A Day in the Life of Homeschooling: 18 Years with my Kids

When I speak of 18 years with my homeschool kids, I mean eighteen years, 8 am -3 pm included.

I mean bad dreams at midnight turning into five-hour cuddles where three people in a queen bed mean that the six-year-old gets the blankets and you and your husband spoon to maintain body temperature.

Here is a day in the life of homeschooling…in my home.

how to spend eighteen years with your homeschool kids

This is a day in the life of homeschooling: here’s how to spend eighteen years with your kids.

I don’t mean the years where half the day is spent finding everything for their backpack, dropping them and their permission forms off at school at 0830, then seeing them again at 3.

Mornings require no alarm clocks.

You hear the clump clump clump down the stairs guarantees a seven o’clock wake.

The bedroom door creaks open and an expectant ten-year-old and her little brother hold a breakfast tray with an overflowing coffee mug splashing beside the plate of cold toast and a lump of overly sweet jam that was bought for them.

Their smiles beam, your body aches from scanning the Houzz app past midnight, and, oh yeah, and eating the new bag of mini chocolate bars you purchased for Halloween two weeks too early.

But you want to set the morning right, so you start it with hugs.

“Come for kisses. Thank you for my coffee.”

You kiss your son’s forehead and push back the front patch where he cut a chunk while you were explaining mixed fractions to his older sister.

Make sure to get their hearts before you get them to start their day.

“Have you done your top five?” you ask like a drill sergeant.

They all know this means their rooms need to be tidied, their hair and teeth brushed, and breakfast was eaten before Duolingo or Minecraft. They have to be dressed too. In real clothes. Not combinations of pajamas or pants from yesterday that were somehow tucked under their covers before bedtime kisses.

“Oh yes, mommy. I’ve done it. But Zachary didn’t really put on new clothes. He just took what he found from the playroom floor; he wore that before.”

learning how to deal with kids fighting is a necessary journey for the homeschool mama: a day in the life of homeschooling

Something I get to experience most days of homeschooling: one child ratting out the other.

Not so much hoping to get someone else into trouble, but rather to get a smile from mom that says, “Thanks for always doing what you’re supposed to.” Of course, Zachary has his ammunition too. “Rachel didn’t really brush her teeth. She just used her finger.”

These mini wars can be overwhelming with their regularity, but with all that parental guidance and relational practice, you will often hear from people outside your family, “Your kids consider one another, help each other, look out for one another. Do they ever fight?” Time for a chuckle.

“Okay, okay,” you gather them, “tattling doesn’t do anything for anyone. Do you want to play a round of rummy while the bread is toasting?”

The dishes are overflowing at the countertop. A dishwasher would be useful for a family of six, but a few more months till the new house is finished. You play a round of rummy till Zach realizes that this game will be cut short if the runs aren’t in the same suit. “How ‘bout gin rummy? All in the same suit?” he asks.

So you switch games until an older sister comes downstairs to ask what the plan for the day is.

You need a little quiet too.

So head into your room with a cup of coffee and read an inspiring word or two.

Early on, they won’t believe that a closed door means you’re unavailable. So when they peek their little noses into the doorway, you can ask in your most shocked tone, “Is the house on fire?” They’ll back out of the room. Apparently, the house isn’t on fire. Continue sitting in quiet for ten minutes in your house clothes. It’s not just the homeschooled kiddos that have a hard time getting out of pajamas. Homeschooled mamas have five sets too. Some of them appear to be yoga pants, with loose t-shirts. So when a neighbor shows up unexpectedly, no one will wonder why you’re still not dressed for the day.

You may have changed yesterday morning, but you are dressed.

Sit in the Great Room with a cup of breakfast tea at nine.

All four kiddos pile onto the blue tufted sofa. Different heights, and different sizes occupy their space, and maybe even different grades. But officially grades don’t mean anything here. Where the youngest can outplay any of his older sisters in chess. Definitely, where the eldest outstrips her mother in historical accuracy. Where the third daughter can out-answer any of her siblings in mental math.

