The Truth: Lora Lynn’s Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 2-, 3-, 5-, & two 6-year-olds)

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae, currently on her way to Uganda to meet her 6th child!

I worked hard to come up with a workable daily routine for our busy family.  I’m proud of what I do and the fact that it works for us.  But the truth is, school days with children in the younger years are all about flexibility.

Take this morning, for example…


We are supposed to start school at 9 am. My kids are up at 7:30, they do breakfast, get dressed, and put away laundry.  The second my husband walked out the door for work this morning, the kids went buck wild. I put a stop to it quickly when I saw three of them treating a fitted sheet like that parachute thing we used to do in gym class.

This sort of delay set us back a bit.

Some mornings, I strictly enforce the 9 am start time and make the kids finish their chores after school.  Other mornings, like today, I let them fritter their time away but make it clear that this will affect our ability to do the fun things on our schedule.  Usually, we still manage to fit things in, even the fun stuff, and I think that’s a testament to a good routine and being FLEXIBLE.


The boys and I sat down to do our daily read-aloud, which happened to be about Rome.  We read for a bit and then I grabbed my laptop so we could follow some links from our book.

In the meantime, the littlest girls had grown tired of wandering around the couch and whining and were now crawling onto the couch, which incited a wrestling match.  I pulled the two-year-old into my lap, and carried on with our lesson.

I require the little girls to stay in the room with us if they don’t want to read what we’re reading.  This is partly so I can keep an eye on them and partly so they have a chance of picking things up by osmosis.  It makes for more interruptions, but I want them to feel included in the reading portion of our day.

One-on-One Learning

Once we had conquered Carthage and the Barbarians, I moved on to spelling with one of my twins.  The little kids went upstairs to play.  A mere two minutes later, the five-year-old came downstairs to ask me to put together his spy kit.  I asked him to wait until I was done with my lesson.

He paused for five whole seconds.

“Mommy… Mommy…”

When I answered him in what I thought was a patient tone, he repeated his original request.  This earned him a trip to Mommy’s room.  I can handle the occasional interruption, but to disregard my “no” definitely requires more attention. However, I didn’t want to interrupt the spelling lesson any more, so the five-year-old was removed until I could deal with him.

The two-year-old wandered in and began insisting that I pick her up, despite the fact that I was holding a book and a box of spelling words in my lap.  Her request was denied to a chorus of tears.  I eventually put her in the chair next to me and told her to sit quietly.  She popped her fingers in her mouth and eyeballed us suspiciously while we kept spelling.

The three-year-old came tripping down the stairs asking for her brother.  She became distraught when I refused to tell her why he’d been sent to my room.  I set my jaw against the interruptions and went back to explaining the many ways to spell the “zzz” sound.

Somewhere in there the phone rang (I didn’t answer), the three-year-old stubbed her toe and took to wailing, and the five-year-old came out begging to be released from his prison.

Mommy’s Time Out

I finished up with my speller, patted him on the back for his concentration against all odds, and went to deal with my five-year-old.  Once we had discussed his crimes and restored our fellowship, we made it to the best part of the morning: 30 minutes of educational TV.

Otherwise known as “Mommy’s Time Out.” (This may or may not include chocolate, prayers to the heavens, and some face time with my pillow.)

The Part Where We Learn Something

Here’s what I know:  This morning did not go smoothly.  I raised my voice, I repeated myself constantly, and I got frustrated.  But I also know that I had many “teachable” moments that did not include the Romans or the spelling of “z.”  

When you have littles in the house, training them is the priority.  Partly because they are louder, but partly because, frankly, training them is more important.  If I train them to obey and follow the rules of the house now, I will be setting us all up for success when they are school age.

My time now is an investment in our future homeschool days.

In addition, my older boys have the opportunity to learn patience, concentration, and diligence in the face of great distractions.  Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but then I realize that if they were in a room full of 24 children their own age, the distractions would be just as great, if not greater.  

Real life has interruptions.  Real life requires training.  Real life doesn’t always look like the schedule on my Excel spread sheet.

Every moment in my morning, the moments I blew and the moments I took advantage of, they were all important moments.  They were educational, for myself and for my children.  And they were lived to the fullest… and then some!

If you’re a mom of littles, how do you deal with the many interruptions?

