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A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Neurodivergent Child

Many often wish to be a fly on the wall in our home to witness what a day in the life of a neurodivergent child looks like, especially a day in the life of Sunshine.

Today I'm excited to share all the details of life at home, and how we help Sunshine make it through each day.

Please note that we are a Montessori family who homeschools.

Sunshine is considered neurodivergent for a number of reasons including the following diagnoses:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Intellectual Disabilities

She also suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder caused by trauma she experienced before we adopted her.

We work hard to provide accommodations for her throughout the day, so that she can be as successful and happy as possible.

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Neurodivergent Child

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Neurodivergent Child

Due to the needs of all of the neurodivergent individuals in our home, we don't really pay much attention to a clock, except for those times where it's absolutely necessary.

Sunshine takes medication three times a day. 

  • 6:00 AM
  • 12:00 PM
  • 6:00 PM

Medication needs to be given on time or else there are some pretty serious consequences for everyone at home.

As you read through a day in the life of a homeschooling neurodivergent child, aka Sunshine, know and understand that times given are estimates. 

We don't use a clock to transition from one part of the schedule to the next except for in very specific circumstances where it's necessary.

Weekday Schedule

6:00 AM: Wake Up, Meds, Breakfast

Sunshine is a very light sleeper and early riser.

Dinomite, Sunshine's big brother, wakes up every morning a 6 AM to go to early morning seminary, a religious class offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The minute she hears her brother awake, Sunshine is up and ready to GO for the day.

Bulldozer will also begin to attend early morning seminary next year.

Due to issues with wetting, Sunshine goes to the bathroom and gets dressed immediately, before coming downstairs where she takes her medicine and then eats breakfast.

Jason, my husband, is in charge of making preparing her meds and making sure there are breakfast options available. He prepares pancakes, muffins, waffles, breads, breakfast cookies, etc. ahead of time and puts them in the freezer to pull out and use.

I am in charge of helping Sunshine upstairs when she first wakes up and leading her through her morning before meds kick in.

Each morning Sunshine requests a banana and a cup of juice to go with her breakfast. These are must haves for her, so we always try to keep them stocked.

6:30 AM: Cartoons

After breakfast comes cartoons. This provides time for Sunshine's medications to kick in before requesting that Sunshine do anything, which is extremely important.

It also provides flexibility in making sure Jason can get Dinomite to early morning seminary and back without issue.

Lastly, it gives me a chance to get some work done first thing in the morning, which I love.

Currently, Sunshine watches two Blues Clues and You episodes every morning. 

Since we can't ever depend on Nick Jr. to keep a consistent schedule of when this show is on in the morning, we have a stack of Blu-ray discs on hand for Sunshine to choose from. 

If we have appointments or need to run errands in the morning, we bring along Sunshine's iPad where we pull up episodes for her to watch.

Sunshine can not miss her morning cartoons. They are a ritual that she treasures.

7:30 AM: Morning Routine

Once medications have kicked in, we're ready to attempt Sunshine's morning routine. This process consists of the following:

  • Make Bed
  • Pick up Bedroom
  • Brush Hair
  • Brush Teeth
  • Bring Down Dirty Laundry

During this time of day, which is not a favorite of Sunshine's, I try to focus on the fact that all that matters is that these tasks are completed.

It does not matter if she completes the tasks independently or if she needs assistance. I am with her throughout the entire process helping her and guiding her, when she needs it.

In order to make the morning routine more enjoyable, we always turn on music, dancing and singing our way through it.

Right now Sunshine chooses the live action Aladdin soundtrack on almost a daily basis. Lately she's been choosing The Princess and the Frog soundtrack as well.

Sunshine's Bedroom

During her morning routine, Sunshine often talks about all that's on her mind, working through big feelings and morning anxieties. We take things slow so she has time to process everything.

The process that takes the longest is making Sunshine's bed. She has a very specific order and sequence she follows. Her blankets and stuffed animals need to be organized just the way she wants them.

Dinomite returns from seminary about about 8:00 AM. Bulldozer and Princess wake up between 7 and 8:00 AM and eat breakfast.

All three older kids check in with me in the morning as I'm upstairs helping Sunshine with her morning routine.

9:00 AM: Bath or Craft Time with Mom

Taking a bath and craft time are some of Sunshine's preferred tasks of the morning.

Sunshine suffers from eczema. Most of the year, except for summer, she only bathes three times a week. 

Sunshine prefers bubble baths, but on some occasions, especially when she's sweaty, she doesn't mind a shower.

Though she is eleven years old, developmentally and cognitively, she's between the ages of three and six. This means she still requires supervision and assistance during bathing tasks.

Once she's gone to the bathroom, undressed and in the tub, I come in the bathroom and turn on her music of choice. 

Sunshine plays with her mermaids during the first two songs. We then move on to washing her hair and body.

