A Day in the Life: School

I like reading about what other people do for school or enrichment with their kids, and I like being able to look back on my own homeschool posts to see how much progress we’ve made.  Since I’ve been writing about classical education recently, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what we’re doing for school these days.  Hannah is 5, Jack is nearly 4, and Sarah is 2.  We call this year preschool, but my intention is to keep the kids in the grades appropriate for their ages but not limit their school work to what is usually done in that grade.  I don’t really know what grade Hannah would be in if we put her in a standard school, but we don’t plan to do that right now so I don’t think it matters.  One of the benefits to homeschooling is being able to educate at the child’s pace, and one of the benefits to titling the grades like a public school does is keeping them in the right Sunday School class for their age.  🙂

I will note up front that when I read posts about what other families do for school I get overwhelmed because it sounds like a LOT of time and work.  I hope this doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed.  As I note at the end of the post, this whole process usually takes us around two hours, not counting stuff we do at other times of day like at breakfast, during play time and rest time, and in the car.

A Day in Our Preschool

Bible: We read a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible at breakfast.  I like the JSB because it ties all of the stories together and shows the flow of biblical history and God’s plan of redemption rather than treating each story as a stand-alone tidbit.  After we read, we work on our Bible memory passage (right now we’re learning Romans 8 – we have verses 1-9 learned so far), Sunday School memory verses, and a selection from the Children’s Catechism.  Usually we review about 20 questions, and then read through the new questions we’re learning twice.  We’re up to question 90 now.  We also review a few of our old memory verses.  Sometimes we sing the New Testament song, which is a great way to help kids memorize the order of the books of the Bible, and often we sing a Psalm or hymn.  In all we probably spend about 20 minutes on Bible and Bible memory, depending on how the morning is going.

Reading: Hannah is reading Little House on the Prairie for her reading book now.  She reads a couple of paragraphs out loud per day and is getting a lot more fluent and quicker at sounding out unfamiliar words.  Best of all, she really likes the story of Laura and Mary and is proud of being able to read to us.  She usually reads a few easy books per day out loud to the little kids, and she reads to herself during rest time.  Jack is working through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and is reading three letter words now!  He is on lesson 38 in the book today.  He also reads one easy phonics reader per day, or more if he really wants to.  I had a much easier time teaching Jack to read than I did with Hannah, I think in large part because he’s been hearing me work with her for so long!

Language Arts: While one kid works with me on reading, the other kid does a few pages in a phonics/writing/spelling book.  Hannah is working through Explode the Code Book 2, and Jack is working through Get Set for the Code.  Hannah also recently started writing stories, so after she does four pages in ETC (I have to tell her to stop after four or else she’d finish the book in one day and they are not cheap!) she writes exciting tales of lions eating mice and dogs and cats who are pals and whatnot.  The reading and language arts part of our school day usually takes about half an hour, depending on how much reading the kids want to do beyond the section I assign for them to read out loud, and how long they want to work on their Code books.  As long as they do the amount I ask them to do with a good attitude and not too sloppily, I don’t mind if they do more.

Math: Both Hannah and Jack are doing Math-U-See Primer.  I make their practice sheets myself because I think Primer is too easy for Hannah and writing numbers gets tiring for Jack.  They both watch the short video excerpt of the day’s lesson, then I walk them through it again with the manipulatives, and then they work on their practice sheets.  Sarah plays with the blocks and watches the video, and sometimes I make her a practice sheet too so she doesn’t feel left out.  We’re on lesson 10, and I’m not sure how long it will take to complete the book because sometimes we spend two days on one lesson.  I don’t know if we’ll continue with Math-U-See beyond next year, or if we’ll switch to Saxon.  Depending on how long the kids play with the manipulative blocks after their lesson, math usually takes about 20 minutes.

Latin: We talk over the current Latin lesson vocabulary, usually play a game with the vocabulary like pretending to be animals or playing Simon Says in Latin, and then we listen to the Latin songs.  While the kids listen to the songs I give them some sort of art to work on, and I make sure the beds are made and the laundry is progressing and do this and that.  Latin is usually about 20 minutes of our day, sometimes a little more if the game is really fun.

Literature (and Art and Science and History…): We always read some Mother Goose rhymes and a fable from Aesop, as well as some poetry (right now we’re using The Harp and Laurel Wreath but sometimes we read from other poetry books).  We’re also enjoying a story per day out of Fifty Famous Stories Retold.  Our daily book boxes each have a sampling of books about history and other countries, art, science, and classic stories and living books (you can see some of our lists of recommended kids books by topic here).  We read a few from each category.  We also read a few chapters from our read aloud book, which currently is Pinocchio (the original version).  Depending on what we have going on that day, we read between 30 minutes and an hour or so.

History: In addition to the books we read about different historical periods and cultures, we’re also enjoying listening to Story of the World on audio book. Our library has all four volumes, which is fortunate since the audio sets are otherwise not cheap!  We listen to this in the car primarily, but the kids sometimes ask for it while they are playing in the playroom too.  I like The Story of the World because it’s a good detailed history but puts everything in context and uses a narrative structure that is a lot more like a living book and less like a text book.  I’m learning a lot too!

