Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with an 8- & 11-year-old)

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Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

After four years of homeschooling, I am honestly able to say that I have read every single “A Day In The Life” post on Simple Homeschool since 2011.

I LOVE being able to peek into other momma’s homes, families and routines. There is something inspirational about seeing another mom seemingly getting it right.

Even more so, there is something super encouraging about another mom being willing to show all the crazy, imperfect realities we face every day.

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Since this is my first year sharing, allow me to introduce my boys. “Sourdough” is my oldest at 11. He got his nickname through a brief but intense period of time where he was determined to come up with the perfect sourdough starter.

In addition to having tested “highly gifted” in IQ, Sourdough also has High Functioning Autism, Acute Sensory Processing Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder.

His little brother is 8. He goes by the nickname “Bacon,” because he loves bacon … really a lot. As in when he was in preschool (I didn’t always homeschool) the teacher asked the class to draw pictures of what they were most thankful for. As all the sweet little ones drew pictures of their mommies and their baby sisters — my guy drew a perfect picture of a piece of bacon.

Bacon is also uniquely gifted. He too has a genius level IQ, but also severe dyslexia, and a processing disorder that affects his working memory and slows his ability to take in and make sense of information.

I share my sons’ unique circumstances because they are a part of who my children are, how they learn, and ultimately, a big reason why we homeschool in the first place. So, a day in our life? It looks just like this:

6:14 AM – I wake up and glance at the clock, one minute before the alarm is supposed to go off. I hurry up and get to the phone so the alarm doesn’t wake my children.

6:20 AM – The reason I want to get up is so I can have time to think in peace and quiet. If I am being completely honest, it is also so that I can have at least one cup of coffee before a child wakes up.

My husband is still asleep too because on this particular Wednesday, he is working late. He won’t be home until 10:00 PM tonight, so he isn’t planning on leaving until 9:00 AM. This gives me about an hour to myself. I gulp down coffee, pray, and then read the Bible and a devotional for a bit.

I am just getting into a writing groove, when Bacon calls me.

7:25 AM – I go into Bacon’s room and snuggle up in his bed with him. He is my child who wakes up talking, so we immediately begin chatting all about Minecraft and how he is planning to build an entire hotel out of gold and lava. We also look at the calendar next to his bed, note the day of the week and date, and then discuss our day.

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8:00 AM – While my husband plays with Bacon, I head in for what Sourdough calls “Momma Time.” He begins each day with me walking him through our “map.” I go through what we have planned for the day in detail so he knows what to expect. This helps ease his anxiety and allows us to better transition from one activity to the next.

Although it takes some time, I have found it saves me (and him) a lot of frustration throughout the day.

8:30 AM – I serve the boys breakfast while my husband gets ready for work. Sourdough eats in his room, still getting his body ready to go for the day. We do not require him to eat with us except at dinner time. This is because of the noise level, and because a large portion of his sensory issues are related to eating.

9:05 AM – My husband leaves and that is our cue to get dressed and get started on school. I start with Bacon’s reading, and Sourdough starts working on a new project. He is creating a video of himself detailing how to set up a computer and its accessories. I am thrilled because this allows him to practice communicating in ways that make sense to others (and not just him). It also gives him a chance to see and hear himself when he watches the recording.

9:25 AM – Reading is not going well today. Some days, Bacon rocks it. Others, it’s like he has never even seen the English language in print. I have learned this is just one of the sneaky parts of dyslexia, but it is very frustrating for him. In an effort to keep him from giving up, I pull out our 3D letters and get him away from the table. Spelling and reading with letters that he can easily see, hold and manipulate helps, and we are back on track.

10:05 AM – I let Bacon take the dog out and run around with her for a bit, while I check in on Sourdough. He excitedly tells me all about what he has done so far, and then promptly dismisses me so he can get back to work.

10:30 AM – After running for a bit, Bacon is ready to focus. We knock out two math quizzes and begin to read a story about Leonardo da Vinci. Bacon is loving learning about da Vinci, mostly because he was an inventor who was also dyslexic.

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11:25 AM – Sourdough wanders out and asks for food. It’s a little early for lunch, but we all seem ready for a break. I turn on Amazon, and the boys watch an episode of Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls.

