Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
I always feel a little nervous sitting down to write these day-in-the-life posts. I’m never sure which parts of our day you’ll want to hear about! And will you wonder why my three-year-old is changing into her fourth outfit since breakfast? Because I do not have an answer to that question.
My sixteen-year-old daughter was asked to describe her days recently. She wrote this:
I make breakfast for myself and one of my younger brothers, then do half an hour of yoga. After that, I do my schoolwork—I’m a lifelong unschooler, I manage my own workload and have a lot of say in what I study—and spend an hour outdoors. When I’ve finished, I’m free for the day.
Three sentences, friends. My run-through is going to be somewhat longer and will include far more parentheses.
My day starts with making my bed (quick win!) and sipping ginger-turmeric tea, followed by yoga and listening to a podcast for spiritual or emotional growth, and then a super-speedy shower and a green smoothie.
Having a morning routine that actually happens is new—this is the first time in sixteen years that we haven’t had a baby or toddler in our family to “help” with whatever I’m doing in the mornings. I’m still adjusting.
While I’m doing early-morning things, the kids wake up, get dressed, brush their hair and teeth, and eat their breakfasts. (The oldest two help the youngest two, and it all works out.) Then we knock out our morning chores so we can get to the fun stuff.
In our ongoing quest to balance guidance with independence, my husband Dane and I try to create a structure to the day and then give the kids lots of freedom to decide what to do within that structure.
Everyone starts off with activities that we think make for healthy humans: they spend some time reading, some time creating, some time moving their bodies, some time outside, and some time learning new things. Within that framework, they decide exactly what they’ll do, and how.
“Learning new things” looks different for each kid. Abigail, our sixteen-year-old, divides her time between science MOOCs, a geometry and trigonometry text, reading history and literature, writing, and graphic design. Owen, who is thirteen, opts for a mix of living books and Khan Academy lessons, with lots of hands-on science on the side.
Today, Audrey, who’s ten, and Sadie, who’s nine, are listening to Story of the World on audiobook. Audrey is stitching a wool felt project and Sadie is working on her Handwriting Without Tears book while they listen.
While big kids are busy, I read to Eli, who is six, and Evelyn, who is three and newly interested in listening (instead of trying to lure us away from the books and into something more sticky).
Abigail and Owen put their projects on hold to play with Eli and Evelyn while I write for an hour. Today Abby is baking cookies with Eli, and Owen is blowing bubbles outside for Evelyn to catch.
We all meet up for lunch, and then Audrey and Sadie take a turn playing with Eli and Evelyn while I tend to household things nearby. They read books and build a block city, I start another load of laundry and clear the kitchen counters. Win-win.
After play time is quiet time. Abby and Owen are still working on their various projects, Audrey has a book to read, and Eli and Evelyn rest with an audiobook, crayons and paper (Evelyn), and logic games (Eli).
I’ll tend to a few things at the computer while the quiet lasts.
Sadie runs a chocolate shop for our friends and family (think: lemonade stand, except with made-to-order chocolate bars), and she has orders to fill. She decides that now—while everyone else is occupied—is a good time to melt chocolate and chop nuts and marshmallows to mix in. She is not wrong.
Whenever they finish their activities for the day, Abby, Owen, and Audrey all email Dane at work to let him know what they’ve done, and then they’re free to do what they like.
We love these check-ins—Dane gets to be more connected to what the kids are up to every day, and the emails create a simple record of what each kid worked on and how long it all took.
I always know Abigail has finished her projects when I hear the Hamilton soundtrack start up. When Owen has wrapped up I’m likely to hear him checking in with a couple of favorite YouTube channels. (I would define his YouTube interests as “fun with physics,” but he would probably describe it as “important uses for a hydraulic press and a slow-motion camera.”)
But Owen, it turns out, has been making a Darth Vader mask for Evelyn, which he shows her before heading outside to scooter with Audrey and Sadie. Meanwhile, Abigail is deciding how to divide up the rest of the cookies. She wouldn’t want them to get stale, you know.
Evelyn decides to make a picture “of all pink,” so she works on that while I help Eli add some peanut butter to a sliced apple.
We tidy up downstairs, and then it’s time to make dinner.
Abigail, Owen, Audrey, and Sadie each make dinner one night a week, but tonight’s one of my nights, so I find some headphones and fire up another podcast. Eli, Evelyn, and Sadie watch an episode of Tumble Leaf on Prime while I chop the onions.
Dane stops at the grocery store for fresh produce (you’d be amazed at how many apples six kids can eat in a day) and gets home just in time for dinner.
I tuck Evelyn into bed, and everyone else settles in for a round of Dragonwood. After the game, Eli has lights out and Audrey and Sadie hop into bed to read one last chapter each.
I read over what I wrote today so my brain can keep working on it while I sleep, then I check in with social media, make sure everything that should be scheduled for tomorrow is set to go, and turn the computer off for the night.
Abigail and Owen will be up for another hour. This is when we talk current events, Star Wars movies, and anything else that might be on their minds.
Dane and I fold the mountain of laundry that has mysteriously appeared on our bed—didn’t we fold that already? or was that yesterday?—and I read a book with real pages before it’s time to sleep.
Okay, it was really probably time to sleep an hour ago, but who’s keeping score? (Me. I am keeping score.)
What else do you wonder? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer. Though I still can’t explain about the three-year-old and all her clothing changes.
How the days have changed:
- 2016: Melissa’s homeschool day in the life (with a 2, 5, 8, 9, 12, and 15-year-old)
- 2015: Melissa’s homeschool day in the life (with a 1, 4, 7, 8, 11, and 14-year-old)