About Our Homeschool
I have a child in First Grade (age 6, nearing 7) and one in Kindergarten (age 5). Because these two are so close in age many of the “school” things and rhythm-based things we do naturally fit with both of them. We have had this rhythm established for awhile now. I did not just start this with this school year.
If you are interested, I have all of my First Grade Curriculum Choices on a blog post.
Also note that we gradually worked in to this rhythm over time. It wasn’t like one day I just established all of these things. In fact, the Quiet Time has been established since they were babies! I just gradually transformed that afternoon nap into quiet time when they were ready.
Before we get in to the details I feel it’s important to say that by sharing my daily rhythm I am not trying to come across as an expert. I am in the earliest phase of homeschooling and still learning, making mistakes. I’m constantly changing and adapting. In fact, I’m thinking about switching up one thing in particular about this rhythm as I write this.
I am happy to share what we do in detail, but please know that I do so knowing this won’t exactly fit any other family. That said, I personally find it helpful to read how other families do this and take bits and pieces and incorporate what I feel is appropriate to our family. I do sincerely hope in some way this is helpful and encouraging. Please feel free to ask any me questions.
On Daily Rhythm
I Do Not Really Care About the Clock
I purposefully use the word “rhythm” not “schedule” even though you see specific times written out. I truthfully do not care about the time markers. I am not really looking at the clock or setting a timer. I more wanted to write the times out to get a sense of how long we spend on a variety of things, versus when they happen.
My children also do not care about the clock. They respond more to rhythmic cues rather than specific times.
Rhythm vs. Schedule
I do not like the word “schedule” because I do not want to insinuate that we are trying to recreate the public school environment at home. That said: many homeschoolers choose to do this! By saying we choose not to keep a set schedule I am not saying I think keeping an exact schedule is a bad idea. In fact, my kids are still so young and I can see the value in having a little more strict set “school time” than we do now when they are older. But, who knows! I will figure it out when we get there.
Also, I think with finding a good rhythm there will always be a balance of “living in the moment” versus providing some structure. Yes, we want to leave room for our children to be children. We want to leave room for the rabbit-trails, or provide free space for those sparks to ignite in their own minds and heart. But, it is no surprise that they also respond so well to structure and gentle cues. Like I said: it’s a balance.
Education is Life
Everything we do, encounter, experience together is education. Education is not a schedule to manage, curriculum to complete, or lists to check off. So when I say to my kids, “It is time to do some school,” I also make sure to regularly show them how they are truly learning all the time and not just when we open a curriculum book at the table.
The Joy of Whatever
Okay, so let me explain what I mean by The Joy of Whatever. You’ll notice this occurs multiple times in the daily rhythm sheet I wrote out. This is for all the hours in a day we are literally doing “whatever.” There is no plan in motion. Things happen. Sometimes it is made of rainbows, sometimes it is made of weeping.
Here are some examples:
- Go outside with a purpose
- Go outside with no purpose
- Unstructured play (mostly this)
- Read together
- Dance parties
- Create something
- Puzzles and games
It also could happen that during this “whatever” time I add in a random prepared educational activity. The main idea is that I keep it open-ended. I pay attention. Most days my kids play well together but on those occasional rough days I may need to enter in and mediate and help them come up with an alternative. On grumpy days, I’ve found for us cuddling up on the couch to read stories together works quite well.
Not Every Day is Exactly This!
One nice thing about having an established daily rhythm is that you can veer away from it on some days and not disrupt the bigger picture. One day where we decide to go to the playground or meet a friend or go to the zoo and skip all the morning stuff (Morning Time and Table Lessons) won’t mess things up the next day when we go back to doing those things.
We are of course flexible and don’t stress if things are not going exactly according to the set rhythm.
Also, note that we only do structured school stuff Monday through Thursday. Fridays are our nature journal and poetry tea time days so I specifically keep that day open-ended. We may catch up on curriculum if there is an easy project to get to or more books to explore, but the idea is that Fridays can be reserved for fun outings as well so I want the load to be super light.
Some Helpful Resources on Daily Rhythm:
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
- Daily Rhythm from Farmhouse Schoolhouse
- How to Create a Homeschool Daily Rhythm from Leah Damon
- Chore & Routine Pack from The Peaceful Press
I also found immeasurable help on this topic from the Parent Guide in A Year of Tales from a seasoned homeschooler! If you purchase this curriculum I highly encourage you to read ALL of the introductory words.
