Because my brother accused me of making my homeschool seem like more than it was in our annual Christmas letter, and because a homeschool blog I subscribe to is in the middle of a "Day in the Life" series, and because I know a lot of moms who homeschool and some who are much intimidated by the process, and, finally, because I have many other friends and family who wonder just what we actually do every day, I have decided to jump right in, rip off the happy-homeschooling mask and give everyone a better picture of what homeschool in this house looks like - what it is and what it definitely is not (mostly, it's not just a reproduction of school at home).
Honestly, I have hestitated to talk about our "routine" (note the quotation marks and know that those indicate that word has no semblance of a literal definition in this house), even with other homeschooling moms, because sometimes it just feels like maybe we're failing over here. And by failing I mean failing to "do school," because, by the way our precious six-year-old flies through a library book, I certainly know we're not failing her, in particular.
I first want to indicate that I have waffled long and hard on how I even want school to look in this house. I recognize it looks different for everyone and it has taken me awhile to settle into how it needs to look for us. After much research, I really like the idea of "unschooling" and "interest-led learning" - meaning we do a lot of "school" by living - math as part of dinner-time conversations, science while playing in the backyard, YouTube videos when that curious little scientist needs to know how something is made, and family reading (lots and LOTS of reading) of both fiction and non-fiction.
At the same time, I like the idea of a curriculum. I like knowing what kinds of standards we need to be aiming for so our kids are more or less where they should be in their knowledge base, and ideas for areas where I lack creativity (which is a lot of areas). So, we have owned a curriculum the past two years (we use My Father's World and highly recommend it, particularly if you're wanting something that takes the guesswork out of planning - it's a really well-thought out curriculum with a great daily plan), and we've "followed" (remember what those marks meant up there? yeah, they still mean that here) the curriculum better this year than we did last year, but sometimes it's hard to stay motivated when the work gets tedious. Because I don't want my kids to dread school (which, to a certain extent, will happen for all kids at some point - even if it's just one day out of a hundred). So, yes, we have a curriculum but it's a guideline and a place for good resources more than anything.
And that was a lot of introduction, so let's move on.
Here is my day, more or less (and I'm cringing as I type this because I really am insecure about sharing how things go around here). Note that this is a big generality, clearly every day can vary greatly.
7am - My husband gives me a kiss on the cheek after getting ready for work, before heading downstairs to have personal time before heading to work. Most mornings these days I don't even feel it - I'm still dead asleep. Sometimes I feel it and think it's sweet and go back to sleep. Sometimes I feel it and think, "I really need to start getting up earlier . . . but not today." And then, on the REALLY rare occasion (like today!) I decide today is the day to start new habits and I actually wake up (woohoo!).
8am - This is when I actually wake up most days. Many times it's because I can hear the kids playing in their rooms. In our house the kids (all but the baby) stay in their rooms after waking up in the morning - they play together (sometimes happily, sometimes not so much) until Mommy tells them it's time to come out. In their rooms they have plenty of books, stuffed animals and puzzles. At times I feel bad that I'm "ignoring" them during this time, but we do have monitors and I'm right down the hall, so I know everything that's happening in there and the times I've gone in there to get them pretty quickly after they wake up, I've actually had them complain that I came too quickly. This is also the time of day where they do their most imaginative playing, which I enjoy hearing. While they play I spend my time "waking up" - checking e-mail and getting in computer time for things I need to get done on there, and sometimes reading my Bible (if I don't do it at this time, I generally do so at nap time). If the baby wakes up during this time, I'll nurse her while I do these things.
9:30am - I go see the kids in their room (whichever one they happen to be in), we talk about what we're going to do today and I try whatever method works that day for getting them to clean the mess they've created in the past hour and a half. Sometimes I stay in and help them, or at least oversee them, sometimes the baby chooses this time to wake up and I ask them to clean on their own (this does not typically go well as far as their productivity, but I still want to encourage them to learn to work even when I'm not there) while I feed her, other times I'll ask them to clean while I go make breakfast (see above parenthetical).
10am - Breakfast! When I finish my food, I read to them from one of our children's Bibles (we own The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Beginning Reader's Bible). While still at the table, we do our number of the day (usually two or three numbers at a time, because I'm often behind). If the baby wakes up during breakfast (notice a lot of variance on her actual sleep/wake schedule), I will go feed her while the others finish eating. They are then free to play or read on their own until I'm done feeding her (she doesn't actually eat if anyone else is in the room, so I have to do this in my room). Often if this happens I come out to find them all huddled around a book while the six-year-old reads. It's super sweet.
10:30am - The older two will empty the dishwasher while I clean up the kitchen or start a load of laundry. This is the time when there is the most variance in our daily schedule. Sometimes at this time we'll sit down and do a few pages from workbooks - the oldest works from her curriculum, the four-year-old will do a few pages from a dollar-store or garage sale workbook (because he wants to - I don't ever force him to at this age) and the two-year-old colors. Other times we'll play a game or do a fun group learning activity, or, if it's nice outside, I'll let them go outside to play. Still other times we do housework together - folding laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, etc.
12pm - Husband comes home for lunch (love this!). We talk, and unwind a little before making lunch for everyone and then we all sit down together to eat before he has to head back to work.
1pm - This is a tricky hour because they nap at two, so I don't want to do anything big, but I don't want to give up on doing anything at all. Sometimes we finish up "schoolwork" or housework or they go back outside to play. Most days, though, I snuggle on the couch with them and read a giant stack of library books. That's my favorite.
2pm - Naptime. I read to them from a chapter book (we've been working our way through Little House on the Prairie) first and then I typically put a new CD in our six-year-old's tv (the tv is only for listening, we just didn't have another stereo - plus it has a remote, so it can be high enough they can't reach it, but she can still at least turn it on and off). She usually listens to audiobooks from the library during naptime and/or plays quietly by herself - reading books or playing with dolls in her room. The younger three are all supposed to sleep (though the four-year-old has been doing that less - he often ends up playing quietly in his bed). During this time I do any number of things - housework (if I'm feeling ambitious), computer time (I do a lot on my computer - sometimes it's productive, like meal planning and building my grocery/couponing list, sometimes it's YouTube and facebook), or my Bible Study.
4pm - I typically let our oldest come out of her room when I feel I've had enough "me" time or gotten the things done I needed to without distractions (so it could be earlier than this, or later). Sometimes she and I listen to Anne of Green Gables on my computer (I've never read it, either, so we listen to that one together) or do a little schoolwork (stuff I couldn't get done while the other three were distracting us) or she colors while I cook dinner.
5pm - Daddy comes home! The other three wake up when they're ready and come downstairs. Then we do whatever is scheduled for that evening - or just play together, or just survive until bedtime (let's be honest).
So, see? It doesn't look much like "school," but it's working somehow because our six-year-old can read and our four-year-old can write letters and is beginning to read. Both of them can work simple math problems and both ask a lot of really good questions about the world around them. They both have a really great working knowledge of the Bible and what we believe and all of them have great imaginations.
I don't worry too much about forcing them to do the worksheets they really don't want to do, because I figure they can learn it another way and they'll get it eventually - for example, my oldest used to HATE cutting and the curriculum, in order to give kids lots of practice, had a LOT of cutting and gluing words with pictures; I finally let her stop cutting and just write the words, even though she still hadn't mastered cutting a straight line. These days she is fantastic at cutting things out - it just came naturally eventually and I didn't have to force it. There are other things, the things I know she just needs to push through, that I do encourage her to finish, but if it seems like busy work to me, I don't push it.
Overall, we have a great time together (most of the time), learn a lot and savor these growing-up years.