Is your mind frazzled at the thought of planning your next homeschool semester? If you feel overwhelmed by the things you don’t know you don’t know, I get it. I’ve been there, and sometimes am still there. This blog covers topics that inspire and ignite our Christian faith, but a big part of my Christian walk involves homeschooling our three children (ages 12, 10, and 8), so today I want to encourage homeschool parents to embrace this mighty calling without embracing the pressures and comparisons that so often accompany it. Trust me—it doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it.
I’m currently staring my eighth year of homeschooling in the face, and even though there’s always more to learn, I want to share a list of tips (in no particular order) I wish I’d known eight years ago. Hopefully it will be of some benefit to you. Here are:
23 TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE FRAZZLED HOMESCHOOLER
- Curriculum. Don’t waste weeks searching for perfection; it’s elusive anyway. Settle for “very good” and be prepared to experiment with new methods in the future as needed.
- Cathyduffy.com is an invaluable curriculum review website. Super helpful.
- Make the curriculum work for you; don’t let it run your days. Who cares if you don’t finish a textbook by the end of the year? We rarely did when I was in public school and I’ve survived. Just start with a review before diving into the next book.
- Going with my point above, there’s no need to stay on grade level for all subjects. I have one who zips ahead in math because he loves it, but lags a little in language. At one point he was in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the same time. Not a problem!
- Hold lesson plans loosely. Plans are made to be changed. Honestly, although I always have ideas for the week and we’re always moving forward, nowadays it’s more common for me to document in my planner the things we’ve accomplished each day, rather than the things I plan to accomplish.
- Don’t strive to recreate traditional school. It’s not the same, and that’s a wonderful thing. Do what works for your family, whether that means kids sprawled throughout the house on separate screens, or you leading group discussion as they sit at desks.
- If teaching multiple ages, get olders to help youngers when feasible. (giving spelling quizzes, doing flashcards, etc.) Anything taken off your plate is a win for your sanity.
- Do have consistency so your children (mostly) know what to expect each day. Children thrive on routine, even if said routine is pretty relaxed.
- With multiple kids, do what you can together. We love to start mornings with “living room time,” where we do devotions, take turns reading a poem, and do history together. It’s my favorite part of the day.
- Your own settled, peaceful spirit is more important than checking off your to-do list for the day. Kids pick up your attitude and will soon learn to hate school if you’re always stressed out. I may or may not speak from experience. 😉
- Do subjects for a scheduled amount of time, not the duration of a scheduled assignment (as long as your kids are trying). My firstborn used to struggle through math, but I pushed to finish an entire lesson each day. Cue tears, frustration, and wasted hours for both of us. With an end time in sight, your child can be assured that even if they’re struggling to grasp a concept, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
- Cut yourself some slack. Completely overwhelmed? Take a mental health day and have the kids watch educational shows/videos with no guilt. Learning is still happening, trust me—my kids learned everything they know about animals from Wild Kratts and I don’t regret it for a second. If they’re older, give them a great book to read.
- Your kids are learning more than curriculum. They’re learning how to run a family and live life as kind, respectful, critical-thinking humans. Isn’t that just as important, if not more, than book learning?
- Homeschooling doesn’t have to be forever, so release yourself from the pressure of making such a huge decision. People sometimes ask me if I plan to homeschool through high school. My answer? “We’re taking it year by year, kid by kid.”
- Ease into your semester. Start with a week of devotions and math review (or whatever is most important to you), then add subjects in from there as you all get accustomed to the school routine.
- Join a co-op if you can. Ours meets weekly and parents take turns teaching from predecided textbooks. It’s great for the kids to make friends and learn how to function in a group environment, and just as great for us to form friendships with other likeminded parents who support each other.
- Minimize. Saying yes to the three Rs, plus history, science, Latin, Spanish, typing, coding, piano, violin, soccer, and theater will only completely overwhelm you and your kids. Don’t try to do everything. Figure out your “musts” and choose accordingly.
- Consider rotating some subjects. You don’t have to do every subject every day. We rotate science and history. I also leave Fridays more open, requiring only math before jumping into art, cooking, or a field trip.
- Leave blank space in your days. When each minute is planned, your children don’t have time to form independent thoughts and ideas, or use their imaginations. Turn off screens, give them time, and see what they create or make up. Kids have the coolest, most random ideas.
- Hear this: You don’t have to love homeschooling to be glad you’re doing it. Most of the time I’d rather be writing, reading, or playing with my kids, than teaching and making lesson plans, but I’ve never regretted our decision. No guilt. No comparisons.
- Be okay with hard days. Trust me, they will come. Have your reasons for homeschooling settled in your mind so even if you take a day or two off to regroup, you can continue on without giving it up altogether.
- Rest time isn’t just for toddlers. My grade school aged kids still “rest” for an hour in their rooms after lunch, giving us all a much-needed break from each other. They read, listen to music, or play quietly. Even our dog has rest time in his crate, and I’m pretty sure he looks forward to it as much as the rest of us. It’s not a punishment; it’s a blessing.
- When all is said and done, there will always be gaps. You’ll always wish you had covered this or that. Kids are resilient. Teach them to enjoy learning and they can fill in their own gaps later. No guilt, so long as you’re trying.
(You might notice I have no number dedicated to raising kids who love Jesus. This is always the filter through which I view all of the above. And don’t forget to start, end, and fill in the blanks with prayer along the way.)
This is the list I wish I had eight years ago. I hope it helps you find some freedom in your own journey. One more recommendation is a blessedly short book I discovered several years ago that literally changed my homeschooling/parenting life by leaps and bounds. I wish I could give it away, but since I can’t, here’s the link to Teaching From Rest….
Oh yes, one last thing. Please don’t forget to check and abide by your state’s homeschool laws.
What would you add to this list? What questions do you have for me? Leave a comment or reply to this email to let me know! I’d also love to hear from you with ideas for future blog post topics that could serve you in the future!
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