Breakdown of Daily Rhythm In Detail
Wake Up, Breakfast, and Self-Care
My kids are awake around 7 AM. My oldest sleeps longer some days but my daughter’s internal clock is incredible and she is up and ready to eat breakfast immediately. I usually wake up before the kids, as early as 5:30 AM. I work on painting peg dolls, read, workout, or other such things. My husband usually wakes up before the kids as well.
We have one hour between the time my kids wake up and when my husband leaves for work (he has basically a 0 minute commute since we live on the camp property where he works). In the hour before my husband leaves for work we eat breakfast and get ready for the day.
The Joy of Whatever
My kids typically start out playing right after breakfast, and often my husband will join them for a bit before he heads to work. During this time I usually finish getting myself ready, maybe do a quick chore (e.g. load of laundry), or do any prep I need to do for school stuff that day.
Again, by the “Joy of Whatever” I mean this time is just whatever it is! The kids are inspired into play by a variety of things. Who knows what it will be each day!
Morning Couch Time
At some point in the morning I have the kids break from play and join me on the couch for Morning Time. We have done this enough times where they expect it. A nice transitional help to move from play to attentiveness is that I have them switch out our calendar first. We use peg dolls and my Full Moon Name cards as well as the Calendar Pack from The Peaceful Press. My husband built us a little simple shelf for this and the kids love it.
I will share more detail about what we do during Morning Time later. Right now we keep it quite simple: a few spiritual transformation exercises or stories, and then several read alouds. Generally speaking the term “Morning Time” is associated with a variety of activities. The idea is to make this in to something that makes sense for your family. Try not to worry to much what others are doing. I honestly feel that last year and the year before I stressed about making Morning Time is to something I thought others’ expected. Who knows why because no one really cares what I’m doing or is grading me. This year I have felt more freedom to make this time something meaningful to me and my children. Again, I hope to share this in more detail in a separate post so this one doesn’t get too long!
After Morning Time we move to the kitchen table to do some structured curriculum. We do not have a separate school room. Our house is small so we do everything on the kitchen table. Each day (Monday-Thursday) we will do some form of Language Arts and Math. It may not always be from our curriculum. I strive for short lessons so usually this is 10-20 minutes each kid, each lesson. Sometimes I can work with each kid simultaneously, other times I work with them one at a time and the other child is free to leave the table or stay and do something on their own like coloring.
My Kindergartener has a light load — I really don’t have a ton for her as far as structure goes. But, she also begs for school and loves it so I do try to give her little bits. She is learning how to read but we are going slow to ensure she’s not overwhelmed.
The Joy of Whatever
After table lessons we typically need some movement. Often we head outside at this point. Sometimes we take walks, other times it is just hanging out in our yard. We live on a forested camp property with plenty of trails and easy access to wild spaces. We have a family “rule” that says we go outside every day. Even if it’s raining or cold or gross. We make it work. Obviously we avoid lightning storms but you get the point. I think living here makes us feel obligated to be in nature as much as we can, in a good way! We know we won’t live here forever so we soak it up while we can. If we ever move to a real neighborhood I’ll be sure to share how we do daily time in nature then!
We usually eat around noon. Lunches are simple and the kids help get their meals ready. We typically see my husband at this point. We live where he works so his office is just a jog away and it’s been a huge blessing for our kids to get so much time with him in the early years.
Lunch time is one of my favorite times of the day! We sit and talk. It’s so funny that we usually end up having our bigger conversations during this time. My kids like asking tough questions and we just chat about a variety of things. It’s a sweet time.
Clean Up and Stories
After lunch we make sure the kitchen is clean and often I will read at least one story to my kids. Typically it’s a picture book of their choosing.
Early afternoon consists of a one and a half hour quiet time. I use this time to work. I run a small business and need this time to get in some peg doll painting. If not painting, then maybe I’m catching up on email or writing blog posts like this!
My kids can do whatever they want during this time as long as it’s quiet. They also need to be separate from each other. Again, my kids do play so well together most of the day but we also value time spent alone. They can be either outside, in our living room, or in their bedroom (they share a room). They can play with toys, color, play with play dough, do puzzles, read books, listen to audiobooks, lay down and rest, whatever they want.
And yes: they interrupt me every day. It’s inevitable. Somebody needs a Band-aid or someone built a cool thing I just HAVE to see. Honestly: some days I do better with this than others in terms of keeping my Mom-cool.