I help her wash and condition her hair, always allowing her to do her best first, before asking for help. She washes her body.

After she's finished bathing, I help her with her towel and we transition to her room where she is lathered in Aquaphor ointment (except in the summer) and gets dressed. 

Since the ointment can cause her skin to be super sticky, we always make sure she has really loose fitting clothing on bath days, so she can dress independently.

Once dressed, I do her hair and she brushes teeth with my assistance.

On days that Sunshine doesn't bathe, we use the extra time in the morning to do a craft together. 

How to Train Your Dragon Crafts for Kids

How to Train Your Dragon Crafts for Kids

Currently Sunshine has been very specific about doing crafts that can be finished quickly, without the need to wait for glue or paint to dry. She isn't up for a multi-day craft, as she feels she doesn't have the patience for it.

It's my hope that over time we can get back to bigger projects, or at least crafts that use paint and glue.

While Sunshine does her morning routine, bathing and craft time, Jason works or prepares breakfast for the next day.  

The three older kids do their morning routine, chores, and any studying or "homework" they haven't finished before learning.

9:30 AM: Family Scripture Study

Everyone in the family gathers for scripture study together in the morning. We read a chapter of scripture silently and then share our favorite verses and insights aloud.

Since Sunshine can't read, she chooses to play quietly, while listening to favorite scripture verses being read aloud and discussed.

She then joins us for family prayer. Sometimes she chooses to continue to play. Other times she chooses to fold her arms, bow her head, and close her eyes. We always give her a choice, picking our battles throughout the day carefully.

Scripture study for her occurs at night before bed with her own set of scriptures with pictures.

You can read more about our family scripture study in the post below.

Scripture Study Ideas for Families

Scripture Study Ideas for Families

Reading scriptures together is so important to us. We love that we're able to make it work for everyone

10:00 AM: Morning school work with Dad

After a bath or craft followed by some play time during scripture study, Sunshine is ready to transition to her morning school work.

I've been working with Sunshine one on one all morning up to this point. It's now my husband's turn.

The two go up to Sunshine's room (Sunshine's choice) and complete morning work tasks which include the following: 

  • Writing Task: Sentence Challenge
  • Reading Task: Bob Books
  • Spelling Activity
  • Math Activity
  • Songs:
    • Sign Language
    • Math Song
  • Health Lesson

To keep with the Montessori philosophy of following the child, we let Sunshine take the lead with her morning work.

Sunshine chooses the order of her work. Sentence challenges are designed to be around her interests and abilities. 

New Bob Books aren't introduced until Sunshine is ready. Each day she works on her newest book and then chooses one from the past that she would like to read to review.

Sunshine helps pick out her spelling and math activities, from choices that are provided, that focus on skills she's working to develop.

Sunshine picks her math and sign language songs from a variety that have been introduced previously. When we introduce a new song, it's added to the mix.

Health lessons are designed around Sunshine's questions. During lessons, she chooses when we start and stop.

11:30 AM: Play Therapy Time with Dad

Once morning work is completed, Sunshine plays upstairs with my husband, Jason. 

Sunshine's play is quite different than typical peers and can often be quite disturbing to listen to and participate in.

Jason takes this opportunity, as a retired mental health therapist, to turn play into a daily therapy session.

While he is working and playing with Sunshine, I am providing homeschool instruction to her older siblings.

12:00 PM Meds and Lunch

I prepare Sunshine's meds and the family's lunch, before calling everyone to the table, where we eat together.

Depending on the day, lunch consists of left overs or other simple meals to prepare.

Sunshine uses her table manners chart to help her throughout her meal.

4 Reasons Children Struggle with Table Manners with  Free Printable

4 Reasons Children Struggle with Table Manners with Free Printable

Lunch is usually the one meal where everyone is home and eats together.

12:30 PM: Nap

After lunch, Sunshine settles down for a nap that lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. 

I can't remember a time when she hasn't needed this nap, especially as she struggles to sleep at night due to nightmares and her bipolar disorder.

A nap after lunch is also Sunshine's way of resetting and starting over for the day, especially if she struggled in the morning.

While Sunshine naps, I finish homeschooling the older kids and Jason works or takes a nap himself.  Lol.

1:30 PM: Outside Time

Once Sunshine is awake, it's time to head outside. Sunshine, Jason and I head on a walk. Most days Sunshine will choose to ride her scooter, which gives Jason and I just a little time to connect during the day. Mind you there are still many interruptions from her along the way.

The older kids usually stay in the yard and play football or some other sport together.

After our walk, Sunshine hangs around outside for a bit, enjoying nature and cooling down. We then head inside.

Outside Time

There was a time when Sunshine was joining siblings in play, but it caused a lot of behaviors. Because of this, Sunshine usually hangs out with Mom and Dad while the others do their thing.

