Throughout a typical stretch of homeschooling, we have productive days yet plenty of cringe-worthy moments. Homeschooling is as much about the journey as it is the destination. It’s not just about what the kids learn, but how they learn it. Ideally, with some passion, excitement, freedom, creativity, and self-led interest. As my kids mature and their learning needs change, I sometimes feel like we’re reinventing the wheel. When I really think about it, though, it’s more like fine-tuning, and I’m good with that. I want our homeschooling experience to be ever-changing, and evolving to meet all of our needs. Yet at the core, I’ve hit upon certain nuances that help the process feel more fluid, less overwhelming, and minimize chaos.
Organization serves as the backbone of how I make things work. Like all parents, I’m wearing many hats, and plenty often, I’m overwhelmed. A few subtle tricks have helped make life easier. Just as I did when I was a student, I keep a detailed planner of assignments and projects. Seeing what needs to get done in writing provides a visual that takes the burden off of one’s memory and allows for a concrete tracking of progress. And who is a stranger to the delight of crossing something off of a to-do list? Not only do I plan out what we hope to cover each week, but I break it down by day and subject. It’s all written in pencil, because, you know, Life. I took this a step further and we put a label on the front of each of the kids’ books, notebooks, and folders, marking not just the subject but the days of the week on which it is used. Finally, each day when they are putting away their completed work, they prep the next day’s work and leave it piled on a shelf or chair. It allows them to begin their work after breakfast with minimal prep and fumbling. We have a homeschooling bookshelf- top shelf for supplies and reference books, they each have a shelf of their own, and the bottom shelf is for joint subjects and manuals.
The library serves as a the homeschooler’s hub for resources and community connections. Not only do we save an inordinate amount of money by utilizing books and online resources such as a foreign language program, but the library graciously allows us to meet there for homeschooling purposes whenever we’re working with other families. Not to mention, there are always enrichment opportunities such as science club or art classes throughout the library system. Having this support has greatly enhanced our homeschool experience.
Once upon a time, I felt like I needed to physically obtain materials to supplement our curricula. Little by little, I’ve discovered so many online resources that allow us to access what we want, when we need it. Whether it be an animated video to demonstrate mitosis, sound clips of a composer’s work, or passages from a poet, we have found so very many fascinating items on the internet. Equally as important, we’ve made great friends through online homeschooling groups, purchased materials at a significant discount by joining forces with other homeschoolers, and participated in awesome field trips that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Giving my kids some daily responsibilities around the house allows me just enough breathing room to focus on their schooling or gasp, myself (rarely). The way I think about it, I give the bulk of my daytime hours to their schooling, and in return, they give back some of that time by doing chores. When they grow up, they’ll know how to cook for themselves, keep things clean, and do laundry. In the meantime, it helps our house run more smoothly.
If I had things my way, we’d keep to a schedule that would make the military proud. Any parent knows that while goals are nice, kids have other plans. Any homeschooling parent multiplies this by ten. So while I have my daily expectations, I have learned to be flexible. Sometimes we need to get outside and run around. Sometimes an important appointment or errand interrupts the school day, and our morning work becomes evening “homework.” Sometimes, things take too long, no one gets it, and we’re running behind. And once in a while, we speed through everything and are done early. I’ve learned to fit bits of work into whatever opportunity presents itself. On weekend trips to visit friends and family, my husband drives so that I can read a chapter aloud. A writing lesson might get done on Saturday morning. Books on CD have turned our driving-to-and-fro-activities time into quiet, peaceful car trips while enjoying literature. As much as I wish life would fit into clean, neat boxes on the calendar, I’ve learned not to stress (as much) and let things happen at their own true pace. This doesn’t come naturally, but after all, the process is about learning, not just checking off a to-do list, and I want my kids’ experience to reflect that.
Moms and dads, post in the comments below and share your tips and tricks with our HVP readers. Whatever helps make your home run more smoothly and your school day a success, we want to hear about it. Happy December!