(We have what we call “school shows” that are approved for watching during our school breaks.)

11:50 AM – I put down a tray and we all eat together on the floor in the living room. We call it picnic style, and it is one way that I keep Sourdough calm during lunch times. We talk about all the animals Bear encounters during the show and their habitats.

12:15 PM – Show’s over. We go to the world map on the wall, and Sourdough shows Bacon where Ecuador is (Bear’s location in the episode we just watched). I ask Bacon what continent it is on, and I smile when he answers South America. When I ask him if he remembers where Ecuador is, he points to Columbia and is sure he is right. Reading … not his gifting. I love his sweet enthusiasm though.

12:30 PM – I am starting to rush because I know we have to leave soon for Sourdough’s social skills therapy appointment, and he has yet to do anything other than record himself and watch Bear Grylls. I throw all of Bacon’s stuffed animals out onto our trampoline and tell him to have fun while I work with his brother.

While he jumps with the pile of toys, Sourdough and I complete a quick math lesson. Then he dictates a book report to me.

2:00 PM – I drop Bacon off with my sweet friend, who watches him for us while I take Sourdough to therapy.

3:00 PM – While Sourdough is in with the therapist, I take a breath and relax in the waiting room. I respond to comments on the blog, make my grocery list for week, and then decide I am too tired and start reading the doctor’s office magazines.

4:30 PM – While in the car and stuck in traffic, I ask Sourdough about the field trip we went on earlier in the week. He shares with me his favorite part, what was confusing, and what he learned. I consider this carschooling and call it our history lesson for the day.

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5:00 PM – My friend brings Bacon to meet me at the YMCA, and he begins waterpolo practice.

6:00 PM – When we arrive home, I realize I was supposed to put something in the crock pot this morning. Because that didn’t happen, I start to look through the leftovers in the fridge.

6:40 PM – After dinner together at the table, the boys and I settle down on the couch and watch an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. When the show is over, I leave them to play Minecraft together while I clean up the kitchen and fold some laundry.

8:45 PM – Time for Bacon to get ready for bed. I get him into the bath, and then read aloud to him. Sourdough stays out on the couch and plays a video game.

9:30 PM – Bacon is almost asleep when my husband comes home early (yay!). He says goodnight to Bacon, and then he and Sourdough head out on a drive. They listen to the latest Percy Jackson book on audio in the car. They do this almost every night, as it helps Sourdough calm down his brain a bit so he can actually sleep.

10:00 PM – They return, and Sourdough happily heads to bed where he will watch one episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown (as he does every single night) and then go to sleep.

My hubby and I snuggle up on the couch, talk a little about the day, and then watch a quick show before heading to bed as well.

Honestly, I was sure this day was a failure as it was happening. We didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to, and dinner ended up being a strange buffet complete with whole dill pickles and the last apple in the house.

But after writing it all out, I can see it for what it was. Not our best, most productive day, but certainly nowhere near our worst.

I find I am grateful for all of it.

Are you homeschooling any uniquely gifted children as well?

About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Comments

  1. My almost-8-year-old son is newly diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Thank you for this post… like you, I have perused all the “a day in the life” posts, looking for some magic formula, and found that there isn’t one. It’s just whatever is going to work best for my little Superman. I appreciate your honesty in this post… I needed to read this today!!

    • I think we all wish there was a magic formula! I love that you have let that go and found the confidence to do what is right for your “Superman”. It has taken me so many years to get there, and honestly, I still question myself ALL. THE. TIME. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. I have loved every single one of these “Day in the Life” posts- I look forward to them each morning. As a rookie, they give me hope and make me grateful for this journey. That said, I’ve been waiting for your post, Shawna. I’ve been a follower since discovering your blog and I love all your posts. My oldest son is profoundly gifted and 2E, and while his younger brother and sister haven’t been assessed (and probably won’t ever be assessed), they are somewhere on that spectrum too. I appreciate your honesty. The day wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst and you are thankful for it. I love that. Thank you for sharing your day with us, and thank you for sharing your world with us on your blog!
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: A Ninja, He is Not

