I am often asked what a “typical” homeschooling day looks like. I have friends and family that, although supportive, are curious as to what it is that we do everyday behind closed doors. There are many misconceptions about homeschooling. There are those who look at homeschooling moms and suspect that our kids spend the majority of the day in front of the TV while we lounge and eat bon-bons and then there are those who are shocked that we would even want to have our kids home all day and perceive homeschooling as a much more intimidating choice that it actually is. When Gracie was in public school kindergarten God started putting the idea of homeschooling on our hearts. When we decided to homeschool Gracie in first grade it wasn’t because we were unhappy with our public school, it wasn’t because she was doing poorly or was unhappy, it wasn’t because I thought I could do a better job; it was because God called me to this. Even though I knew that homeschooling was the path we were being called to take that didn’t mean that I wasn’t completely intimidated by it…I was! I didn’t know where to even begin. We eventually found the path that worked best for us and that was through a partnership with a cyber school. I was able to do all of the teaching myself but had the support I needed from a teacher. This gave me more confidence as I began this journey. My biggest struggle though, as I started out, was not knowing what a homeschooling day should look like. I read many books and had some dear friends that allowed me to spend a day at their home observing a “typical” homeschool day. This was a huge confidence booster for me. I left thinking, “I could do that.”
For those that are curious what it is that we do behind closed doors each day I thought I’d journal a “typical” day as we are living it. I use the term “typical” loosely. What we do is not necessarily “typical” of how others homeschool. We homeschooling moms all have our own ways of meeting the needs of our children, our own challenges, different curriculum choices.. some are scheduled, some relaxed, some unschool..but this is our way. This day is “typical” in terms of the scheduling and routine but ” not typical” in the sense that on this day we had minimal interruptions, no major catastrophes, and no away from home activities…welcome to a day at Patchwork Farm!
The day begins at 6:38 am with Tyler yelling through my bedroom door, “Good Morning, Momma!” Tyler’s wake-up time varies greatly day to day. Some days he is up as early as 6 am sometimes as late as 8:30 am but the one thing that never varies is the amount of energy and volume he wakes up with. He is running at full speed when his feet hit the floor and thus becomes the morning alarm clock for the rest of the household. As soon as Tyler wakes up he wants to eat breakfast so I get his morning pills out and try to convince him to take them immediately before they are misplaced (yes, that happens frequently) as I prepare his breakfast which is usually cereal or eggs. Once I get him situated at the kitchen counter and put on a half hour episode of Arthur I sit down with a cup of peppermint tea for a few minutes of quiet time with the Lord. Ideally I would love to beat Tyler awake to have my “quiet time” when the house is actually quiet, but today that didn’t happen so I had to settle for a quick prayer and a quick spiritual feeding before my day begins fully.
By 7:30 everyone is up and beginning their morning chores. The kids have an hour and a half to get their morning chores done, get dressed, and eat breakfast before school begins at 9:00. Molly’s morning chores consist of: feeding the three cats, emptying the dishwasher, making her bed, picking up her room, getting dressed, and taking care of the bunnies. Gracie’s jobs include: sweeping the front porch/walk, tidying the front hall and hall closet, making her bed, picking up her room and getting dressed. Rusty’s responsibilities include: feeding and watering the dogs, helping feed and water the ducks, starting and switching a load of laundry, picking up his room, making his bed, and getting dressed. Tyler’s jobs include: gathering and washing his eggs, feeding the farm animals, making his bed, picking up his room and getting himself dressed. I spend the hour before school begins wiping down bathroom counters and swishing toilets, doing a load of dishes, making my bed, putting a load of wash on the line, putting something for dinner in the crockpot (today it is harvest porkchops) and if I’m lucky, getting dressed. 🙂 In among my chores there is a lot of… encouraging Tyler to finish his room, encouraging Rusty to move a little faster, breaking up battles between Winnie (the bulldog) and Harley (the pot-belly pig) and putting out minor “fires.”
