A Day in the Life of Growing Independent Learners

Growing Independent Learners

We have five children ranging in age from 15 down to 7 and we have been homeschooling throughout their lives.  With each passing year and with the development of each child, our daily routines have considerably altered.  It’s not bad…it’s just different.  It has truly been a gradual, necessary transformation as our children have grown in their maturity, confidence, and independence.

I vividly remember that, just five short years ago, I used to spend a few hours each day in very hands on school work with our three  elementary aged children, an active preschooler, and an ‘into everything’ toddler.  They were enjoyable days, but bone-weary and challenging.  I loved that we were able to enjoy so many activities together and learn as a family, but I also distinctly  remember feeling very divided among each child since they all needed so much of my attention and direct teaching or assistance. 

from 5 years ago…

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to today…IMG_2210 (2)

Now, our school time gets spread  out longer over the course of the day and we are not able to study as many of our subjects together.  However,  those once elementary aged children are all now either middle school or high school aged,  are much more responsible for their own learning, and are developing interests which I see them taking time to pursue in their ‘non-school’ hours.

It has been rewarding to see our older children begin to ‘own’ their school work, take initiative, and be self sufficient.  We have seen them develop into independent learners!



So, what does a typical school day look like
for our homeschooling family at this new stage?

Well, you might be a bit surprised.

I will be the first to point out that, as the kids have developed and progressed in their autonomy, my own role has changed considerably – from direct teacher to more of a facilitator for most of the kids as they learn.  This has been a difficult process for me as I feel a lot of guilt for not being as engaged and directly involved as I once was in their education.  However, I am confident (as is my husband) that this is what our kids need in order to succeed.  So, I‘ve been gradually and intentionally giving our children more options, space, and time to learn and flourish.


Here’s a sample day!
(a full day at home, one without music lessons or other outside learning with friends)


  • Our 6th grader is habitually up around 6:00am to start his schoolwork.  He chooses this time of day because it is quieter and there are no distractions.

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  • I’m typically awake between 7 and 7:30am.  I check in with our 6th grader and then do my Bible reading/memory work, showering, eating, and a bit of computer work.  Characteristically, I am ready to dive full force into school with the kids by 9am (well, after I start a load of laundry =) ).  (This is so different from my former season with lots of little ones.  Then, it was critical for me to be awake before all of the children so that I would have ample time to get ready for the day and have a quiet time with the Lord.)
  • Our 4th, 8th, and 10th grade girls wake up and get moving around the same time as myself.  They can be found doing their own morning routines which includes Bible devotions and AWANA work.  Our oldest often begins schoolwork during breakfast at the kitchen  table. The other girls prefer to start working at their desks in the school room.
  • As for our second grader, lately, I have been having to wake up him up -no later than 9am.  (Can you say ’growth spurt’? LOL.)
  • I usually start the school time by listening to all of the kids’ AWANA verses and helping the youngest two to memorize their Scripture work.
  • I make sure to check school work that has been completed by our 6th grader and review/assist him with any errors or misconceptions that I may notice that he has.
  • Next, I devote a large chunk of the morning to focus on our 2nd grader.   As is to be expected, he still has lots of ‘work with mom’ subjects.  These include Bible, AWANA, All About Reading, book basket reading, read-alouds, English, and spelling. He does pretty well with math and just needs some assistance with it from time to time as well as direct teaching for brand new concepts. His Xtra math and piano are independent. He is then free to play until I call him for history and science later in the day. (Our 6th and 4th grader complete a Bible study together during this time as well as work on other subjects independently, coming to ask questions as needed.)

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  • Mid-morning, kids may get a snack.
  • After working intensely with our youngest,  I usually take a break to check in on our 8th and 10th graders to see how they are progressing and to see if they need help with anything.  (By the way, several of our 8th grader’s subjects, such as math, Spanish, and literature, are online. Our 10th grader takes an online math course, but she has chosen more book based subjects this year. )

from… DSC_3295


  • Reading and discussing literature as well as dictating spelling with my 4th grader is commonly next. 
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  • After that, I’ll try to sneak in a few minutes to ask and discuss science with our 6th grader.
  • As lunch nears, if it works with what she is doing, I try to work on Literary Analysis with my 10th grader.
  • Right before lunch, I, once again, check more work and meet with kids as needed for corrections and assistance.


