DON'T MISS OUT!

Tips For Schooling Children At Home And A Request



I am NOT a homeschool mom.  I have dreamed about it and read about it, but have never dove in for a plethora of reasons, some of them that ended up being heaven sent (like homeschooling during a year of cancer? NO!).

BUT that means if you are home trying to make this new thing work, I get it.  I'm there too.  And with six kids, I've also been a manager of a busy household, helped with homework all the time, and had multiple ages all needing my attention.

I learned by messing up and making mistakes and being totally overwhelmed sometimes.  I have the perspective of looking back and realizing that some of the things I stressed about were ridiculous and there were many routines and systems along the way that I found made my life easier and thought "why didn't I do this sooner?"

Since it looks like we all might in this for the long haul (I am praying my kids don't go back because I am loving teaching them) I have made a list of tips that might help:

1.  First up ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.  It is!!!

Expectations are everything also!  If you are trying to keep up with the one million ideas on Pinterest to keep your children entertained, or all the ideas coming home from school, and all the great methods to learn everything under the sun, you will never ever feel like you are doing a good job or enough. Concentrate on what you have at hand and don't complicate things. If messy art projects stress you out than don't do them!  Find the system and activities that work for you and your kids, and don't get off track.


2. Take the Ipads, the video games and every other device and throw them in the farthest corner hidden of the attic so even YOU won't be tempted.  Turn off the TV except for a SET time.  I know, you will go through hearty and annoying withdrawal symptoms.  But these things entertain children.  So when they get off, they can't entertain themselves.  They can't concentrate.  They fight with each other more.  They don't want to get to work or to even play with their toys.  It makes their minds lazy, their moods bad, the whining worse and in the end TRUST ME, you pay the price.  You won't believe the difference.  You just have to get through the hard part and then it gets easier.

3. I know you will say "but the kids need them for school".  Well at a certain age they do, but they can sit at the home computer, do the work, and then get off.  Under a certain age, it's 100% unnecessary.  Print out the work if you can.  Instead of doing math online, print out a page on your own and explain to the teacher, if it is required, why they will get a paper copy of the work.  Remember when back in the 'olden' days we were taught with pen and paper and books?  They will learn without technology when they are young, and even better some would argue.  We are co-teaching right now so we DO get to have some say in how we want to accomplish that, as long as we don't make it more difficult for the teachers and let them know the work is getting finished.


In high school they are on their own. Don't save them. I've done that before, and it's hard I know, when you can see them procrastinate and not do the work.  Let the teachers know you are doing a "learn the hard way trial".  Brainstorm with your teen to figure out a system of getting the work finished on time.  Let them lead.  But don't pick them up when they fail.*


4. Some things my mother did and mothers everywhere USED TO DO and not feel guilty about: Everyone go to their room and read or play quietly.  Everyone go outside and don't come back in unless there is an emergency.  Take your little brothers on a wagon ride.  Draw pictures. Color.  Make a book. There was a list of jobs on the fridge.  NOT a star chart, and cute stickers and rewards.  Here's a list of jobs, do them before you do anything else.  Cereal for breakfast, the same lunch every day.  SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE.


5. Learn about your child.  I have one child that needs breaks often.  He needs to get up and move.  He wants me to sit next to him when he does his work.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't.  I can tell when he is getting frustrated so I say go run around the block.  Or shoot baskets.  Or just get this done now.  Encourage, and then remind them how good they feel when the task was completed.


6. If you are having a bad day-baby crying, you are behind, getting frustrated, you all feel like crying and yelling, get in the car and go for a drive or turn on the music and dance.  Feed them.

7. Simplify everything else.  Easy meals!  Teach them to be independent in every way and you will make your job easier.

8. Watch where you are wasting time.  I can tell you from someone who remembers when we didn't have cell phones that it is the biggest time suck as a parent and I can get so much more done in a day when I put that thing away without checking it for hours or a day.

9. If all you can do is read or have them listen to books (I am thinking colickly baby in your arms, or bad morning sickness etc), then they are learning.  When my oldest kids were little I would have stressed so much about them getting behind or missing a day of school or creating some huge gap in their education.  I know mom minds go there-if they miss this or that, they will one day be living on the streets after flunking out of high school, and it will all my fault.  Don't catastrophize little things.  The big picture is what makes the difference.


