Homeschooling at our house

I’ve gotten a few requests from people wondering what homeschooling looks like at our house, so I thought I’d describe our fairly typical Monday.  We have 7 students this year, one in 12th, one in 9th, three in 8th grade, one in 4th grade and one in 1st grade.

7AM  — I wander out to the kitchen to make coffee and then peek into the teenager’s bedrooms to make sure they are getting moving.  With three kids on one bathroom and four on another, there are assigned shower slots, at 7:00, 7:15 and 7:30.  Kids waiting to shower read their Bibles, do morning chores like laundry and chicken-feeding, and each teen also does a bit of either typing or math before breakfast.  There is a shared computer for typing as well as a shared language arts book, so at the start of the year I plan out who does which subject in which half-hour time slot to minimize conflict.  While kids are waking and getting moving, I drink my coffee and check email.

8AM-The youngest two girls get up and dressed, and empty the dishwasher and set the table. I start breakfast.  This morning we’re having oatmeal made in the rice cooker, so all I do is measure out 4 cups of oats and 8 cups of water, dump it in the rice cooker, and turn it on.  Then it’s on to making fruit/veggie juice.  This morning it’s half regular OJ made from concentrate, and half fresh juice made from a mix of tomatoes, carrots, apples, and cucumber.  We’re swimming in produce these days, and I figure this is a good way to get some extra vitamins into kids.  Sometimes I also add chard, but the kids prefer it when the color is not that different from standard orange juice, so mostly we stick with the carrot/apple/tomato mix.

8:30-9:30 – Time to eat.  John has the day off today.  During breakfast we usually read a Psalm or a Proverb around the table, with each person reading a few verses.  But today we’re starting us out with a new Bible memory verse, so I just read it a couple times while people eat.  Right after breakfast, while everyone is still gathered at the table, I usually do a lesson of grammar (Our Mother Tongue) or economics (Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?) with the kids depending on my mood.  John hangs out at the table reading the paper and occasionally adding his perspective to the conversation.  This morning we do economics and talk about inflation, recession, and depression.

9:30 –John goes outside to chop firewood.  I’m thinking that the kids will probably get to help him stack it later. Our 17 year old heads upstairs to begin his school day.  At the start of the school year we talked about what he needed to get done.  Then I gave him an empty schedule with blocks marked off by the hour, and he decided when he would do each subject.  Now he pretty much regulates his own schedule during the day, with me asking at lunch and dinner how things went.  Next year he’ll be off at college, so any practice he can get now at organizing his time will make him more prepared for fully independent living later.

At this time of morning the plan is for two of the kids to clean the kitchen, two others to start a guitar lesson on DVD, and the two youngest girls to grab a heap of stories so that the 9yo can get her reading practice by reading to the 6yo.  This morning I am going to try to get some corn  blanched, cut off the cobs and into the freezer. I’ve got probably 80 ears to process, but since two of the 13yo’s already husked it for me, it should go pretty quickly.  (I end up getting about 15 sandwich bags of corn for the freezer– that will be nice this winter!)

I have the little girls read near me so I can occasionally correct a word as needed, but basically I let them do their thing.  Within minutes the guitar lesson is derailed by a kid not feeling like cooperating.  I resist the urge to lecture (one of my weaknesses!) and instead send the child to bed for half an hour to think about what attitude would be more appropriate.  The other guitar player goes to practice typing so as not to waste time. Flexibility is a good thing!

By 10AM, my 16yo daughter, done with kitchen-cleaning, is upstairs practicing piano, and the little girls have moved on to math at the kitchen counter near me.  Piano practice is happening, and the guitar players are back on the job, this time with more ‘try’ in the attitude.  Hooray!

At 10:30,  we switch books and kids at the kitchen counter so that other kids can read with me looking over their shoulder at the book now and then.  My hands are flying, scalding corn and cutting it off the cob.  Sometimes the reading is interrupted so I can pause and help my 6yo with her math.  She has about 10 pages left of her Horizons K Math..  I’m eager to get her started on first grade math, so we plow through 6 pages this morning.  Other kids are doing math at this point also:  Saxon all the way, baby!

By late morning two kids are working on essays about presidents that they started last week, and three others are working more basic English:  sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, etc.  The 6yo has wandered off to play.  I am meaning to get some reading and phonics done with her, but I am busy finishing the corn and starting lunch.  Today I’m making enchiladas that along with corn tortillas have layers of eggplant and fresh tomato slices.  Totally an experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.

At noon, four teens sit on the couch to read chemistry:  solvents, solutes, and other basic stuff.  I am still working in the kitchen and ask them to read loudly so that I can help them sound out any tricky words.  At 12:30 they come up to the stove to do an easy experiment that involves dissolving sugar in water and bringing it to a boil.  We don’t always get around to the actual experiments in science books, but this one is easy and we have time.  So, yay!