Outside time helps so much with Sunshine's bipolar disorder and gives her a chance to regulate physically before moving on with her day.

Sunshine may take a shower when she comes in if it's really hot out and she's feeling sweaty and smelly. 

If she doesn't feel that way, she will usually ask if she can change into her pajamas for the evening.

3:00 PM: Learning Time with Mom

Once Sunshine has transitioned back inside, we attempt Montessori learning together. Sunshine looks forward to this the majority of the time.

There are six shelves set up in our dining room/office/ learning area that are rotated out weekly or bi-weekly.

I present the activities to Sunshine, showing her how to use everything correctly. She then practices with my assistance and/or supervision.  Once she's ready, she lets me know when she wants to do the work all by herself. 

As she works by herself, I try to get some work done.

Montessori Three Period Lesson Visuals

Montessori Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts

As I observe she can do the work herself, successfully and without frustration a couple of times, I know she's ready for something new.

Sunshine works through six different trays of work, using her Daily Tasks Sheet to check them off. She also uses this task sheet to keep track of her morning work.

Montessori-inspired Daily Tasks Sheet

Montessori-inspired Daily Tasks Checklist

During this time, Sunshine's older siblings study and do "homework" to prepare for the next day's lessons.

Jason will be working or starting dinner preparations.

4:30 PM: Media Time

Media time signals that the day is winding down. All four kids are able to watch TV or a movie, use their iPads, phones, etc. 

The only thing they can't use is the Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch, as those are saved for the weekend.

Meanwhile, depending on the day, Jason and/or I will fix dinner. If I'm not fixing dinner or helping in any way, I use the time to work. 

5:30 PM: Dinner, Meds, and Dessert

Dinner is usually ready around 5:30 PM each night. Everyone who is home sits at the table to eat. 

We have a meal rotation we follow for the fall and winter months, as well as the spring and summer months, that everyone enjoys in some way shape or form.

40+ Summer Dinners: Gluten Free, Corn Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, and Refined Sugar Free

40+ Summer Meals with Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Corn Free, Refined Sugar Free Options

Sunshine uses her table manners checklist again at dinner.

Once everyone is finished eating and Sunshine has had her nighttime meds, dessert is served.

Dessert is on Sunshine's list of necessitates each day. 

She HAS to have it and looks forward to it all day. 

Just like dinner meals, we rotate through multiple options that she enjoys and meet her special dietary needs.

10 Favorite Fall Desserts: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Corn Free, Refined Sugar Free

10 Favorite Fall Desserts: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Corn Free, Refined Sugar Free

It's Sunshine's responsibility to make sure she has a dessert on hand. When she notices she's running out, she'll either ask Jason or I to help her make a new treat. 

6:30 PM: Bedtime routine with Dad

Around 6:30 PM, Sunshine heads upstairs with Jason to start her bedtime routine. Her bedtime routine consists of the following:

  • Brush Hair
  • Brush Teeth
  • Scripture Story
  • Bedtime Story
  • Prayer

The goal is to have Sunshine's bedtime routine done by 7 PM so Jason can read with the other kids.

Unfortunately, Sunshine's anxieties are quite intense at bedtime sometimes and the routine takes her much longer. 

When the routine does take longer, the older kids are downstairs hanging out with me until Jason is ready for them.

As Jason reads to the other kids, Sunshine will look at books, play with stuffed animals in bed, and eventually fall asleep. 

The older kids love this one on one time with their dad. It used to be that he would read to them, but more often than not, they are reading to him now. When they discover a new amazing book, they just have to share it with him.

Lily does not like being left alone so Jason or the kids will stay upstairs until she falls asleep.

During bedtime routines, I work some more. 

7:30 PM: Sleep

It's always the goal to have Sunshine asleep by 7:30 PM, but it most often occurs closer to 8 PM, and that's okay.

Once she is asleep, the older kids are back downstairs watching a show with Jason and I before bed. They are sent upstairs to bed at around 9 PM.

It's always a goal for Jason and I to head to bed around 9 PM also, to enjoy some down time and reading before we fall asleep, but that doesn't always happen. It's the only time during the day we're alone together to talk, relax, and do whatever we want.

Other Weekday Activities

There is some variety in our week, which helps me not feel so restricted by things being the same every single day.

Mondays: Running Errands

On Monday mornings, Jason and I have individual therapy sessions. 

As we rotate out, the other runs errands with Sunshine. Errands include grocery shopping for the week.

We pack lunches and noon meds to ensure we don't have to worry about being home at a certain time.

This is a time where we help Sunshine learn and practice appropriate social boundaries and interactions. 

She has developed some really precious relationships with people out in the community during errand runs. She looks forward to seeing them each week.

At noon, Sunshine has a swimming date with Jason while I work on my laptop in the car.

