Shawna’s homeschool day in the life (with a 10- & 13-year-old)

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things

Before sitting down to write this, I re-read my day in the life post from last year.

I feel like not much has changed. And I feel like everything has changed.

It’s so weird how life is sometimes. The days blend into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into an entire year of homeschooling my two sons.

It’s been a year of heartache. It’s been a year of fun. It’s been a year of trial and error. And, as I sit down to write about our life today, I am filled with a growing sense that we are starting to figure this out.

A homeschool day in the life 2016

This year, our day looks like this:


I wake to my 6 a.m. alarm. I have been trying to get back into this habit, after weeks of sleeping until 8:30 a.m. every day in the post-holiday haze.

My youngest would wake, calling “Mommmmmmaaaaaahhhhh” at the top of his lungs. I eventually realized that waking this way, does not set me up to have a good homeschooling momma attitude, so I have been trying to get up a little earlier to have some peace and quiet.

After time alone praying and reading, I work a bit on my blog, and get a load of laundry started.

The boys wake up late today (both have been battling some neurology related sleeping issues, with late nights and fitful sleep). It is 9 a.m. when I sneak into my youngest’s room and wake him. He asks me to snuggle up for a bit, and we leisurely talk through what happened in his rock climbing class the night before.

My oldest wakes about 15 minutes later and calls for me. I bring him water, and we sit and talk about the plan for our day, step by step. I’ve learned that when he knows what to expect, our days are so much smoother.

At this point, the boys are content to play a little Plague Inc. together. Yes, it’s a computer game. Yes, I allow them to play it first thing in the morning.

They are just now, at 13 and 10, finding ways to play together and I treasure the sounds of them laughing and talking. This hasn’t been a part of their relationship up until now.

Plus, the game is about how diseases spread throughout the world. I decide to call it a homeschool project, and move on to getting them both breakfast, and myself dressed.

It is almost lunchtime, by the time we move into our more focused lessons. I feel a pang of guilt, because the morning has been spent on a screen, but both boys are now engaged and ready to begin more formal learning.

I decide to let it go, and be thankful that they seem to be getting along.

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My 13-year-old has taught himself in the past year how to build computers. Because big brother does it, my youngest wants to learn as well.

We decide that my oldest will be the teacher, and he shows us the different parts of the computer and how they function.

Although I am excited about my youngest learning all of this at such a young age, I am more focused on my oldest having a guided opportunity to work on communicating effectively.

Because he is on the autism spectrum, he needs additional support in understanding two-way communication.  He also struggles with executive function, so practicing how to explain something sequentially, is very valuable.


Lunch is a buffet of leftovers and snacks, because I have recently given up on trying to make three full meals a day. (I have also recently given up feeling bad about it.)

I provide a decent breakfast and dinner, and then everything that happens with food in between is a kind of free-for-all.

This tactic alone makes our day so much easier.

Because of sensory issues and my son’s chronic autoimmune condition, eating can be very difficult. A structured meal time creates stress for him, before he even gets to the table.

Keeping it light, snacky and with plenty of options, means he can relax a bit. Plus, we all get to eat what we like without me becoming a short order cook.

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After lunch, we transition back to actual lessons. My oldest goes to his room to rest a bit, and finish up a YouTube series about a man who makes everything he needs from scratch.

While he is busy on his own, my youngest and I start reading practice. He reads aloud to me, and then we head outside for his favorite part of reading. We call this part of our day ‘Word Games.’

Sometimes we write words in dishsoap and water on the sidewalk, or play sight word Twister. Today, he reads practice words on ping pong balls, and then whacks them into a bucket with a ping pong paddle.

Hands-on phonics lessons have been a critical component in helping him learn to read, and I am learning that these activities are a must have for our day. (Although he is in fourth grade, he is profoundly dyslexic, and currently reading at about a 1st to 2nd grade level.)

We come back into the house, and my son sits down to complete a math worksheet. This is completely new for us! In fact, I still pinch myself a little that he is independently completing any work on his own. He loves doing it, but with math only.

Because Oak Meadow math has some hands-on, some parent-led, and some independent work, it allows him an opportunity to feel confident as a learner, without my sitting right next to him.

While he is busy, I head into my 13-year-old’s room. We complete his math and language arts together. Both are tied to his favorite topic and current obsession – aquariums. I have learned that project-based learning is really the only way to go with this kid.

I find a way to work math into the discussion and together, we figure out how to calculate the volume of water necessary for a large 49 inch x 25 inch x 26 inch tank.

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Everyone is getting a little restless at this point, so I decide it’s time to head to the pharmacy for my son’s prescriptions.

I purposely divide up my errands so that every day we spend some time in the car, listening to a fictional audio book. Right now we are listening to Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire for the second time.

After picking up the medicines, I drive us around for about 45 minutes and just relax a bit, listening to the story.


As I fix dinner, the boys complete a project making crystals. I purchased the science kit after our last visit to the science center, and they are excited to see the results.

A gallon of spilled, crazy smelly liquid all over the furniture and floor later, and they are so proud of what they were able to create. I wipe up the mess and head back to stirring the sauce, just as my husband walks in the door.

The rest of our night involves cleaning up the back yard (there are ping pong balls with words written on them everywhere), and then settling down to watch Mythbusters together.

When it’s time for my youngest to head to bed, my husband and my 13-year-old, head out for their nightly drive. Every night, they listen to different audio book together, just the two of them. Right now, it is Jurassic Park.

