Colleen’s homeschool day in the life ~
Written by Colleen Kessler of Raising Lifelong Learners
Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn….
It’s 8:00 a.m.
I press snooze.
This continues for the next hour, and I finally drag myself out of bed around 9:00, gulp down the cold coffee that my amazing husband set on my bedside table the first time my alarm went off at 7:00 when he was leaving for work, and head downstairs to check on the 11- and 8-year-olds, refill my coffee (as the coffee maker is set to keep the pot warm for hours), then go back upstairs to take a much-needed shower.
I am not a morning person — never have been and never will be. I’m okay with that.
As I shuffle past the 13-year-old’s room, then the staircase leading 18-year-old’s attic loft, I shout at them to get up too. I’ll need to do that a few more times. They’re teens. And they’re their mother’s children.
It’s so interesting to me that as much as I’ve tried over the years, and I have tried, I just can’t completely change my natural rhythm. My brain is full of cobwebs and the remnants of colorful dreams that make it very difficult to pull myself out of bed in the morning. I also suffer from chronic sinusitis (I’ve had two sinus surgeries) and so I wake up stuffy and congested, which only adds to the foggy feeling.
I used to beat myself up over the fact that I couldn’t be like “all those other homeschool moms” and make a hearty breakfast, take quiet time before the kids get up, and enjoy a group morning time gathered together as a family to kickstart our day.
I’m mostly over that.
Here’s what I’ve learned — the best homeschool is the one that is YOURS. The one you’ll do day in and day out. I can do this parenting and homeschooling thing when I’m rested, take my mornings slowly, and honor my own rhythms while nurturing my kids and their rhythms. It truly works when you make it your own.
Colleen’s Homeschool Day in the Life
I know that I think more clearly once I’ve had caffeine hit my system (it settles and focuses my ADHD) and hot water pounding on my head. I need a shower every morning, and my kids know that I’m not worth much conversation before I’ve had both the coffee and the shower. (They love me anyway.)
Once I’ve showered and caffeinated, I dress. I’m not very productive in PJs and sweats, so I usually go for jeans and sweaters, leggings and flannels, or some combo. I take about ten minutes to put myself together and then head downstairs — awake, confident, pulled together, and ready to tackle homeschooling, homemaking, and working from home.
It’s about 10:00, the big kids have been yelled at to wake up (again), I have a third cup of coffee in hand, and I head to the family room where I light a fire in the fireplace (it makes me happy in the winter), sit down in the chair, and flip on my sunlight lamp that’s been really helping keep the anxiety and seasonal depression at bay during this long, gray winter. My 11-year-old has already used it while she was doing her math and handwriting earlier as she battles her own depression and struggles with generalized anxiety disorder.
While I’m sunning up, Logan brings me her math and handwriting to check, whispers to her 8-year-old brother that he needs to finish his, and starts on her Smartick, an extra math program she loves. The 8-year-old tries all manner of avoidance techniques, but in the end (once we’re both exhausted) finally comes near where I am and knocks out his math, handwriting, and Smartick in less than twenty minutes.
I secretly breathe a sigh of relief as I switch off the lamp. Isaac is definitely eight lately and pushes all the buttons, so sometimes it’s well after dinner before he gets those simple “must-dos” completed. It makes me tired — and see, even after eleven years of homeschooling and four kids, I still don’t have it all figured out as that littlest is running me ragged.
Just as I’m about to get up, my 18-year-old senior comes in, plops himself on the couch with his cup of cobweb-clearing coffee (mama’s boy) and starts scrolling his phone. I call this “caffeinate and meme” which makes him roll his eyes at my ridiculousness and me giggle because it’s literally what he does every single morning. Trevor drinks coffee and scrolls memes, laughing to himself as he slowly wakes up.
My 13-year-old is in the kitchen making tea and texting her best friend. They “meet up” every afternoon to do their self-paced ASL class together via Facetime and so she’s coordinating the time they’ll meet today. She hangs out with me while I make brunch.
When the kids were younger, I’d get them breakfast or set things out for them, but now the younger two fend for themselves first thing since they get up a few hours earlier than me. While I’m waging war with the alarm, caffeinating, showering, and then beginning my day, they’re usually up by 7:30 or 8:00, downstairs, have let the puppy out to go potty, and have fed her.
Then, they eat a small breakfast. This might consist of cereal, fruit and muffins, yogurt and granola, or quesadillas. Sometimes after that, they’ll work on their “must-dos,” the minimum school work I need them to do each day, or they’ll work through something I’ve strewed (strewn?) out the night before.
