A day in our home education life

Morning: Learn & Explore

After our morning habits, the kids get busy working on something — with their hands and minds. (I meanwhile get myself a coffee if I haven’t yet done so.)

If the children don’t migrate to something, I ask them what they want to work on, or I suggest or offer activities. These include a host of hands-on work, which I’ll illustrate below.

During this time, I’m ideally moderating, somewhat like a Montessori teacher (although I won’t offend any of them by claiming I’m as good as they … although maybe being my children’s own mother makes me better, for my kids at least). I get the baby out of the big kids’ way, keep him occupied, referee quibbles, introduce new activities, and the like.

You’ll notice there’s not much in the way of conventional academics. They’re indefinitely secondary at our house for the coming months, although they do sometimes pop their heads during tea time, which you’ll see below.

My approach to the children’s “school” has been heavily influenced by the work of Maria Montessori. In fact, we don’t call it “school” at all, but it’s instead “work to do” — others may call it “play.”


Many mornings, the children will rotate through nearly all of these activities!

Pyssla Beads: We bought a tub for $5 at IKEA, and the boards were a few dollars. These are great for fine motor, pre-writing skills.

Esther (4.5yo) is getting more sophisticated in her patterns.
Jedediah (3yo) usually chooses random colors.
George (1.5yo) just started playing — sometimes he gets them on the pegs.

Beads: Here the kids sit around the table, each doing his own activity with them.

The 4.5yo likes to organize them into patterns.
The 3yo likes to string them.
The baby likes to pour them.


Matching: Jedediah likes to match our memory game, or our new Art Cards.

Watercolor Painting: This is one of mine and the kids’ favorite activities. I’ve dedicated a table to it and I keep all the supplies out all the time, so it’s never a big deal for them to paint. They’ve been working with just the primary colors on plain paper for a couple months.

Even the babe paints now — eek!
I let the kids create their own work — no pre-drawn lines.

Pets: We only have fish, but they’re a bit entertaining and need feeding, which the kids enjoy. They also help me when I’m changing out the water in the tank.

Cleaning: The kids like to clean the glass of the fish tank, another fine-motor skill developer 🙂 The kids actually watercolor painted the background paper on the tank — isn’t it lovely?

Lacing Cards: The big kiddos brought their lacing cards to this little nook I created for them, which they don’t use as often as I thought. It’s still there for them, though.

Puzzles: We have simple puzzles for the littlest guy and 50-piece puzzles for the bigger ones.

Coloring with Crayons: Of course, this is an option. I try to give the baby rock crayons. I pretty much never give them coloring pages, though — just blank paper — so the focus is creativity and art, instead of staying in the lines, which at least is good for fine motor skills when kids are ready.

George sometimes colors.
And sometimes he tries to eat them!
We don’t usually use “coloring pages.”

Organizing! My girl loves to organize things. I had her put these Grolier Family Bible Cards (which I bought 12 years ago!) in their proper piles, as they’re color coded. She enjoyed it, finished, and asked what else she could do.

Geometric Shapes: My kids don’t really enjoy this activity, but it is available to them. George worked on it today, doing better than I expected, then it drew the older two kids over to the table who helped him. They then ended up organizing the pieces into individual piles.

Pinpricking: Esther and Jedediah enjoy this activity. When I visited a Montessori school, the 3 year olds were pinpricking the continents, and in the end, they’d glue them in their homemade little book of continents.

Cutting and Gluing: This doesn’t really get old either. I just introduced the fun pattern scissors, which were a hit, but they didn’t seem to give much time to the pre-cut shapes I offered.

Music Time: I let the kids be free with our little basket of instruments, including recorders, xylophones, bells, and the like. Sometimes I play accompanying classical music, Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart, Judy Rogers’ Go to the Ant, or other music.

Dressing Frames: If you’re familiar with Montessori, you know about the “dressing frames.” I find all our kids (and probably all children?) use their own clothes on their bodies in the same manner: To practice zipping, buttoning, and the like. It’s life training and good for training fine motor skills.

Jedediah buttoned and unbuttoned his shirt several times at the beginning of his nap time yesterday. He just enjoyed it, I suppose.


Outdoor Play: If the weather is conducive, the kids all play outside — or at least the older two if it’s really cold.

I view this activity as one of the most important, and I’m only sometimes as deliberate as I should be in the cold weather. I LOVE what Charlotte Mason teaches about outdoor time. You can read many of her excerpts at this blog post on Nature Study.


After outdoor play, the kids have time for more creative, free play, including but not limited to the following list. They’re also free to do any of the above activities.

Wooden Blocks
Blinkin Logs (aka Lincoln Logs)
Train Blocks
Dress Up
Play Kitchen
Trucks & Tractors
Etc, Etc, Etc
Just Doing Whatever ….

Wild and crazy kids.

During the morning Learn & Explore time, I may also find time to work on something myself. This morning, I was able to paint our fish tank (for the 3rd time — another different color), while the kids occupied themselves. Sometimes I sit at the table and read while they’re working around me.


When they get too much in each other’s hair, I often have each one sit on a separate chair or couch while I play an audio book; lately it’s Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, The Red Hen, and Burt Dow: Deep Water Man — all audio tapes and books I picked up at library sales.

