A Day in Our French Homeschooling Life: Ages 1, 4, & 7

This is our second year of homeschooling if you consider that my oldest child is now seven, but our "education at home" lifestyle has been gaining momentum since that daughter was young and we first decided to take this path. This year we've found a definite rhythm, but that's not to say that we follow a set schedule. With my children's young ages and with my belief in the importance of play at this stage, certain days are far less orderly than others--but here's a typical homeschooling day for us:

Wake & Connect:

  Our toddler, who fits the "morning person" description!

Our toddler, who fits the "morning person" description!

Ideally, I get up before the kids (and sometimes before my early-rising husband) so that I can spend some quiet time reading my Bible, collecting my thoughts, and connecting with God. If I'm lucky, I can also squeeze in a 10-minute Barre3 workout using my online subscription. Frequently, though, our one-year-old comes toddling out of the bedroom before I've gotten a shower, so getting up early doesn't buy me much time. Still, it's my favorite way to start the day.

However, several days per week, on the mornings after I've stayed up late writing, I sleep a bit longer while my four-year-old son has breakfast in the kitchen with daddy. When daddy leaves for work at 6:45am, my four-year-old comes and "snuggles" next to me and thrashes around enough to wake his little brother, his sister, and me, who are all trying to sleep in the king bed. (It's a popular destination, unfortunately.)

Clothing & beds, breakfast & writing:

Strangely, my children are really quick to get dressed immediately after they get up. In theory they make their beds right afterwards, but usually I'm cooking in the kitchen and the beds get made a bit later when I can remind and help them.

Hungry tummies send everyone to the kitchen soon after dressing. Breakfast is a rotation between hot cereal, pancakes, waffles, German pancakes, and crêpes. I'm embarrassed to admit that we have crêpes with maple syrup or jam at least once or twice per week--but fancy breakfasts (and access to great background music) are one of the luxuries of homeschooling, at least in America!

  Eating ice cream for dessert after dinner (I couldn't find a breakfast picture)

Eating ice cream for dessert after dinner (I couldn't find a breakfast picture)

Since my children are already seated at the kitchen counter for breakfast, I try to have a written activity ready. My daughter has continued working on cursive writing since attending school in France last September; my son prefers to copy printed letters. We've used French cursive workbooks; my daughter loved this one and this one. Otherwise, my children write a simple phrase in French and English like those from this 1 Corinthians 13 activity, or a statement I've selected, or something they decide they want to learn to write.

French preschool workbook 4-5 years old homeschooling

Sometimes, instead of writing, we start the morning with me retelling a story in French (from Story of the World, or the Bible), or my daughter works on the math workbook from her class in France while my son grabs his beloved French activity book. (You can find similar versions on Amazon in the U.S.). Next year (or as soon as I can, really), I'd like to change our math "curriculum" to RightStart Math, because it seems to emulate the hands-on, manipulative driven lessons I've been trying to create for our children on my own.

Imaginary play:

After breakfast and a writing activity, my daughter and older son race to the other room and launch into imaginary play with their stuffed animals and paper characters. Usually they ask me to print an animal or other image to color. (They each have assembled a thick portfolio of their favorite images, colored and cut out.) By now it's about 10:30am, and I leave them to play while I nurse our toddler and keep up with housework. I ask for help with some tasks, but most household tasks are still my responsibility, unfortunately.

When the older kids wrap up their play, I pull out our nature notebooks (blank sketch books) and the children decide what they want to sketch. (During our rainy, cold winter, we mostly used Natural History for inspiration, but now that it's spring I hope we'll spend time sketching outside.) Afterwards we learn about the animal or plant they selected by watching videos and reading articles online or in the guides we have. I love seeing my children's sketches and I participate by sketching items from nature in a notebook of my own (even though my artistic skills are quite weak!).

