Here’s a description of a homeschool day in the life with just a 15-year old.

When your last child is the only one still at home, it can be almost like homeschooling an only. Except not.

And homeschooling teenagers is a whole different experience. 

Every January, over at Simple Homeschool, Jamie runs a series called A Homeschool Day. I love reading the series because it’s like a patchwork quilt: homeschooling is different for each family. This is both a blessing and a curse! This year, I was inspired to write up a description of one of our homeschooling days, allowing me to take a step back and observe. 

My first impression is that this day looks nothing like the early years of our Waldorf-inspired learning!

Each day of the week is different and has its own “rhythm.” My daughter, Lila, is a sophomore in high school now. And she and I are often doing something akin to the parallel play of toddlers, each doing our own work but sharing the space.

My second thought is that I am ever so grateful for those early, cozy years of strong rhythm and working with the arts and language and nature, because they built such a strong foundation for launching into the adult world.

That strong foundation will always be there and is what the independence of the teenage years is built upon.

And it is a luxury to be able to really see that now! I have two already launched and in their twenties, so Lila is the baby. Preparing them takes time, years and years of time. And I am so grateful we have chosen this path of homeschooling so that we have that time.

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Here is one of our days last week.

7:30 am – I wake and sit for my morning meditation. My husband is at work in his home office across the hall and Lila is still sleeping. Next, I bundle up and head out the door for my morning walk. It’s only 11 degrees, but I make myself go out. Once outside, I’m so glad. There are more birds each day and the pair of juncos in our apple tree are so sweet.

I return, make a green smoothie, eat some leftovers from last night, and do my morning chores of putting away clean dishes from the rack and dishwasher. I then sit in front of my Sunbox while doing some writing. (My Sunbox is my “happy light” that simulates sunlight and helps me to sleep better.) This is my morning rhythm just about every day. But as is true for many homeschoolers, from this point on in the day, no two days are alike! I often tell people that homeschooling is much more like a college schedule where each day of the week is different than it is like brick and mortar elementary or secondary school.

My husband, Brian, comes down to get the trash out, and I help gather the recycling. We both are pleased (surprised?) to notice that Lila emptied the inside trash cans last night without being reminded!

Edison on PBS9:00 am – Lila comes downstairs, cuts up a grapefruit and is ready to watch an American Experience show on PBS, a special on Thomas Edison that we recorded last night. Lila’s pretty motivated on Wednesdays to get her work in because tomorrow is ski club in the afternoon, so we’re busy from noon on!

Lila is studying Modern World History this year (1850-present). Since this is my third child, I’m pretty comfortable homeschooling High School. We create our own transcripts and there are two ways to earn a course credit: by completing a high school textbook in the subject, or by counting hours, with 120 hours equaling one credit. Mostly, the textbook option has been reserved for math. That means that for history, Lila is counting hours. So after watching this 2-hour PBS program, Lila logs her hours. We stop half-way through for Lila to get some more breakfast and me to make a cup of tea, a luxury of learning at home. (If you want to read about a history project we did recently, check out this post about our Historical Figure Fair.)

Health Books11:15 am – Lila picks up one of her books for Health to read – Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey. This is part of her Health curriculum. We chose the Oak Meadow package for Integrated Health & Fitness this year which includes a syllabus, the book above, Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, a textbook by Glencoe, Health: Making Life Choices, and the Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt. This is Lila’s second experience with a textbook other than for Math. Last year, she used the Holt Biology book and now this Health text. I must say, textbooks are not her favorite method of study, nor mine! And Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, said no textbooks for elementary school. After spending most of your education reading well-written, living books full of rich stories, textbooks can seem full of dry facts and distracting sidebars. Even for high school, we try to find alternatives.

I’ve agreed to substitute some things for textbook reading! For the nutrition section, we’ll be watching Foodmatters and some other documentaries. And for the human sexuality portion, I’ll give her the book, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris.

Noon – I catch up with a long-distance homeschooling friend, and while I am on the phone, our 23-year-old, Ben, stops by. I wish I could stay to visit but I need to grab an apple and head out the door to a meeting. On my way out, I remind Lila to walk the dog. While I’m gone, she works on her health lesson and makes her own lunch. We tend to eat breakfast and lunch separately these days, often together but preparing our own food because I am on a special autoimmune paleo diet for my health. And that’s one of the changes that happens when the youngest is a teenager!