Music: We usually have classical music playing at some point during the day, and I play Lingua Angelica (pretty songs and hymns in Latin) during rest time.  Sometimes the kids play on the piano, and Josh gives Jack guitar lessons every now and then.  We’ve done composer studies in the past but right now we’re just listening to classical music.

Recitation: In addition to the Bible and catechism memory work we do, we’re usually memorizing a poem too.  Right now we’re learning “Rebecca Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably” by Hilaire Belloc.  This has the added bonus of helping the children with their character studies, as they are remembering not to slam doors as often!  It takes about five minutes to read the poem through twice and let each kid take a stab at reciting it.

Geography: Based on what I read in The Core, I decided to start adding an element of map drawing to our usual atlas work.  We pull out the atlas and look a the picture of the world, then find our continent, country, and state.  We talk about the name of our city and town and address.  For map drawing, we’re learning how to draw the Great Circles.  Each kid gets a piece of paper and folds it in half, then draws a line on that fold and labels it “E” for Equator.  Then we draw in lines in the right spots for the Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, and Tropic of Capricorn.  It’s not as hard as it sounds.  Depending on how much detail the kids want to talk about in the atlas, geography takes us about 15 minutes.

Since some parts of our schoolwork happen throughout the day – like listening to music and history, or doing Bible at breakfast – it’s hard to say how much time we really spend on preschool, but our core work of reading, math, Latin, and reading takes about two hours usually.  I like to keep things moving and go back and forth between types of work so that the kids don’t get tired or overtaxed.

We’ll be making some changes in the fall for Hannah’s kindergarten year, but for the most part school is going great now!  It’s a fun part of our day and a good structure for us, so I don’t have any plans to take a summer off or anything.  Learning is fun for us and it doesn’t take too much time, so we’ll just keep going.

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10 thoughts on “A Day in the Life: School

  1. Your day looks great. I would have loved this as a child. It must be so wonderful to be able to teach your own children and determine what they learn. I’m a homeschool wannabe!

    1. Paula,

      As I recall, you are in the UK. I have a few friends in the UK who homeschool, so it’s possible but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as it is here in the US where it has become so common.


      Things have really progressed since the last time I remember reading one of your posts on a typical school day! I have kids picking up so much so fast, and it’s very fun to watch! Reading this post made me stop and think about how far my children have come which is a good thing to do. Yesterday some folks here were not very motivated and I needed to remember that despite some bumps in the road, we have come quite far!

      1. C, I think it’s really helpful to stop and think about all that we have covered so far. It’s like writing a Have Done list instead of a To Do list! A lot of times I get caught up in thinking of all the things we didn’t get to, so it’s good for me to think about all the things we DO get done. I’m glad you’re inspired to do that too!

  2. Catherine,
    This is great! Thanks for sharing. It has given me some things to think about as far as enrichment goes for our little ones. I knew I wanted to do some, but I didn’t know where to start thinking about it. I know Korbin is a bit young right now, but it won’t be too long and he will be ready. Thanks for your website. It has become a great resource from a trusted source.

    1. I’m glad you find it helpful Lani! You might want to check back in the preschool category for ideas of what I did when Hannah was Korbin’s age. Mostly I just read aloud to her a lot at that age. I feel like my kids all started picking up the alphabet and being able to do simple memory work around age 2, give or take.

  3. I am really looking forward to homeschooling and love looking at what people do during the day – it makes me that much more excited to start. My son is almost 22 months old, so right now we just do lots of reading.

    I’m just starting to think about what we’ll add in the future, because I know that the time is flying by so thinking ahead probably isn’t a bad idea.

    1. I think for a not quite two year old lots of reading is exactly the right thing to do. Hannah is five and this is the first time I’m really feeling like we’re doing much more than reading. It’s fun to have them get to the ages where they can do more, but I also enjoyed the days when we could “just” read.

  4. Loved reading this! It’s helpful to see what other homeschoolers days look like. 🙂

    I’m just starting to do a bit of research on Classical Education. I was thinking of using mostly Charlotte Mason but I like a lot of what a Classical education has to offer. This post (and a ton of others) has been so helpful. (I’ve been reading through most of your home education posts! 😉

    My oldest will be 4 this summer, so it’s still too early to start much, but I’d like to be prepared when I do finally start. And the more I read, the more I’m glad that I HAVE started researching so early! HA!

    1. Catie, it’s great that you’re doing research and thinking about things in advance. I did that too and I’m glad I did! But I have also found that my ideas have changed as I went along, and I expect they will continue to do so. Some things work better for some kids than others, and sometimes what seems like a wrong fit one year is perfect the next. It has been fun and exciting to apply different ideas and formats at different times.

      Also, as a side note, “classical” and “Charlotte Mason” mean vastly different things to different people, so it’s a good thing to do a lot of reading and thinking about it so you can figure out an approach that meets your kids’ needs and works for you!

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