I put together a big lunch to make up for it most days. Today I’m making sauteed veggies from our new hydroponic Gardyn system that’s growing in our kitchen with a fried egg from our backyard chickens (our pandemic project) and a loaf of sourdough from my favorite cheater recipe and cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. My 13-year-old is telling me about her plans for the day.
After we eat, she’ll go do ASL with her friend for an hour, do three math assignments, spend about two hours working on her American History I CLEP Prep class, and then work a bit on her singing, piano, and the project she’s getting ready to launch. She’s very advanced and driven.
Molly discovered her love of musical theater when she was eight, auditioned for her first musical, and was cast as Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka Jr. She’s been taking voice and acting lessons ever since. She’s an eighth-grader, age-wise, who hit the ceiling on the reading, writing, and history standardized tests I gave her in fifth grade. She tested out of high school level in those areas and was on grade level for math and science.
Since she wants to study musical theater and either travel with a Broadway touring company or open her own teaching studio, we make sure she has lots of time to take music, acting, and dance lessons. She also has a practical bent to her and an incredible talent for writing and speaking, so she’s taking a CLEP to bachelor’s program through College for All as her 8th-12th grade curriculum.
She’ll graduate high school with a diploma and a B.A. in Communications. She kind of blows me away.
It’s about 12:00 p.m. now, and Molly is upstairs — fed, showered, and on FaceTime with her BFF and I won’t see her until dinner unless she runs into a problem with her work and needs something.
Isaac and Logan work together to empty the dishwasher and clean up lunch while I chat with the oldest. Trevor is a senior, age-wise, but he follows such an eclectic and nontraditional approach to learning that I really could have graduated him at any point in the last two or three years.
We haven’t done that because he didn’t really want to “be one of those weird homeschoolers” and “show up” his two cousins who are a year older than him.
He wanted to graduate on time when he was supposed to because he had no plans to go away to college and he really wanted to let his cousins, whom he loves, have their year, especially as they’re both traditionally schooled and the pandemic changed their senior years dramatically. He’ll graduate this spring.
He’s got a full afternoon ahead. Trevor is working on a degree in computer science through that same College for All program Molly is using, but is going through it a little more quickly than she is. He is working with them to help develop their new VR campus experience as an intern, which is paying for his first three years. Because he’s profoundly gifted (and the reason we homeschool in the first place), he isn’t really content if he’s not doing a million and one things at the same time.
So besides his classes through College for All and his internship with them, he runs a very successful freelance video and audio business. He edits and engineers several podcasts (including mine), does editing for YouTubers and other online influencers, adds special effects to videos, and films and edits courses for online course creators.
He is also planning to get his real estate license in the next 18 months and get licensed to fly drones so that he can offer drone photography and videography to real estate agents and brokers.
Today he has several projects on his plate, and since he’s also my kid, and I know how often he (and other twice-exceptional kids and adults like him) struggles with organization and executive function skills, we go over his plan together and designate several times (and set reminders on his phone) for him to check in with me and let me know how he’s doing on those projects.
Then, armed with a Yeti tankard filled with ice water, another coffee, and some snacks, he heads up to the third floor to work. He’ll wander down when he needs breaks, his alarms tell him to, or he misses people. That boy is the most extroverted extrovert I’ve ever known.
I have a live class to teach at 1:00 p.m. in The Learner’s Lab, my membership community for quirky and outside-the-box homeschooling families where we build creativity, connection, and confidence, so I set the two younger kids up on the iPad so they can participate in the live Zoom lesson that I’ll be teaching.
They love the classes, so it’s great to have them participate as it allows me to work and serve other families while they’re happily engaged, too. This week we’re building on the SCAMPER technique of creative thinking and thinking like inventors. It’s going to be a blast!
I get the younger two set up with their supplies and the iPad, run upstairs to remind the bigger kids to stay upstairs and keep the dog with them, and I head to my office to get myself set up. It’s been so fun to get this new project off the ground over the last few months and work with such fun, creative kiddos, and their parents again.
Before leaving the classroom to write and speak full-time, I was a gifted specialist who worked with gifted and twice-exceptional children. Some of my absolute favorite kids were the harder to identify creatively gifted and dramatically outside-the-box thinkers. They may not have a piece of paper identifying them as gifted or not, but anyone who had the chance to meet them just knew they were quirky.
