Homeschooling for the past three years has been a great challenge and a great blessing for our family. We’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days. There have been days when I ask myself why in the world we decided to homeschool and would give just about anything to fly off to a sunny, sandy beach all by myself. Then there are days when I am so thankful for being able to do what we do that I think my heart might burst with joy and thanksgiving. With all the ups and downs, it’s a roller coaster ride for sure.
Since our oldest is only 7.5 years old and our twins almost 5, I still feel like a newbie homeschooler. Even so, I have learned quite a bit since the time we first made the decision to homeschool so I’m going to share some of those things with you.
Here are 7 important things I’ve learned (work for us) in the past three years of homeschooling:
#1 Weekly homeschooling goals are a sanity saver.
When we first started out, I had a fairly detailed plan each day of what we would complete. While it was good to have a plan, if things didn’t go perfectly (which it never did) then I ended up feeling exhausted and stressed by the end of the day.
Then for a while I didn’t have much of a plan at all. I would gather some activities for the children to complete each day, and Kellan generally worked on reading and math, but there were no real goals for the week. That didn’t work very well either. I felt unprepared and like we were headed in no real direction.
That’s when I decided to make weekly goals and we’ve been using that method every since.
I create a manageable list of things we will work on for the week across subjects. I have a penciled in draft of what we will work on each day of the week. Then depending on how the day is going and if there are any outside activities or appointments, I pick and choose what we will work on and make adjustments throughout the day as necessary.
For example, on Monday I may not have planned to do an art project but if everyone is cooperating and really wants to do painting, I will go ahead with it. If the girls are off playing nicely with their dolls, I will work with Kellan on spelling. If everyone is sitting at the table and eating quietly, I will read them a story.
My goal is that by the end of the week we complete a majority of what was planned. We may not complete everything but that is okay. Any important material that wasn’t covered can be moved to the following week.
#2 A routine works better than a schedule.
A routine is important so that the children generally know what to expect next throughout the day. That gives the day a better flow with some anchors throughout (i.e. lunch, outside play, dinner). But it is different than a schedule because there aren’t specific times associated with each task.
I had originally envisioned we would have a set schedule for the day but I quickly learned that a schedule designating specific times for each task was not reasonable. Especially because at that time we had two toddler always busy exploring, so the schedule quickly got derailed on a daily basis.
However, I believe a routine is important so that the children know what is next and don’t have to ask or wonder. For the upcoming school year the twins will be 5 years old, so it is my goal to put a more consistent routine in place. That way everyone knows the flow of the activities for the day and what they can expect to happen next.
The routine allows us to take the time needed to work on each task, while keeping the day somewhat orderly. It also gives us the flexibility to work on things for as long or little as the children are interested.
#3 It’s okay if we don’t get it all done.
The first thing we all need to realize is: We won’t always get everything done and that’s okay. We are all faced with this on a daily basis. There is always so much to do and not enough time to do it all. In addition to actual teaching, there are kitchens to clean, meals to cook, children to feed, laundry to wash, materials to prep, errands to run, emails to answer and the list goes on and on and on.
If you are like me, you want to get it all done. You want to get to the end of the day and have everything checked off your to-do list with the children having completed all their projects, crafts and activities, with a perfectly clean and organized house, ready for the next day. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that way.
There might be days when this happens and it’s okay to work towards completing all our tasks, but it’s important that we give ourselves grace, knowing that we did our best and if it doesn’t all get done that’s okay. As long as we are moving forward and doing our best that is what’s most important.
#4 Celebrate all types of learning.
As homeschoolers we’ve all had days when none of our children’s planned school work got completed. Maybe one of the children wasn’t feeling well, or you weren’t feeling well, or there were too many tantrums, messes or whatever.
Those days are tough, but do you know what I realized? Just because none of the “school work” or activities I had planned got accomplished it doesn’t mean there was no learning or that the day was a waste.
Maybe we ended up reading a dozen storybooks that day and the children were growing their love for reading. Or maybe we made chocolate chip cookies and the children were learning to measure, mix and bake. Maybe we had to go to the doctor and the children learned how to be friendly and polite and to sit quietly. Or maybe they learned that it’s nice to cuddle with the people you love when you aren’t feeling well. Those things are just as important as learning anything else aren’t they?
I have become much more aware of all the learning that takes place during the day and I celebrate those things even if they are much different then what I had planned. Do you celebrate those things too?
There will come a time when your children need a break. There will come a time when you need a break. And when that time comes, make sure you take a break.
Our homeschooling journey is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves so we don’t fizzle out.
In order for everyone to be successful learners at home we need to be ready and excited about learning, at least most of the time. And if the kids are burnt out or we’re burnt out then learning isn’t going to be enjoyable.
We want learning to be a good experience for our children so they can be lifelong learners and yearn for more. So taking a break when you need one is so incredibly important.
That might mean stopping everything and going on a field trip to the zoo or the museum. Going outside to play tag or play in the snow. Going to the park and running around. Or sitting and reading books just for the fun of it.
#6 Have fun and enjoy each day.
I truly desire to be joyful and enjoy each and every day, don’t you? I see each day as a gift from God and something that’s not to be wasted. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be with my children on a daily basis, to be able to teach them and to guide them. The opportunity to homeschool them is such a blessing.
But I want to be real here. There are days that don’t feel joyful. When there is a child pulling out every one of their toys and throwing them all over the house, while another child is crying and and the other child is complaining about every single little thing it just doesn’t feel very joyful. It feels exhausting, frustrating and just plain hard.
Even though I’m a slow learner sometimes, the Lord is teaching me that I can’t rely on my own strength to get through those days and I certainly won’t feel joy all on my own. But when I go to Him, ready to hand over my agenda and rely on Him for patience, peace and joy, He is faithful.
And then what? Well, do something fun with your kids. Something silly, something gross, something crazy. Anything. Just add some fun when it’s most needed. And then you can turn a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day into a day with memories you will always cherish.
Although there will never be a perfect balance, working to find balance for our family is very important. Balance in the plan for the week. Balance in how much material to cover. Balance in working with each of the children. Balance in outside activities. Balance in the overall schedule. Balance in expectations.
Homeschooling (and life in general) is a constant balancing act and without balance things start to fall apart and everything comes tumbling down. Through prayer and assessing everyone’s needs, I am constantly looking to find the right balance for our family because without it life becomes overwhelming and messy.
One thing I’d like to say is: try not to compare what you are doing to what other people are doing, it’s hard sometimes I know, but just think about your family’s needs. You can then assess what’s best for your situation and your family members and move forward making plans that will work well for you.
Once we feel fairly balanced, things will need to be continually reevaluated and adjusted as life is constantly change. As long as we stay aware and willing to change we’ll be able to make those necessary adjustments.
Balance is important in order to feel an inner sense of calm. And I need that. The Good Lord knows that I need that. And I’m guessing that you do too.