Also — sometimes we skip Quiet Time or just do a short one, maybe 30 minutes. If the weather is just too ridiculously amazing we might want to all have an adventure together. Or, often on weekends we skip Quiet Time or keep it shorter.
I used to be better about doing this every day, but often I have my kids clean up their toys at the end of Quiet Time. If not all of them, at least enough so we have room to walk. Again, we have a small house so any amount of toys on the floor can feel a bit much at times. They have a knack for getting everything out during Quiet Time.
After Quiet Time we usually do some type of learning rotation: science, history, art, music, or who knows what else. Again, I have a post of all the curriculum we are using this year. This typically involves some reading and a project of some kind and often does not take a long time. The kids also usually want a snack during this time.
The Joy of Whatever
And back to that Joy of Whatever time! For the several hours before dinner, we just do whatever. Again, typically we are outside, but not always. If in the morning we had a huge outdoor adventure, I might put less of a priority of getting outside in the afternoon, for example. Sometimes they might get screen time around now, but that’s not every day. And lately we’ve been reserving screen time for the evenings to make it more of a family affair.
Before 2020 and the coronavirus reality, my husband would be home right at 5:00 PM (again, his commute is effectively 0 minutes). This year he has been able to shift his schedule some days and come home earlier. For a few days he has been able to participate in our school projects and learning: he helped build a volcano recently. Other days he may take the kids to the beach swimming (we have a lake on property) and I stay home to get work done. Or, if I’m not stressed I’ll go swim with them. Another favorite “whatever” activity lately is to go on bike rides through the woods. There is also a large camp parking lot across from our house the kids just love to ride in circles around in.
We keep meals simple. Often my husband is a part of the cooking too. Most meal prep happens at meal time unless we had a soup or something to start earlier in the day. We are at a season of life with our kids’ ages where meal prep is not really a stressful event.
Family Together Time
After dinner we do stuff all together as a family. Again, there is some flexibility here. In a year that isn’t defined by a pandemic my husband and I might trade times to be with the kids on a particular week night, and he or I might go do something with friends or something alone. But most of 2020 has been all of us together. A lot. We sometimes watch a kids show together (or a movie on a weekend). We play games, go outside again, do puzzles, and just have fun together.
Clean-up and Bedtime Routine
Often we are cleaning up at the end of the night to some sort of music, making a Mary Poppins-style party out of it. The kids sometimes do baths in the evening around this time — the other option is in the mornings after breakfast. Just depends on the day and what we did!
The kids get all ready 30 minutes before their bed time. They’ve got their little bedtime prep ritual down. And sometimes they race each other.
Stories and Snuggles
My husband and I rotate evenings who reads the kids stories. I treasure this time so much. Bedtime stories are simply the best! Most nights the kids pick books from our home library or maybe we have a stack of seasonal books from the library that appeals to them. My youngest child is still in that phase where she wants to read the same few books over an over.
Bedtime is 8 PM for the kids and usually they fall asleep within 30 minutes. We keep them active and tire them out! They have a room together since we have a 2 bedroom house, which is so sweet. They love it.
After the kids go to bed my husband and I may spend time together or do our own things. These couple hours before I go to bed are often good peg doll painting time for me but I don’t do that every night since often I’m pretty tired. I’m more of a morning person so I’d rather wake up before the kids and paint then!
Weekly and Monthly Rhythm
Monthly we have a number of rhythms we keep in line with:
Weekly we honestly do not have much going on right now because it’s 2020. Normally we would have something like soccer (evenings) or gymnastics (mornings). Even my husband and I would have some more regular stuff weekly where we might shift a day on who is home parenting solo. As it is, right now we are getting LOTS of whole-family time.
When do we do chores, errands, and meal prep?
Since this is pandemic-2020 when I write this, errands are typically done by my husband or I alone without the kids. My husband has done most of our grocery shopping this year. Last year I would typically do a grocery run with the kids in the morning maybe on a Monday.
But generally speaking I like to run errands in the mornings after we have done our table lessons for the day. It may mean a quick trip to the post office or library.
Meal prep is usually done when my husband gets home from work, sometimes I start before he gets home depending on what the meal is. This really varies on the day, too. We eat simply and I don’t feel too overwhelmed by food prep.
