A Typical School Day?

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A typical day at our house is a moving target.

Once upon a time it ran like clockwork. The kids awoke, we ate breakfast, we did lessons, the baby took a nap, school was done. This was back in the days when everyone was in lower elementary grades and their assignments were similar in scope and nature.

Those days are gone.

With six children aged three to fourteen, my life is drastically different. Vastly richer, but different.

Here are some characteristics of a typical school day at our house:

A range of wake-up times

The girls are usually awake between 5 and 6:30 when FishPapa wakes and gets ready for work. They love to help him make his coffee, pack his lunch, and kiss him goodbye. FishBoy10 and FishBoy7 naturally wake up next. FishBoy9 and FishBoy14 tend to sleep in, the last guy rousing himself by 8:30.

Yes, I could make everyone wake up at the same time, but currently I’m observing what their natural rhythms are and letting them sleep as long as they can. Some kids have a natural affinity for early rising and some don’t. There are mornings when we have to be somewhere at a certain time, and it’s not a problem to wake the whole crowd at once.

Breakfast bar

I’ve instituted a new breakfast practice. In order to accommodate this range of wake-up times — and to give myself a break in the morning — I’ve been laying out a breakfast bar, much like the continental breakfast you might find at a hotel. It typically includes cereal, granola, or oatmeal, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, juice, milk, and some kind of baked good, like zucchini bread.

So far, it’s working well to have this mostly cold breakfast during the week and save the bigger breakfasts for the weekend.

Morning meeting

I try to have a daily morning meeting where we talk about the day and weekly schedule, read Bible together, and discuss the basic themes of our history for the week. All the kids are studying Ancient Egypt, so there is a common thread in what we’re doing.

I also like to meet with each kid individually, preferably in the morning, to talk about his assignments for the day. I clarify which tasks are independent assignments, which are group, and which he needs me for.

Bounce back and forth like a ping-pong ball

I say this in jest, but some days it is true! For a good portion of the day, I bounce from kid to kid, solving problems, answering questions, refereeing fights, and explaining school stuff. I’m also trying to make sure the laundry gets washed, the rooms get tidied, and meals get prepped. If we have lessons or science class or doctor’s appointments, those are thrown into the mix as well.

I do this all very imperfectly.

I can orchestrate one area of our life really well only to have another area fall by the wayside. Last week we got all our schoolwork done — except for making papier mache mummies — but the laundry didn’t get folded. I played catch up on Saturday. I’ve realized that I can’t do it all everyday, but I can make efforts to figure out what the most important things are and try to do those.

And true confessions, there is a fair amount of time wasting involved. I can sit down at the computer to request school books from the library — and somehow get derailed for 30 minutes. I’m not sure how that happens, but it does. This week I’m trying to refine my time budget for this new season of life and be better about watching the time wasters.

Happy hour

Hubs comes walking in the door at 4 pm almost everyday. On a good day, I have some kind of snack ready for us all to enjoy and we’re all ready to take a break. On a bad day, I’m still doing 2nd grade math and cajoling someone else to up and finish already.

It’s like a box of chocolates, he never knows what he’s gonna get.

But, I love it that my husband is a problem solver. We both are. And when we will put our heads together and figure out solutions? Y’all just better stand back. 🙂

We can talk about our days, make plans for family activities and life improvements, and remind ourselves that tomorrow is a new day.

About this series – If you’re interested in getting started in homeschooling, this is a series recounting our experiences in teaching our children at home, the things that I’ve learned, and some resources I’ve discovered along the way. But this way isn’t the only way. Your mileage may vary. Coming up next time – Reader Q&A. Send me your questions!

What does a typical day look like at your house?

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  1. I find that I am constantly adjusting and making changes to adjust to this season in our lives, even though all of my children are little. The baby gave up her morning nap a few weeks ago (okay, really, over a month ago) and that really threw me for a loop trying to figure out how to get school done with her up and about and into everything. But, we’re making do. Much like you, everyday may not be the same and I’m working to make it work for us.

    1. It is working well. Kinda takes the pressure off — and still allows me to add fun things on the mornings I have energy.

  2. What a great post!!! Sounds so like our house… I love that chocolate box expression!!! Some days I have started dinner in the morning and it is nearly ready and other days someone is still guarding a bowl of breakfast cereal when my husband gets in… And as for time wasters – well I try and view them as a well earned breaks and clearly I need a lot of them!!!

  3. Huh. I thought it was just me that couldn’t get it all done. Really.

    This is only our second year of homeschooling (oldest is 6), and I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve told my husband: I can homeschool, I can wash clothes, I can pay the bills, I can cook a mean dinner, I can play/have fun with/read to the kids, and change diapers. But I can’t figure out how to do ALL of those things every day!

    This was reassuring that I’m not horribly far off of the mark. Well, most days.

    1. Seriously? You thought you were the only one? I’m so sorry! I could have disabused you of that notion LONG ago.

  4. Thanks so much for being “imperfect” too. I’m glad I am not the only one. We have a saying that the house isn’t perfect because this family is a work in progress.
    And I love the breakfast bar idea too. I have one kid who moves like mud first thing & another that is like greased lightening.

    1. The breakfast bar accommodates all speeds — except that if there is something really good, the slowpoke misses out. Still working on how to handle that one.

  5. Thank you for this post! I have mentioned on my blog that I began homeschooling when the magazine with the perfect homeschool family all dressed in matching clothes on the cover was all the rage. Reality might have been shared inside the cover, but it was lost in the glossy perfection of the cover.

    Your day sounds really perfect- as in *real* and yet perfect. I love the picture with all the signs all over mom- if that is really that is you, I think you are fabulous!

