The Homeschool Diaries, Part 1: A Typical Day

A six part mini-series highlighting key aspects of homeschooling a young teen

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Since the publication of the feature I wrote explaining why I decided to homeschool one of my daughters, I have been asked a number of times about various aspects of homeschooling; What do you do each day? What about exams? How does your child socialise? Do you ever get time to yourself? How do you juggle working from home with teaching your child? Amongst many others. So, I thought it may be useful to write a series of succinct posts that address these questions and a few others, in the hope that they may inspire, intrigue or interest some of you who may be considering an alternative to mainstream education for your child…

I should say however, that we are relatively new to homeschooling – this week (May 15th) marks one year since our journey began. My daughter is now 14 and so we/I am only really familiar with homeschooling a teen (I am also an ex-secondary school teacher) and so cannot comment on homeschooling children of primary school age. I have however spent many months researching alternative forms of education, spoken to many home educators and their children (some who have homeschooled for many years and others who are new to it, like us) and I am active in a number of online homeschool support groups (which are an invaluable source of information).

As I write this article in May 2018, we are 12 months in, and my daughter is a happy, positive, thriving individual. We are so glad we made the (very difficult) decision to remove her from mainstream education. I also currently have a daughter in Year 6 (last year of primary) and my eldest daughter is weeks away from completing a two year College course. I am not anti mainstream education (although there are many things about it that rattle my cage) but I am passionate about finding a learning environment that is suitable for each individual child.

So, I thought perhaps the best way to start this series, before we get into the nitty gritty, is to give you a breakdown of a typical day for my homeschooled daughter.

A typical day

8am

Tilly gets up and dressed. She usually organises her own breakfast whilst I take her younger sister to school. The idea is that she is up fed and watered and ready to go by 9am when I return from the school run, whereby we have a quick chat (and a cup of tea) about plans for the day.

9am – 11am

As I work from home during this time, Tilly and I usually set a task that she can be working on the night before, so she knows what she is getting up to. We do have a timetable, but we tend to see these hours as ‘independent learning time’. Fortunately, Tilly is an able, motivated child and so this type of learning is feasible, this may not be the case in other circumstances (I am also very grateful for this as it allows me time to work – hello reality!). Here is a list of the types of things Tilly does during her independent learning time:

Calligraphy Tilly is loving sharing her calligraphy work on Instagram at @matildascalligraphy. Here she is below, enjoying the new ink that she got for her birthday.

BakingI am rubbish at this, so it is me who learns from Tilly!

Reading and answering practice questions (BBC Bitesize is good for this) on the English text that we are studying. Currently reading Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ – we’ve just finished Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which she really enjoyed. We intend for Tilly to sit a number of GCSE exams over the next two years – I will let you know our plans for this and how to find suitable centres that take external candidates (not as easy as it may seem!) in a future post.

Completing Maths based tasks (Tilly sees a Maths tutor once a week for 2 hours and is set work to complete at home – this takes the pressure off me a little and has also alleviated her fear of this subject).

Watching a documentary that we discuss afterwards – science, crime, discrimination etc. This is one of my fave things to do as Tilly gets so much out of the discussion and always presents such good arguments and asks so many questions – she keeps me on my toes!

Choice – Sometimes Tilly expresses an interest in a particular area and we just go with it. Last week she was keen to write a fictional story and so she used her independent time to do just that. Today we are clearing our garden and adding some potted plants/flowers, so Tilly has spent the morning researching what is available at our local garden centre and what would work best in our garden space, before we head out to purchase them.

Life Skills One of the biggest issues to get over as a home educator is not to feel like you need to entertain your child with skilfully crafted learning sessions every moment of every day. There is much to be said about allowing your child to learn how to use the washing machine, hoover up, walk the dogs, take the bins out, change the bed sheets, budgeting for shopping etc. Tilly is much more capable at all of these everyday tasks because we have had the time to do them. They are real and important aspects of life.

11am

We try to have a tea break around this time and Tilly can tell/show me what she’s been doing with her independent time in the morning (see above). We then usually walk our dogs before lunch, which in itself is another good opportunity to discuss nature, take photographs etc

12pm

Go for a swim at our local leisure centre

12.45pm

Return home and have lunch.

1pm – 3pm

We usually focus on English Literature/Language and/or Maths. We follow the awarding body Edexcel (Pearson) for specific reasons which I will discuss in a future post. Having downloaded the scheme of work from their website, we use this as a guide alongside the appropriate text books which we purchased online. This is working well as we can get so much done working one-to-one.