Grades seem a nominal notion.

“Let’s shop for a gymnastics outfit before you go to class today, Rachel.”

Pointing to the twelve-year-old, “You’ll be dropped off at dance at 5.” She nods yes.

Remind everyone, “Anatomy will be finished by 2:30 so you can get ready for town. Everyone bring your history books to read for the drive. Hannah will get to voice by 4. Then the other girls will meet Penny for a playdate at the park. Any questions?”

There’ll be a writing prompt for their journals and a prayer to start the day, then everyone leaves to their own spaces.

Gather their minds second, and then direct them to their activities.

The youngest two sit beside you near the fireplace. “How do you spell boat?” the six-year-old asks.

“B-O-A-T, two vowels in the middle — the first one does the talking.” He goes back to writing between the lines and answering what words he hears on the beach, though the beach is ten minutes away, and no one has waded through the water since it cooled a month ago.

When he’s finished his imagining, he’s proud to show his good work.

Then the ten-year-old bursts, “I can’t do this.” For the third time this week, you’ll tell her “just watch” as you add and subtract mixed fractions. But she doesn’t want to watch. She wants to not do it at all. When you feel like telling her you don’t want to do it today either, you have her pass the book back to you, both of you take a deep breath and show her again, with a picture this time.

“This is a pie. It’s cut in four. There are two slices. This is another pie. It’s cut in two. One slice remains. If you want to subtract one pie from the other, you have to compare them with equal pieces. Are there equal pieces?”

You’ll go through this twice, three times in your homeschool day.

You’re already learning so much about your kids and how to be with them but you’re also learning basic arithmetic in each day of your homeschool life.

You’re thankful that you figured out fractions four years ago when you were learning alongside your oldest. This seems easy now.

Finally, she’ll brighten and tell you, “Let me try it,” and she figures it out…for today.

Every study day won’t be this smooth. There will be fights for seats in the minivan. “I was going to sit there.” Someone sits on someone else’s feet. “No, I was going to sit there.” There will be fights of all varieties. And if there are just enough fights, with just enough characters playing their contentious parts, you’ll throw down the gauntlet of vocal projection and yell, “Stop it, just sit down!”

In more shining moments, you’ll respond, not react.

You’ll walk outside to ease your irritated nerves and devise a plan.

Gather your intentions towards this speedbump and expect to enact your response with cool delivery and appropriate response.

Nothing is so important that you must keep going without lunch. Gather the kids for a full stop at lunch o’clock. An hour to eat, chat, wash dishes, or practice piano, while you make a second coffee. Your room is off-limits for a fifteen-minute break — you pull out the tray of hidden Oreos from under your corner chaise and sit with your writing utensils and drift to other places, playing your part in creation.

Infuse your homeschool day with things intended wholly for you.

Apart from your family’s characters, you’ve created your own on the written page too. Mostly they’re in Italy where your character is starting her agriturismo and learning why she is in the world. Sometimes it’s with Robyn as she hopes to fly to freedom, away from her parents’ confusing world, and to her seeming savior, Adam.

Sometimes you’re with your online friends, encouraging them to homeschool with courage, pushing past the culture’s expectations, free of convention, so their families can learn to learn and live unfettered while learning to love each other.

You say you write to encourage others, but really you write to encourage yourself.

After your coffee siesta, and after the kids burn energy running with the neighbor dogs or make fantasy worlds in the apple orchard, you gather to watch a rap video on cellular mitosis and memorize the bones of the hand.

Or you read the Landmark History book about Civil War and teach how to note take on the reading. You answer their questions and discuss why the war wouldn’t have been called the Civil War at that time.

Engage their minds, stimulate their thoughts and build those neural connections growing them into more rounded little humans.

You get to extend your education too.

After an hour and everyone begins to fidget, that is your sign. Why keep reading or discussing when no one’s brain is in the room?

More is not better. So, stop.

Left to their own devices, they might play a strategy game, visit a friend, and play loud music in their rooms while decorating their walls with handmade posters.

