I don’t wake up for the bus. I don’t poke my kids awake in the dark, or pour them cereal they eat in a sleep-hazed stupor. I don’t pack lunches (or forget to pack lunches); I don’t hustle kids to a bus stop in the gray light of dawn. I don’t wave goodbye to them, the coffee in my hand still cooling as I watch them ride away from me for eight hours. I stay in my pajamas till noon. I’m a homeschooling hippie mom. And while my days are all different, they usually go something like this.
I wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to get some writing done and drink hot coffee in peace. The kids stumble in one by one, and are promptly almost knocked over by our 80 lb. German Shepherd puppy and his frenzied greetings. Their wake-up time varies: I can rely on the baby to wake first, usually around 8. I flip on something for him to watch and keep writing. My 6-year-old son, Blaise, gets up around 8:30. The middle child and most dedicated sleeper, August, regularly rises around 10 a.m. By then, the other two have had breakfast already and are avidly watching Scooby Doo or Wild Kratts. While they're busy, I feed August. Then I feed the dogs. I fill up my coffee again and give Blaise a five-, 10-, or 15-minute warning that school’s about to start.
Lately, Blaise prefers to do math first, so we start there. He does his computer program, Mathseeds, while I set August up to do the same thing, but at a lower level. The baby sits with August at the big computer and, God love him, actually answers some of the questions. I sit next to Blaise and help him understand the math concepts, moving to August when he has a question or something that involves reading (he doesn’t know his letters yet).
Science is fun: We talk about paleontology, or build air-propelled rockets, or listen to a podcast on dark matter, or catch frogs and determine their sex.
After Blaise says that he’s done with Mathseeds, which could be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, we move onto reading. The other two like to sit with us and listen. We just moved from picture books to chapter books. On this particular morning, I gave him a choice between several books, and he picked Peter Pan, “because there’s pirates in it.” We read about 10-15 pages (it’s heavy on the pictures, so more like five-to-six pages), and I helped him with words the words he couldn't possibly be expected to know, like “ceremoniously." Words he should be able to sound out but can’t, like “desire" — which was one of the words on this week's list — get highlighted and written three times in his notebook.
Then he writes a story, which is a foot-dragging, teeth-pulling affair to get him to produce two sentences. He hates it, but it’s necessary to practice his spelling (he can’t spell), practice his handwriting (which looks like a first grade boy’s should look), and to meet the state standards that he do writing.
Afterwards, we manage some science or social studies somehow. This could be reading about South Carolina history (which means talking to him honestly, and in a way he understands right now, about slavery and poor people), reading about South Carolina’s present, or going to a museum. Science is fun: We talk about paleontology, or build air-propelled rockets, or listen to a podcast on dark matter, or catch frogs and determine their sex.
Then, because we all hate staying home, we go out into the great wide world. That’s when we do all the really fun science and social studies.
But anything more than reading a quick book has to wait because after writing, I usually get dressed. This takes a while; the kids play while I do it. Then I dress them and make them brush their teeth. By then it’s around noon or later, and I feed them lunch. Then, because we all hate staying home, we go out into the great wide world. That’s when we do all the really fun science and social studies. The museum is a help; we might listen to a podcast in the car. The other day we went kayaking with our homeschool group (physical education, thank you) and listened to a podcast about the space-time continuum. I had to keep pausing it to explain gravity bending space, because Blaise asked how that worked. I had to tell him I didn’t know and he probably wouldn’t either until he was grown-up enough to learn about physics.
We do other things in the afternoons. Sometimes August wants to “do my reading,” and we learn about a letter and do an art project about it, which is invariably messy and involves paint and/or glitter and glue. Sometimes we just stay home and freaking clean the house, which is usually a disaster area, what with three kids and our time devoted to learning rather than housework.
Around 4 p.m., my husband comes home. He wrestles with the boys, plays chess with them, and takes them fishing. We all go kayaking (well, canoeing for my husband and the little dudes). Then it’s dinner, playing, and a movie. Sometimes the kids help cook. Usually, they don’t. In between everything, we’ve made sure they have time to play (Blaise asks for breaks between subjects), and time to run around outside somewhere. They’re exhausted. They go to bed around 9 p.m., after a popsicle or some gluten-free Oreos.
Blaise and his younger brothers have best friends, and I have good friends among the other women with children we see and spend time with. I’m incredibly lucky. So are they.
It’s not glamorous. I stay in my pjs way too late into the day. So do they. But I love teaching my kids. I love watching them learn, and I love seeing them all day. As for socialization, we have two co-ops a week, plus at least one park date and our kayaking club. Blaise and his younger brothers have best friends, and I have good friends among the other women with children we see and spend time with. I’m incredibly lucky. So are they. I get to be around my kids all day, see friends, and have fun learning about stuff like dark matter. Since I love to teach, and love to learn, my days are a blast. I’m so grateful we can homeschool.