As I head out to collect Rowan from school, we usually see 3pm as the end of our ‘school’ day. Although Tilly will often help make tea as she enjoys experimenting with recipes – I work from home 4pm-6pm, so having a helper at ‘teatime’ is invaluable to me. On Sundays Tilly volunteers at our local Animal shelter ( I will cover volunteering opportunities in a future post), but generally our week days look a lot like the above.

(Tilly (R) skating with her sister Rowan – they LOVE to skate!)

Over the coming weeks I will take a closer look at the following aspects of homeschooling; deschooling, volunteering, examinations (and what subjects to teach), socialising, exercise and top tips (learning opportunities) and a post by Tilly regarding homeschooling from the child’s perspective.

If you have any questions or want to offer any advice, it will all be warmly received…thank you!

Cx

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9 Comments

  • So interesting as I’ve never known anyone to be homeschooled. What happens in terms of you being checked that you’re meeting a certain standard? Do the councils do proper checks?

    Also, do you have to cover things like science? Are there any legalities that you have to adhere to?

    Sorry – lots of questions, but it’s quite fascinating!

  • Hi Amy,

    It’s strangely easy to take your child out of school. Currently, home educators have quite a lot of freedom (we have not had any checks from our Local education authority – although I know people in other areas who have), but there is proposed legislation to enforce rigorous checks and have a register for the home schooled community to enable the councils to keep more of a beedy eye on what type of ‘schooling’ the child is being offered at home. This has caused quite a bit of controversy as many homeschoolers enjoy the obvious freedoms that come with rejecting mainstream education – I know many people who do a fabulous job of homeschooling their children, who are offered all sorts of wonderful experiences, which in my mind are far preferable to sitting in a classroom for the majority of the day. That said, there will clearly be folk out there who may be homeschooling for reasons that are not putting the education and welfare of their child first, or who may simply not be equipped (financially/emotionally) to home educate…

    In terms of what subjects to teach – I teach my daughter what we feel she may need in the future and what she enjoys: Maths, English Lit/Lang, Psychology, Art and Design (she will do exams in these subjects) and anything else which may take our fancy such as history, science, gardening (she will not do exams in these areas).

    I am passionate about teaching/educating in a way that is suitable and engaging for each individual child – this may not always be possible in mainstream education and so many poor souls slip through the net (I used to be a teacher and saw this happen on far too many occasions) – home education makes this a much more feasible option.

    Thanks for asking – are you considering home educating?

    Cx

  • Loved reading this, what wonderful days! So great to hear that you’re incorporating real life skills like cooking and budgeting and gardening! I wish I’d done gardening at school. It sounds like you’ve got a real partnership on the go, and that can only be a good thing for both of you. So jealous of the calligraphy time! x

    • Aww thanks Kate, that’s made me well up a little.

      It’s not been an easy ride to get our ‘flow’ as we were so filled with doubt at first and I was so worried that I would fail Tilly – but so much of that has sorted itself out and I feel like I can now say, yes, this is totally cool and working for us. Cx

  • I guess I’d be interested to know whether there’s anything that Tilly misses about mainstream education. It’s clear that overall this is by far a better option for her but I do wonder if there was a bit of mainstream education that she could integrate into her school life now, would she?

    • Good question Harriet.

      I have just asked Tilly this directly and she said the only thing she misses is a couple of her teachers who were particularly nice to her and inspiring – she was just telling me about how her English teacher always came up with interesting scenarios (murder mystery type tasks) to make the lessons fun and Tilly enjoyed engaging with tasks such as these with other students. Other than that she is quite happy with our arrangement. She still sees a couple of friends from school, so she doesn’t feel totally out of the loop as it were.

      Cx

  • I love reading about your homeschooling experience – I don’t have questions but a couple of suggestions for docs in case you haven’t watched them (I’ve just watched them both with Lily). One is ‘Blackfish’ about the orcas kept in captivity in SeaWorld and the other one is ‘One Dollar a Day’ – about some privileged, young Americans trying to survive in Guatemala on a dollar a day like many of the locals have to do. Both fascinating! Well done you. Lisa xx

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the recommendations – we have seen them both as Tilly and I are documentary fiends and have devoured most of what is available of Netflix, Amazon prime and BBC iplayer. Blackfish is so tragic – have you seen ‘The Cove’ (made by the same people)?

      Cx

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