Let’s be honest: homeschooling is hard. Anyone who says it isn’t might also want to sell you beach front property in Arizona. At a homeschool conference, many years ago, I heard Sally Clarkson describe homeschooling as “having a fistfight with the world” and I wrote that quote down. No wonder I was having a hard time. I was doing something hard!
There are several ingredients that will help your year go easier. These are important because finding success means we will not become discouraged, worn out, or be in danger of giving up.
We also need to avoid detours of our own making because this will make the year more difficult than necessary. As a detour makes any trip complicated and longer, so homeschooling detours will complicate homeschooling. Take it from me…I know. I have been doing this over twenty years and I have made every mistake in the book, and taken numerous detours, including every one below.
1.Lack of Schedule
It is exhausting to get up every day and try to figure out what to do.
Your days need rhythm and predictability. If your kids know when to get up, what to do first, and what is expected of them, then part of your work is already done.
Some families enjoy a hyper-detailed schedule. Every fifteen minutes broken down. Timers going off. A place for everything and everything in its place.
My problem with schedules broken down into 15 or even 30 minute intervals is that I could look at the clock 45 minutes into the day and already feel like a failure!
My schedule that works best is having a wake-up time, a morning routine, and touchstones throughout the day to keep us on track.
- Meal times set
- Mid-morning check point: did you get your math done? How is that paper coming?
- With toddlers in the schoolroom: naptime is at _?_ (No matter what time you choose do it EVERY DAY! SAME TIME! Nothing breeds success with toddlers in the house more than predictable nap times.) Then we sit down and do phonics or whatever subject needs the greatest concentration level.
- Quiet time for littles, toddlers to early elementary, right after lunch- even if they have already napped. Who says kids need to actually sleep during nap time? If it is just a time for quiet reading it is fruitful. And you have dependable moments of calm for other items.
- Lunch at same time with everyone knowing exactly what to do after lunch: one is on piano, one is with mom, two laying down, one doing chores, etc.
- Music lessons are on Wednesdays so we do grocery shopping and our library on that day. Grouping errands keeps us home on other days.
It doesn’t have to be rigid. It is a rhythm. But it allows for an accumulation over many years of small “faithfulnesses” that add up to a body of work.
2. Activities over Academics
This is always a hard one for me. Activities are way more fun that academics for most moms and most students.
This is compounded by the guilt when we see other families participating in activities our family is not doing and then we let fear take over and accuse us of not providing all our kids need. That family is in orchestra. That other family has nationally ranked runners. The family in our church has a foreign ministry. All we do is take an origami class at the library.
Here is what you need to say to fear and guilt: SHUT UP! (I know that isn’t nice but politeness is not effective on fear and guilt.)
Trust God and the direction He is taking your family. Don’t sign up for any activities or extra-curriculars JUST BECAUSE your friend is doing it. Homeschooling is first and foremost your avenue to educate your child- put academics before the extras.
(WARNING: I am not saying, put the academics before the spiritual. God first. Academics second. “Stuff” third.)
3. Academics over Wonder
Is school boring?
Then who wants to do it?
No one enjoys dry toast or slimy spinach- even if it is good for them.
There are way too many fascinating things to learn for academics to be dry toast. If your child is bored to tears, then she isn’t going to want to do her lesson. If you are bored to tears, you aren’t going to want to teach it.
You can never cover all the knowledge available, so why spend time on boring? If your homeschool is a yawn then infuse some wonder and see your students WANT to learn.
4. Unrealistic Expectations
Another way to say this: too many trips to homeschool conventions or too much time in a homeschool catalog.
There are just soooo many good products. There are more enrichment items than you can fit in your house. There are more books than there are minutes in the day.
Here are statements to repeat daily: We cannot learn everything. We cannot do it all.
Peal the onion back and pray and then take out the items that there really aren’t time for.
One year, in the midst of frustration of never feeling finished, I sat down and evaluated the time necessary for our different items: quiet times, separate subjects, sports practice, music practice, eating and sleeping. Guess what? It added up to more than 24 hours.
No wonder we couldn’t get it all done.
You only get 24 hours. And sleep is necessary. So cut back to what actually fits in your time and leave your students the time to do well the subjects they do have. They will learn much more that way.
5. Change, Change, Change
Again translated: too many trips to homeschool conventions or too much time in a homeschool catalog. And then add in- too many conversations with other homeschool moms about their math program or their grammar books or whatever.
If your program is working, keep doing it. Not every curriculum works for every family. That is why there is more than one approach to almost every subject.
If you love your math publisher and your friend hates it, and she can tell you about some negative study she read about your choice, and how miserable they were using it, and how her new math curriculum also does her laundry…..then run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
Let them enjoy and succeed with their publisher. And let your family enjoy and succeed with your favorite publisher. That way students in both families will thrive.
The only time to change is if it isn’t working because change takes energy and time away from progress. There is a place for change but it needs to be undertaken with caution!
There are more detours, but if you can avoid these 5 you will have a MUCH better year. Detours don’t mean you can’t get to your destination. But they do make getting there harder and take longer so do yourself a favor and avoid them!
Yes, homeschooling is hard. But it is immensely worth it so keep it up Momma!