About Lora

Lora Lynn Fanning blogged for 11 years about her family life with seven kids at Vitafamiliae. These days, she homeschools her growing brood, teaches writing both in person for co-ops and online for Brave Writer, and writes at her new site,


  1. This sounds like a morning at our house! For the 4- and 3- year old, they have their own activities – coloring, beads, army men, shape blocks, etc – to keep them occupied (in the room with us) while the 6-year old and I work on math, grammar, spelling. Our 15 month old spends lots of time in his super sized play yard, which I tend to think he likes. To everyone but me, I’m sure it appears to be a total disaster and near daily failure, but I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d rather spend my time!

    I spend lots of time apologizing for losing my temper and they spend

  2. Oh and the interruptions…I, like you, figure it gives my 6-year old some practice in focusing. We also have some things she can do on her own while she waits – phonogram cards, math facts, history timeline review. And, as I started to say before, I spend lots of time apologizing for losing my temper and they spend lots of time calling for my attention.

    So good to know I’m not alone!

  3. Oh I love the real-ness of it! Of course, it is very like my house except there are usually some toilet training accidents in there too.
    Jess’s latest post: 8 Ways a Mama Bear Can Learn

  4. With 5, 2.5, and 1, this sounds much like our homeschool! Amazingly, the 5 year old is learning to read through all this chaos and gets very into his own world with the time he gets to himself to explore topics of interest while I deal with the other two. When concepts require serious concentration, I set aside those parts of the lesson to do while the younger ones nap. Otherwise, we’re all in the same room with various commotion happening during our schooling time. Now housekeeping…that’s another story altogether!

  5. Great post–I don’t homeschool . . . yet, but I’m looking forward to it in the future. I appreciate your honesty, as well as your insights. Training the littles to obey is most definitely a priority that will serve you well later on and your older children are certainly not dealing with any more distractions than they would in a traditional classroom.
    Wendy’s latest post: sanity saver 3- ditch the microwave

  6. i have enjoyed this series so much. this post is now my favorite. i love seeing other moms having real moments and getting through them (because sometimes it’s so easy to feel like nobody else could possibly struggle with this like you do). thank you, thank you for the honesty.

    When you have littles in the house, training them is the priority.

    this is gold in word form. it’s so easy to get discouraged when you didn’t get to finish the worksheet on the letter “u” because real life interrupted. thank you for the reminder that real life is the best teacher.
    andie’s latest post: repost- happy valentines day- courtesy of the fire department of guilford county

  7. Thank you thank you! It is nice to know I am not the only one. I needed the encouragement. You pretty much could have just inserted our names in your scenario and that described us to a tee. I have an 8,6,4, and 2 year old. Some days I just wonder, “What am I doing?” But I know it is best for our family and we are all learning and growing and becoming better people a little bit every day.

  8. You handled it like a seasoned veteran! I applaud your wisdom. You are soooooo right. The training you are providing is absolutely crucial. And the discipline your children are learning now will more than make up for the time required to train them. We have seven children, two of them adopted from Russia 6 1/2 years ago. At that point, everything basically stopped for training. They had no idea how to even be part of a family, speak English, do what was right, all those things we train into our children from a young age. It felt like we were stuck in neutral for a LONG time, but I can testify to the fact that the training we did has borne amazing fruit. The Lord is so Faithful. Now our school runs very well. But it required the investment in training.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: A Blessing in Discipline

  9. I love your honest sharing of your morning. When my children were that age I didn’t do any “school” which is how I dealt with the interruptions of the toddlers!

    I couldn’t agree with you more that the laying down of the foundation and training is the most important thing at this stage of life with children.

    There are many days I have reminded myself “the interruptions are the plan”. That is where much of the learning happens.

  10. Kudos, I gonna hand it to you! I struggle keeping on track with one three year old and one five year old.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: My Little Saint

  11. I needed this! Especially since mr. 2 yr old decided to stop napping and it is wintertime – “school” for the 5 year old in the afternoon has become almost impossible. Chores and other kinds of learning have been moved to that time to minimize everyones stress. I appreciate the honesty and your photo, this is one of the first posts I’ve read that has basically said it’s ok that it feels impossible. I recently started getting papers in order for her end of year portfolio and I was reminded of what one homeschooling mom told me “you can’t focus on any one day, you have to remember the big picture”. Yesterday may have been a total bust but I was surprised and relieved to see how much she has learned since the fall.

