Alice’s homeschool day in the life (with a 1- and 4-year old)

I wanted to homeschool my kids long before I ever had any. Homeschooling was never a question of why for me. It was more of a question of how. How would I implement child-led learning? How would I unschool and still have my kids learn math? How would my kids learn to read?

I didn’t want curriculum or a schedule. I needed to find a lifestyle that worked for us – a way to live together that would give my kids what they needed to learn and grow.

I found some of my best inspiration for this lifestyle from other homeschooling moms.

My favorite place for inspiration has been the Homeschool Day In the Life series at Simple Homeschool. Every February, the website’s contributors share a typical day in the life of their family’s homeschool.

It’s from these posts that I’ve learned about gameschooling, nature journals, and the Brave Writer lifestyle, three elements I predict will be important to our homeschool going forward. I’ve also learned to relax, focus on the big picture, and realize that no day is ever perfect (nor does it need to be).

This year, I’m adding my own day in the life post to the Simple Homeschool link-up.

They’re tiny, but I call them homeschoolers.

Though neither of my kids are yet school-age, I’m going to lay claim to the title of Homeschool Mom because 1). We officially missed the deadline to register Gus for kindergarten in the fall (it feels like a big deal!) and 2). He’s beginning to read, write, and sum at a kindergarten level.

Here goes our first day in the life post. As it turns out, it was a fairly typical day – and a good example of how life works around here.

Early Morning

I wake up around 7:00 AM to a pair of tiny feet digging into the small of my back.

Gus, our 4-year-old, crept downstairs sometime in the early morning with a stuffed wolf under each arm and burrowed between Matt and I in bed.

“Mom,” Gus says, “what are we doing today?”

I blink at the sunlight streaming through the windows and strive for consciousness. Morning person I am not. “It’s a home day,” I finally answer.

Gus cheers.

A home day is what we call a day without any scheduled plans (though we rarely stay home). In general, we’re all happiest if we have three unplanned days a week, but I usually have to struggle to reign in our calendar that much.

There’s a common misconception that homeschooling creates isolated, unsocialized kids – but I’ve found the opposite to be true. We’re lucky to be part of a large, active community of eclectic homeschoolers and unschoolers. My kids could be involved in a class, field trip, or play date with our group every day of the week if we wanted to.

As it is, we participate Spanish class and go on weekly field trips with the group. Theater class begins when Spanish ends, and there will be a community service/activism group forming this summer. Gus also goes to a play-based nature preschool program two afternoons per week – and one of his best friends from homeschool group is in his class.

Today, however, we have nothing planned.

I love it.

Generously, Matt gets up with Gus and Henry (our 1-year-old) and lets me stay in bed a little while longer. He’s leaving for a business trip in a few hours and has more time at home this morning than usual. I hear the boys rustling through the entryway for their boots and snow pants, and before long they’re all outside throwing snowballs in the front yard.

Relishing the thought of being alone in a quiet house (for at least a few minutes), I quickly pull myself out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and start on breakfast. We eat an epic meal – eggs, French toast, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit – (everyone is always famished in the morning), say goodbye to Matt, and then get down to the business of the day.

The business is books.

We start every morning in the playroom, curled up on the couch with a stack of books. The boys would have me read to them all day to them if I could.

Gus tends to gravitate towards nonfiction, especially books about animal biology and environmentalism – so read aloud time often doubles as science.

He’s currently on a solar power kick. Today, we read Chandra’s Magic Light, a story about a Nepalese girl who earns enough money to buy her family a solar-powered lantern. I’m pleased that I was able to tie in one of Gus’s current interests with one of our homeschool’s overarching goals – to give our kids an education firmly grounded in social justice. One way I try to do this is try by choosing storybooks that feature protagonists from diverse backgrounds and cultures as much as possible.

After about an hour of reading, I turn on a Spanish music CD (Okee Dokee Brothers’ Excelente Fabuloso), and the kids play independently while I clean up the kitchen. I’ve been more intentional about speaking Spanish with the kids lately, and I try to turn on Spanish music or read a Spanish storybook with the kids every day.

From time to time I hear them singing along with the music. (Even Henry is saying “gato.”)

Mid-morning

After the kitchen is cleaned up, we start project time. If we’re anything, we’re project-based unschoolers, and project time is the core of all of our homeschooling. During project time, the kids do whatever they want – play, read, or create. I work alongside them as a helper or guide.

As they get older, project time will look more like research, creation, and presentation. Right now, project time is serious play.

Gus, who has been fascinated with wolves for the past 18 months and plans to become “a scientist who studies wolves in the wild,” chooses to spend project time focused on his favorite topic.

Usually he wants to play wolves or draw pictures of wolves, but today he decides to work on his messaging for Wolf Day at the Capitol. In a few weeks, we’ll be attending a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol to support federal protections for wolves. He’s taking the chance to speak up for wolves very seriously.

Meanwhile, Henry works at his favorite place on top of the playroom table.

The kids are both happy and engaged in their work. I hang out with them, help Gus spell the words he wants to write, answer his question about the difference between a lower-case h and a lower-case n, and try to scrub marker off of Henry’s face. He’ll remain pink-striped for the rest of the day.

Peace reigns until 11:30 AM, when the kids start pelting me with sock balls (so much for folding laundry). I decide it’s about time we get outside.

Afternoon

I was hoping to bike with the kids today, but the surprise snowfall last night will my plan back a few days. Instead, I load the kids up in the Burley for a walk to the library. We’re working on the #1000hoursoutside challenge, hoping to spend 1,000 hours ouside in 2017. Our walk to the library brings us to hour 51. We’ve got some work to do!

