Homeschooling Day in the Life: Tara, veteran homeschooling mom of five kids, currently in every stage of schooling
A homeschool day in the life looks different almost every day, right? Over on our Instagram page, we love to give you a peek into lots of homeschool days regardless of how they change day to day.
Today, we’re going to give you a peek into the homeschool day in the life of Tara, veteran homeschooling mom of five kids, currently in every stage of schooling.
We can all learn and be inspired by one another, regardless of our homeschool approach. It’s not about looking good for social media, it’s about the connection going on inside our homeschool walls and sharing with others what works for us.
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We might all homeschool a little differently, but we can always look for ideas from each other that inspire, encourage and equip us in our own homeschool days. So each week we create blog posts for you to access later of each of those “days in the life”. We hope you keep coming back for more inspiration. Keep going, mama! These days at home are so worth it!
Tara @learningfourlife is a follower of Jesus, wife of 23 years to her high school sweetheart, Joel, currently mom of 5 kids, and soon-to-be mother-in-law next spring.
Tara was a public school teacher before becoming a mother. She quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom when her oldest was almost a year old. Shortly thereafter, she felt God leading her to homeschool. At first she was very reluctant, but she decided to try it for her oldest daughter’s preschool/kindergarten years. Tara ended up falling in love with homeschooling and the homeschooling community, and she is currently in her 16th year of home education. She currently has a child at every schooling stage – college, high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool.
Besides homeschooling and being a chauffeur to her kids’ extra curricular activities, Tara stays busy with some of her other passions in life. She teaches teens and young adults at church, she sings and plays the keyboard on the worship team, she runs a clothing closet for her community, and she is passionate about advocating and mentoring in the foster care/adoption community.
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I’m excited to share a peek into our day with you! My oldest daughter, age 19, lives a little over an hour away from us. She is a sophomore at a Christian University, working toward a degree in social work, and lives on campus there. She is also engaged and will be getting married in the spring.
I have four children living at home. Their ages are 16 (junior), 11 (6th grade), 9 (4th grade), and 3 (preschool). Their personalities and interests are diverse, so our home and schedule can be very lively and busy, which sometimes means late nights. Because of this, we have all become night owls. I’m grateful we can have later, slower mornings due to homeschooling.
My 16 year old is an athlete, and she enjoys working out with her cousin. Wednesday is their early workout day, so she left before I woke up. She just arrived home and will get started soon on her school day.
I wake up my 6th grader and 4th grader by 9:00 if they don’t wake up on their own before then. Everyone does their morning chores, fixes their own breakfast, and gets started on their day.
My toddler usually wakes up between 8:30 & 9:30. I try to get up around 7:30-8:00 and get ready for the day before he wakes, but he has rough nights sometimes (which means I do too), so some mornings I’m moving slowly, or I sleep a little later.
Right now I’m going to work on my Bible study before all the kids are awake. I’ll check in again soon with more posts!
Motto + Mission
When I began homeschooling with our oldest daughter, I decided to name our homeschool and write out a motto and mission statement. I didn’t realize in those early years how important this would become to me throughout my homeschooling journey. On days of doubt, and in difficult homeschooling seasons, my motto and mission remind me why I started and refocus my heart and mind on where we are going.
Homeschool name: Learning 4 Life Homeschool Academy
Motto: Teaching heart, mind, and soul.
Mission: Teach the heart to love, the mind to learn, and the soul to live, for now and for eternity.
Our mornings are typically slow but also steady. As my kids wake, they usually fix their own breakfast then do morning chores. This morning they were at the breakfast table at the same time.
Except for my toddler, they are all old enough to do most of their school independently. Each child has a planner to follow to stay on track. Throughout the day they work through their subjects and come to me if they don’t understand or if they need help.
My 11th grader chooses to work in her room free of distractions from all her siblings. My 6th grader and 4th grader like to work together upstairs in our playroom/schoolroom. I spend the morning playing downstairs or outside with our toddler. He is very energetic and loud, so he has free reign of the downstairs and isn’t as much of a distraction to the older kids. We do most of his learning through play.