1:45 pm – I return from my meeting and Lila is reading. Brian has finished in his office and headed out. He’s self-employed so his schedule varies from day to day, too! Lila and I have a conversation about her math project. A bit of background: Lila takes her three core subjects – math, science and English – at the Homeschool High School Learning Center, a new group that began last year that meets on Mondays. The teens (grades 8 and up) then do homework on their own the rest of the week. This is a great set up for teenagers!

The Learning Center classes don’t start up again until next week, but the students have a math project to work on over break. They are to pick a career path and research colleges, choose one, and then find out costs, projected income etc. about their chosen career. Lila has chosen graphic design for the project. I share with her that a friend of mine who teaches at the Institute of Art suggested to me that Lila look into industrial design, knowing that Lila is into both engineering challenges and art. I pass along her tip that these students all find well-paying jobs right out of school!

Suzuki Piano2:30 pm – Lila practices piano, something I love listening to! She’s in Suzuki Piano, Book 5, and I’m very proud of her skill at this. (So is she!) Even when she practices at the last minute!

3:00 pm – We leave for her piano lesson. I grab a book to read while I wait.

4:30 pm – We’re home from piano and it’s Lila’s night to make dinner (once a week). I offer to help because there’s a lot of vegetable chopping and preparation to do in part because of my healing diet. We get started and Lila puts on some of “her music” while we work. We check in with Dad for his ETA so we can time dinner.

6:15 pm – We sit down together for dinner and sing our blessing. One of our key anchor points to the day is dinner together. This remains one of my favorite moments in the day. Even when our big twenty-something year old boys join us for dinner, we all join hands and sing. This has been a constant in our family through all these years.

At dinner, Brian catches us up on Ben’s news from his visit earlier in the day. He’s been asked by his landlord to be the building manager (which is great news since this is what he’s essentially been doing through the week-long fiasco of his building’s boiler breaking.) Ben works at a hip local restaurant and lives nearby.

Then we all talk about Isaac’s upcoming birthday. He’s the oldest and is turning 25! We talk about gift ideas. It’s not only his birthday, but we’re also celebrating his graduation from grad school with an MS in systems management. He started his first real, adult job last week with an international greeting card company headquartered in Cleveland! Hooray for grown children living in town! (For now at least.)

After dinner, Brian cleans up while I get ready to head out to singing with my women’s group (something I’ve done almost every Wednesday for 20 years). And while I’m out, Brian and Lila catch one of their action-packed shows (the super hero comics spin-offs).

10:30 pm – I arrive home and Brian asks me to take the dog out. I reluctantly do it since I still have my coat on. Gus, our beloved dog, spies a rabbit in the snow-filled winter garden and takes off. I come back in for boots and Lila offers to help me find Gus. I am touched by her offer. We find the dog and call it a night!

Want to read my other posts in this series? 

Homeschool Day in the Life with a 16-Year Old

Homeschool Day in the Life with a Senior in High School

This post is linked to a series over at Simple Homeschool. You can check out other homeschoolers’ descriptions of their days.

Homeschool Day


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  1. I really liked reading about your day. I have a first grader and a four year old and I find it so inspiring to read homeschooling days of parents and kids that are in high school. It is pretty funny because last night our dog Gracie (a Beagle with a great sense of smell) took off too and we had to go searching for her. Luckily the offer of treats and a walk were enough to get her to come back to us!

    1. Thanks so much, Heather. Looking ahead is comforting somehow, knowing others have survived and thrived! And yes, we had the treats out! But our dog Gus was so freaked out by dragging his leash that he was frozen in our neighbor’s driveway, just standing there waiting. Not even barking. So glad we found him so we could all snuggle in on a cold, cold night! These critters are a part of our homeschooling families, aren’t they?

  2. I sound just like Heather (above) but I do want to echo her sentiments. As a new homeschooler to three children (6, 5, and 3), I find it completely inspiring to read posts from others who have done this thing- and done it well- for years. I have learned something from every post that I’ve read.

    I also think that health class sounds amazing! Great book choices.

    1. Thanks, Cait. I remember those days with little ones and wondering what this homeschooling life will look like next year or in five years or even more! The health class is great and one of the realizations in writing this post was just how grateful I am that we get to pick the very best resources, subject by subject. I just love that. Health is a high school requirement but I also wanted to make it personally meaningful to my daughter.

  3. Great to see another day that featured older teens. We’re definitely in the minority. I too am often struck by home different our homeschooling is now compared to when I had more kids at home and they were younger.

    1. Yes, so different now than when there were more kids! I remember early on thinking of homeschooling as a fixed thing and it really does change and grow with our children. Thanks for stopping by, Sandra.

