A Day in the Life: Simple & Flexible
I'm so excited to bring several guest posts to the blog sharing their Homeschooling Day in the Life stories! Today's post is by Amy who has five kids, from ages 4 to 16. I admire how she has embraced a natural rhythm to her days and leans in to the reality of being pulled in many directions at once. Finding ways to simplify and staying flexible are key to her homeschooling success!
The day begins with a loud breathy ‘whisper’ of “MOM! WHAT I HAVE FOR BREAKFAS’?!” from a cute, little 4-year-old face staring at me. It makes me smile every morning – partly because 4-year-olds have no clue how to whisper and partly because we have the SAME two options for breakfast every day. (Simple, mostly self-serve food is one thing we’ve done to help simplify mornings.)
I send her off to grab her breakfast of choice in the kitchen and say a few prayers before rolling out of bed to go help. I get her situated and return to our room to get dressed for the day – if I do it now, hopefully I won’t get any visitors.
Over the next hour, the other kids trickle down, get some food, get dressed, and do their morning kitchen jobs. My husband gets ready for the day and walks down the hall to our “new Covid-inspired office.” This morning I have an added wrinkle of mitigating burnt oatmeal in the microwave – a kid forgot to add water. We manage to get the smoke to dissipate before it triggers the fire alarm – and interrupts dad at work down the hall! Crisis averted, the 16-year-old joins my husband in the office and starts his live online Latin class.
Around 9 am, or after the 16-year-old’s class is finished, the kids and I gather together in the living room. We say our morning prayers and listen to the Saint of the Day (either from the Franciscan Media site or the Saints Stories for Kids podcast). We used to have a far more elaborate beginning of the school day, but as the kids have gotten older, it’s been harder to maintain. Some days (lots of days?) I miss the shared poetry and memory work and music and art – the beautiful things. But, for right now, prayers, saint of the day plus one more thing is good enough. Today’s ‘one more thing’ is our history video lecture from Story of Civilization.
After the video, the kids scatter. One to independent book work, one to computer work, one to get books to work with me, one to entertain the 4-year-old. At the beginning of the year, we started with a wonderful, neatly outlined Pre-K curriculum. It had poetry and picture books, nursery rhymes and crafts, and workbook practice for letters and numbers. The 3 big kids did an excellent job implementing different parts of it during their turn with the 4-year-old. And then after Christmas and the new year, it fizzled. And that’s okay. She’s helped them bake brownies, paint with watercolors in the backyard, read other stories SHE picked out, and run around outside. She has plenty of time for formal school in the years ahead and I’m okay not rushing it right now. It just means we can use it next year for Pre-K again!
The first “mom time slot” always goes to the new reader in our house – this year, it’s a first grader. He does mostly okay with schoolwork, but definitely requires some encouragement to stick with it. He’d much rather go play – but we need to do our work while the 4-year-old is otherwise occupied and it’s relatively quiet in the house. After he finishes reading, he joins the 4-year-old for a snack around 10:30 am, then we start math. He’s usually finished for the day by 11:30 am, and then I start working with the big kids.
This is the beginning of my feeling like a ping pong ball being bounced among elementary science to Algebra to three different literature books to being tech help, chief chore enforcer and general “shusher.” (It seems our household starts out rather quiet and then builds to a crescendo about 4 pm…and an even louder level by 7 pm.)
The fifth grader usually needs a little help with math and composition and may have a couple questions about science or grammar. We start with math and end for lunch. We’ll pick back up later. I get the littles situated for lunch or ask a big kid to help them out while my husband and I duck out for a quick walk. It’s become a nice break during this year of being home so much! We return, eat our own lunches, and then I direct kitchen clean-up and start the naptime routine while he heads back to work.
Naptime sometimes feels like a race. It feels like we have to fit all the remaining schoolwork into those last 90 minutes of general household quiet! After I get the 4-year-old to bed, I check in with my eighth grader and ask what he needs my help with today. Usually, he’s not totally sure at this point, but it helps to get him thinking about it while I go finish working with the fifth grader. I get the 16-year-old his science test and we get the computer working for his math. My daughter and I work through composition and figure out a couple of things she’s stuck on in other subjects. Then I head back to the eighth grader. We need to outline a science chapter and go over some composition work, and I need to check his math quiz. At some point during our work, I hear the 4-year-old calling out and send in the first grader to tell her she can wake up. She’s happy today, so that’s good! Another 30 minutes, and the eighth grader and I are finished with his “do with Mom” work.
Around 3:30 pm, we begin the afternoon “blitz.” The three oldest each have an area in the house they are responsible for tidying up, and the littles help them as they’re able. Once that’s done, and the kitchen table is (mostly) cleared for dinner, we’ll have snacks. When everyone is finished eating, we do a quick kitchen clean up (again!) and then the littles can watch a show while I start dinner. The high schooler is still working until 5-ish most days, and sometimes the eighth grader still has a bit more to finish after snack time, too.
Usually, my husband will pop in to help with dinner or take kids outside to play after his workday ends. I have a quick meal planned for tonight because I have a class tonight. I get dinner done and various kids help set the table (sometimes it’s peaceful…sometimes there’s fighting over someone giving out the wrong forks…). I slip away from the table around 5:45 pm to change for class and then leave around 6 pm. When I come home, the kids will have (mostly) cleaned the kitchen – with my husband’s supervision – and the two youngest will be in PJs ready for prayers and hugs and bedtime.
We do family prayers and then my husband and I take the two youngest up to bed. The three oldest will hang out downstairs for another hour and a half or so. I’ll fold laundry and watch a show, grade some work, or have a “porch date” with my husband. Then we’ll get ready for bed and get ready to start everything over again tomorrow!
I’m tired just reading this! Bravo daughter. So proud of you!