Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Day in the Homeschooling Life

I've seen several of those "Day in the Life" posts recently, and thought about doing one of my own. I love "Day in the Life" posts, because I like to get real glimpses into other real homeschools.

Then I thought, "But which kind of day?"

I know, I know ... I'm supposed to just pick one, chronicle it, and get over it.

But, I don't get over things that easily.

I might happen to pick a day that was a stellar example of home learning. Let's say it looked something like this (the following is a dramatization -- do not draw any conclusions about homeschooling from said dramatization):

We got up (this is always a good beginning.) Atticus and I prayed together before he left for work.

The kids and I cooperated to get breakfast on the table. We read about the parts of the Mass while we ate. They asked probing questions and received appropriately glowing looks from their mother.

We tackled some math and no one complained or cried.

We read about the Bayeaux Tapestry and my adorable children oohed and aahed and received appropriately glowing looks from their adoring mother.

We tackled some household chores and no one complained or cried.

The children did some writing, and their appropriately adoring mother oohed and aahed in all the right places. I received glowing looks from my adoring children.

Dinner (efficiently placed in the crock pot sometime during the morning glow) was ready when Atticus walked in the door that evening. We ate, shared our day, and laughed. We cooperated to get dinner cleaned up, and later enjoyed a little more read-aloud time over ice cream. Everyone shuffled off to bed, smiling and content.


Or, I might pick a day that went something like this (the following is a dramatization -- do not draw any conclusions about homeschooling from said dramatization) :

Atticus dutifully got up. (Thank heaven for his stability.)

I, having stayed up too late writing the night before, was a bleary-eyed monster and wanted to be dead to the world (Atticus starts the day at a startling hour.) But, I couldn't be dead to Ramona, who came padding into our bedroom, convincing me that even if I'd wanted to get up, I had to get her back to sleep, because a sleep-deprived Ramona is not a pleasant Ramona.

Atticus must have prayed alone, because by the time I got Ramona back to sleep, he'd left for work.

I checked email. In an attempt to clear out my Inbox (a never-ending task) I kept saying, "Just reply to that one ... just one more ...." I suddenly realized that it was past time to wake Anne and Betsy, so hurried off to do that.

Over breakfast, as I read to the girls about the Last Supper, they asked me things like, "Do you think if you give up complaining for Lent you can have it back on Sundays?" and "Has the Veggie Tale pirate movie come out yet? Can we go?"

We tackled some math. They complained. I cried.

We skipped history reading because:

a. We had to go to the orthodontist
b. The car was dead and I had to make several phone calls to figure out who might be able to help with a jumpstart
c. I was going to show the kids the Bayeaux Tapestry on several websites, but the computer got cranky and I followed suit
d. All of the above

We tackled some household chores and I spouted a handy-dandy lecture about how they would one day understand the importance of routines and maintenance. We all complained. Someone may have cried. I don't remember. I was too cranky to be compassionate.

I told myself that frozen pizza has a variety of food groups in it, and thus is a fine dinner.

Atticus had to work late, so we ate without him. I lectured the kids on how to correctly execute their after-dinner chores, and then we all retreated to separate corners of the house, distinctly grumpy. Ramona's retreat lasted only two minutes, and then she asked me to play Barbies. Afraid I might scream if I had to play Barbies that night, I instead assigned the older girls to play with Ramona. They complained. I cried.

Heaving the sigh of a martyr when they asked for some read-aloud time before bed, I picked up a book and slogged through it. We all made it to bed without anyone else crying, but I think I complained in my sleep that night.


Which one is real? Which one is typical?

You already know the answer. They're both real. We've had Day #1 and we've had Day #2, but the majority of days are something in between.

Day 1 & 1/2, if you will.

That's the day wherein the car did break down, there was sibling bickering, and there may have been some math anxiety, but there was also an awesome conversation about the origin of human beings, and there were questions about how God works so intimately in our lives. There was excitement over diving in to a new book series and shared amazement over Ramona's newfound reading skills. There was a lecture, but also a loving hug. There may have been some unnecessary sighing, but there was also the maternal attempt to cover it up.

"A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool" isn't easy to pin down.

It's sort of like life: We're fallen creatures, climbing toward heaven. That makes for a strange mix. But it's all we've got.

We strive for the ideal: Heavenly Day #1.

We sometimes crash into the pit: Fallen Day #2.

In the end, we find the balance that is life on this earth:

It's not perfect, but it has its moments.

And that's a day in the life of our homeschool.

(Clipart courtesy of RetroGraphix.com)


  1. Great post! I hesitate to write the day in the in life post for the reasons you've mentioned, but you tackled that problem very nicely and tied it up with a theological point as well -- way too go!

  2. Well written and so true. I think that's why it's so hard to get a straight answer about anything from a homeschooler.

  3. I'm not sure whether we ever had a Day #1, although the rosy glow with which my daughter paints our days sometimes makes me think we might have (maybe once!). Day #2 for us probably included a ewe prolapsing multiple times (requiring routine checks and lots of sugar as well as several changes of clothing and much grumping over the task, along with an expensive visit from the vet), tears over math, threats over undone schoolwork, and order out pizza for dinner (and no prayer at all). Yet they did finish high school, they did go to college on scholarships, and they are both faithful Catholics (one is even marrying a faithful Catholic). Must be we did something right in there, even if most of the days were 1 and a half days.