10. Establish loose routines.  Get as much as you can get done before the kids wake up.  Or before you go to bed.  When Andrew had colic so badly as a baby, I would make my kid's lunches even when we didn't have school, and put them in the fridge so they could get them out themselves the next day.


*My oldest wasn't crazy about school and was very young in his class, because being the oldest we didn't know better.  (Poor oldest children you are just our experiments.)  He struggled but he got through it. Sometimes I felt like tearing my hair out.  Sometimes he did too.  I worried a lot.  I slowly let go through highschool and it was a big experiment in so many different ways.  In college they have to do it on their own!  And he did.  And he is so smart because he loves to learn new things.  A's aren't everything.  He knows how to teach himself and he does, as an adult, constantly.  He is successful.  Independent.  A self-starter.  An awesome adult.  Remember there are all different kinds of kids and different ways to learn.  Some kids are "school kids" and some kids aren't.  That does NOT predict their success in life.  But kids have to learn to do hard things, and do things they don't want to do.  And to help out.  And what it means to have a good heart. That's more important than anything else.

I am asking all homeschool moms for tips!  What did you struggle with when starting out and what is one or two awesome tips you have for us new moms at this for managing our days?  THANK YOU! 

26 comments

  1. My advice would be if you are trying to do something for "school" with them and it is going HORRIBLY wrong (tears, anger, defiance, whatever). STOP immediately! Don't push it. Either switch to a different subject or completely back off and regroup later. Ideally reflect, look at the big picture, pray, sleep on it, talk to a friend, and figure out a way that will work for your kid and your family. Fear (which many of us are experiencing right now) can lead to a desire to control or a feeling that things have to be a certain way which totally gets in the way of teaching and learning. Your kids will not be behind or miss out if you take time off to adapt and adjust to this new normal.

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    1. This is so so good! I wish I had this advise 20 years ago!

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  2. Any tips for those of us still having to go in to the office for work each day? 😕

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    1. That’s so difficult! Are they home alone? Don’t know what ages your kids are.

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  3. I am not praying that they never go back. I find this all depressing and am really struggling with the halt of normal life. Worst of all....not being able to go to Mass!! Not sure how it is in your diocese but I wouldn't want to accept no school for the rest of the school year if that also means no Church. I pray life can be normal again sooner rather than later.

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  4. I've homeschooled my four kids since the oldest started kindergarten 6 years ago. First, I want to say we full-time homeschool parents are rooting for you and hope you have such a rich, meaningful time with your children home, despite the hard parts! Because there sure are hard parts. We've been through tough moves and bad spells of morning sickness and even worse spells of colicky babies, and it's so true that you can't beat yourself up over the hard days or even the hard season. Growing character in yourself and your children is very valuable. Focus on teaching them how to learn, how to find information and make it their own, more than on how much information they're cramming into their minds. Otherwise, the most important thing to make our family happy at home is to focus energy as the parent on teaching everyone how you expect them to interact. One of the biggest jobs and the least talked about in homeschooling is training everyone to get along! Making sure kids know how to be quiet when they should, how to wait patiently for your attention, how to work out arguments between siblings, it's all a massive help in getting down to the school work part of the day. It's a slow climb, but it's so important to bite the bullet and learn to be happy all together instead of just trying to brush behavior problems under the rug and get the school day done. Ask me how I know...=) further reading if you're interested: http://miathereader.com/my-one-answer-for-how-to-homeschool-with-littles/

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    1. Love this! That’s what I struggle with the most! And they have to get used to each other all over again.

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  5. I have homeschooled all 6 of my children. Three are grown and are wonderful adults. I am currently teaching elementary, middle and high school. My advice to parents is do not stress about this! Enjoy having your children at home because they grow so fast. This time with them is a gift, so treasure it! Put away the electronics. Read, build things, bake together, play cards. Have a set quiet time during the day where everyone separates to read or play quietly. Love and reassure your kids that everything is going to be OK. Again, treasure this time! :O)

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  6. Hi Sarah!