  6. LOVE the picture where you’re covered in “First Day of….!” And thanks for the reminder that we don’t have to be Wonder Woman ALL the time 😉

  7. My hubby is up at 6:15 and getting ready for work. Out the door by 7, and back home between 4:45 & 5 most days. I get up anywhere between 6:15 and 7:30. I have never been a morning person, but recently have found my self waking earlier. I let boys, ages 10 &13, sleep until at least 9 or 9:30am. Then they get up, make their beds, eat, and complete morning chores. (just a hand full of little things) This is immediately followed by morning P.E. Then they are off to lessons and work until lunch at 11:30. At lunch we usually watch a short 30 or 45 minute show together that I have recorded. Warehouse 13, Santuary, DR. Who, etc. Then the boys have after lunch chores and their daily chores. Which are mainly to clean their bathroom. Then they have afternoon P.E. After P.E. its back to lessons. They keep working on lessons until they are done or until Dinner. After dinner they have clean up chores, then they finish any lessons that are left or have free time. By 8:30 they need to have their showers, rooms picked up, stuff like that. I have to write everything down in a routine and chores list for them to check off daily, or they “forget” to brush their teeth, take their vitamin, etc. On Tuesday evenings we have Troop meetings. And the weekends are for finishing any lessons not completed, zone chores, yard work, family time and down time. But, thats basically my kids day.

  8. My day usually starts with me waking between 6:15 and 7:30. Having my coffee, a fiber one muffin(small, baked at home muffins) and checking emails. After about 30 to an hour I stop with emails and do my work out for the day. This is something that I have been doing since the end of March. I can’t handle a long, intense workout yet as my body was total crap before I started. But I do at least 15-20 minutes on Biggest Loser, EA Active, my stability ball or boxing.
    When I’m done I shower, get dressed, and fix my breakfast. Since starting my workouts I eat about every 2-2 1/2 hours or I get weak and shaky. So, I fix a breakfast burrito. 1 egg, half a slice mozarella cheese, salsa and turkey bacon. I eat my burrito and drink another cup of coffee while watching some morning TV. When I’m done its back to the computer. I have been trying to work on the kids lessons daily. Each day is a different lesson. I also plan for our homeschooling group and church group. I have a day scheduled to work on my command-family binder. Setting up my calendars, the kids lessons, events, menus, etc. All the helpful papers from Organizing Life As Mom. (LOVE IT) I also have days I work on finding new recipes, planning meals for the month, adding the meals to a weekly calendar to hang up in the kitchen, adding the weekly meals to the meals sheet for the week with all the groceries needed, and a grocery list. The list is endless. Anyways, I continue working on this until lunch time. Around 11:30. I stop and eat lunch with my boys. I am blessed that my boys are now old enough to fix thier own breakfast, lunch and snacks. So, I don’t have to work that into my schedule. On occassion I will fix them homemade bagel pizzas, spaghetti, mac & cheese, etc for lunch. Then I do fix their lunch.
    I relax and watch a TV show with the kids. After lunch its back to the computer. Finishing up my list. I work on this, check emails, read articles, etc until time to start dinner prep. Which is anywhere between 3:30 and 4. During the after noon while on the computer, I do take small breaks to check the kids chores, their lessons, and do the chores I have scheduled for myself each day. I also usually need a snack around 2:30. I try to take at least 15 minutes to step away from the computer and just relax. Read, watch 15 minutes of a recorded show, whatever.
    I usually have dinner done by 5 most nights. After dinner I either finish anything I didn’t have to finish or I just relax. If the kids are done with lessons & I’m done with my stuff I try to play a board game, go for a walk or do something with them. Fridays are my scrapbooking & crafting day. I try to take time for myself on Friday afternoons to scrapbook. Friday nights are family movie & dinner night. We order out or try to get something I don’t have to cook. Some kind of finger food or something easy, sit in the livingroom and watch a movie. The weekends are usually running errands, grocery store, dollar general, scouting events, etc. I try to work in some family time. Going for a walk, finding a FREE museum to visit, etc. Saturday nights we grill. Sundays we are running errands, I finish up lessons for the next week and we try to have family time.

  9. I can so relate! I have seven children, one of which has graduated from home school already, five that are being home schooled, and one toddler. I do have everyone get up at the same time. That just works best for us to be able to get chores done and started on time. Thanks for your valuable insights.

  10. I am inspired by your love of life, your children and your husband. Always a “real” can do attitude. I have been thoroughly enjoying this home school series. Thank you!

  11. Appreciate this post especially being honest about your imperfections. I try to plan out my days, but I am always straying off the schedule and tweaking when I do what. I am thankful I am a stay at home mom who can set her own schedule and has the freedom to throw out the schedule once in awhile. When I was in the 9-5 working world I often got bored with the bland routine.

  12. God Bless. How you do it, I have no clue. I have a girl in 5th, which I’m stressing a little because she goes to middle school next year and my son is in 1st grade. After seeing how many kids you have, I should not complain. Thanks for all the great posts & I hope you and your kids have a great year.

  13. Hi! I love your blog and your positive attitude. You are so encouraging. I have 5 kids from 2 to 16 age range, all with different eating tastes. So when I saw your breakfast bar idea, it was like a light bulb went off in my head…….such a simple concept and great idea, yet I never thought to do something like that. so a big Thank You!! We have started doing a bar in the mornings and it has changed my life! Seriously, I would cook most mornings and some would drag out of bed to eat, some wouldn’t like what I cooked or would eat half of it, it just seemed like too much waste. So now I make ahead and freeze or refrigerate and then set food items out each morning. Works like a charm! I would love to share your post on my blog, http://www.sproutingtadpoles.com. Do you mind?


    1. Yay! So glad to hear of your win! All my posts are protected by US copyright, so it wouldn’t be good to repost the content. But, feel free to link to the post. Thanks!