The Madeline tape is very delighful in that it’s not just the story but other commentary, songs, and lessons in French. My daughter reads the accompanying book, while my 3 year old reads a different Madeline book. The only other similar audio and book options I’ve found are by Ana Lomba, which we’ve borrowed from the library.


By this time, everyone is getting hungry, so I give them a snack (part of lunch) while I get lunch ready. We eat lunch, and I often read another Bible story or other story.

After lunch, if it’s still early (close to noon), they play outside or do hands-on work some more. If it’s late (close to 1pm), it’s straight toward naptime.

Reading Time

Before naptime, all four of us cuddle in the master bedroom and read a few stories.

Lately, we’ve been reading from this pile: Oxcart Man, Pelle’s New Suit, Farmer Boy, Little Prairie House, and Miss Rumphius.

Our favorite books can be found at this blog post Our Favorite Books.

Rest & Relax
(Quiet, Personal Time)

During naptime, my youngest boys pretty much always get their time alone — for their sakes and mine.

Usually, Esther spends at least an hour alone, but sometimes I let her stay up and work if she respects my personal time. She makes the rounds on all kinds of activities, including some handicrafts and our little doll house. (For some ideas on handicraft options for 4 year olds, see this blog post onHandicrafts.)

Esther’s working quietly on weaving.

This is my personal time to study, paint, sometimes blog, and just unwind. I take somewhat seriously the admonitions given through Thomas Jefferson Leadership Education for parents to continue their own education — in terms of a liberal education through reading.

Once a week during this afternoon time, I host a Charlotte Mason Book Club here, and I’m trying to get a Classics Book Club off the ground, to meet at the same time on a different day less often.

Tea Party

After some personal time, Esther and I get together for a tea party. I used to focus on Esther’s “academics” during this time, but I’ve stepped back from academic pursuits with her, as I’m personally convicted it was all too soon. (Charlotte Mason circles talk a lot about this subject, Montessori talks about proper fine-motor preparation, and thank you, Arianna, for directing me to Endangered Minds by Jane Healy.)

During the tea party (where we drink tea), we play games like memory, dominoes, go fish, and other matching exercises like the 7 Days of Creation, or we do a puzzle or something similar.

Sometimes we do the Montessori insets for developing pre-writing skills. This is the one purchase my husband finds absolutely, completely over the top. I didwait for 2 years, and I paid 30% of the retail price. I have to say now that we’ve been using them, I don’t think they were necessary, and my husband was right: You can just trace a cup or any other object.

We still work on reading with the sandpaper letters and moveable alphabet sometimes — only at Esther’s request — and Esther sometimes wants to “learn to read,” so we go back to our current book of the A Beka Reading for Fun Kindergarten Library books (like the Bob books). You can read about our beginning steps to reading at the series of blog posts, Our Path to Reading. I plan to re-attack and get faithful on reading lessons in Autumn or later.

We also have a math basket that includes manipulatives for 1s, 10s, 100s, 1000s, a geoboard, beads, sandpaper numbers, and a couple control charts. You can read about some examples of work we’ve done at the post Introducing & Understanding Numbers.

Our subject breakdown for our curriculum is in an easy-to-read table format, and the tabs on this blog (above) correspond to it.

Everyone’s Awake!

Once everyone is awake from naps, we sometimes go for a walk, or the kids play, or I put on a video (very carefully selected) like Little Pims French, classic story books on video, The Sound of Music, Planet Earth, etc (the latter two often in French). They otherwise work on one of the many activities listed above.

Evening Routine

We eat dinner together as a family at the table with no media, apart from an instrumental hymns station sometimes.  The kids love to shred cheese, so that’s often something they do during dinner if not before.

After dinner, my  husband spends time with the kids — playing with them, reading to them, or reading on his Kindle while they play around him. I’d ideally be cleaning the kitchen, while listening to an audio book from the library or Librivox.

Bedtime Routine

Then, the kids “do” their “evening habits,” which you can view at this post, followed by their night snack. Lastly, I join them in the room they all share and cuddle them in bed (forever!?!) while we respond the the evening request: “Will you tell me about when you were a little girl/boy?”

We’ve been entertaining this request for a few months now, and I’m reassured in doing so in that Charlotte Mason said it is better to tell children stories than to read to them (although we do both).

And the Sun Went Down on the Farm

My husband and I do some personal things, like read or spend time on the computer, then we chat, have wine or tea, and finally make it to bed to read some more.

… then it all begins again the next day!

I’m eager to read the Day in the Life posts from other families’ homeschool days!


3 thoughts on “A day in our home education life

  1. This has to be old-fashioned fiction, of course. These days mom or dad or latest partner drop kids off at creche/preschool before dashing off to develop their bad mood for the day at work. Then they exercise that bad mood as soon as the kids are collected again in the evening.

    • Hi, Colonialist! Sometimes I feel we’re living an old-fashioned life in the Washington D.C. metropolis — I wouldn’t trade it in for a bad day in the office, though 🙂 Sunshiny walks by the lake are much preferred.

      I just checked out your blog — sorry about the loss of your feline friends, and happy South African living! I have a dear friend in SA and hope to visit someday 🙂

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