Within five minutes of being outside, Henry falls asleep. He sleeps throughout the walk and just long enough for me and Gus to grab our books off the reserve shelf and browse the non-fiction stacks. Then we head to the children’s section where we hang out for about an hour.

We take home books about wolves, a ninja baby, and a rabbit who won’t stop saying “poop-di-poop”, which is a decent summary of my boys’ current interests.

I add a few Spanish storybooks and books about environmentalism, including a picture book I’m really excited about called If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond.

Once we’re back home, we have a snack and pull out some board games. A few months ago I rearranged the playroom, clearing out a bunch of toys and filling the shelves with puzzles and board games instead. Gus’s math skills have exploded since then. So much of kindergarten math can be learned by playing board games – numeral recognition, counting, addition, subtraction, and estimating quantities and distances, to name a few.

We play a few rounds of Count Your Chickens, and then Gus decides he wants to practice parkour. Lots of jumping off the couch, somersaulting, and cartwheeling ensues.

Note to self: More outdoor time needed tomorrow.

Evening 

Since Matt is out of town on business tonight, the boys and I have special plans to order take-out. Gus chooses curry and samosas from our favorite East African restaurant, and the server surprises the kids by giving them free fresh mango juice when we pick up our meals.

After dinner, it’s bath and pajama time. Gus and I recently finished reading the Winnie the Pooh anthology, and as a special treat tonight, he gets to stay up late and watch The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh with me. This is the 1977 version, a movie I remember well from my own childhood, and I enjoy the nostalgia of watching as much as he enjoys seeing it for the first time.

By 8:30 PM, Henry is long asleep and Gus’s eyelids are heavy. I put him to bed, spend time catching up with Matt on the phone, and then dig out my current sci-fi novel (The Three Body problem by Cixin Liu) and read until I’m ready for sleep – which is much later than it should be, but the book is hard to put down.

And that’s it! A typical day in the life of our homeschool.

What I didn’t mention includes, but is not limited to: Epic negotiations required before any clothing change, tooth brushing, face washing, or other act of personal hygiene; more couch-jumping than you can possibly imagine; and potty talk. So much potty talk.

There’s no perfection here, but there is a lot of enjoyment. I am so grateful this how we spend our days together.

5 ways I find time to write as a busy mom

5 Ways I Find Time To Write As A Busy Mom

In the years before children, I actually journaled a few times a week. I also regularly showered and had uninterrupted conversations with my husband. Imagine the luxury.

The time for that disappeared when Matt and I brought home Gus, our first squalling bundle of joy. By the time Henry arrived three years later, any aspiration I had to authorship I funneled into writing in baby books and sending suggestive text messages to Matt at work.

And then everything changed.

I went through some big changes in 2016 that rocked the way I thought about the world. In the end, I walked away with a new sense of wonder and a desire to create something beautiful.

I wanted to write again.

And the baby wanted to nurse. Like all day long. And the four-year-old wanted an apple, chopped up, now, and to not be wearing these scratchy pants, and for me to crawl around with him on my back.

So we do all of these things. And I am still able to write.

Here’s how I do it.

1. I give my smart phone a break. 

Internet addiction is real, people. Put me in front of a screen and I’ll come up for air an hour later, blinking and glassy-eyed, having accomplished absolutely nothing. When I want to write, I put my smart phone away.

Just buy a cheap flip phone (or dig your old one out of the drawer), swap out your SIM card, and leave the smart phone at home when you can. I do all of my best writing out of the house, in the moments between things. This is the time I would have previously spent scrolling my newsfeed. Of course, there are internet restriction apps that you can use to block certain websites for set amounts of time, but I like the mental freedom that comes with using a dumb phone.

2. I bring my journal everywhere. 

Have you heard of bullet journals? They can be gorgeous. Not mine, of course. Mine has crushed-up Cheerios from the bottom of the diaper bag stuck on it.

It’s ugly, yet fabulous. It’s a blank lined book turned calendar, planner, homeschool record, and writer’s journal all in one. I toss it in my bag, and it’s there when I need to jot down a quick idea or when I have time to write at length. A few nights a week, I get on the computer after the kids go to bed to transcribe, edit, and post what I’ve written. This is also one of the times when I catch up on emails, news, and social media.

3. I don’t play with the kids at the park. 
The picture below was taken on hike I took with the boys recently.  I wrote an entire blog post that afternoon, walking along beside them.

Hiking the prairie

A post shared by Alice Christopherson (@aliceinwondermentblog) on

Now that I carry my journal with me everywhere, I can write when the kids are engaged in independent play. I don’t mean that I scribble away every chance I get. Most of the time, it’s more important to be with them, listening, talking, and poking sticks in the mud. But sometimes the kids are involved in something that is all their own. It usually happens out in nature or at the playground. I take those opportunities to write.

Yes, I am that weird, homeschooling mom chasing her children across the park with a leather-bound notebook in hand. Yes, writing and walking can be difficult. And yes, I do get strange looks from other parents.

But so what.

4. I schedule time to write. 
When you homeschool or stay at home with young children, silence is a rare commodity. There are a few times a week, however, when I can find some quiet (or at least some ear plugs). This is when I schedule time to write.

For example, when Henry naps, I play 45 minutes of audio stories for Gus and get some writing done. Every Wednesday night, Matt and Gus go swimming, Henry goes to bed early, and I write.

5. I wake up early.
For the first time since 2011, none of my children are waking me up at night. It is ah-maazing!

And because I’m so refreshed and rejuvinated, I’ve been doing the unthinkable.

I’m choosing to wake up at 5 AM.

If that sounds miserable to you, just imagine waking up, showering, drinking an entire cup of coffee, and writing for an hour… all before the first child starts climbing up your legs.

What about you? If you work from home or work part-time, how do you find time to get everything done?