I love reading “day in the life” posts from homeschooling families, and am excited to share my own! One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives. So, I want to share what we do, what works, and what doesn’t. Plus, I’ll note what we plan to change moving forward. A glimpse into a typical day at our homeschool might give you inspiration, and quite possibly an idea of what not to do!
Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family
Lucas is my first grader, spunky and full of questions. He is constantly creating machines and asking science related questions. He is often thrilled to divulge that he is homeschooled, and follows up, “I’m in first grade,” with, “but I do second grade math.” It was a delight to watch him soak up phonics and spelling rules early this year. This soon blossomed into an ability to read my to-do lists and, unfortunately, the names of TV shows on our channel guide.
Elias is 2 (soon to be 3, sometimes I think 13), and hasn’t officially started “school.” He’s been our little tag-along all school year. He loves to draw circles, count objects (out of order), use rulers (see-through ones make sweet goggles), and build Lego men with two heads and five pairs of pants. Elias might ask to “do school” one day, then scribble on my planner for ten minutes before disappearing into the playroom to wreak havoc. He will also insist that I read The Princess in Black at least once a day, but fortunately after that, it will conveniently disappear under the couch or another inconspicuous place.
Typically, I work one-on-one with Lucas while Elias floats in and out of our work space. Often I’ll read a book to him during the times that Lucas is working independently. Other times we’ll bust out his clipboard and he’ll sit next to Lucas and doodle for a while. We do incorporate many breaks throughout our “school” time, because Lucas isn’t a stationary learner. Also, toddler messes need tending to in the playroom.
Our Homeschool Philosophy
Because we’re enrolled in a public charter, I’m bound by the Common Core standards for all subjects. Frankly, I’m not sure what the fuss is about Common Core. I have a complete printed list of the guidelines, and nothing screams “nope!” to me. Mostly, Common Core seems to revolve around encouraging critical thinking, asking thoughtful questions, and offering multiple avenues toward problem solving.
However classical we seem on the surface, I do lean toward a child-led learning experience and theology. Lucas’ love of science has inspired a lot of our learning materials- books on weather phenomenons, a microscope and biology specimens, Snap Circuits and magnet kits. Because we started our homeschool program at first grade, this year was Lucas’ formal introduction to phonics and reading. While I can’t exactly take credit for teaching him to read, I did facilitate it. So there’s that.
I love reading, so I’ve always worked toward instilling that passion in my kids. We’ve read daily with both boys since they were infants, and they each have a list of personal favorites. So, our homeschool strategy is heavily reliant on literature and comprehension. After all, so much of our learning is dependent upon reading to learn, after we’ve learned to read.
A Typical Day
The kids are usually up between 8 and 9 each morning. We start our day with a leisurely breakfast while I stumble to the percolator and scramble for a cup of coffee. Since I work from home, I’m usually up for hours after the kids go to bed, finishing client projects and writing blog posts (cough cough). Our morning wake up call can vary, and has been known to stretch to 10 or 10:30. I don’t wake the boys up, unless we have an appointment to keep or a special event planned. Unless I have a tight deadline looming, I also don’t usually get up before they do either.
We don’t set specific time frames for each subject, and I usually fly by the seat of my pants as far as what we cover each day. If I’m feeling particularly industrious, I might set out our intended materials the night before. Generally, we’ll cover Language Arts, Math, and Art each day. Then Social Studies and Science are formally explored once a week each. Outside of school time, though, we’ll often do STEM activities and discuss them.
Typically we start our school time with reading. Lucas just finished Frog and Toad Are Friends, and is looking forward to the next book from the set. I will have him read a few pages or a chapter aloud, then switch to writing activities. We started the year with Sing Spell Read Write, a packaged curriculum intended to start kids off with phonics. It claims to establish independent reading ability by program completion. It’s not specifically designed for homeschool use, and would be better suited to a group of kids rather than one on his own. We made it to about step 20 before the exercises became redundant and boring to Lucas. He would object to working in the workbook, and I can’t say I blame him. Much of the book work is copying lists of 60 or more spelling words with related letter clusters.
Once I realized SSRW wasn’t working for Lucas, I looked for other options within our charter’s recommended resources. I then ordered Winning With Writing to try out their line of books (Growing With Grammar and Soaring With Spelling- all titles from JacKris Publishing). For some reason, he loves this book. It might be the simplicity, or the fact that he can color in the pictures on nearly every page, but this has become Lucas’ favorite book work. To fulfill state standards, we have to incorporate each subject area, so we’re still using parts of SSRW. But, I’ve been inventing my own activities along the way too.
For next year, we plan to use a more traditional literature based program or programs, which likely means more books to pick and choose from as far as daily teaching goes.
