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Back to School: The Home School Edition

How in the name of summer time is it back-to-school season already?! Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like she blinked and the lazy days of summer vanished.

No seriously, validaaate meeeeee.

You might not believe it, but ‘back to school’ looks remarkably similar for home-schooled families and traditional-school families alike. Schedules are arranged. Pencils, backpacks, and uniforms are bought. I mean, sure, our uniforms are new pajamas, but ya know, same idea. (Kidding!)

In all seriousness, we’re not that different, public- and home-school school parents – honestly. To prove it, join me for a little peek at an average day in the life of a military home-schooled family. I think you’ll find we have more in common than you thought.

6:30 A.M.

By some gloriously blessed and wholly undeserved coincidence, my children are all pretty great sleepers, usually rising between 7:30 and 8 am. I give myself enough time in the morning to wash my face, get dressed, spend some time in my Bible, and drink absolutely obscene amounts of coffee – and here’s the really and truly important part – all of this happens BEFORE the little people get up.

I know. I know. I totally get it. I am the least morning-y person on the face of the planet. I do not pop out of bed, all smiles, ready to tackle the day like some sort of inhuman Mary Poppins automaton. I drag myself, literally, from my bed and angrily toss my still-asleep mind and body at the coffee maker. But those precious minutes to myself before the day begins are ESSENTIAL. From one non-morning person to another, give it a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised.

7:30-10:30

During this time, we make and eat breakfast and tackle our morning chores. Two or three days a week, my oldest makes us breakfast.

I cannot explain to you in human words what a blessing this has been.

I am a firm believer that “life skills,” such as food preparation, keeping a clean and organized house, and budgeting your money wisely are of equal importance to more traditional school subjects.

Plutarch is great, but if you’re subsisting on a diet of ramen and constantly living paycheck to paycheck, you’re probably not going to have much time to enjoy him, amiright?

After we eat, my older two empty and load the dishwasher, take care of the dog, and then get themselves ready for the day – teeth, hair, clothes, you know the drill. Several members of our family, myself included, have trouble staying on task. We have found that placing schedules strategically throughout the house has helped us immensely.

As the older kids complete their chores, I get the toddler dressed and ready for the day. I mean, putting a human tornado in his clothes before his first meal just seems incredibly self-defeating, and I refuse to set myself up for failure that early in the day.

The past couple of weeks we’ve had swimming lessons to head out to at this time, and typically, at least two mornings a week, we have commitments outside of the house. When we don’t have an obligation outside of the house, we use the rest of the morning to attend to subjects and lessons that we can do together, toddler included. We may go for nature walks, do some yoga, listen to the composer or hymn we’re studying, view a piece of art by the artist we’re studying, or complete other work that my older two can do fairly independently, like copywork.

If there is a subject we need to cover in the morning that is not toddler friendly, I deploy the most effective and reliable weapon in my home-school arsenal – snacks. (If you are one of those mothers who swore she would never use food to manage her children, kindly skip to the next section while the rest of us enjoy the virtually endless benefits of snack time.)

Even my toddler can sit through a chapter of Robinson Crusoe given the right number of cheerios or blueberries.

I always choose something small, that has to be picked up individually to stretch the amount of time we have to work. Do not underestimate the power of snack time to get a lesson in!

11:30-1:30

During this time, we prepare and eat lunch. I make an effort to include the older kids in food prep as much as possible, but if they’re not involved, they enjoy some free time. After we’ve eaten, it’s time for the toddler to lay down for his afternoon nap. I usually direct the older kids to complete another small chore that doesn’t require much supervision while I lay the youngest down.

The various chores might seem redundant, but imagine how untidy and crazy your household feels during the summer months when your kids are home all-day, everyday, and then multiply that times FOREVER.

My kids are always here, so if we don’t keep up with chores, we end up drowning in them by the end of the week. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my head above water if at all possible. Thank you very much. If we don’t have much in the way of chores, the big kids enjoy a little more free time until the toddler is down for his nap.

1:30-3:30

This is the time when the real home-school magic happens. If snacks are an effective way to keep bottoms in seats and attention on lessons, then nap time is like the Holy Grail of home-school secrets.

This is the time during which the older kids have my full attention, and we can delve into more challenging subjects like math and science, and do longer history and literature readings. Typically, we have a short math and English or grammar lesson, a history reading, a literature reading, and then one “extra.”

Extras may include recorder lessons (heaven help me), an online coding class, a bit of map work, or other subjects which we don’t typically cover on a daily basis. Our lessons generally take no more than 15 to 20 minutes per subject. When you are able to give one on one (or even one on two or three) attention, things simply go faster. It doesn’t make home-schooling better, it just generally makes it faster. Of course, there are days when we run into challenges and things take a bit longer, but I make a concerted effort not to exceed 20 minutes per subject.

I want my kids to develop a deep and sustained love for learning. Grinding out an hour-long lesson on long division every day is probably not going to make that happen. We do take time for deep and meaningful conversations, however, when they arise. And I will be the first to admit that I do not have all the answers. I turn to the Google machine in search of answers at least once per home-school day. We usually wrap things up around 3 p.m. and my kids go outside to play.

And that’s it.

We attend a co-op every Monday during the typical public-school year, which is fantastic for social time and group learning.

Each of the older kids usually have some other extracurricular, like a sport or music lesson, but at this stage we are purposefully sampling a wide variety of “extras.”

There is absolutely no lack of social opportunities for home-schooled kids to participate in. We could be out of the house at an activity every day of the week if we chose to, but I refuse to run myself and my children ragged just so that we can fulfill society’s idea of “normal” social interaction.

So in the end, the big secret to home schooling, is that there is no big secret (unless you count my strategic use of Cheerios and nap time). We run out of patience, we have bad days, and we question whether we’re doing a good job, just like every other parent out there.

Home schooling presents unique challenges, but also offers unique rewards. My kids are such fun, smart, cool people, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to teach them thus far. It may not always be the plan, but it’s the plan for now.

I’d love to start a conversation about home schooling, particularly in the military community. Feel free to shoot me a question or comment on the blog, Facebook, or Instagram and I’ll do the best I can to answer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 11 years as a military spouse, it’s that we need each other. If I can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Whether it’s public, private, home school, or a combination, I wish everyone a fantastic school year!

For a closer look at a day in the life of home school, join us for our Instagram takeover TODAY!

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