Lunch and violin:

young violinist girl

Once we've refueled with lunch, I help my daughter practice the violin.  She has a warm-up followed by a short list of review songs, some simple music reading practice, and finally, newer songs to play. She mostly enjoys it and plays nearly every day, but if we miss a day or two, she's less motivated to practice the following day(s). Practice is more enjoyable for her if we're really consistent, so I have a timed reminder on my phone to practice at 1pm so we don't forget.

"Feet off the floor":

A few months ago, after watching Carole Joy Seid's video Homeschooling Made Simple, I started instituting "feet off the floor time" ("le temps de repos"). For years I resisted a "quiet time" because the children were already spending plenty of time playing independently during the day (and my oldest no longer needs a nap), but I knew I would appreciate a set time to read and rest! When I first presented "feet off the floor" time to my kids, they were pretty receptive to the idea of hanging out on their beds with a stack of books. Due to our scheduled activities outside the home, we only have this time two or three times per week (during my toddler's nap time), but it's been an awesome way to help my older son get regular naps (since he tends to fall asleep after 15 minutes of looking at books), and I feel invigorated just from getting 15 minutes to read my own book while they read. (They rarely want me to read to them during the day; they usually just want to read together  at night.) Once the boys are napping, I help my daughter with a one-on-one activity or we have independent work time until the boys wake up (typically within an hour).

  Writing a letter in cursive to a French friend during her brothers' naptime

Writing a letter in cursive to a French friend during her brothers' naptime

More free play:

  Making edible gel beads from juice (like the ones you see as toppings in the frozen yogurt shop)

Making edible gel beads from juice (like the ones you see as toppings in the frozen yogurt shop)

Late afternoons are for play and outdoor time. My older two children can play for hours together, but because my toddler is so young and mobile I'm not able to accomplish much once he's awake--just snippets of household tasks and dinner prep. I'm not a crafty person but I love to cook and bake, so the kids and I might bake together or do edible science-related projects like making chewable vitamin gummies or gel beads (from the science book mentioned above).

Dinner, books, & bed:

During this season of coaching, my husband arrives home around 6pm, by which time we are more than ready to eat!  After dinner he plays with the kids while I clean up the kitchen (or we all clean up, ideally). Then he and I help the children get ready for bed, and we all settle on the couch to read together. My husband reads lots of English books with my son while I read French and English books with my daughter. I wish my son would read more French books with me, but he really only wants to catch up on daddy time!  Our toddler mostly wanders around and climbs up and down from the couch where we're reading until I nurse him to sleep, which sometimes happens while we are reading aloud.

This past fall I changed my strict French-speaking policy with the children in order to read my children some novels in their original English. I'll write more about this in a future post, but it's mostly been a wise choice, I think!

We wrap up reading between 8 and 8:30pm, and my husband and I put the children to bed. I love hearing my children's answers to our three bedtime questions.

Other activities:

Three days out of the week I drive all the children to activities: a gymnastics class for homeschoolers, a violin lesson, and Mandarin Chinese (for my daughter only--I need a whole blog post to explain how and why that came about!). This summer we will temporarily trade two of those activities for horseback riding (per my daughter's request) and swimming lessons. And that is enough! I would gladly cut out any of these activities (except violin lessons), but the kids love them, and homeschooling gives us the time to do these things without feeling over-scheduled.

  Brilliance from spring's arrival here in Oregon (photo from  my Instagram account )

Brilliance from spring's arrival here in Oregon (photo from my Instagram account)

In reflection:

Our family loves homeschooling and there are so many reasons each day why I'm grateful that we made this choice. However, I definitely need to find a nanny or babysitter who can watch the children regularly for a few hours once or twice per week while I catch up on online work and homebuilding tasks (since we break ground this month on our next home!). And as an introvert and a writer, I really need more time alone than I'm getting--most days I feel like I'm losing my mind with the constant task-switching required by parenting and homemaking and being present and kind despite getting less than enough sleep. (Consequently, I'm reading Teaching from Rest now and it's fantastic!) Nonetheless, you can find out why we didn't choose a French immersion school here and here.

Merci for following our family homeschool journey! Feel free to share any tips or questions you have in a comment below.