At 9:00 we begin school. In an effort to accomplish all that needs done in a day we use a time management scheduling tool written by the Maxwells entitled, Managers of Their Homes. It is a tool that hangs on the fridge that schedules out the kids’ day and mine. I have been using it for ten years and have found it the most effective way to juggle four kids’ homeschooling lessons, animal and home responsibilities, errands and activities, as well as church responsibilities.
Some of my friends tease me about my OCD schedule and threaten to sneak over and start moving squares on my chart but this little tool has really been a blessing, especially since we have added Tyler to our family and I now have to figure out how to make time to teach Tyler too. Here is a basic look at what our morning’s look like..
9:00 Katie: teaches Tyler, Grace: works on her church goal program: personal progress, Molly: logs onto her online class where she does Math online with her teacher, Rusty: practices piano, and Tyler: does phonics with me.
9:30 Katie: teach Tyler, Grace: reads her literature (She is currently reading Julius Caesar), Molly: still doing Math, Rusty: reads literature (he is reading, A Wrinkle in Time), Tyler: has math with me.
10:30 Katie: does zone cleaning. This is the small/detail cleaning job I do each day. This comes from the cleaning system I use to maintain some order and cleanliness in my home…Flylady.net. I have been using this system to clean my home for the last ten years and highly recommend it! Today I worked on organizing our game closet, which was a disaster due in part to Tyler pulling games out but not putting them back. While I did this Gracie: did history (she is learning about Gandhi), Molly: read her literature (she is reading The Secret Garden), Rusty: logged onto his online class where they are learning how to write a compare and contrast essay, and Tyler: ran off some energy outside.
11:00 Katie: teaches Grace, Grace: works on Algebra with Mom. Today she is learning about algebraic proofs, Molly: works on her personal progress, Rusty: still in his online compare and contrast class, Tyler: works on puzzles.
11:30 Katie: has history with Rusty. We are finishing up his history book for the year, The History of US. He is currently studying the assassination of President Lincoln. Gracie: has her “one on one time” with Tyler. Rather than a cooking lesson he asked if Gracie would practice soccer with him so that he would be ready for his practice later. Molly: practices piano.
12:00 Katie: has history with Molly. Molly is also studying U.S. history but is in part two of the series and is studying 9/11 and the World Trade Center. Grace: continues to work on her history, Rusty: has one on one time with Tyler. They decide to take Rusty’s remote control helicopter outside to fly. The boys came in soon after going outside to inform me that the helicopter was stuck on the roof. I gave Rusty permission to climb up on the roof (without Tyler..much to his disappointment) to retrieve it.
Having the kids take turns with Tyler has been a wonderful way to free me up to work with the other kids but is also a way to help each of the kids build a stronger relationship with Tyler while also assuming responsibility for teaching and working with him. At 12:30 we break for lunch. I give the kids an hour off for lunch and this is their time to play or relax after they are done eating. This is also my free time for the day when I can make phone calls, get caught up on paperwork, fold laundry or simply sit for a bit before the chaos ensues again.
In the afternoon the focus is on composition, vocabulary, and grammar. This is also the time that the girls work on music, Rusty works on spelling, and they have some free time to get caught up on work they weren’t able to complete in the morning.
At 1:30 after everyone has finished lunch we put on our shoes to go on a walk before resuming our schoolwork. In the fall we got into the habit of going on a daily walk each day and now that the weather is getting warmer we have resumed the tradition. It is fun to take a walk through the woods, visit, let Tyler run off some energy and enjoy the beauty around us before we are back inside for the afternoon. Today was gloomy but not raining so we decided to go ahead with our walk. We took Brownie and Winnie with us. As we walked to the other side of our property we stopped at a shed in the woods where we store extra hay and bagged leaves that we use for animal bedding. The boys and Winnie had fun climbing to the top and sliding down the loose hay. As we walked through the woods we came across an unexpected patch of color in the form of tulips. What a treat! We picked them to bring home to brighten up our table. When we arrived home it was back to work!