After swimming, we head home and Sunshine takes a nap, picking up in her schedule where she left off.

The older three kids have flexibility to do whatever they'd like on Mondays, which they love.

Wednesdays: Afternoon Appointments


On Wednesday, Sunshine has occupational therapy at our local elementary school at 1 PM. 

She then has swimming lessons at 2 PM at our local indoor community pool.

Swimming Lessons

After the pool, Sunshine heads to the local library to return old books and check out new ones.

Jason takes her to all of these appointments. The two may also run a few more errands as well.

This is yet another time during the week where Sunshine practices appropriate social interactions and boundaries with adults and children. 

Since her schedule is the same each week, the people she runs into are often the same each week.

Meanwhile at home, the older kids and I provide respite services for a local family with disabilities. 

If we aren't doing that, I am working and the kids have friends over.

Wednesday Night Youth Activities

Wednesday evenings Dinomite, Bulldozer and Princess have activities with the youth of our congregation. I take them while Jason stays home with Sunshine doing her bedtime routine.

Dinomite's Football Practices

Dinomite is a manager and film person for a local college in town. During football season and spring ball, he has practices almost daily. Practice times vary. Whichever parent isn't working with Sunshine takes Dinomite to practice and picks him up.

Friday Night Movie Night

On Friday nights we watch a movie together as a family. Sunshine enjoys a diet-friendly ice cream sundae while the rest of us eat popcorn.

Holidays and Special Occasions

Sunshine LIVES for holidays and special occasions. I support Sunshine's passion, as it provides me with opportunities to change up our schedules and routines in a way that she is okay with.

You will notice we jump at the chance to celebrate anything and everything, because for me that means a different kind of day, which I crave often.

Saturday Schedule

There are a few differences in our Saturday schedule.

We all sleep in an hour!

Every weekend we take time to clean. The older kids rotate upstairs and downstairs cleaning responsibilities. 

Sunshine completes the following tasks:

  • Matching and folding socks for the family
  • Washing windows in her bedroom
  • Dusting her bedroom

Instead of learning, on Saturdays Sunshine enjoys playing Nintendo Switch Lite. Jason sits by her and helps with anything she may need.

Her favorite game right now is Animal Crossing.

During the college football season, we may also attend local games to support Dinomite on Saturday afternoons. In the past Sunshine has attended and made it through, which we're excited about.

Sunday Schedule

There are also a few differences to our Sunday schedule. 

We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunshine has church at home. 

Jason and I rotate out with her. 

It's our goal to help her prepare to be ready to attend church with us as a family, but staying regulated in a place like that with so many people can be difficult for her, especially when the expectation is to sit down the entire time.

At home we follow the same schedule each week:

  • Primary Song Music Video
  • Opening Prayer
  • Children’s Scripture Story & Lesson
  • Activity
  • Primary Song Music Video
  • Closing Prayer

The older kids attend church with the parent who's turn it is to go.

During NFL football season there is usually one game on in the afternoon or evening on Sundays, with yummy snacks and root beer floats. 

Sunshine enjoys supporting her favorite team, the Detroit Lions, by wearing her sports attire, playing quietly with board games, puzzles, toys etc. while the game is on.

When Sunshine's Not Okay

There are times when Sunshine is not okay. 

In these cases, she misses out on what's going on in the moment, until she can be safe, kind, and respectful. 

Other aspects of her day are not taken away as a punishment or consequence. 

While she is not okay, if the situation can be handled by the parent who is one on one with her, it is. 

If she becomes too unsafe to make that work, both parents pause what's going on for the sake of safety, and resume schedules as quickly as possible.

Sunshine's older siblings choose what they'd like to do when Sunshine isn't okay. Sometimes they choose to play outside. Other times they choose to relax and hang out in their rooms. 

There are times when they take turns checking in with parents to make sure everyone is safe and okay.

On days Sunshine has a rough time, we always allow the older kids to stay up late to spend extra time with us without her, having fun.

As you can see we're quite busy on a day to day basis. 

We look forward to holidays, special occasions, and trips were we can change up schedules and relax a bit, so long as we provide the supports that Sunshine needs.

A day in the life of a homeschooling neurodivergent child can be very rigid and ritualistic. 

We try our hardest to teach Sunshine and our older kids to be as flexible as possible while providing supports that are needed at their pace.

We always try to remember that consistent schedules and routines help children who are neurodivergent.

For those who would like to follow Sunshine's story, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking on the image below.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

How We Do Montessori Middle School  Day to Day Life Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder A Day in the Life of a Montessori Family with Special Needs Morning and Bedtime Routine Visuals and Supports Our Fallback Plan Chores and Practical Life Visuals and Supports Outdoor Visuals and Supports Meal and Snack Time Visual Schedules and Supports for Kids

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Neurodivergent Child

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