We don’t keep a set weekly meal plan or anything like that. Our style is to wing it. And I really don’t care if we’re all eating peanut butter toast and fresh veggies for dinner if it meant we were outside more. Elaborate home-cooked meals are just not a priority for me.
We have tried a variety of things to have the kids participate in household chores. I used to have us all do chores first thing in the morning and attempted to keep a weekly schedule. However, I soon found out this doesn’t really work for us. I prefer to do chores on-demand. Since we live in and small house and live in the woods and have a dog, I basically at minimum need to vacuum every other day. My son can help do the rugs, but mostly I just do it. I can vacuum my whole house in maybe 5 minutes. It’s not huge task. I’ve tried scheduling out “vacuum day” but in the end it never made sense to me. I prefer to just clean something when it needs cleaning.
Other chores we keep up with as-needed or do a task when it presents itself. For example, when the dog’s food bowl is empty, I ask one of my kids to get him some. When the compost needs taking outside to the bin, my son will take it. We use weekends to catch up on bigger household chores like yard work or cleaning cars or cleaning windows. My husband is honestly a better cleaner than I am and enjoys doing it so that’s nice! We kind of all four of us have our jobs that we are good at and we work together when appropriate. Kitchen clean-up usually just happens while we are in the kitchen at meals. We do not have a dishwasher so we hand wash dishes after every meal.
For the kids, we decided to give them allowance for doing chores. If in the span of one week they complete 10 tasks then then get an allowance. If they haven’t completed 10 then they get nothing and we try again next week. Most weeks they get it done, and it does usually take them a whole week to get to 10. There have definitely been weeks where they haven’t completed it. We give them ideas for chores but don’t force it. It’s their choice if they want to get the allowance or not. And we obviously talk about money with them and what to do with it in age-appropriate ways.
I keep a simple chart on the fridge that’s laminated and they give themselves X’s with a dry erase marker after completing a chore. You can see that below (I blocked out my kids’ names but that’s in the blue spot so they each have their own section). We do not give X’s for general clean-up that is expected of daily life: clean up your toys, if you spill something sweet it up, bring your dishes to the sink after a meal, etc. I do give X’s for making their beds because they don’t do this most days, and honestly I don’t care if they do or don’t. Most days they’re playing with their blankets at some point so what’s the point of making the bed?
This system suits us well for now but I could see if we ever move into a bigger house I would need more of a schedule. And as the kids get older we may increase the allowance and add more than 10 X spots on their charts.
What do we do when things go awry and we get off track?
If you’re reading this you’re likely a parent and you KNOW this deeply. Things just don’t go as planned. We all (including our children) have those days where we’re just a mess and maybe don’t even know what we need.
For example, let’s say we sit down to do our Table Lessons and I get out the Math curriculum to do with my son and he complains about writing one thing down. Do I just totally abandon the plan? Sometimes: yes. Sometimes: no. Sometimes it just takes a conversation and we’re back “on track.” Sometimes, maybe we need to push away the curriculum for the moment and come back to it later in the day. Or not at all.
I will say that the biggest “off track” thing for me in this phase of life with my kids (6-nearing-7 and 5) is maybe on a particular day they are having so much fun playing together that I choose not to interrupt them to have our Morning Time. Then, if we don’t do our Morning Time and it gets later and later in the morning, I have to make a choice: should I skip Morning Time altogether so we have time for curriculum before lunch? Or, should I just do the Morning Time and maybe swap the order of things in the day. I’ll be honest: sometimes I feel like I’m getting these little choices exactly right and sometimes it’s all wrong. I try to on those “all wrong” kind of days to take deep breaths, center myself and be present to the moment. Maybe for that day nothing “gets accomplished” and I need to be okay with that.
This is why I don’t pre-plan and write out in a planner day-by-day lessons for our homeschool. Because I will immediately get off track!
When and how do we alter the schedule?
I have kind of discussed this above but I just want to say that we alter this schedule all the time! It could be in big ways, like say we decide to go to the zoo on a Tuesday and that “throws off” the whole day. Or, it could be in small ways where maybe those morning Table Lessons are just NOT a thing I feel we need to do that day! Maybe what we need is to just spend time together. Or maybe it’s a gross-weather Thursday and I’m exhausted and I need to put a movie on at 10 AM. It happens. Of course it does!
I said this above — but the idea behind having a set rhythm like this is that it’s more than OKAY to alter things occasionally and it’s not going to totally throw the kids out of whack.
Thanks for reading this far. Feel free to ask me any questions!