What does the life of a homeschooling family look like?
It’s one of those subjects that homeschoolers love to ask about, read about, blog about, compare, and borrow from.
It’s also one of those subjects that people who don’t homeschool want to gawk at, assuming (rightfully) that it’s a $%^@ show. It’s also so different from the norm. A person can make assumptions about life at traditional schools. Subjects, teachers, classrooms, gymnasiums, recess, cafeterias… we all have a picture in our minds of what that looks like, and it’s woven tightly enough into our culture that it doesn’t actually need much description.
Well, I’m a couple of months into this crazy venture now, and whoa, where did the time go?
I thought it would be fun to do a week-in-the-life-of post. Gawk away, friends, family, and total strangers. I wrote this during Halloween week, but was planning on adding pictures to make it livelier… but alas, that didn’t wind up happening.
On Monday morning, we spent the morning with our Classical Conversations (“CC”) community. Before we left for that, our epic lateness prompted a tantrum (mine), the death of a cauliflower (as I smashed it to the ground in a surprisingly gratifying expression of frustration), sore boobs (once again, mine, because I didn’t have time to nurse Fitz before we left), and a breath of fresh air as we walked into the familiarity of these other families that have chosen a similar lifestyle to ours, who all believe in Jesus, and who all are so willing to freely offer the grace to overlook each other’s shortcomings.
Our three hours there consisted of an assembly (with a family presentation, a prayer, the pledge of allegiance, a pledge to the Bible, and general announcements) before we broke into smaller groups of eight kids per class, 30 minutes of “new grammar” (new memory work for the week over a variety of subjects), 30 minutes of fine arts instruction, 30 minutes for a science lesson/experiment, 30 minutes for presentations from the kids (yep, they give a presentation every week), and 30 minutes of review. Afterwards, the kids play outside for 30 minutes of recess, and we all meet together for lunch.
When we leave Classical Conversations, introverted Oliver and I are a bit wiped. This week, Henry fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I nursed Fitz in the car while the kids practiced their tin whistles outside (apologies to any of my neighbors who may be reading this) and Henry got a bit of sleep. I put Fitz down for a nap, and was able to transfer Henry to his bed, where he also napped.
Oliver and Hazel both took a math assessment (they have them every five lessons), and both did a writing lesson. I made three loaves of whole wheat bread for our family, and the kids rode their bikes and scooters outside. When Henry woke up, the weather was glorious, so we took a walk to a friend’s house and spent the rest of the afternoon with her and her three kids. We came home to dinner and bedtime, and then I spent time making second dinner (for Kullervo and me) and running a couple of loads of laundry. I also spent a significant portion of the evening scrubbing the entrance way in our home because one of our kittens has decided that it makes for a good litterbox.
Tuesday was a fairly straightforward day. Henry has preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so after making and enjoying breakfast with all of us, Kullervo dropped him off on the way to work while I put Fitz down for his first nap.
We got down to business—I began working on drinking a large pot of coffee while Oliver documented the last science project we did at home (making homemade ice cream) in his chemistry notebook and I worked on a math lesson with Hazel (using tangrams to cover a larger shape and documenting the different ways and shapes she could use to make it, as well as practicing her simple addition facts).
Then Hazel worked on her science. She chooses an animal from one of our books about animals, reads about the animal, and then writes down a few facts she remembers from what she read. She also draws a picture of the animal. While she was occupied with that, Oliver and I did his math. He was working on learning and memorizing his multiplication facts (the 4s). We talked about how many quarters were in one dollar, two dollars, and so on. I had him write the products down. I then told him he had to cheer about how much he loved his math work. He wouldn’t, so I made him rewrite it. We laughed, and he continued to refuse, so he rewrote the math facts twice more after that before I convinced him to get up and do a happy dance.
“You will be an enthusiastic boy, or you will be a boy who knows his times tables!” It turns out he chose to be a boy who knows his multiplication…
The kids both did English lessons—writing, spelling, and grammar. After that, it was about time to pick Henry up from school. In the pickup line at school, we increased our carbon footprint in the car line and practiced our CC memory work that we learned on Monday.
We got home at about 12:15, I made lunch, and after we all ate peanut butter sandwiches and I nursed the baby, I put Henry and Fitz down for naps. I told Henry to stay in bed for twenty minutes, and then, if he was still awake, he could get up and play in his room. He did not stay in bed for twenty minutes. I returned him to bed four or five times, and the last time he got up, I pretended that this time he had stayed in bed for twenty minutes because that routine gets exhausting. While Henry and I were doing the no-nap dance, Oliver and Hazel read independently. Henry played in his room for awhile, and then wandered downstairs to wreak havoc on the living room so it would match the state of the bedroom he shares with Oliver. While he played, I read a chapter of the Bible to the kids and then a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods. By then it was getting near to 3:00, so I started making a snack for Hazel’s gymnastics class and started preparing dinner for the kids.
Between 3:30 and 5:00, Oliver worked on his Latin vocabulary and his map drawing skills (we are working on our maps of the USA this year). I picked up one of Hazel’s fellow gymnasts from school, and dropped the girls off at gymnastics. I came home, fed Oliver, Henry, and Fitz dinner, and then changed for the gym where I take a Zumba class.