2:00 Katie: with Molly and Gracie. Even though the girls are in two different grades they are both currently studying the same things in grammar so I taught them together and then let them do their assessments separately. Rusty: reluctantly worked on spelling while Tyler: bugged Rusty to hurry so he could play helicopter with him.
2:30 Katie: continued to work on punctuation with the girls. Rusty: has one on one time with Tyler. They played Blokus and then Rusty plays ABC bingo with Tyler to help him work on his letter recognition.
3:00 Katie: teaches Rusty grammar. Rusty: works on adverbs. Molly: cleans up the animal pens in the basement. Gracie: works on a music lesson.
3:30 Katie: pulls rolls out of the oven for dinner, switches laundry over, loads the lunch dishes that were neglected earlier and then sits down with Tyler on the livingroom couch to read and snuggles. Gracie, Molly, and Rusty: put away their school supplies for the day and prepared for our weekly cleaning hour that we do every Monday, our “weekly home blessing” (also from flylady.net). Tyler: literature.
At 4:00 we begin our hour of house cleaning. This is when we do those once a week cleaning jobs like vacuuming, dusting, bathtubs, mopping..those jobs I would love to be able to do more frequently but am grateful to accomplish weekly. 🙂 We all have different jobs during this time. Rusty is my duster, Molly does my bathrooms, Gracie sweeps and mops the hardwood floors, Tyler empties all the garbage cans in the house and I take care of the kitchen, vacuuming, and changing sheets. It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished in that one hour when everyone is working together. We set the kitchen timer for 60 minutes and when the timer goes off we stop. Due to everyone pitching in we can get 5 man hours out of that one hour.
After we are done cleaning I check my email and find out that Tyler’s soccer practice is cancelled due to muddy fields. Tyler’s disappointed but I must admit I am jumping for joy at the thought of not having to hurry through dinner and out the door for soccer practice at 6:00.
At 5:00 I begin Rusty’s “one on one” time with him. For his time this week he wants to make brownies for our Family Night treat. We visit while he bakes and then he has me help him look up some scriptures that he needs to look up for church. When we are just about done with Rusty’s time Toby comes home from work. He walks over and quietly asks if I have something planned for Family Night and I tell him I have a lesson on fire safety planned as well as a fire drill. It has been a worry of mine lately that, although we have prepared the older kids for a fire emergency, we haven’t talked to Tyler about it. Toby asks if we could pull off my fire safety lesson and dinner in an hour because he wants to take the kids to see the movie, The Croods, at 7:00.
We call the kids into the livingroom where we discuss what to do in the event of a fire. Tyler’s answers confirm my suspicions that he doesn’t know what to do in a fire emergency. After going over the do’s and don’ts of fire safety we have a practice drill. First Toby turns off the lights and sets off the smoke alarms. The kids practice checking doors for heat, crawling quickly to an exit (in case of smoke) and going straight to our meeting location outside. Everyone’s favorite part was the “finding a secondary exit” exercise where they get to climb out their bedroom window. Tyler especially loved this. Hopefully they will never need this information but I feel more secure knowing that they do.
We then dish up dinner, eat quickly, clean up and drive to the movie theatre to see The Croods. It is a cute movie and very funny. It was enjoyed by all! When we arrive home we have family scripture and prayer time then it is straight to bed for Tyler. I tuck him in and read him his story. He is in tears over not wanting to go to bed but soon falls asleep. The girls also go to bed soon after bottle feeding their goats because Gracie isn’t feeling great. I think she is battling a head cold. By 10:00 the kids are all asleep. Toby and I walk the house, lock doors, turn off lights, and check on kids, and then climb into bed… Good night!
So, there you have it..a “typical day” at Patchwork Farm. 🙂