A Day in the Life of our Large, Non-Traditional-Learner Homeschool

A Day in the Life Homeschool
Every year I write a day-in-the-life post for the blog.  There is an unfortunate tendency in blogging to elaborate on the good parts of homeschooling while neglecting the down side – a reality of every homeschool.   There is no perfect homeschool.  Ahh comparison – the junior high mentality that somehow manages to cripple mature women.
Make yourself comfortable, pour another cup of coffee and prepare to hear what it is really like homeschooling my houseful of dyslexic, ADD learners.

What Homeschooling Really Looks Like


5:00am:  My alarm sounds its beautiful sound waking me from a dream of no consequence.  I swipe the screen of my phone and promptly fall back to sleep.

5:11am:  My body clock is beginning to respond to its daily wake up call (I’ve been trying to get up early again since January 1st) and I am able to be cognizant enough to know who I am and that I really do want to get up this early.

I get up and put the coffee on.
Reality:  My husband and I have been convicted, funnily enough, by a speech he made at our daughter’s wedding a few weeks ago about making time as a couple to read the word and pray together every morning.  Because his commute to work in LA is abysmal, we set our wake up time for 5:00am so we can eat, read and pray early enough for him to get on the road in time to miss traffic. We have yet to achieve this goal – just keeping it real – but we encourage one another to not give up but to press on and bit  by bit we are getting closer to our goal.  
6:50am:  My husband and I have a simple breakfast of eggs and sausage (low-carb) and coffee, read a Proverb and pray before he heads off to work.
7:30am:  My strong-willed, diamond-in-the rough, 7-year old son wakes up and sleepily greets me.  I sigh because honestly I was hoping to have some time to write between when my husband leaves and my kids wake up.
8:00am:  My 6 kids who still live at home (2 have graduated and moved out – sniff) are all up.  I am no morning person and have no morning routine at this point except to sit and greet each one as they sleepily emerge.
8:30am:  Necessity being the mother of invention, we do have morning chore routines.  I crack the whip and everyone begins to move at one speed and direction or another.  Don’t be jealous but I actually have a pretty solid routine now and I don’t touch the kitchen except to cook dinner.  However, since Christmas break, I am still following kids around during this time ‘inspecting what I expect’.  For the most part we are a joyful bunch.
9:00am:  I gather the 4 younger kids (my two high schoolers do Bible study on their own) and read through our Apologia Worldview book.  I’m not sure who is blessed more by this – me or them.  All I know is that we have the best discussions ever about the meaning of life and how to live for God during this time.
9:30am:  My 2 high schoolers are working on their own from one degree to another.  I gather my 4 youngest to work on our Classical Conversations memory work.  We made a BIG change from our usual eclectic homeschool this year and jumped (at the very last moment) into the world of Classical Education.  To read our preliminary thoughts, read this post on our experience so far with Classical Conversations.
A strong proponent of the need for kids to move so they can remember (especially those with ADD or ADHD which 3 of these 4 kids are blessed with) our kids’ hands are busy while we listen to our memory songs.  The 11-year old is making Rainbow Loom bracelets or charms or something, our 10-year old is drawing, the 2 little boys ages 7 and 4 are playing on the floor with their Playmobil ships.
10:00am:  The kids suggest a break and before I have a chance to negotiate, they are all outside bouncing on the trampoline, building forts and chasing cats.
Reality:  We have discovered our homeschool rhythm and although we keep to a loose schedule, spontaneous breaks for play are encouraged.  
 10:30ish:  The kids are back inside and I am ready to tutor our 7-year old in reading.  We have spent years with kids attending twice weekly dyslexia tutoring.  Last year I was certified as an Orton-Gillingham dyslexia tutor and now tutor this little guy myself.  We recently recorded a video of us working together on learning sight words that has been really fun.
For more info on teaching kids with dyslexia, visit my new site – Homeschooling With Dyslexia.  It is a wonderful place to learn and be encouraged and you are welcome to join in the conversation that is going on over there.
The girls take turns on the computer completing their Teaching Textbooks math.
11:15am:  Everyone is hungry and I slice what seem like 3 pounds of apples and half a jar of almond butter for everyone to devour.
11:30am:  The 10- and 11-year olds and I work on our grammar for Classical Conversations.  We are diagramming sentences with a questioning method that really holds their attention.  We work through 4 complex sentences.  We are stuck on the difference between predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives so I grab my grammar guide and promise the girls to have an answer for them by Monday.
12:00pm:  A few of our kids have colds so we set up some blankets on the living room couches and they sprawl out for a much needed rest.  iPads and Kindles come out and they work on some educational apps while I work with one child on organizing all of her activities and assignments onto a list and into her drawer full of school supplies.  She is normally reluctant to do tedious things like this but I notice that since she we are working one-on-one, she is much more agreeable and eager.  Nice change!
12:30:  Lunch time.  I chop up a bunch of oranges and reheat left over taco meat from last night to make burritos, nachos or quesadillas as desired.
1:00:  I check in with my high schoolers.  Our 17-year old son is working hard on his last few Eagle Scout merit badges.  I resisted helping him for a long time because I wanted him to be more independent but now after talking to other parents of Eagle Scouts realize that it is indeed okay to help him.  We talk about some of the written work required by the badge and he is off and working again.
Our 16-year old daughter is pretty independent and we spend some time talking about her future.  She has been comparing herself to her public school friends who are stressed out about SATs and college acceptances.  Our family plan is that our kids will attend community colleges for two years and then transfer for their last two years.  Our kids have been encouraged to learn at their own pace and to discover and follow interests.  I find it ironic that she is wondering if she is missing out because she isn’t stressed out!
2:00:  I reheat the last of the coffee from this morning and find a few squares of chocolate before heading out for a doctor’s appointment and errands with our 17-year old son.  It is great to get some time alone with these guys.  I know all too well that my time with my older teens is limited.  We talk and laugh and shop for clothes for an hour after his doctor appointment
4:00:  Home again.  Afternoon routines.  Clean up, prepare dinner.  Everyone is hungry again.  I pop some popcorn and my husband calls to say that there is a massive traffic jam and that he won’t be home in time for our date night.  Sigh.
Popcorn, apples and cheese becomes dinner and the kids watch a movie while I type this.
Just an average day in our life.  I love being home with my kids and guiding them to learn and grow.
 After 20 years of homeschooling, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