This quiet time is thinking time, considering time: what do they like? How do they think about the world? What kind of friends do they want to hang with?

Give them separate space and they become quieter in spirit and happier to be with one another.

Give them time to prepare for the trip to town. Not enough time means scrambling and dissension. Remind them to grab their history books. They’ll go into their imaginary historical worlds, while you plug in those earbuds and tap on a podcast (encouragements from Empowering Parents or energize through Brendon’s Charged Life, learn cooking skills from the Splendid Table, or technology education design from TED talks).

Assume that your kids aren’t the only learning animals in the family; you’re still learning, and you might be getting the best education of them all.

You’re not just dropping kids to their playdates and extracurricular activities.

This is your chance to connect too.

Meet someone new, chat with someone you’ve known for a while, and practice really listening to people.

There are stories in every person you meet. New things to be learned in the most unexpected connections.

New people are new places to visit, minus the expensive plane flight.

Include people on your journey.

When you get home, teach them to cook.

If you dare, leave them in the kitchen and walk away. Stay, and you’ll be telling them, “No, not that way,” or “That’s too much baking powder,” or “Can you do this without making a huge mess?” You, mom, are no help helping in the kitchen. Give brief instructions, and a list of ingredients, and let them go. Surely you have laundry to do.

Find a cup of tea and back away from the kitchen. 

Teach them to cook and you’ve taught them a lifetime skill, enabled their curiosity neurons, and opened up your schedule.

Beware though, there’ll be a few more dishes.

And stuff found on counter cabinets not there earlier. You’ll marvel at projectile splashes. So teach the kids to wash the dishes. You want to teach your kids how to cooperate anyway. Yes, it’s more time. {It’s definitely more effort}.

But when they learn to work together, you’ll have a higher baseline harmony in your home.

woman sleeping in bed without kids, definitely self-care for the homeschool mama: a day in the life of homeschooling

Something I definitely wasn’t expecting in each of my homeschool days…opportunities to learn harmony every.single.day.

When someone doesn’t want to learn to respect others’ boundaries, consequences that are short and sweet will get their attention (eventually). Don’t lecture. They’ll resent you (It’ll just tap you of your happy energy anyway). Short n’ sweet.

Mistakes can be looked past, but stubborn resistance to helpful rules equates to consequences that will change their approach soon enough if you enact them every.single.time.

After dinner, limit screen time.

Too much will make them edgy and ironically, also more likely to complain of being bored. Use it as seasoning.

But when you need a full break, turn on that television, give them unfettered access to Curiosity Stream or Knowledge Network, and reasonable access to the other stuff. 

Learning continues after school hours.

Family games: Stratego, chess, Settlers of Catan, star watching, walks in the dark., marshmallow roasts, but always, ALWAYS, a chapter of a book before bedtime.

Attend to those little hearts and you’ll pay back your heart in happy memories.

Occasionally plan for a quiet date night with the husband outside the home: a restaurant that offers an extensive wine list is my ideal place.

Time away is valuable, no, required.

You’ll often feel like you’re just not getting enough of it.

So when you get it, leave the kids in safe hands, and pretend you’re not a parent for a few hours.

But when you’re with the littles, always be with the littles.

Bedtime kisses and a bedtime prayer are required, even for you.

You’ve earned those hugs and kisses, those requests for childhood stories, those teary discussions on not being chosen at an audition, or frustrations with a friend. The teenager will choose bedtime for that chat. Find a bedtime song and sing it with all the range of your vocal cords, fearless, for those littles will grow up thinking you have the most beautiful voice in the world.

They’re tucked in their covers, the last of the reading lights are off, and you tiptoe downstairs, to sit, kerplunk, on a chair in the corner.

You’ll gladly accept the husband’s offering of a gin and tonic, or a glass of Malbec, ponder over the uncertainties, share the irritations, and encourage each other to see what perfection already resides in your perfectly imperfect home.

And be grateful for the life story you’re writing, spending a full eighteen years with your kids.

a day in the life of homeschooling: read encouraging words every morning

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.

Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3470-call-to-adventure
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/