Danielle Davis looks through her home schooling planner Sunday afternoon at her house in Sabattus, as her husband, Patrick, gets ready for work. For the first time, Davis decided this year to home-school three of her children — a decision prompted by concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

SABATTUS — Danielle Davis started home schooling her three sons — ages 5, 7, and 11 — last summer, and has not looked back.

“Even when you don’t think they’re learning, they’re learning,” Davis said.

Davis had already been a stay-home mom, so the transition for her might have been a tad easier than for other parents, but the change to full-time home schooling was still dramatic.

“My kids are special needs kiddos. Once pandemic schooling started, we noticed that it wasn’t for them. It was too hard getting them to sit at the table and do virtual meetings.”

Davis, who lives in Sabattus, had spent much of her day ferrying the kids to school programs and therapies from West Gardiner to Lewiston.

“I pretty much lived in my car,” Davis said.


Now, their day looks much different.

Lila, her 1-year-old daughter, wakes everyone up at about 6 a.m. The family eats breakfast together and does chores, tidying up the kitchen for the school day ahead.

Lila goes down for a nap at about 9 a.m., marking the start of the school day.

“Some days, we get more done than other days,” Davis said. “Some days, we get all of the subjects done. And other days, we only fit in two subjects. Sometimes, they do all bookwork. Sometimes, it’s all tablet work. It depends on their mood that day and our schedule.”

Davis’ husband, Patrick, helps with the school day, but it is Davis who keeps everything and everyone on track, which involves her massive day planner.

“I track each kid and what we did that day,” Davis said. “In the back is my attendance sheet. If we wake up one morning, and somebody is having a rough day, and we just aren’t feeling it, then we don’t do school that day.”


She started home schooling in July to give her children a buffer as the family figured out how to navigate its new routine together. And together, they typically follow a four-day school week, keeping Friday as a makeup day.

They enjoy doing themed units together.

“We started with a ‘Shark Week’ unit,” Davis said. “We’ve done an apple unit and we went to the apple orchard. We also did ‘apple math.’ We did a Johnny Appleseed video and a Johnny Appleseed read-aloud.”

She added: “We did a weather unit recently where they learned about all of the seasons and all the different types of weather. We watched videos and did art projects. You can include all of the subjects. We can figure out math and art and history and language arts. It’s just very easy.”

The children’s being different ages and in different grades does not seem to be an obstacle for Davis.

“Raylan is learning a lot quicker because he’s with the big boys,” she said. “Gabriel’s learning words.”


Davis said her oldest son, Nikolas, is in fifth grade and his curriculum is online. He is able to do most of his work independently and the software grades it.

“He’s learning long division now,” Davis said. “We go over the lesson together, then he does all the problems.

“I love watching them learn. When they were in school, they didn’t want to talk about their day. When they got home, they just want to play. Now we spend every second of the day together. And they still don’t get sick of me. At the end of the day, they want to sit in my bed and play.”

In addition to her husband, Davis has an extended network of support to help teach the children. Her father, a history buff, bought a set of workbooks so he can keep up with the kids’ schoolwork and help from time to time.

“My parents live 10 minutes away,” Davis said. “They’re super supportive of home schooling. My sister lives in Lisbon, and she’s also home schooling her two kids this year. My entire friend group right now is home schooling.”

There is plenty of help in the community, too.


“The Maine Homeschool Network on Facebook has been great,” Davis said. “They also have a field trip group. We have so many resources online, and a lot of them are free for home schooling families.”

Davis said her children enjoy their online music and physical education classes.

“They think they’re playing a game,” she said. “I stressed a lot in the beginning about making sure I had everything and they were learning enough.”

Davis’ advice to any parents starting considering home schooling is to “give yourself some grace.”

“It’s a learning curve for everyone,” she said. “You have to throw out your preconceived notions about what you think school is supposed to be, and find what works best for you.”

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