  • Then it is time for a much need lunch break all together, followed by the completion of kitchen chores.  I also check the menu plan and start the crockpot (if it is necessary) as well as  make sure to switch laundry (if I have forgotten it earlier in the day, which is quite typical ;-) ).
  • After lunch, it is usually history time.  I like to do history with our 2nd and 4th grader first.  Afterwards, I call our 6th and 8th grader to work on history together.

from DSC_3095

  • At this point, many of our children are finished with their school day. Our 6th grader typically spends his afternoon free time on coding/ Khan Academy, constructing intricate paper modeling, building with Legos, trying out a cool science experiment that he has found, or either reading or listening to a book for his enjoyment.  The 4th and 2nd graders are usually off playing together.
  • I once again check in with the 8th and 10th graders to see how they are progressing and to see if they need help with anything.  (Our 8th grader is also normally finished with her school day by this point and enjoys reading for fun, checking out new recipes to try, sneaking in some additional piano practice, or hanging out with her siblings.)
  • I’ll meet with our 10th grader to go over her daily end of chapter history questions and, once a week, her weekly end of chapter health questions.  We’ll also discuss her writing assignments.
  • As for science with my 2nd and 4th grader, um, well, in all honesty, we still haven’t started it yet.  Sigh.  But, over the years, I’ve learned that  we will get there eventually and it will all work out by the end of the school year!
  • Laundry and dinner prep sneak up fast at this point of the day.


  • We then have dinner as a family, followed by chores.
  • After chores, we may have evening commitments outside the home or a time of free choice for what the children desire to do.
  • In the evenings, right before bedtime, my husband has been reading a YWAM Missionary Biography with all of the kids as well as leading a prayer time for missionaries and for our sponsored compassion child.  (He used to try to do this in the mornings, but as the kids grow, they tend to need more sleep.  So, our schedule has been adjusted accordingly.)

Throughout the Day

I delight in listening to the sounds of the piano, cello, and violins as the kids take turns practicing when the ‘music room’ becomes free.  I also get to witness gymnastics and crazy sibling antics, aid in resolving sibling squabbles, hear lots of ‘mommy, look at this’, answer tons of questions, refer them to God’s Word, and experience lots of hugs.  I truly do LOVE them and enjoy that I get to be home for them!

IMG_2613 IMG_1079 IMG_2798


When we first started on this homeschooling journey with lots of little ones,
I would never have been able to envision the relatively calm, productive days that we experience now.

Yes, our days are still full and busy, but it’s a different kind of full, a different kind of busy.  These days require much pre-planning to ensure our children’s independence and lots of intentionality to guarantee I am taking time to come alongside our kids and meeting them where they are each day.  It’s far from perfect and I admit that I’m not the greatest at juggling this new stage, but I’m thankful that God is challenging me and growing me, too.   It is a great privilege and season of joy as I get to spend time with my favorite people, guiding them as they develop into independent learners who love the Lord.


Past posts on a typical homeschooling day for our family…
Homeschooling – Day in the Life (K, preK, toddler, and expecting our 4th)
A Day in My Life – as a 9th Grade Homeschooler

Our 2017-2018 Curriculum

Workboxes – a stepping stone to independence

Including Teens: Planning for Their School Year

Including Teens in Planning

If you know me, then you understand how much I  love researching, planning, and organizing – especially in regards to school.  For me, it is more than just a requirement for preparing for another homeschool year.  I actually find it enjoyable! 

As our children have grown, I’ve begun to include them in some of the curriculum selection process.  No, they don’t seem to enjoy it as much as I do.  However, especially as they enter the teenage years, I think it is important for them to be able to have a say in what they will be learning as well as in how they will be learning.

What does this look like?

Starting in middle school, I’ll give them a few options for subjects like history and science as well as seek to somehow include something they are really interested in learning more about. 

For our 6th grade son this year, that involves lots of science – including learning about inventions, reading biographies of famous scientists, and making a science timeline for his history.  It also means making sure he has time during his school day to continue learning how to code with Khan academy.  He is beyond excited for these changes and additions this coming year! 

Our 8th grade daughter loves music.   After looking at curricula, we encouraged her to use her history time this coming school year to study classical composers through biographies and learn about the orchestra and each type of musical instrument.  She also has space in her day to continue practicing her cello and piano, as well as music appreciation.  This is a perfect fit for her this coming year and she is very much looking forward to these aspects in her daily school routine.

For high school students,  it is even more important for them to have a part in the decision making process for each of their subjects.  I explain the graduation requirements, suggest several options, show them online samples, and encourage them to read descriptions in the numerous homeschool catalogs that grace our mailbox. Then, we allow them to attend a homeschool conference with us and to share in the vendor hall experience.  We then talk about the possible positives and negatives of each curricula that they or I are interested in.  In the end, my husband and I are the ones with the final say, but our teens and preteens know that they have had a part in the decision.

It is so encouraging to see the different personalities, passions, and interests that God is developing in each of our children.  By allowing our teens and preteens to participate in  making decisions about THEIR education, we can more easily purchase and plan for curriculum that is tailored to their interests.  This, in turn, causes them to approach their schoolwork with a greater sense of ownership, determination, and satisfaction. 

All of this equals a greater joy in learning!

Building a Reader

Some think of the phase when their child learns to read as drudgery. 