    Lovely post, as always.
    I have homeschooled for many years and am down to one graduating this year and my baby in fourth grade. You have touched on many, many things. So good on you! I may add, and I do not now how many specific assignments your children are responsible for, but I have learned to be mindful of the curriculum I choose. I do not sweat the fact that she may not be able to memorize and recite every state capital, or the types of organisms that live in a certain type of water. If and when she needs to know that, she can look it up. Rather, I have returned to the basic facts and skills she needs to know and understand in life. Basic math facts, operations, fractions, reading and comprehension( but reading for PLEASURE), basic sentence structure, health and safety, as well as life skills and current events are the things I focus on. We always start with a read aloud too, even though she is ten. Because I adore children's books! And a prayer. We break for lunch and a walk outside, and finish an hour later. We color, do an online art class, play card games too. I incorporate cooking and baking too. When I was in college we called it Whole Language. Anyway, we just finished Little House in the Big Woods. I am planning on having her choose something out of our Little House on the Prairie Cookbook to make, and sharing a bit about the book with our little family. Then we will watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie together. Simple and sweet. We try to start on time everyday and have everyone fed, teeth brushed, and hair done before we start. Having said that, this is our home, not school, so I am not terribly strict about things because I want to encourage a positive, calm, cozy atmosphere. I find it more productive! Finally, be proud of what you accomplish! Don't worry about other people or what you don't get complete. Especially now, as we are seeing what is really important. Good luck and enjoy!

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    1. Fellow homeschooler here, I wholeheartedly agree with this!

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  7. I'm mom to five, and started homeschooling in 2003. The biggest tip I can give is to wake up an hour (or more) before your earliest-earlybird.
    -Have a plan for each child's school work--I use a check box and itemized list for each child. DO take a lunch break. If some boxes don't get checked, move them forward to the next day.
    -Stay nearby to ensure anyone who needs your help gets it, and to keep them on-task. Put your phone down and let them know they have your attention.
    -If you have lots of kids, create a system where the older ones help you out with the younger ones.
    -TAKE PHOTOS. This is a unique time in your family's life. It is worth remembering.

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  8. Thank you so much for your words. I love your encouragement around motherhood. I have three littles I’m about to start homeschooling and pregnant with a fourth so this was very helpful x

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  9. I have 5 kids (8 months, 2, 6, 8, 9) and homeschool full time- always have.

    The number one thing is ROUTINE!!!! But REMEMBER, this ROUTINE, should have FREE TIME included. Keep it loose and consider including board game time, read aloud time, baking with mom time, play alone in your room time with as much importance as math time and workbook time. This may mean you play board games on Thursday morning and have kitchen time with mom on Mondays as obviously you cannot fit it all in on a single day. But, look at your weeks, rather than your days, if that makes sense. And don't stress when a grumpy toddler means the older kids are doing a baking "experiment" while you do stickers with the toddler instead of assisting with perfect execution of the recipe you had planned. It's all learning- - priceless.
    Enjoy your time with your children. If you can find your groove, some of you may not ever send them back.... sending love and support to all mamas.

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    1. Oh and think back to a favorite chapter book you read as a child- read that to them. They will learn more from that experience than ANY curriculum, worksheet or virtual classroom. More about you, more about life, more about literature, the list goes on and on and on.... oh and if you have babies and toddlers disrupting the experience, your older kids will learn valuable lessons in patience while you get through the book. It's all good.

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  10. I have homeschooled all 6 of our children for about 18 years. I have to second what Sarah said in the beginning of her post: PUT AWAY ALL YOUR DEVICES! It really will drain your family's time and emotions quicker than anything!! You can use them as a reward at the end of the day when everyone is done with school, play, and work. My advice would be to have some sort of expectation/routine in place that you have communicated to your kids in advance. But by all means don't structure the whole day! My younger kids (7 and 10) "do school" at their desk for 2-3 hours. After that they can be found doing anything from chores, baking, piano, science experiments, jumping on the trampoline, riding their bikes, arts/crafts, reading, and most importantly USING THEIR IMAGINATIONS. My older kids (14 and 16) have been trained to learn how to learn. My advice to you would be to ask them what they're interested in and get them started on self-learning. Be there to encourage and motivate but let them take the reins and discover things on their own. You could also ask them to report back to the family what new things they are learning. And remember, you are not alone on this journey. Humbly ask the Lord for strength and direction and He will guide you, for He knows your children even better than you do! :)

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  11. Thank you so much! I love these comments they help so much!

