I’ve had a lot of questions lately about what my days “look like.” So this is going to be a really practical and honest post about how I/we plan (or don’t plan) our homeschooling days.
I’ll begin with a confession. If I am not going on a morning run, I set an ALARM for 8AM!!!!!!!!! I’m serious. My kids sleep in and I love it. I am not a morning person, and neither is my husband, so I think our kids have just very gradually gotten the hint that we aren’t nice in the mornings and staying in bed for as long as possible is the key to success around here. But in all seriousness, when you see our evening schedule, you will know why my little ones sleep in. They are rarely in bed before 8pm, and my older ones are usually up until at least 9pm, sometimes later, with activities.
I am currently training for a marathon (my first one, but yes its hard core), so some mornings I get up very early and run. But on those days, I arrive home covered in sweat at 8am, the same time I normally wake when not running, so I’ll start there. I rise at 8 and spend about 15 minutes tidying my upstairs, and another 15 getting dressed and throwing in a load of laundry. I wake my older kids if my 4 year old has not done so already (she’s always the first one awake), and instruct them to get dressed and head downstairs for breakfast. I follow them down, get coffee, and spend about 15 more minutes checking e-mail. I then head upstairs and get the baby up (around 8:30-8:45), bring her down, and feed her. I also feed the 4 year old, and the 5 year old breakfast at this time. My older 2 have eaten and start their independent schoolwork.
I’m pretty big on independent schoolwork for the first hour of the day. My older two children know which books they can do alone, and which books require lessons or help from me. It takes a few weeks at the beginning of the school year to establish routines in this regard, but it really pays off during the year when kids can make productive use of their time as Mom helps younger ones.
After the younger ones are finished eating, I again check e-mail, briefly read the news (usually espn and politics), tidy the kitchen, and make sure the younger ones are dressed. At this point it is about 10am, and I’m ready to be fully present as a teacher to my children. I turn my attention to the schoolroom, we say a morning offering, I go over work my children just finished, and I start my kindergardener on his work. I teach pretty intensely for the next 2 hours. Of course this involves interruptions for diaper changes, a toddler climbing on the table, and the youngest two fighting. At some point during this time, I start my youngest on the circuit, get out playdough and other manipulatives, and switch out the activities every 10-15 minutes. The baby spends about an hour in her high chair coloring and playing with manipulatives. Older children go between the schoolroom and their desks upstairs, asking questions and leaving to focus for 15-20 minute blocks of time.
At noon we break, say the Angelus, and I make lunch while one of my children practices their piano. I feed the baby first, then everyone else, and while the older 4 are finishing lunch I take the baby up for a nap. After lunch, I read the 4 and 5 year old books for about 30 minutes, then the 4 year old goes into quiet time in her room, while the 5 year old picks between indoor or outdoor quiet time. My older two finish their schoolwork and read. Sometimes this means I teach more, sometimes I am able to “organize my desk” — meaning pay bills, e-mail, go on Facebook, or read blogs (not often these days!), while they interrupt and ask questions.
At 3pm I get the baby (she always spends 2 hours in her room regardless of how long she sleeps), I get my 4 year old, and I send my kids outside to play. My 4th grader is usually still not finished with all her work, as she fiddles with things and gets distracted really easily! My 2nd grader usually only works briefly after lunch, so he is already outside playing.
From 3-4, I take a brief rest, sitting down, reading, talking on the phone, and/or praying. At 4 I have to start dinner prep. At 4:30 I yell outside for my older children to get changed for the evening activities and pack their bags and put them by the door. At 4:45 I serve dinner, and by 5:20 we are out the door to soccer or baseball or choir. My son’s 8 year old soccer team practices from 7-8:45pm (under the lights), and choir runs until 8:30pm, so we have some late evenings! For the later practices/pick-up’s, just one parent gets the kids, while the other comes home and gets the younger ones ready for bed. Ideally, that person also cleans the kitchen and tidies the house, but often this happens after all children go to bed, at 9:30 pm! We only have one weeknight where we do not have activities (Thursday!!!), and so on that night I serve a very nice family dinner with fancier food.
We try to car pool and take advantage of grandparent help when available. These little reprieves help us get through the week, and actually enjoy some evening time. Mr. Red is currently coaching both a baseball and a soccer team, so I fully recognize that our evenings are busier than most.
I should also mention that I have child-care/housework help three days per week. On Monday this help comes at 10am, so I am more fully able to focus on teaching. On Wednesday and Friday, the help arrives in the afternoon, so I am better able to get caught up on housework, laundry, and errands.
So there it is. A very real look into our weekdays. It isn’t alway pretty, but it really is a great life. And I’m curious, are there any other slow moving morning families out there?