5:30am: My typical day begins. Mike and I switch off going to our local cross fit-style gym, Armati Collective, in the mornings. We each go 3 days/week, so when it’s my turn, I get dressed and head out the door. Whoever is at home gets up with the little boys (who are early risers!) and starts breakfast.
7:45am: Everyone is home from the gym, showered, fed, dressed, and the kitchen is mostly clean. Mike heads down to the office around this time and the big kids get ready for school. When he’s home and not too busy, the older kids take turns joining him for a quick Bible study session before he starts work. It’s good bonding time with Dad.
8:00am: Time for school!
Asher (5) is in Kindergarten and is the most “hands on” for me. Our lessons are fun, play-based, and short! For Kindergarten, I have always aimed for 20 minutes each of math and reading, plus some handwriting practice each day. Everything else we do is a bonus—and we have lots of them! We move around a lot (sit, stand, jump) and we often play games or do learning activities that don’t require tons of sit-still concentration. The goal is to gradually increase concentration time, but I follow Asher’s lead. We quit before he gets too fatigued and can always pick up later after a short break. He spends a lot of time in play-based learning—the other day he built an elaborate parking garage structure for his Transformers!
Ayla (3rd grade, 8 years old) can do some of her work independently, so she stays busy with that while I work with Asher. I follow up with her when I’m done, and we go through rest of her things. I try to keep it fun and light, bringing lots of hands-on activities and art projects in when I can since she enjoys that. At 3rd grade, I am requiring a little more rigor and responsibility from her than I have in years past. So far, she is exceeding my expectations and rising to the independence I have expected of her.
Of course, I bring the kids together when I can, like for science, read-alouds, or other extension activities, but with four kids at differing levels, attention spans, and interests, it’s not always synchronized.
Crew (11) is in 6th grade and largely independent. Yay!! My goal for all the kids is to build life-long, self-motivated learners who can teach themselves anything they desire to learn. It took many years of teaching him how to take ownership of his learning to get to this point, and we still have areas to improve on. Crew is naturally organized and loves scheduling his time, so he’s very good at managing his workload, which I intentionally increase with all the kids each year. I check in with him throughout the day, overseeing and guiding as needed, but he’s at the point where I only spend a few hours of dedicated “teaching time” each week. The rest he works on independently and through his online classes. I function more as a coach and less as a teacher for him this year.
My wild card in all of it is Huck (3 years old). Some days he’s good about joining us or keeping himself busy. Other days he’s into everything, annoying everyone, and generally terrorizing our learning environment or putting his own life in peril! He spends one morning a week with Grandpa, and another morning he and Asher spend a little time with both grandparents before heading off to their gym class so I can plow ahead with the big kids undisturbed. Those days are a lifesaver for me, and I don’t know that I would be able to homeschool without that support.
11 am: The youngest three have finished most of their work for the day. They are free to play, read, do projects, legos, puzzles, go outside, and the like while I make lunch and attend to any chores: swapping laundry, dishes, meal prep, wiping down a bathroom, etc. The kids are good about helping around the house so it’s usually not a total disaster, but 5 minutes here or there goes a long way to keeping things in shape all week. We eat around 11:30, and everyone helps clean up by noon.
12pm: It’s quiet time—the best part of the day. I started this with Crew when he gave up naps at age 2, and we haven’t really missed a day since! We have two rules: everyone must be QUIET and everyone must be ALONE. As a homeschool family, we spend a lot of time together. Quarters get close, especially during the long Wisconsin winters. Quiet time is meant to be an entirely independent time. The youngest 3 go to their own space and are free to play on a tablet, read, listen to a story, watch a movie, do puzzles, art, or other quiet activities.
Crew had joined in on this up until last year. However, now that he’s older, I’ve scheduled online classes during this time of day. This way it’s quiet for him to focus and gives him that extra time he needs in the day to complete his work. Win-win!
And me? I get to enjoy a well deserved cup of tea while catching up on computer work, Bible study, phone calls/emails, read, or if I’m super lucky, catch a quick nap. With a 3 and 5 year old, there are interruptions, but everyone knows the drill and looks forward to this time of day.
1:30pm: Free play! Quiet time is done and the “formal school” is mostly out of the way. To preserve our mental health, I’m big on getting the kids outdoors. We head outside year round when the weather is decent, usually to take a walk, romp around the yard, ride bikes, build snow forts, or head to the park. When it’s crummy or super cold, we play inside.
3:00pm: I don’t know about other families, but since my kids have been babies, 3pm marks the witching hour. A switch flips and they go from happy, studious little beings to wild, annoying, hard to entertain hellions. To combat this, I try to change the scenery with after-school activities like swim team, art class, horse lessons, time with friends, library trips, random errands—anything that gets us out and about.
But some days we don’t have anything going on, we just have extended free time that requires me to get a little more creative. The kids especially love when I do “3 o’clock Quiz Time”, where I choose random questions from our learning that day and quiz them to see what they remember. Another alternative is to put everyone to work and do a “Zone Clean.” Each kid gets a zone they are responsible for tidying up—if everyone cooperates, it actually does make the house look and feel a lot better. Hacks like this help keep the afternoon crazies to a minimum. On afternoons when we are home I typically cave by 4pm and let them watch TV so I can get dinner started in relative peace.
5:15pm (ish): Dinner! Most nights we eat around this time. Mike is done with work, and we have some family time.
6:30pm: For the little boys, it’s showers, books, and bedtime. Their light is out by 7.
The big kids get to stay up a little later, and often watch Jeopardy or play games with me until 7:15. They can read in bed until 8pm, but usually their lights are out sooner, even for the middle schooler. We start our days early, go hard all day, and I am a firm believer in plenty of sleep. No shame!!
Mike and I get to spend the rest of the evening relaxing and reconnecting before heading to bed ourselves. We read, watch TV, or spend time catching up with each other. Our light is almost always out by 9:30.
Of course there are days we deviate from this. The kids have a gym class on Friday mornings, which is also my day to grocery shop and do major household chores, so everyone is mostly independent for school that day. I also try to sneak away for a Bible study on Wednesday mornings. We start a little early to get things started before I leave, and they finish up on their own. My Dad also oversees social studies for Ayla, so she works on that with him most weeks as well. And then there is the random errand or appointment we sometimes have to work in. When Mike travels, the whole routine gets adjusted to flex with the challenges of solo-parenting.
I’m grateful that homeschooling allows us flexibility to ebb and flow with life and learning seasons. However, I also think rigor and routine are largely undervalued by homeschoolers in general, and I find them essential to keeping things on track and our goals within reach.