They drive around the moonlit streets, and talk about the difference between 1990s technology and present day advancements. Meanwhile, my youngest and I take time to snuggle up, and read a book. I fall asleep in his bed, and wake up only when my oldest comes in to tell me goodnight.

The hubs and I talk about our days, yawn a bit, then head to bed.

After five years of homeschooling, reading tons of homeschooling books and blogs, daily trial and error, and frequent tears, our days look so much different than I had imagined.

They can be so messy and frustrating. And, as time goes on, I am finding they are also productive and fun.

Our days are adding up to an education, and a life, that my boys and I love.

How the days have changed:

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.


  1. “Yes, it’s a computer game. Yes, I allow them to play it first thing in the morning.” LOL! Love it. I like how relaxed your day seems – well, at least from the outside and how you make no excuses for doing what works for your family.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Two Words Your Children Should Learn to Say

  2. I really enjoyed this post, the parts about not feeling guilty about it, that’s great! Good for you! So hard to do and so easy to say, I am glad you have gotten to that point. 🙂 Loved this post, keep up the good work!
    Jen’s latest post: How-to raise a reader, when you HATE reading!

  3. Great post. I’m a type A person and homeschooling my son is a challenge. I’m learning to let go of a lot and it helps! He is learning despite me! 😀

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your day. It’s wonderful to see how you have adjusted your day and what school looks like to your children’s needs and strengths. Very inspiring!

  5. I love every word of this, Shawna. You are so inspiring. You think outside of the box and find creative ways for your boys to learn from you and from each other. I wish there was a love button! <3

  6. It sounds utterly perfect; like you’ve all found what works for you and have stuck with it. My youngest son prefers movement games for learning sight words and reading words too. We have written them on sticky notes and hit them with nerf guns, I wrote them in chalk on the driveway in the summer and he makes them disappear with water (also water guns), I’ve written them on dixie cups and he’s stacked them up then knocked them over with light sabers; I always count us blessed that we can approach school like this. I often wonder how he would have ever made it through public school.
    Mother of 3’s latest post: Thinking Tree for ME!

  7. Really interesting look at your day! Have you set up an aquarium for him? I got a fish tank set up about a year ago for my kids to avoid getting a furry pet and accidentally discovered a way to have a practically maintenance free tank. What you need is a filter pump, live plants and mystery snails. Then the fish waste is cleaned up by the plants and the microbes in the filter and the snails eat any algae, dead leafs or excess food. All I’ve had to do to maintain it is feed the fish, periodically rinse the filter sponge and keep the snail population from getting out of control.
    Crystal’s latest post: Why I Needed Art When I Was A Teen

    • Thanks for asking, Crystal. We actually have several tanks. And likely more on the way. The good news is that my son does most of the work, so I have very little to worry about. The bad news is that I see fish tanks in my dreams these days! 🙂
      Shawna Wingert’s latest post: A Glimpse Into Our Days

  8. You are just incredible Shawna. Absolutely amazing. The creative ways you try to meet your sons’ needs – even when it doesn’t look like a pinterest-perfect homeschool – is so inspiring to me.

  9. I really needed to read this today….Thank you!!! I homeschool 2 of our children. The youngest is 9, turning 10 in March and he has high functioning autism. Our daughter is 12, will be 13 in March and has processing disorder. I always feel like I have to push them because the school board is a pain as they aren’t up to grade level; however, pushing them makes for very stressful days. My youngest is extremely good in math, but his reading is at the K-1 level. My daughter has a hard time retaining information and understanding due to her processing disorder. Again thank you for your post!

  10. You know what my favorite thing about all these posts is? That everyone does it just a little bit differently and that works for each of us. I homeschool in a very different way than you. However, I can definitely relate to learning to let it go. It’s an ongoing process for me-one that I feel I have a long way to reaching. Definitely a type A personality here.
    Rosanna’s latest post: What about Fitness?

  11. Beautiful.
    Nicola’s latest post: saving a day gone wonky

  12. I can tell you are very loving mom to your two boys. I loved reading about your homeschool day together.
    Camie’s latest post: Field Trip To Tohono Chul Gardens

  13. I love this so much!! Thank you for sharing! I have four kiddos. My oldest (he’s 10) has high functioning Autism. Originally I had planned to be a homeschooling kind of mama : ) Before my son’s diagnosis, we attempted this his Kindergarten year…that was the year everything went to hell in a hand basket and our attempt at homeschooling went up in flames and he ended up repeating Kindergarten in public school the following year. Public school has been a challenge for him, but he hasmade it through each year. Accemdiaclly he does very well. The social piece is his greatest challenge. Not only with his peers but also with his teachers. Every year this piece gets a little more challenging and has begun to affect his ability to learn. This week has been brutal in getting him to school…even had one day where he flat out refused. Not out of rebellion, but out of overwhelming fear : ( He is begging me to homeschool him. And I am desperately praying for God’s sovereign direction. But I loved hearing about how things look at your house…it’s gives me the opportunity to imagine what things might look like here : )

  14. Wow. That gives me some great ideas and freedom as I teach my younger two children and juggle my high school age children.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: The Thorn Keeper by Pepper Basham

  15. I love hearing about homeschoolers with older kids like your boys. So many articles focus on little kids that it’s easy to feel like all the middle schoolers must be back in public school!! Thanks for sharing!!

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