I have already been exploring other options for math, since McGraw-Hill’s MyMath isn’t cutting it for my easily bored first grader. Based on an assessment test, we picked second grade level math, and much of it is dull to Lucas. For the first half of the school year, he worked through the book grudgingly, but soon after I switched up the plan. Now I reference each chapter and lesson, and create our own activities echoing the themes. For example, this week the unit was about measurement. We got out the sketchbook and colored pencils, and made a chart featuring inches, feet, meters, etc. We talked about how the measurements are related, and Lucas drew a picture of an object that could be measured using each unit.
I recently decided to move a lot of our lessons into both an artist’s sketchbook and double-lined workbooks with space for drawing. Lucas will spend more time with concepts when he’s able to illustrate them. While I don’t commit to any particular homeschooling style, I love the idea of minimalism in education. If all we did was create artwork based on all subjects all day, that would be fine with me! Alas, with the state standards looming, we do have to move beyond the paints and pastels.
Changing up math for 2nd grade
While I’m aiming for even more art incorporation in next year’s curriculum, I plan to switch math to Teaching Textbooks. With Lucas’ teacher’s recommendation, we’ll likely move on to third grade math. These courses are completely digital, with the option to use a workbook (which I think we’ll use occasionally), and I’m hoping the novelty of working on my computer will enthrall Lucas enough to focus on each video/interactive lesson. Also, this tech time will likely allow Elias a window of time for “school” activities, like puzzles, play dough, or a sensory bin activity. Those require supervision and subsequent cleanup, possibly including a quick vacuum or crawl under the couch in search of errant pieces.
As mentioned, I encourage art in all subjects that we already cover. Lucas loved arts and crafts as a toddler, and I designed many hands-on projects and sensory experiences for him. But as he got older, he wasn’t interested in coloring or painting as much. Then, we got new art supplies. It’s like he’s a whole new kid- with access to oil pastels, chalk pastels, a 48-color pencil set, “artists” drawing pencils, and watercolor crayons, he’s now stoked about getting messy and displaying his creations.
Along with Lucas’ enthusiasm for arts and science comes a reluctance for handwriting and composition. Any time I can have him create a piece of art and label it, my teaching heart is happy! We did this last week after he devoured a science reader about shells and various sea creatures. Lucas measured out a quahog on his sketch paper, colored it in according to the pictures in the book, and labeled it. Success!
By noon, we tend to head outside to meet my nephew coming home from kindergarten. He’s my bonus kid for a few hours, so the boys all run and play outside before we reconvene for lunch. I don’t usually offer much in the way of structured PE, unless we’re stuck indoors due to inclement weather. Occasionally I’ll draw a hopscotch grid out front, or suggest a game of soccer. Usually, though, I stay out of the way and let them run wild.
Tuesdays we attend gymnastics, which Lucas started this month and adores. It’s tough for our schedule, since Elias has dropped his afternoon nap but falls asleep on the drive home. I don’t blame him, since the climbing and jumping he does looks strenuous. But, it’s a short-term issue for the rest of this school year, after which we’ll explore other sports.
For next school year, I’ve been looking into online resources, simply because I want to ensure we’re all getting active, whether it’s indoors or out. Lucas is keen on starting karate in the fall, but I’ve had trouble finding an opportunity for both him and Elias to attend together. I’d hate to spend another school year entertaining my preschooler in the hallway while Lucas is participating in classes. This is one of the very few complaints I have about planning our boys four years apart!
After lunch, the boys play until it’s time for Zane to go home. For a few weeks, we would complete a guided art project together each Friday. The kids loved this, and it’s a habit I want to restart! But, the perfectionist (let’s be honest, control freak) in me resists the occasional mess that is a result of oil pastels rubbed across every surface.
Around 3pm, when the crowd thins, we’ll finish up any work that was left incomplete earlier in the day. We read more books, complete a few Snap Circuits projects, check out a miscellaneous object under the microscope, and prepare dinner. On Fridays, I guide Lucas through a writing prompt, or let him create on his own, to complete a page in his journal. This usually gets pushed off until later in the evening. It’s not something he really enjoys unless he has a new experience or event to report on. I encourage journaling not only to track his writing progress, but to have a reminder of his childhood once he’s grown.
After dinner tech time
I’m ashamed to admit this, but my kids often park in front of the TV while I prep dinner and/or do dishes in the evenings. I hate it, but it seems a necessary evil when they’re getting cranky, hungry, and need a distraction. Occasionally I’ll issue a tablet to each child, but that can result in bickering over which device has better games. Once Papa gets home, the TV will usually be changed to soccer or news, after which bedtime rituals begin.
As the day winds down…
I try to have the boys in bed by 9 at the latest, because I’ve noticed any later than that invites meltdowns. But, because our schedules and circumstances change so often, there’s always room to shake things up. The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn't working Click To Tweet The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn’t working- which, as you can see, might be a lot when you’re first starting out.
However, I am super excited to finish out this first year of homeschool and move on to different strategies and resources next year.
What does a day in your homeschool look like?
I’d love to hear about it!