  3. What a wonderful post, I really love this series.
    I have been homeschooling my youngest son since he was 4 (he is now 6). He is diagnosed with Asperegers (High functioning Autism), and is highly intelligent as well.
    I related to some days just not going as planned, and of course me not accomplishing all that I had wanted, but I often realize that it was just as it was supposed to be.
    I must say I do love the idea of carschooling! Ha! I never thought of all I do in the car as well. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Angela. My son talks more to me about school subjects in the car (no eye contact required and nothing else really going on that interests him), than just about anywhere else. I was complaining about this to another veteran homeschool mom once and she is the one that said, “That totally counts. That’s called carschooling. Use it to your advantage.” She was right and I am so grateful for her wisdom!

  4. Krysten Traylor says:

    I love your untraditional approach. I think it is wonderful how you are meeting your son’s needs in so many areas.

    • Thank you so much, Krysten. There are times where I struggle with how nontraditional we are – I am the girl that LOVED worksheets and textbooks of my own when I was in school. But, I have learned that it’s the end result that matters…what they learn, not how I teach. 🙂

  5. My kids don’t have any special needs but allowing my two oldest(11) to work alone most of the day results in higher productivity.

    • I totally agree, Frances! It has been a wonderful surprise for me to see my 11 year old start to take on his own learning (and to see how much more he gets done when I am not in the middle of it!). Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  6. So happy to see a Day in the Life post that I can relate. Currently I am only homeschooling my oldest, and my younger guy attends a special needs kindergarten. I am thinking that this may be his last year in public schools. Reading your post forced me to realize that I will have to be more flexible and creative in our teaching methods for my little one. By the way, our boys seem so much alike – Minecraft, toys on the trampoline, AFV, etc. Love it.

    • AFV is a show we all can agree on and laugh at, so it works well in this house!
      Becky, I am passionate about individualizing our approach to learning, really for any child, but especially for one with special needs. It is so difficult sometimes to let go of how we think school “should be” and instead focus on how are they best going to learn the topic. I am encouraged that you feel empowered to be flexible and creative in your teaching. It has made all the difference in our home (and it is a lot more fun for me as well!).

  7. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I have a high-functioning autistic daughter who is also blessed with a crazy high IQ. This is the very first day in the life of homeschooling post with an autistic child. And it’s so wonderful to see other families with the same challenges we have! THANK YOU!!!!

    • Hi Jill! Thank you so much for your comments. I felt the same way when I started homeschooling my little guys, especially about never really getting an idea of what the day to day looks like for a family dealing with someone on the spectrum. I am so glad you found our day to be encouraging.

  8. Thank you Shawna,
    Thank you for taking the time to tell about your life with your sons. I have a 8 year old son with High functioning autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and a language disorder. I read the Day in the life of homeschooling, all the time and this is the first one that I have seen that is actually about something my husband and I have the opportunity to be apart of. I also home school our son. As I read your daily life, it just tells me that their is no magical remedy for how things oughta be. Thank you for giving me the hope that it is all going to be okay and that there are days which things just happen and that you can’t help it, you just have to make the best of it. Thank you!! You are truly a blessing to the Autism community.
    Blessings,
    Michelle

    • Oh My Goodness… Michelle, you made me tear up with your thoughtful and encouraging words. Thank you so much, and you are exactly right – sometimes we just have to make the best of things. In the long run, I think that adds up to more than we know.

  9. As a hs mom of an 11 year old girl and an 8 year old boy, thank you for shar

  10. *for sharing! 😉

  11. Thank you for sharing your day with us. I so needed to read this today. I have felt very discouraged about our homeschool days lately because sometimes it just feels like one big battle (albeit a better battle than our public school battle) and all the stress that comes with thinking your little ones are not learning. I, myself, have Aspergers and am homeschooling my two little ones (7&9) with HF autism. I love your routine of the morning time one on one with your littles. That is something I think my son could use to start his day off. Both littles also enjoy a minecraft video before going to bed, along with a “steve” story my husband makes up, and about an hour of an audio book to actually fall asleep. I cannot tell you how much this means to read this today. I just started reading your blog and it has been such an encouragement. We do not know other people with littles on the spectrum and we are so very content to stay at home in our comfort zone. (Just replying to this post is sending me WAY out of my comfort zone). But, I just had to say thank you (in a most incoherent way).

