The Balancing Act-Running a Home Daycare and Homeschooling

Homeschooling balance.jpg

I opened my home daycare when my oldest child turned one.  Therefore, the progression into homeschooling and running a home daycare was a gradual one.  One of my own children did attend school for a full year, so we had the chance to experience the needs of the daycare with the school scheduling system.  Each year, as my own kids get older and my daycare group changes, I re-vamp the routine to meet the new needs of everyone.

One of the reasons I love homeschooling is its ability to change to fit the situation.  I’ve always lived my life in an eclectic way and so it makes sense that I also homeschool eclectically. Here are some of the styles of homeschooling we use in our homeschooling journey.

1. School at Home- Formal lesson plans at the kitchen table that involve hands-on projects and worksheet type activities.

2. Waldorf Kindergarten Program– Storytelling, baking, sewing, outdoor play, open-ended toys

3. Unschooling– Facilitate children as they explore and discover from their own interests.

4. Homeschool Co-op– Group of homeschooling families that take turns leading group lessons for a mixed age range.

5. Theme Based Learning– Covering a unit of study that involves teacher-lead and child-lead lessons.

6. Tutoring– Second language learning from an outside teacher who visits the home.


Homeschooling is a life philosophy for us and not just a Monday to Friday learning method.  Therefore, we homeschool during the day with the daycare children (multi-leveled learning), also during the day without the daycare children (at nap time, free play time and independent learning times) and evenings and weekends without the daycare children.  The teacher in me enjoys planning lessons but the parent in me loves the unschooling philosophy.  I made a decision a few years back to only accept daycare clients who are fine with weekly van trips to our homeschool co-op.  We don’t sign up for all activities we would like to because my daycare children nap in the early afternoons.  I have to choose the activities I can manage with my group of children (swimming lessons are not a possibility!).  I feel lucky to have found a wonderful supportive group of homeschooling friends who welcome me with my kids and my daycare children.

More than half of our homeschooling happens in the moment embedded within daily life.  Reading books, experiencing events, answering questions and having conversations are how most of the learning happens.  We also do formal lessons for fun or to help explain a concept to the kids.  Unfortunately, my teacher brain freaks out now and then and says, he’s_____ old, he should be learning________.  For the most part, a few formal lessons is all I need to give my children, and then the inner voice quiets and we relax back into my child lead homeschooling philosophy.

On a regular basis this is what is happening in our homeschooling house.


School At Home

At nap time every afternoon we have one-on-one learning with the older kids. The children have independent work they complete while I’m working with each of them.  Daycare children either nap or rest quietly with books.  One of my children learned how to read this year and we took ten minutes here and there through out the day to sit together and read. Some days this structured time does not happen for school type learning but instead for connecting.

Waldorf Kindergarten Program

This involves a circle time whenever our nature table changes.  There is a story or puppet play that reflects the season. The children take part according to their age and attention spans. I adjust an activity to simplify it for a younger child or extend it for an older child.  We might bake, sew, paint or dance a few times a week.  I use Waldorf learning to relate to nature, the spirit and the grand universe.  We play outside as much as possible.  Science learning happens constantly while we are out.  I stop and take the time to explore, explain, provide materials, and facilitate whenever the children ask.


Learning just happens all day long with whomever.  My children spend time with extended family on a weekly basis and they are great about answering questions and supporting their interests.  We take time on the weekends to go places and experience new events.  For example, my children are currently interested in ferries.  We have a day trip planned to take a local ferry boat ride.  I spend time borrowing library books, looking up information on-line or finding real experiences to help facilitate their interests about the world.  My older children also do self selected independent learning while I’m busy with the younger daycare children.  They check in and ask a few questions and then continue on with their own interests and projects. I often get to hear them summarize their daily learning when they casually tell their father about their day while we eat dinner.  This helps me understand what they discovered and gives me ideas about materials or books to offer next.

Home School Co-op

We see homeschool friends once or twice a week.  Sometimes we cover a unit of study and plan formal structured lessons and sometimes we just get together to socialize.  The daycare children take part in these get-togethers.  The younger children play with each other while the older children are conducting an experiment or taking part in a group learning activity.  The parents take turns leading the activity, supervising the younger children, providing a shared meal and sharing resources.


Theme Based Learning

I conduct a theme based preschool program for my daycare clients.  I find many parents are seeking this early learning style. My Waldorf philosophy balances out this early academic philosophy.  A few times a week I plan a mini hands-on lesson that incorporates letter and number learning.  We have a theme table that holds books and activities about our current topic of study.  The topic is often seasonal and gets woven into our Waldorf curriculum and our monthly field trip excursions. The activities are offered to the children and they can choose if they decide to complete them.


Second Language Learning

Once a week we have a tutoring visit (this year with an aunt, previously with a paid tutor).  She comes for the morning and we play and learn in a second language.  All the kids are included (she also brings her younger son).  The lessons are loosely planned (a few concepts and materials) but the lesson generally takes on a life of its own and we follow the children’s lead.


That’s what we’ve been doing this year.  It changes and grows as the children do.  I’d love to hear how you balance your homeschooling with running a home daycare.