Quirky is my favorite thing ever, and now I get to work online with families of kids who are quirky, creative, and outside-the-box. They may be gifted or have special needs, or they may not — it doesn’t matter… they’re just super-fun in my eyes.
Once the class is over, and I buzz back out into the family room to see what Logan and Isaac thought of the activity (they’re my toughest — and most honest — critics), we head to the kitchen for a snack so they can show me what they did in my class.
It’s about 3:00 p.m. so we watch a short documentary and then I work on a story she is writing with Logan and Isaac goes to practice piano. When he’s done, the kids switch and Isaac reads me some of what he wrote in his journal and he tells me what he wants to work on next (some kind of raft he wants to make out of cardboard boxes…) and I help him make a plan.
We are definitely eclectic in our homeschooling and have a self-directed, child-led, interest-based, unschooly bent, which gets more and more unschooly the longer we homeschool.
The kids follow their rabbit trails and I pepper them with opportunities. Sometimes we have seasons where we use more curriculum, but other times we stick to those “must-dos” and then follow passions the rest of the day.
The big kids have wandered down and the younger two are off playing Roblox with friends they connect with online most afternoons. Molly works on the laundry and Trevor takes the dog outside for a romp since he’s taking the trash out and gathering firewood before my husband gets home.
He is much better about helping out when his time is respected, too, and I’m not nagging him to do things on my timeline.
It’s something I talk a bit about in my newest book: Raising Resilient Sons: A Boy Mom’s Guide to Building a Strong, Confident, and Emotionally Intelligent Family. (afflink)
Raising men who care for, nurture, and also empathize with their family and friends is important and possible when we lay foundations early and often.
When Trevor comes back in, he grabs a string cheese and mineral water from the refrigerator and leans against the counter to chat with Molly and me since we’re both right there, her folding laundry and me making dinner. He’s pretty sneaky, that one, so I hand him the knife, cutting board, and veggies, and tell him to cut them up for the stir fry while I move on to the rice and meat.
We’re just about ready to eat when my husband comes home from work. It’s about 6:30 now. He’s a reading specialist and this has been a really rough year as the setup for meeting the needs of the small groups of at-risk kiddos he works with has changed again and again, and he always has a layer of stress and sadness hanging over him.
He goes to wash up, the big kids round up the younger ones, and we all sit and eat together. Dinner is full of conversation. Everyone fills Dad in on what he missed, he asks questions, and we make plans to play a few games after dinner.
By about 9:00pm, I send the younger kids up with my husband. They’re tired and he’s exhausted. We moved a year ago and now live an hour from the school where he teaches. The decision was intentional as we’d been saving for years to buy a property and move closer to his family, fully knowing that when we did, he’d be the one commuting.
We have a lovely colonial on five wooded acres with a pool now after scrimping in a tiny two-bedroom bungalow for the last seven years. (Yep — two bedrooms with four kids. We sold our bigger house to save for land and bought the tiny one with cash. We added a room in the attic during the last year we lived there, but shared the two rooms for most of our time there.) He’s about seven years from retirement, so we figured he could handle the drive to get us closer to cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles.
It’s been well worth it, but as he’s an early riser, he’s ready for bed by 9:00 or 10:00. Since he is, he tackles bedtime with Logan and Isaac.
Trevor and Molly have disappeared after dinner and games, but I know they’ll make their way down to the kitchen to bond over instant ramen around midnight and then want to talk and talk and talk so I head to my office to get about three or four hours of work in.
Right now I’m working on talks for the upcoming conventions I’m speaking at, a new book idea I’m toying with, and ways to make the connection aspect of The Learner’s Lab community even better and easier for both kids and moms to navigate and find friends to talk to. I love my job so much.
As expected, the teens bring their midnight snack into my office, plop down on the floor, and we sit around and chat about all the things on their minds. I’m so grateful we have this time together, but boy are they tiring.
I scoot them out and off to bed by 2:00am and sit in the quiet of my office twinkle lights for another half an hour. It’s the only time I have that’s completely silent and I love it.
Almost as much as I love the chaos that makes up our days.
My, how the days have changed:
- 2020: Colleen’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7-, 10-, 12-, and 17-year-old)
- 2018: Colleen’s homeschool day in the life (with a 5-, 8-, 10-, and 15- year-old )
Tell me — what are YOUR homeschool days like? Are you a morning family or night owls?
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your personality type needs most!