  4. This is so inspiring to me in so many ways. I really appreciated your post about how Lila is learning her core subjects. I bookmarked it for “some day soon.” I also appreciated knowing how old your older children are. How can you possibly have a nearly 25 year old? You must have been a baby having him! Your boys were 10 and 8 when Lila was born? (I still long for another but with a 10 and 7 year plus age gap, I don’t know…) Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Nicola. I do highly recommend the learning center model for teens. They really like learning with others. Even small groups are great if you’re not up for creating a more official group. One year, I offered a History Through Film class for just a group of 6 teens; I think we met for 8 weeks and it was a big hit. Hard for me to believe I have a 25 year old, too! And yes, the boys were 9 and almost 8 when Lila was born. It was wonderful when she was little, they adored her and took such good care of her. When they hit their teen years though and she was 8 and 9, not so much! But now it’s great again; they give her advice and are great big brothers! I enjoyed reading your Day in the Life post, too. And it buoys me up getting to know others on this path; there is a deep connection somehow. Peace to you.

  5. Hey Jean,
    I loved hearing details of Lila’s day. It is so good to read about older kids “still” homeschooling. (Reminds of those questions about “still” breastfeeding. LOL)

    Good to hear about your boys too. Can’t wait to catch up for real and in person.

  6. This was great to read because I have two adult children and two children still at home, but one is 17 and the other is 12. Next year is her senior year and I know all too soon my third child will be out the door on her own and it will be only my youngest at home with me during the day. I hope he keeps up with his piano lessons as your daughter has. Thanks for writing this post!

    1. It’s nice to see them all grown, isn’t it? I often say it’s a luxury to see it all works out! It is different with that youngest one, but it is sweet in its own way.

    1. The teen years can have rough patches at times, but it’s also great to see our children becoming more of themselves. My oldest was my biggest challenge (so far, at least!) but now he’s such a joy at almost 25 (on Friday)! We are so blessed to have the time with them that we do as homeschoolers.

  7. I too have a 16 year old sophomore following a Waldorf inspired education. Our days look very similar to yours. In fact I am even thankful for those days we snuggled and read stories together or sat in the Alaska sunshine talking about the earth. Now my oldest is ready to graduate and my youngest gets extra snuggles and hugs. My 16 year old is in the middle. I enjoyed this post. It is always comforting to know that your on the right page.

    1. So glad to meet you, Kristina! Yes, those early years created the foundation and I am so thankful for those days. And it’s such a joy to see them grow up too, isn’t it? My oldest is 25 years old today! I’ve been looking at sweet baby pictures of him and feel so proud of who he is now. It’s a comfort to hear from others on this same path.

  8. Thanks for this post, Jean! I have a 16 year old that we are Waldorf homeschooling and have had trouble finding other teens to connect with so she has been doing a lot of volunteering and traveling abroad. I love the idea of a homeschool learning centre for a group of teens which may work for my other children (who are still in the middle school and early childhood phases…11, 9, 7, and 5 years). Do parents facilitate this center or do you find other mentors or are the teens leading most of the group work? This sounds amazing.

    1. Thanks for this question, Rozanne. I do find our Learning Center to be a great model for teens. These are teens from all over the city, all homeschooled in different ways and for different reasons. That makes it eclectic and interesting. The Learning Center is set up and run by two Moms who didn’t want to teach math to their teenagers! So they set up a one day a week group and hired three teachers for core subjects: math, science, and English. This year, we have a group of 15 teens and they all take each of the classes at the same time which keeps things simple. The families pay a fee for renting the space (at a church) and to pay the teachers. The teachers happen to all be homeschooling Moms who also have credentials/experience in their specific subject. The teachers choose their curriculum (with some input from parents) and the families are responsible for creating their own transcripts and assigning grades as they wish. I know of other groups like this in other cities who set things up a bit differently, but the concept is similar. What I like about the Learning Center, and one of its assets, is that it’s just for students in grades 8-12. There are many homeschool co-ops for younger children, but this is set up just for teens. And the teens really like that!

  9. Thanks for sharing a day with your teen – I have one 22 year old graduate, a 14 year old and a 7 year old and have found it difficult to locate other Waldorf-inspired families doing high school. It gave me a great look into how another family does it!

    1. Thanks Erin! We do need to stick together. The number of homeschoolers definitely begins to dwindle in middle and high school. And those of us inspired by Waldorf are even smaller in number! As you’ve said, we certainly have learned a lot about what not to do with our twenty-somethings! Sharing really helps.

  10. Jean, I loved this whole article, including the notes you received. Congratulations on the work that you do, not only for Isaac, Ben and Lila, but for other families too.
    xo, Mom

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