  12. great post, i love julie’s “big picture” reply. thanks for sharing.

  13. Thank you thank you thank you for this! I think too often I am comparing myself to homeschoolers with older children and consequently feel like I am failing homeschooling and wondering if my 5 year old would be better off going to private school… Thank you for this insight into your day which looks so much like mine, and for the reminder to concentrate on training rather than schooling at these young ages. Bless you.
    April@M3RH’s latest post: Happy Birthday Ben

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you; for being so transparent about your day, the ups and the downs. As a mother of a 8, 4, 2 and 6 month old, I can totally relate to your morning. It is so good to know that I am not alone. =) Thank you for reminding me that training my children to obey, have patience and respect for others is more important than putting a check mark next to the finished lesson plan.
    Michelle’s latest post: Christmas Eve

  15. My husband works from home, so I found myself in his office yesterday asking “is it me? What on earth am I doing wrong?” He said the only problem we have is that we are all cooped up and need some space… ALL of us. My 3, 7, and 10 year-old kids do well most of the time, but lately it has been tough! Thank you for the look into your home. Knowing I am not the only one in this boat makes it a bit easier.
    Jennifer’s latest post: Weirdos

  16. I just love this! Your article is very honest and I appreciate your frankness about the difficulty of trying to school with littles around. I have a nearly 2 year old who is very hard work and makes it very difficult to get things done. But I think it is actually my unwillingness to set limits for him (and admit he is no longer a baby) that might be at fault. When I am firm he falls in line and things work so much better. Thanks for this great article : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: I Heart Cookies

  17. THANK YOU for this post; it was amazingly insightful, encouraging and it made me laugh. It’s so real. I have two (and another on the way) and we’re just starting our school journey. I hope that I always value the teachable moments above academics!
    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s latest post: A Cardboard Crown

  18. I love the photo. 🙂 Thanks for giving an honest look at your day!
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: 10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

  19. Loved this post!
    Sounds pretty darn close to our day- read alouds- and one on one teaching amidst the interuptions with playtime scattered throughout the day 🙂
    Thanks for sharing and bringing up the most Important thing: Training!

  20. Can I ask what show you let them watch? My two year old watches Leap Frog Letter Factory and LOVES it but I feel guilty if I let him watch it more than a few days a week.
    Samantha @ Mama Notes’s latest post: Spilled Milk

  21. I’ll agree with you and everyone else… training the littlies is key!! Everything else is secondary.

  22. I don’t know how you stay calm with that many interruptions. However, I appreciate that you see these as learning opportunities for the other kids. That you can see the positive in the interruptions is a testament to your ability to teach your kids.
    Awesome! So glad these posts are continuing. They have been so interesting.
    AprilS’s latest post: iPads in the Classroom- The Future

  23. This is my favorite so far! This is reality! I was a kindergarten assistant at a private school for a couple of years … constant interruptions! Your “interruptions” are from your most cherished little people in the world! Although it seems they can be exhausting, think about how much more you, as their mother, are handling them with love! Thanks so much for sharing!

    { this comment was written as my golden retriever puppy is barking [LOUDLY] at crows outside our window while my determined daughter takes her Math test!} ;o)

  24. This was a wonderful post! So real and full of every day life. We don’t have those interruption’s now because they are teens, but it takes me back to when our two were in their ” training” years and all the goofiness that went on in our house by all of us not just the children!
    Carry on sister!
    Debbie’s latest post: TEEN MOMENTS Surviving the Terrible Twelves

  25. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This was such a breath of fresh air to read. I especially enjoyed “Mommy Time Out”. I need one of those every day. I don’t have a community of homeschoolers in my area to compare notes with, so this was wonderful to see that I am not alone!

  26. I am LOVING these post! It’s so encouraging to see others moms being so honest. It makes me feel like I’m not doing as bad as I feel I am. This is my first year homeschooling and I’m very grateful for these posts! Great tips & insight. Keep em’ coming 😉

  27. Like favorite scriptures that I go back to time and time again for perspective, mercy, grace and hope, I will keep a copy of this post to go back to time and time again when feeling discouraged.

