Our Homeschooling Routine

Our Homeschooling Routine October 14, 2013

Happy Monday!

This is what happens to the baby on the weekends. Those are even busier than our weekdays. Josie’s a rock star at going with the flow. I think she’s achieved mascot status for 2 older sibling soccer teams.

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?

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  • Mary Alice

    Our homeschooling days have varied, and for the last few years they have been very similar to the days you describe, especially during baseball season in the spring. I have to say, though, while it seems to suit you, it was never a rhythm that I felt comfortable with. Part of this is because my husband isn’t able to help with the driving, so if one child has to get picked up at practice at 8:30, I have to put a sleepy baby in the car in pajamas to go get him. My younger ones seemed to never adjust to the sleeping in, and my four year old in particular spent much of last year just laying around the house or whining. Also, if kids had activities in different locations it quickly became nearly impossible to get them there without a lot of stress.

    I learned a long time ago that I could do intense parenting for what I call a “12 hour shift”. With babies and toddlers, that meant 7 am to 7 pm every day, but if the kids were up past 8 I would start to get a little crazy. These days, I think it is 6-6 for me, and then I quickly put the baby to bed and my older kids are pretty fun to be around in the early evening, so it doesn’t feel so much like work. It sounds like the shift you are doing is 8-8. I am sure that the days that you are still standing in the kitchen doing dishes after 9 feel very long, and so it is crucial that you have those small stretches of help during the day.

    I much prefer the seasons in which we have lots of time for a family
    dinner, cozy bedtime routine and an early start to the day. It has been
    a huge adjustment to our schedule this year, but for now I am up at
    6:15 most days, and things are going well, and we are all back in the
    house by about 6 pm. For us, this is working really well. Our homeschool day does look very similar to yours, with independent work for the first hour or so, followed by intense teaching from 10-12, lunch, quiet time, outside play.

    Good stuff!

  • Kat0427

    What a fun glimpse into your life, Kellie! I wonder if your family has a higher tolerance for extracurriculars because they are home for schooling…I’m not sure that we would survive if we had such busy evenings, but in part this is because we leave the house at 7:30 am and don’t get finished with carpool until 4:30 on many days! This makes for a lot of car time during the day, and a lot of time away from the home. I’ve learned that if my children have been out of the house all day, and then are away for activities after school, our evenings aren’t pretty! Like Mary Alice, we’re usually doing all of this without dad’s ability to participate, so it can feel divisive when we have too much going on. On the other hand, I feel like I’m depriving my children when I hear about other people’s extracurricular activities, and when I think about my own childhood! I have erred on the side of doing less rather than more, making sure not to sacrifice our family’s sanity, but I’m always re-evaluating and adjusting as necessary.
    Thanks for your post!

  • I agree regarding the 12 hour shift rule. And also, that if I didn’t have help in the evenings from my husband, our schedule wouldn’t be fun and wouldn’t work for our family. He comes home from work by 5:30 several nights per week to make this work, which is amazing. It also allows him to coach our boys teams, which has been a huge blessing to both my sons, and to the other kids on his teams (IMHO!).

  • I think this is an excellent point, and it is one of the reasons that I homeschool! I would have a much lower tolerance for sports and things that brought us outside the home if my kids were away from me all day. Our chance to get out and be a part of the community is through these afternoon/evening activities, which is great for us. When I have thought about sending my children to school, one of the reasons I have not done so is that I don’t want them to give up their sports teams, LOL! And my husband has a job that allows him to coach and be a real evening partner with schlepping kids around — which I LOVE. But I do understand that not everyone has this situation. But I think these sorts of particulars are what allows our family to do what we do, and we would make different choices if my kids went to school or Mr. Red had to work into the evenings regularly.

  • Juris Mater

    I think it’s AWESOME that your family had the best Sunday yesterday doing Ninja Warrior obstacle courses at the new gym in town, because I think you are a Ninja Warrior-style homeschooler. Isn’t it great that there are all types? Some whose kids collect pinecones and play with forest fairies all day, some who drink tea and bake and read aloud on the couch, some who are regimented at covering all the bases and packing a ton into each day, especially lots of physical activity, and the types go on and on. I love it!

  • Catie H

    Kellie, we’re late risers, too! My husband gets home a little later and we like to eat as a family and then spend some time together after dinner, so our kids also aren’t in bed until 9:30. If it works, it works!

    I loved hearing your schedule! It gives me inspiration to be more organized about my 8 yr old’s independent morning work.

  • Amy B

    Thank you so much for sharing. I keep adding more and more “school work” as my oldest nears Kindergarten, so it is so helpful to see how others make it work. I find that the season I am in (with a PK child, toddler and baby) is a hard one to find a real rhythm though. I want to have things go the same day to day, but my kids just aren’t there yet. Did you find that in your early days of homeschooling? We tend to work around the highest need child, which goes back and forth between the baby and the toddler. It is often frustrating for my very schedule-oriented personality. I have learned that setting a timer is a good motivator for the haphazard schedule. When the high need children are occupied, set the timer for 15 minutes to get things accomplished (because it usually means I have to pull my preschooler from a more prefered activity.) I also feel that one of the blessings of homeschooling is more freedom for extracurricular activities. Thanks again for this post!

    Oh, I’m totally not a morning person either!:)

  • Yes! The early days of homeschooling are much less routine like than what I described in my post. If your oldest isn’t K age yet, I’d relax your standards and focus on a few important things. 1) making sure your child can sit still in 20 minutes chunks to focus on things 2) making sure your child knows basic numbers/letters and 3) lots of read aloud books! My K age child only does about 20-30 minutes of “workbook” work a day, and that includes him reading to me for 5-10 minutes. The rest of his “school” is manipulative activities, read aloud books, and play. So a pre-K child will do even less real “school.” And the interruptions never end in large family life. We have had to move big kids to desks upstairs to help them focus.

  • Amy B

    Thanks Kellie! Those are very helpful tips, and it is encouraging to know that it gets a little easier to set a schedule.