When we got home from the gym, I put Henry and Fitz in the bathtub, and then Henry stayed in to play while I dressed Fitz, nursed him, and put him to bed. Then I put Henry in his pajamas, read a story to him, and we said a prayer before I tucked him in. I sat down with Oliver, who was all ready for bed, and we read together until Hazel was dropped off at home after gymnastics at about 7:45. Hazel and I chatted about her gymnastics (yes, it is three hours long) and I read to her while she ate her dinner. Then I put her to bed and collapsed in a fit of exhaustion. Just kidding. Kind of. Actually, I wound up spending a couple of hours on Tuesday evening trying to figure out how to get a library book onto the Kindle before Wednesday morning, considering that I couldn’t find my library card.
Wednesday was pretty exciting for us—I had scheduled our first homeschooling playdate. We drove over to another family’s house and spent the morning with our kids playing. They played outside in the leaves, they built marble runs inside, we had lunch together, and the other mom and I got to know each other better and had a morning break from the usual routines, as well as sanity checks that we are all still normal and socialized and generally capable of maintaining conversations. It was lovely. And, since the other kids were 6, 4, and 2, I brought the Kindle with a library book on it for Oliver in case he got bored.
When we got home, Henry had fallen asleep in the car, but when I brought him in, I put him on the couch and he stayed asleep. This has never happened before. Ever. With any of my kids. So we made the most of it, and did a writing lesson and read together on the couch. Oliver was supposed to have a soccer game, but it was canceled for rain Intead, I met one of my dearest friends at the gym to lift weights together. Thank goodness for great friends who will accommodate my crazy schedule.
Henry had school, so, as usual, we tried to pound through as much school as we could when he was gone. Since his preschool isn’t free, I feel like it’s important to make the most of the time he’s gone. It makes the days that he’s home easier because I know that twice a week we will hit all or most of our subjects. And, as always, in the pickup line we practiced our memory work.
Thursday we did a health lesson (good posture!), math, writing, grammar (diagramming adverbs and adjectives!), spelling, and history. We’ve been reading through the third volume of The Story of the World (because it corresponds with the timeline of American History, which we are studying at Classical Conversations this year). The chapter this week revolved around Japanese warlords, and after reading about the beginnings of sumo wrestling and how to recreate a sumo wrestling match at home, we watched a youtube video of a sumo wrestling match. While I’m generally not a huge fan of watching videos on the Internet, it is pretty cool to have access to everything, all the time, and to be able to use real life examples showing things that we don’t have a cultural context for.
Oliver made flashcards of all of his Latin vocabulary from the Latin we’ve been studying at home. He’d been struggling to remember all of his Latin from Classical Conversations as well as all of the Latin vocabulary from his studies at home, and I thought this would help. Both kids did some handwriting work.
I did the usual carpool for gymnastics, and then took Oliver to his cub scouts meeting. I got to enjoy a bit of time with just Henry and Fitz while the bigs were gone, so after I got Fitz to bed, Henry stayed up a bit late so we could play Candyland. Kullervo picked Oliver up, and then drove down to see a good friend while I put the kids to bed. I went on a rampage trying to purge the house of everything to help deal with the mess, and listened to the new Taylor Swift album (verdict: I like it).
It was Halloween! The local elementary school does a Halloween parade around the neighborhood every year (seriously, best neighborhood ever), and Oliver and Hazel dressed up so that we could go watch it. We hadn’t finished (started) making Henry’s costume yet, so he put on a baseball helmet and a cape, and walked to the parade with a sword and his fireman boots. His non-costume was awesome enough that strangers were taking pictures of him. Oliver and Hazel were very excited to see their school friends, and their school friends were over the moon to see the kids. I wondered if it would make the kids sad that they weren’t going to school as well, or joining with their friends who were all having a great time together, but it seemed to bother me more than it did them.
We came home and did a math lesson. Hazel learned that if you subtract a number from itself, it is zero. It’s funny—I hadn’t realized that was something that would need to be taught. She hadn’t realized there is a distinction between 7-7=0 and 7-0=7. Things like that always make me realize how easy it is to take everything we know for granted. And it makes me appreciate whoever taught it to me. Oliver learned how to write a check (and in so doing, practiced writing the numbers in numeric and written out form).
We also did writing (Oliver took down his longest dictation work ever—27 words/3 sentences—with only a couple of mistakes, while Hazel listened to a passage from Charlotte’s Web and answered comprehension questions about it, handwriting, and grammar. I made sure to take time to read to the kids because I knew we would not have a chance before bed.
After that, Kullervo came home and we put the finishing touches on our Halloween costumes and joined our block party before trick or treating, coming home, and eating a squash soup before gorging on Halloween candy.
And that about sums up a typical homeschooling week. We have since started a regular, family Bible study in the morning that consists of singing a psalm, saying a prayer, reading a Bible passage, studying a catechism, singing a hymn, and praying again. Also, there isn’t a playdate during the school day every week, and it isn’t Halloween every Friday (my waistline approves), but we do have to occasionally go to the grocery store or run other errands during the week (or so Kullervo keeps telling me when we have no food in the house). In any case, I try to hit English and math 4-5 times a week, science and history twice a week each, handwriting when I need to occupy one kid, health about once a week (it’s state mandated). We listen to music all the time, and do arts lessons at CC. The kids are also constantly drawing, creating, building, and playing.
 No, really! Look through books that talk about school. How detailed are the images presented of the classrooms? Of the cafeteria? Of the school grounds? Unless they are remarkable in some way, writers have the freedom of leaving the details up to the imagination of their readers.