    What a blessing you have been, Lora Lynn. Thank you.

  28. You were just the dose of reality and inspiration I needed this morning! I am at the other end of the spectrum with my youngest in second grade and the oldest in high school.
    I become frustrated when the weekly plan I’ve labored, prepared, and prayed over is challenged or whined about. But after reading your thoughts, I realize that those are the teachable moments for the “real” subjects: discipline, perseverance, gratitude, diligence… They are also the hot spots where I get to display God’s character if I am aware enough to see them: grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and judgment that focuses on restoration and learning, not revenge.
    Thanks again, I’ll be coming back often!
    Rebecca’s latest post: Crustless Quiche

  29. Oh how this made me laugh…out loud. And then I read it to my husband. You had me at the picture, before any words!
    Jenny’s latest post: Psalm 56

  30. Just the first picture alone on this post brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes! I KNOW OF WHAT YOU SPEAK!!! And I only have three to manage! God’s timing is perfect – yesterday we had this kind of day and I wondered, “Can I really do this? Am I truly cut out for this?” Of course, my conviction is “YES!” But my flesh cries out against the constant barrage! I appreciate your precious reminder and the encouragement I have gleaned. Thank you!

  31. I love the idea of a mommy timeout….good stuff!

  32. Thank you for this perspective. I tend to put of the training of the littles so I can finish lessons with the bigs but I see that is not the wisest course.

  33. You are doing a fabulous job creating loving and respectable little people!
    I thought my job was tough with five aged 2.5, 6, 8, 11, 13…..
    It’s not always easy but look at the alternative! I find the hardest thing though is that any mention of the tough times brings out the “I told you so” ‘s from the mainstream schooled parents……

  34. I only have two to train and raise up right now. My oldest is 6 and youngest is 3. By God’s grace, my 3 year-old is in-love with playdoh. So, my 6 year-old and I can get through most of our lessons while the little one smashes, stretches, and basically annihilates a small cup of playdoh. So far it has been working out. Also, I have started the little one on learning the letters and their sounds. She LOVES this site and requests to play on it frequently. She’s even mastered the mouse and clicking skills. Yeah!

  35. I just wanted to thank you for this post. I am home schooling a 7, 4, 3, and 1 year old: all boys, and am due with my 5th in August. I was just feeling like a failure today for our lack of ability to stick well to our routine but we really do have a routine…it just ends up more like this most days for the very reasons you stated. Someone told me a quote about interruptions being the real life God has blessed us with or something similar. Anyways, thanks, this was comforting and made me smile.

  36. Thank you, thank you, thank you! With 4 kids ages 7, 5, 3, 1 this is sooooo encouraging! It is hard to find others who are honest about their day. Now I feel encouraged to fight the good fight 🙂

  37. I have been reading several of your ‘day in the life of’ posts over the past few months. They are so inspiring! My oldest currently attends an online charter school, but I really want to take the plunge into homeschooling both my kids next year. Your website has been a great source of information and encouragement for me. THANK YOU!!!

  38. This sounds a lot like every time I do lessons here.. I have a 9yo, 7yo, 5yo, 3yo, a 1yo and Im 14 weeks along. Im, also, a full time college student so I have to juggle my classes and teaching them. All the children are required to stay in the room while I work with the older ones. Its a big room though and it connects to the living room so I put a gate up in the living room and they run back and forth. Mine are climbers, especially my youngest, so I can’t let them out of my sight for longer than a couple of minutes. My biggest suggestion for anyone homeschooling with littles is to readjust your expectation. Also, expect not to get it all done. I always start the day with the required reading, math, grammar, spelling and handwriting. I figure anything after that is just an added bonus.
    My second suggestion is keep your sense of humor. At the end of the day you don’t want to regret how you responded to your children. Its really not the end of the world if you don’t manage to complete that science worksheet and its much preferable to stressing yourself so much you have nothing left for the most important parts of your life.

  39. I SO needed to read this today! It was bananas at my house! Very little school done. I’m really liking your education programming plan- I needed a mommy time out today 🙁

  40. This sounds a lot like our day! The interruptions can drive me crazy. Repeat offenders are sent to wait in bed until I am done with the lesson I am teaching. Otherwise I never get anything done. Of course that does not always bring quiet…

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