  4. Oh, God Bless You -- I am having a day #2.5, and I retreated to my office to rest my voice between yelling bouts. I have already written an e-mail to my husband telling him we have to quit homeschooling because everything is going so wrong.

    OK -- I can get through this day . . with the grace of God, I will get through this day . . .

  5. Busy, busy, busy.

    For one of my graduate degree projects, I spent the morning with one of my sisters (a homeschool teacher) and her 4 children. I filmed the work they did and interviewed my sister about the schedule of a homeschooling family. When I presented it to my skeptical and highly opinionated peers, they were incredibly impressed with the amount of work and projects accomplished in the homeschool setting. (I think some biases were altered as a result.)
    Keep on keepin' on.

  6. Great, and very realistic. :) I do day in the life posts sometimes, but many times I plan one and then chuck it because they day wasn't "good enough". :/

  7. Oh, I needed to hear this. It has been a rough go lately, and sometimes I think I am totally ruining my children.....


  8. Posts like this remind me of just how much I really like you! Your take on life hits all the right notes, and your skill at articulating it results in a read that is both entertaining and helpful.

    It's so easy to look at someone else's day and think, "I could never do that," or worse, "Maybe I should just throw in the towel now--if her life is the standard, I'm sunk."

    But you put it all out there, warts and all...and there's no intimidation, and it all ultimately looks great. And that's what's real, in the end.

    Thanks for another great post, Karen!


  9. Wow, thank you -- all of you! Eileen, I'm blushing. Hang in there, Shaun, and you, too, Nutmeg. I am certain you're not ruining your children.

    Laura, I love your grad project. I think it's so helpful and valuable for both "sides" (schools and homeschoolers) to look at what the other side is doing. If we can feel we're partners, with the same goal, rather than on opposite sides of the court, we can learn from and complement each other, rather than feeling we're in competition.

  10. Nutmeg, I concur! I totally feel at a loss at times and that I'm ruining my kids. I know it's not true, but it hurts my pride when I realize I'm not up to snuff in algebra or English grammar - I have to learn it and then I haven't understood it properly, etc. I'll just have to keep on praying and persevering! God bless you all, it's a narrow gate!

  11. What a great post, and I agree with Liz that I'm not sure if I ever had a Day #1 yet. We've had good days, but I like the idea of praying with your husband in the morning. We do pizza quite often here. Veggie pizza makes me feel like I'm serving super healthy food. LOL. I kept reading your post with an inquiring mind. I love seeing how other homes go about their day. And, it's nice to see I'm not the only one grumpy (and crying...sometimes...I try to keep the number of days for that on the low side if possible, or my husband comes home, "What happened again?!") :-)

  12. I might mention further that the child who cried over math (when I made her check every problem on paper because she'd been so sloppy about her work in the past) went on to get an A and an A+ in college calculus and her brother (who spent more time arguing over math than crying) also went on to get A's in college calculus. I was not a math whiz, and my engineer husband did horribly in his first calculus class. One college pre-calc math course was all they needed to do better than all of their school educated friends with 4 years of high school math with a real math teacher. They did work hard in pre-calc, but one of them got a B+ and one an A in that as well, so it wasn't like they struggled or anything.

    It is truly amazing what homeschooling can produce, even when there aren't very many number 1 days. The new guy in the ed department here in Vermont seems to be learning from the homestudy unit. He's starting to make a lot of suggestions that sound very much like individualizing the education to the child. Hmm, could it be that our message is finally making sense to the "professionals?"

    Oh, and btw, having been a classroom teacher, I'll take a bad day of homeschooling over a bad day in the classroom any day of the week. My "home principal" carried a lot more clout than my school one.

  13. what a great post!

  14. HONESTY ... I LOVE IT!

    So many things impact how a day will turn out. IF the pendulum swings more on the positive side, then I think you can feel GOOD.

    I hope you have a WONDERFUL day!

  15. Absolutely right, Aunt Karen! Even as a kid (all right, teenager *grumble, grumble*), I've had both these days. #1 is usually a Wednesday when I don't have to do math and I get to ballroom dance or a day when Geometry (*gasp*) makes sense and #2 is usually a Tuesday when Brady's made me cry AGAIN and I don't think I can write anything...

    So thanks for the encouragement.

  16. Oh, Touchstone, thank *you* for the encouragement. It's so nice to come here and find comments from you.

    About Brady, as Uncle Atticus always says when someone makes me cry, "You want I should rough him up?" :-)

    Aunt Karen

  17. You are a wonderful writer. My friend sent this to me for craft ideas (trees and hands) and I got pulled in.
    A day in the life was hilarious!

  18. Thank you, Jen! And thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  19. I just found your blog after reading A Little Way of Homeschooling. I found I could identify our family pretty closely with yours in terms of your unschooling methods...or as I like to think...our "home learning" methods :). I like what I've read on your blog. It's nice to have the support! Thanks!

  20. Hi, Julie -- welcome, and thank you!