    • I am so grateful that you did step out of your comfort zone – I am so blessed by your words! I have said the same thing about the battles at home being tough, but no where near as tough as the battles we faced when my oldest was in school. I try and remind myself of that on the worst days. Thank you for sharing about your family – they really do sound so similar to mine!

  12. I love the thoughtful ways you’ve found as a family to make your days work for everyone, especially the morning routines. I’m also impressed that you can balance so beautifully between the two very different learners, something that I have struggled with myself over the years. Your kids are lucky to have you 🙂
    Erin – The Usual Mayhem’s latest post: Welcoming King Winter and Jack Frost – nature table

    • You are very kind, Erin. I struggle with balancing my two, completely different learners every single day, so you are not alone. Although you thought I was balancing it beautifully (thank you so much!), I will let you in on my perspective – most of the time I feel like the ball in a pinball machine, going back and forth all over the place. I have persisted though, because it really is the best way for them to learn, and in the long run, much easier for me.

  13. Thanks for this wonderful insight. I have been homeschooling for over 20 years and we started because my son was diagnosed as profoundly gifted and there were just no schools that catered for kids like him. Well, now I have 5 kids, all gifted and now all diagnosed with Asperger’s. It’s kinda nice cos they are all their own support group. My youngest has the most trouble as he has depression and an over active limbic system which means he has PTSD but with no trauma event to trigger it. Life sure is interesting!

    • I would love to hear all the tricks you have learned over the years with 5 children similar to my own! I can only imagine all the work, and also all the joy.

  14. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve forgot to make the prepare-ahead dinner and was left scrambling at 6pm – glad I’m not the only one!

  15. What a beautiful day and what a beautiful mom!
    Camie’s latest post: The Blessings of Time

  16. Loved your post. I too have dyslexic, sensory kiddos. My youngest is also a kinesthetic learner. Just curious about your 3D letters – where did you find them? This would be a huge help with her reading.
    Thanks.

  17. This was beautiful and I so appreciate you sharing your story. As a mom of an almost five year old girl and a just turned two yar old boy, both with autism, I am enjoying reading other autism homeschool moms and what their lives are like. In some ways I find the idea of homeschooling my kiddos a little more intimidating becuase of their special needs, and at the same time I feel even more convincedthat homeschooling is the right option for them because of their autism and other challenges (as well as their gifts- my daughter is very hyperlexic and works at a math level above her age as well and I want to be able to nurture her strengths along with her challenges).

    Also, I just love that your son watches Alton Brown before bed. As a foodie that warms my heart! Thanks for sharing! God bless you!

    • I understand the feeling of homeschooling being more difficult, and being better all at the same time, because of our kids special needs. All I can say is that the more I pay attention and study them, the more I learn about how best to educate them. It sounds like you have already done the same with your daughter! 🙂
      And yes, God Bless Alton Brown!
      Shawna

  18. Thank you for sharing this! I have two special needs boys (COS/ASD/Auditory Processing Disorder/Anxiety Disorder NOS & Autism). We will be homeschooling this fall and I love reading about how other people make it work. It sounds like you are doing a great job 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Amy. I can say that homeschooling my boys has been the best decision by far for our family – and not just because of our special needs. I am excited that you are going to be giving it a try next year as well. Please know, if you ever need help or have concerns, there are tons of moms (me included) in internet land that are homeschooling under the same conditions and welcome the chance to encourage a momma on the same journey.
      All the best to you and your yours!
      Shawna

  19. Sounds like a pretty typical day around here. 😉 Everyday, there is something that does not go as planned. I come to expect that as the norm. There is no point in planning my day too much because the day all depends on how everyone awakens and moves through the day. I love how flexible you are and make learning work for each of your kiddos. Thank you for sharing your day!
    Sharon’s latest post: A Day in the Life-Friday

  20. Thank you for sharing! My oldest son has Auditory Processing Disorder. I loved reading your story!
    Kristi’s latest post: The Day We Decided to Quit (and why it was the best decision we ever made!)

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