Although breakfast for us was together this morning, lunch is the first time of the day when I have planned for them to all be together. Lunch conversations are sometimes about school and what they are learning, but it’s usually a time for everyone to relax and chat about whatever is on their minds. Lunch time is often a time of laughter. I love this time with my kids. It’s one of my favorite times in our daily schedule.
After lunch the older kids go back to wrap up any subjects they haven’t finished, and I put the toddler down for a nap. During nap time I sit with my 4th & 6th graders to go over any unanswered questions and make sure they have everything completed. I check all of their assignments for that day and go over any incorrect answers. By the time I am finished them, the toddler is usually awake, and my 11th grader is finishing her schoolwork as well. If I have time, I go over her lessons, but if not, we do it at night after the younger ones go to bed.
In the afternoons I encourage everyone to get outside as long as possible. We are also usually getting ready for our evening activities (church, music, sports, etc.) Tonight we will be going to church.
Style + Curricula
Our homeschool could be described as both eclectic and traditional. I use ideas and approaches from multiple styles, but much of what we do is also very much like a traditional classroom. Being a former teacher, this is what comes naturally to me. In the past I tried to change my approach, but I always come back to a more traditional style. It works for our family, and I have come to peace with it.
In the preschool years, I focus mostly on language development, fine motor skills, and establishing a Biblical worldview. I don’t really use any kind of curriculum at this age. We do a lot of learning through play–playing games, playing outside, playing with sensory toys, doing crafts, taking walks, etc. We also take advantage of our local library story time every week, and we read a lot of books.
In early elementary my main focus is language (handwriting, phonics, grammar, reading, etc.) and math, both of which we do daily. I know if my kids can read, write, and have foundational math skills, then they can tackle any subject or interest as they get older. We do science and history as well, but not daily, and not at the same time. We do history in the fall semester and science in the spring semester, and typically we only do those subjects 2-3 times per week. I try to make a lot of the learning at this age project-based and hands-on so that they aren’t constantly sitting with paper and pencil doing work.
In upper elementary I start a more traditional approach for my kids, and it continues until they finish high school. They do all 4 core subjects, plus Bible, and I also allow them to explore other areas of interest, such as foreign language, computers, music, art, etc.
Planning + Grading
After homeschooling for a few years, I realized that I never could find a planning book that really fit what I needed in it. When my kids got older, and I needed to start keeping records of grades, I needed something for that as well. I decided I would just make my own planners, and that the planners would also double as a grade book. All pertinent information for each child for the entire school year is in one place.
At the beginning of each school year, I have each kid design their own planner cover, then I design the weekly pages and take it to have it spiral bound.
I then sit down and plan out the entire semester for every subject for every kid. I really want to be the person who estimates where we want to be at the end of the semester and then write things down as we go, but it’s not me, and it’s not my kids either. We all like very specific details to keep us on track and on schedule. Of course, sometimes life happens and we get behind, but we eventually get back on track. Planning a semester at a time helps my kids see the big picture and the little details all at once. They know what is in store for today as well as the rest of the semester.
Each day they check off their planned assignments as they compete them. Later in the day I spend one on one time with each child. I review his/her assignments, circle anything that is incorrect, then give the assignments back to him/her. We talk about what they missed, and I make them correct the answers. I do not put scores/grades on my kids’ work until high school. I don’t see the need for it. For us it’s about understanding, learning from mistakes, and mastery of concepts. When they get to high school, I record the grade for each assignment in the planner. At the end of each unit for each subject, I add up the scores and put the totals in a spreadsheet I created on my phone. It adds the scores as I enter them and computes an overall percentage grade. This helps me at the end of each year when I need to update transcripts.
Responsibilities + Chores
We teach our kids at a young age to help out with age appropriate duties, like cleaning up after themselves and keeping their own rooms clean. As they get older we give them more responsibility and individual chores.