How about you?  How was your week?

Marianne Sunderland

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  1. This is sooooo good. I am grateful for the honest look, and the little “reality” checks you have included. I read a day in the life once that was all about studying Latin and reading poetry – not that these things are bad, but I felt so discouraged when I shut down the computer and looked around at my reality (which includes the English language being a very difficult one to master, much less Latin…). Thank you for sharing so much!

  2. Marianne, I loved sharing in your day. I am new to homeschooling and I love seeing how everyone does this thing 🙂 I have learned so much from reading everyone’s posts. I have a special ed background and was a school psych before homeschooling happened to us. I love that you became Orton Gillingham certified. I am so, SO happy to have stumbled upon your blogs this morning. Thank you!

  3. I love your average day! Twenty years of homeschooling! Wow! That is awesome. I am impressed. 🙂

  4. Kimberly Woodard says:

    Hi, I have been looking through your website a lot the last week. I am curious about what questioning method you are using for grammar. Is it part of CC? If not, could you share? Thanks

    • Marianne Sunderland says:

      Hi Kimberly. Yes, our grammar method is the one used by the Essential class for kids in 4th-6th grade. It is really engaging and interesting – kind of like a game. Have you tried CC?

  5. I’m curious, when/how do you clean the house? I have had ours schedule at 4pm for years. Everyone’s awake from naps and I can supervise while dabbling in making dinner. However, they are always playing together by then and having a good time outside, etc. I don’t like calling them in to clean. But I don’t like it left to Saturdays. We have a good system for dividing it up but it seems like one more thing to do after a day of homeschooling. We have six children, so I am always with someone helping with their work.

  6. How old are your children?

  7. I have a 5 year old and 3 year old and 4 month old… 2 girls 1 boy… I want to start home schooling… but don’t know where to start both girl’s 5 and 3 are very smart active and love to talk…

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