend to get up around 9 or 10am. Yep, sometimes I have to get up early, and that’s why alarm clocks were invented. I’m not sure why teenagers need to “train” for potential schedule changes later in life….surely it can’t take them more than a few minutes to figure out how to set an alarm! Better for them to get the sleep they need while they can.

  12. Thank you so much for this post. I have a 12 year old daughter and she likes to sleep in sometimes so I let her. It also sounds like your son gets everything done in a short amount of time each day. My daughter usually gets all of her stuff done in 2 to 3 hours. At first it really stressed me out but I am beginning to realize that it is ok and she is excelling at her subjects. She was previously in public school so this has been a big change for the both of us.

    • Nikki Verdoorn says:

      Hi Sharon, I wanted to see how you are doing with home schooling? I have a 12 year old and kicking the idea around if home schooling.

    • Hello my daughter saffron just turned 15 & has been homeschooled for 3 years , what’s your daily homeschooling schedule if you don’t mind? X

  13. So glad to see that other people understand about teens needing to sleep in & that it doesn’t take 6 or more hours a day to educate a child.

  14. I’ve hosted a homeschool co-op in New York for 8 years and I would love to hear what others are doing, and how their group or co-op is structured. We are in the midst of revamping our co-op, how it’s structured and the workshops we offer and I am looking for ideas. If you’d rather contact me directly my email address is

  15. Do you insist they go to bed at a decent hour? I have a night owl who procrastinates and then wants to stay up late doing schoolwork. I have some friends who say no school after 6pm because that is family and rest time. Comments?

  16. Sheila Roberts says:

    While I completely respect other homeschool families choices about sleep schedules, I laugh every time someone mentions how lucky my boys are to get to sleep in as homeschoolers. My sons have owned livestock since they were very young and critters don’t appreciate waiting for breakfast. The beauty of homeschooling is in the fact that each individual and each family can find their own path. Thanks for sharing your day.

  17. I love how you respect their need for sleep. The argument that they will need to wake early as adults is very silly. My husband wakes at 3:00am for work– did he need to practice waking at 3:00am as a 5, 10, or 18 year old? Nope. And he’s adjusted just fine. Same goes for the “daily schedule”– many, many people in the adult world work shift work, nights, or make their own hours. What helps them wake up? Self-motivation– whether that’s in the form of a paycheck, self-esteem, charity, etc. I used to work 80 hour weeks as a sales manager. I am home with my little ones now and I can tell you I’ve learned to live on much less sleep (broken sleep, at that!). NO JOB could have prepared me for motherhood– you learn as you go and just DO IT because of self-motivation and love. =)

  18. We just decided to start home schooling my 15 year old son and need to get his curriculum going ASAP! There were many issues at school and we just found out about them so we are pulling him out of public school and I didn’t have a chance to research and plan a curriculum and there are so many sites to read and research! He has a high I.Q. but has struggled in school so we need a different approach for him. Can you recommend where I can go to get materials and curriculum for him now to hopefully receive and start school by next week? I’m very excited for this but also overwhelmed lol.

    • Angie, I would recommend taking a little while to “deschool” and get your bearings, allowing time for the transition and just so you can get used to being together at home. I would really recommend reading the book Leadership Education by Oliver and Rachel DeMille for yourself and then taking it from there before you order curriculum. Hope this helps!

  19. Thank you for this to-the-point rebuttal of the common misconceptions of homeschooling. I remember being intimidated by those arguments at first, but after hearing them over and over and over again, they seem really easy to respond to. Sometimes, I almost feel like saying “Is that all ya got?” lol Also, to my surprise, I even learned some things while homeschooling my FIRST GRADER last year. I think that’s one of the benefits of homeschooling – you get to learn too

  20. Absolutely. In fact, in the real world, my friends and family work all kinds of different schedules. The real “real world” schedule seems be wildly diverse.

  21. dana cole new to homeschooling says:

    what are the best books for homeschooling we are doing spectrum. right now but its just work sheets no real teaching guides. any help would be great

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