We do not pay them for household chores. They understand that part of living in a house as a family and getting it dirty is helping clean it up. They won’t get paid to clean up after themselves when they are adults, so we don’t pay them for it now.
My husband owns his own business. Some of our kids are old enough to work with him, and they choose to do so during school breaks. When they work with him, my husband pays them because he is getting paid. We want our kids to understand the difference between working at a job for money and household duties as a part of life.
We all take the time to pick up after ourselves everyday, but we tackle cleaning bit by bit throughout the week. I always joke that on any given day PART of my house will be sparkling clean, but not all of it!
I love that my kids are with me all day at home, but I also enjoy our busy evenings out of the house. It is an opportunity for me to watch them thrive in areas where I can’t teach them. Each of my children have chosen activities that I don’t know much about. I have really enjoyed learning alongside them through the years.
My 11th grader is a competitive softball player. Catching is her passion. In everyday life she is easy-going, but when she steps on the softball field she means business and takes charge. Although she can drive herself to lessons and practices now, I love spending weekends at the softball fields watching her play. When her team travels for out-of-town tournaments I am usually the one to go with her, and those one-on-one weekends with her are such a blessing. She is so much fun.
Our 6th grader plays competitive basketball with a local homeschool group. He also started learning drums about two years ago. He took a few formal lessons, and has learned more on his own at home. Lately he has been playing for our church youth band, and he plays for our adult services on Sunday nights. Although he hasn’t played long, he has a natural ability for it. I play the keyboard for our worship team, and I love having him play alongside me!
Our 4th grader is a dancer. She is taking ballet, tap, jazz, and acro, and is also part of dance company, which is a group that has extra practices and competitions. She is a natural born dancer, and she shines on the stage. Watching her perform is such a joy for me.
We are also very involved in our church, and our kids volunteer alongside us. Our 11th grader is in charge of all the visual components (song lyrics, sermon notes, announcement slides, etc.) of our church services for teens and adults. She also enjoys helping in our food pantry and clothing closet. As I mentioned above, my 6th grader plays drums for our teen services once a month and for our adult services on Sunday evenings. Our 4th grader has been a big help to me with our community clothing closet. She has a very compassionate heart for people, and she enjoys helping meet people’s needs.
Before I sign off today, I want to encourage you. If you are like me, you are your worst critic. Remember, that just like everything else in life, there are good days and there are hard days. And if we are really honest, sometimes it’s more than days; it’s good seasons and hard seasons.
In the hard seasons, I doubt if I’m doing the right thing. Am I messing up my kids? Am I trying to teach them too much? Am I pushing them too hard?
Am I not teaching them enough? Am I leaving gaps in their education? Am I preparing them well enough for life as an adult?
Anyone else out there feel these things?
In addition to our doubts, we also find ourselves in different seasons of life which add more challenges–a move, a new baby, health problems, a financial loss, the loss of a loved one, feeling isolated, or maybe feeling too busy. I could go on and on!
I’ve been there. I’ve been through all these seasons. Some of these seasons have been so hard that I have wanted to quit homeschooling. I thought I didn’t have enough in me to continue. I thought my kids would be better off in another setting. However, my husband (thank you, Joel!) always brings me back to reality. Being able to homeschool through seasons like these is a tremendous blessing. I can adjust our schedule, our expectations, and our responsibilities to work through these hard things. I can walk my kids through these things hand in hand so that when they are older and face hard stuff, they will have a compass.
Our lessons go far beyond planners, text books, and workbooks. The best lessons happen when we simply walk with our children and do life together, day and night. What a privilege!
So, all that to say this… be kind to yourself on this homeschooling journey. You know your kids best. You know what they need in every season that comes to your home. You know when to push harder, and you know when to pull back and rest.
Thanks for letting me share our day with you. If you want to continue to follow our story, find me at @learningfourlife. Blessings to you all!
Thank you so much to Tara for sharing your family’s day with us!
If you want to see more Day in the Life photos and videos, be sure to check out our Instagram profile. There are highlights of each takeover at the top.