It can be so hard for a mom to sit and hear their child painstakingly
   /s/ /ou/ /nd/        /ou/ /t/          /ea/ /ch/            /w/ /or/ /d/.

And, I know, it can be.

Our youngest son LOVES to build things…
building building2
and, currently, has little interest in becoming a reader.  

The different things that our son constructs can be quite tall and detailed as well as functional to play with.  In the process of assembling structures, he has learned some crucial guidelines– like the value of constructing on a solid surface, the importance of adding supports in order to stack the blocks higher, and the necessity of following instructions.

This makes me think how learning to read is somewhat like stacking those blocks
that he spends so much time engaged with…

a strong foundation of being read to, followed by step by step building
   letter by letter, 
      sound by sound, 
         chunk by chunk,
             word by word, 
                 sentence upon sentence, 
                     paragraph upon paragraph
… carefully building until it reaches the peak – an entire book!

early reading early reading 2 reading 3
reading reading 4 reading2 

I have been privileged to see the sheer joy in four of our five children’s faces as they progressed in their reading skills!  If we focus on just the individual building blocks, it can feel monotonous, repetitive, and overwhelmingly slow, but if we step back and look at the bigger picture … we will recognize it for what it truly is … a beautiful creation!  Learning to read opens up a new world of learning and exploration to our children.    There are so many ideas, discoveries, and concepts that I do not know or am unable to teach my children thoroughly.  However, when children can finally read, THEY become able to obtain knowledge so much more easily!  Reading is the foundation for a life time of learning.readingBible1

And, I can think of no greater aspiration or motivation for learning to read than God’s Holy Word.  Sure, our children memorize Scripture verses and listen to Bible stories before learning to read, but once they can read on their own, it opens them up to the whole knowledge of God – who He is, what He has done for us, and how we can live to bring Him glory.  And that is what we try to stress to our children and focus on throughout their journey of building those early literacy skills.
My sweet little builder is progressively making connections between letters and sounds, enjoys listening to picture books and to his audio story Bible, and likes to sing Scripture verses and other songs.  These encouraging signs cause me to feel confident that he is steadily developing into a reader, one building block at a time, following in the steps of his four older siblings.  =) 

Building a reader takes a patient, loving, and encouraging hand.

Mamas, keep stacking and supporting those blocks with your little ones!


More on early literacy and learning to read…
A Love For Reading!
Spelling – When to Start
Hubbard’s Cupboard 
(free printable booklets, story lessons, hands on ideas for manipulating letters and sounds, etc.!)

What Homeschooling Isn’t

Note to Self…

Homeschooling is NOT
– all about the academics (although it is important and I was trained that way).
– a daily checklist of things we must do (although I am wired that way).

Homeschooling IS
3) freedom and flexibility.
We have freedom and flexibility in our daily schedule, freedom to choose and/or create curriculum that fits the learning styles and needs of our children, freedom from assigned homework, flexibility to pace instruction to each child’s level, and freedom to work with the strengths and weaknesses of each child in order to develop their God given talents and calling.

2) family.
We have an increased opportunity to work on nurturing sibling relationships, encourage respect, show compassion to one another, model forgiveness, and learn to be others focused as we work together, day by day, as a family.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

1) discipleship.
We get the privilege and high calling to lead our little ones to the One and Only Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are able to treasure Christ with our children through songs, Bible reading, Scripture memory, and heart training.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19

… just because I need to be reminded from time to time as we press on during this journey.

And the name is…

Our two oldest girls are involved in the Book It program this year for the first time.  They kept their sticker charts up to date the first month, placing one sticker on the chart for each book read.  They were motivated and excited to get a pizza prize at the end of the month once they read their required number of books.  Well, I went to fill out their certificates and on the back of each one it said to write in the child’s name, homeschool educator’s name, and the name of the homeschool.  Name of the homeschool?

Well, let me just say, we tried to come up with something quickly since the girls were waiting for their pizza prize, but it actually took us a week before we thought of the right name.  And the name is… Joyful Heart Academy!  The name, truly, should not have been that difficult to come up with.  I already had developed early childhood/preschool curriculum as my oldest child reached each stage.  The curriculum is also aptly named – Joyful Heart Learning (for 2’s), Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme (for 3’s), and Joyful Heart Character (for 4’s).

Why ‘Joyful Heart’?  No, the name wasn’t chosen because our home is so full of joy each day (although it should be) =)  However, we do desire our children to know Christ and His Truth, to cherish His Word, to be salt and light in this generation, and to have their hope and anchor firmly planted in Christ.  The joy comes in knowing the Lord and following His commands.  Here are just two of many verses that reflect this in Scripture…

Psalm 19:7-8
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,  making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life.
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.

Here are also a few Scripture based prayers for our children, no matter where they are schooled…

Colossians 1:9b-14
…we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Philippians 1:9-11
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

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