5 minutes to a more satisfying homeschool day

Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins

When I was a little girl, there was one question that came up every day.

The actual days were all different. I would go to school, and then I might have soccer practice or dance lessons or scouts or choir, but at the end of it all, my mom would always ask, “What did you do today?”

I would say the same thing every day, the same thing you probably said every day, the same thing most kids say most days. “What did you do today?”


I did nothing. We all did nothing.

That can’t have been true for all of us, every day, year after year. I hope.

Now I’m at home with my own kids all day every day. I know for sure that they did not do “nothing.” They have never spent a day doing nothing in their entire lives. But when their dad walks in the door after work and asks what they did today, guess what they say?

Unless we took a field trip or were visited by aliens, he usually hears: “Oh, nothing.”


It makes sense, though. By the end of the day, you’re tired. Lots of things have happened. The things that happened at the end of the day have knocked the more important events right out of your short-term memory.

If we want our kids to remember the good stuff, we have to put it back in.

So we’ve been practicing reflecting on the day together. It goes like this.


How to encourage purposeful reflection

  1. Ask good questions.

    I try to ask one or two really specific questions about the day to spark my kids’ memories. I want to choose questions that show what kinds of things I think are important to remember.

    • What was the most fun thing you did today?
    • What was one thing you learned today?
    • When were you kind to someone else today?
    • When was someone kind to you?
    • What was the most creative thing you did today?
    • What was the most surprising part of your day?
    • What was the hardest part?
    • What was the biggest risk you took today?
  2. Repeat everything back.

    I tell my kids what I hear them saying. I ask more questions if I didn’t understand. I add in details I remember, too.

  3. Be thankful.

    Once we’ve started to remember things about our day, I try to tell my kids why I’m thankful for what we’re remembering. I might be thankful we learned something new, or thankful to have been in the presence of wonder, or thankful for how my kids handled something, or thankful for seeing who they are becoming.

    Sometimes the thanks comes naturally, and sometimes we have to look for it. Sometimes my kids remember stuff like, I fell in that mud puddle and cried. Personally, I’m not super thankful that happened, but I might be thankful that someone helped my child up, or that we learned how to deal with muddy shoes, or that we practiced being brave in the face of dirt. Any thankfulness counts. I just want to practice looking for gratitude together.

When we take a few minutes over dinner to reflect, my kids start to remember not just what they did in the last twenty-four hours, but what it meant and why they might be thankful for the day.

I do, too.


Parents can do it, too

That kind of intentional reflection isn’t just for kids, either. I know I can zoom around from one thing to the next and never feel like I really did anything all day.

When I think back on how I spent my time, I can’t focus on everything at once, and I can’t remember all the details of every little event. But I can choose a few moments to define my day and reflect on those before I turn out the lights for the night.

Today we read aloud at tea time, and folded paper airplanes, and baked apple crumble.

Today I wrote this for all of you, and chose a birthday gift for someone I love, and potted a new succulent for my desk.

I’m thankful for those.

What was today about for you? Do you have any end-of-day rituals that made for a more satisfying homeschool day?

About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins is a homeschooling mom of six in Southern California. She writes about being who you were made to be and letting go of the rest.


  1. Reflection! Ah. I have to be intentional about looking back before moving forward or I get into ruts or I work myself into crazy cycles.
    My daily routine is to write out our agenda for the next day after the kids go to bed and before I unwind. It helps me to both reflect and plan with purpose. While this doesn’t always look like pages of journal entries answering all the questions you posed in detail – it does help me keep on task with my top priorities and it sets a good framework for our day.
    Also, this helps set our anchors. I like it that my kids rely on going to the library on Tuesday; I know this isn’t how we reflect – but it’s how I prepare them to recognize each day’s purpose. If they have a handle for what each day is for then it’s easier for them to recall what they actually did that day.
    Cara@TheHomeLearner’s latest post: Tips for reading more books.

  2. Absolutely lovely! I’m really looking forward to adding this to our daily rituals. We usually end the day on a story in bed but this will add so much more in connecting with the kids and growing closer. Like Cara said, it’s a great way to set our anchors and as I grow and learn as a mother and homeschooler we’ll be adding more and more. Thank you!!

  3. Thank you for this simple but powerful idea. I really would like a way to spark dinner time conversation and help Daddy feel like he is part of the day the kids had. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  4. Beautiful. I need to be more consistent with this. It’s easy to do this with the five year old at bedtime, but for some reason doesn’t seem necessary or natural with the 13 and 12 year olds. It could help us go far in turning a seemingly “bad” day into something worth celebrating.

  5. Relating to the question, “When were you kind to someone else today?” … I’ve heard a suggestion of asking “who did you help today, and what did you do?” to get a bit more specific. We’ve been doing the be-grateful question at dinner for a year or more, and I’m ready to shake things up on that. Our kids say the same thing every. single. day. and think they’re funny, but really, it defeats the purpose of the question. We need a new question.

  6. Oh, I love the list of questions to ask! I know “what did you do today” is not the right question to ask, but I am often to tired to think of another one. It will be great to add some of these to my day. Also, the thankfulness idea is great. I like that is a practical way to bring thankfulness into our everyday conversations!
    sarah’s latest post: Making homemade pizza night easy

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