1:00 John comes in from chopping wood and we sit down to eat lunch.  Most days we listen to Story of the World: Ancient Times Audiobook  during lunch on school days but today I forget and we just chat. I’ve finally come up with a decent way to encourage the quiet teenagers to talk.  We play a game that I suppose could be described as ‘Question Toss’.  One person begins by asking any other person at the table a thought-provoking question.  They answer, and then they are ‘it’, choosing a different person and a different question, until everyone at the table has answered and asked one question. This little game seems to encourage a decent amount of talk around the table, which is nice.  The most interesting question today?  “Which would you rather have: bedbugs or a tick?”  Yikes.

1:30- After lunch it is time for dishes and other house cleanups.  Each child has a job assignment.  By 2:30 (or sometimes 3) a load of laundry has been tossed in the wash, the dishes are done, the kitchen is swept, the living room is vacuumed, bedrooms are straightened (tho not perfect) and the bathrooms have gotten at least a straighten and a wipe down.  During this time I try to get the math all checked, and call the kids to me one by one to talk about any problems.

2:30 -3:30 is quiet reading time (the last official ‘subject’ of the day) and then after 3:30 is outside play and free time. In the evening our 17yo often still has a bit of school to do, and once or twice a week in the evening my 16yo reads me her math lesson (she’s doing consumer math) so that she can jump into her lesson in the morning having already discussed concepts with me.

This particular day I take the two youngest girls grocery shopping and erranding with me while the older kids do their reading and later go swimming with John, who has finally finished chain-sawing the woodpile into submission.  I never did get reading done with the 6yo today, but I’ll make sure I get to it first thing tomorrow.  She is doing well at reading, so it’s not the end of the world if I occasionally don’t get to it.  And there you have it:  a typical day of school at our house!  No wonder I am tired!


For more on this topic you might be interested in:

Our 2010-2011 daily schedule (I’ve got a different one this year, but it is set up in a similar way)

School for a 6 year old  (It doesn’t have to take all day!)



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    • Esther, for awhile we ha a lovely lady come to our house to teach the kids. But right now only one of the girls is practicing piano. She’s already had 2 years of lessons, so she is just working independently, learning hymns on her own.

  2. YEAH!, the post I’ve been waiting for. 🙂 I really enjoyed hearing about how you weave home and school together! I’ve found that weaving to be the key to not totally losing our minds or house. 😉 Also, it was GREAT hearing how you’ve handed that scheduling over to your son! We have one at an intense school this year as a freshman (college) and I can tell you if he didn’t have that solid skill he would have drowned already!!! A lot of traditionally-schooled kids have never learned the discipline of planning their day/lives/work so they just can’t make the cut when it comes to college. Such an important life-skill for our kids to learn while still at home! 🙂 I also enjoyed hearing how you team-up kids. (the 9 yr old reading to 6 yr old) That’s just both SMART and a BLESSING all around. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Mary!

  3. This post was a blessing, Mary, since I’m really stumped trying to schedule 6 students this year, plus a 2 year old. I’m inspired to tackle it again today. Thank you!

  4. This was really cool to read! I’m storing it away for a few years down the line. 🙂 I’m worried that I don’t have enough self-discipline to home school effectively, although I really want to. My baby turns one tomorrow, so we still have awhile to think about it, and work on that self-discipline thing.

  5. Wow!

    What a great gift you’re giving to your kids!



  6. I would love to hear what guitar program you guys are using and what you think about it. My 6 year old wants to start lessons, but we try really hard to limit how much running around we do. DVD lessons may be a great solution.

    • Maybe try having a guitar instructor come to your house. We had a young man come to our house for a couple of years in echange for a fair fee and a meal. For that matter, any tutoring can be done at your home. This applies also for those who have children who are not homeschooling.

  7. Our day is typical to that. I am really trying to get my 15yo to learn more independently or actually I should say be more responsible with his time. He knows what he needs to accomplish each day and he is free to do it in whatever order.

    I did appreciate that you don’t seem to do all the elaborate structures out of toothpicks or the in-depth lap books. Your kids are learning everything they need to know, but in a setting that works for your entire family and they are learning lots of life skills along the way.

  8. Thanks for this post Mary! I have wondered what a homeschool day looks like. How do you teach your youngest reading? This is to me is the hardest part of trying to get ready to homeschool my son and answering my husband’s many questions.

  9. Thanks for sharing! What kind oatmeal did you use for your rice cooker? I’m really excited to try this:)

    • You can use quick oats or regular oats. I like to mix the regular oats with a cup or so of Scottish oats sometimes for a little extra texture and interest.

  10. Wow, you are BUSY!!! 🙂 Hard working & diligent the whole day through! This might sound weird, though, but your schedule was actually an encouragement to me – I have 3 kids under 4 & struggling balancing preschool with a toddler & newborn baby – and I loved reading about how your kids get themselves ready for the day & help with chores – I would love to have a large family via adoption one day, but sometimes I wonder if I ‘could’ do it – 3 kids is crazy sometimes – but this was a good reminder that they won’t always ALL be so little!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂 I love how you make homeschooling work & fit into the rest of your day.