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  12. As usual, this is a beautiful post about slowing down and focusing on what is important. I agree with (almost) everything you said. My daughter is a senior in high school, and she is devastated that she is missing out on things she has been looking forward to since freshman year. So, selfishly, I do hope they get to go back to school - if only for a few weeks. I know, 10 years from now, this may not matter, but right now, she is so sad. She is my anxious (has dealt with bouts of depression) child, so I am worried about her. xo

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    1. I totally understand that. Milestones are hard to miss.

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  13. I can't give 'homeschooling' tips because I've never done that (until now) but I can give teacher tips as I'm a 4th grade teacher. It's okay to let some of it slide these days. There is some 'learning' that can only happen in a classroom - only in the relationship between a student and a teacher. And that can't happen right now. It's okay. What they are given right now is 'work'. It's not the magic that happens in a classroom with a dedicated teacher who knows each student inside and out, the curriculum inside and out, the process of learning inside and out, the age/stage of those particular children inside and and out. It comes from years and years and years of teaching that grade. Just like there is no replacement for the love of a family and for being home --- there is no replacement for a teacher and a student and learning that happens in a classroom. A tip to parents out there? Keep in mind that what they are doing at home right now is some 'work'. Some learning? Sure, but mostly just work. Your tips are great! Just keep in mind that there is no replacement for a wonderful teacher. And I surely hope this whole thing our world is going through right now doesn't become a battle once again between those moms who work vs those who work at home or a battle between moms who teach at home and those who are teachers.

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  14. I homeschooled my four children for about four years for a variety of circumstances in our lives at the time. We really enjoyed it and learned a lot but I also think regular school is great too... both have their place in this world! One of the greatest blessings I experienced through it was that I learned so much about how each child of mine learns in their own way. I built the schooling off of their personalities and where they were naturally strong. I let them be self starters in what they wanted to learn about and then I would encourage and help in the areas that they weren't naturally inclined to. One of the BEST things I did to stay organized and on top of the work (while having nursing babies during it too) was to have a set of five standard pocket folders for each child, one for each day of the week. They were color coded and each had a label on them with the day of the week and the name of the child. On the weekend I would print out everything I would need for the entire upcoming week for each child. Then I would sit down with their folders and put it all together. When I was done I had a folder for each day Monday through Friday, for each child. We kept them in an open file box by our table where they would sit and do their work. Whenever they were done with getting ready each morning they could just go to the same place, pull out their folder for the day and have all their school work ready for them. If I needed to add a note or something I would just put a sticky note on their paper. I cannot tell you how wonderful this system was for all ages! I have vivid memories of sitting in my rocking chair, nursing my baby and watching to rest of the kids pull out their folders and starting school without me having to bother them. They loved the independence of it.

    As a side note I would also echo the advice of keeping it simple and not relying on technology too much. Sometimes it's fun to watch a short video about an animal the kids are learning about or pull up some photos on Google so the kids can visualize something better they are reading about... otherwise we kept things on paper. If I had a child who was practicing their handwriting or just learning how to write letters I would buy a workbook or print pages out online and put them in a plastic sheet protector. They can practice with a dry erase marker on the plastic sheet protectors and then it comes right off and you can use it over and over again. I typically kept a bunch in a binder and they would flip from page to page practicing. It's great to reuse the pages over and over again! I hope this helps someone out there and I wish everyone health and happiness during this time.

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  15. Wonderful post and perspective, as always! I homeschool 4 with a toddler on my hip as well, and these comments cover so much.

    My best advice would be to spend time with them in a way you enjoy, and find something to learn together. There's something magical about learning to draw while Mom does it right next to you, or maybe copying beautiful passages, or reading poetry over tea. It levels the playing field and they get to see you as a learner as well.

    One more tip for longer-term homeschoolers is to block schedule your day. At our house 7-9 is wake up, morning jobs, breakfast, family scriptures, and go run around outside. Depending how long things take, outside time may be longer or shorter... but at 9 we move on.

    "Independent school" where I rotate through kids and the younger ones finish early and play is 9-12. I assign a light enough workload that it gives my girl who's slower time to get to all her things without me hurrying her. It gives me a buffer to change diapers, change laundry etc. and still help kids who need help.

    "Family school" and lunch are from 12-2 when we read together, do history or science, etc. Then outside play and book time are from 2-4.

    At 4, we pull the house back together and kids finish up any un-done independent work and then have free time until dinner.

    For those just homeschooling for 6 weeks... keep it simple and work on enjoying each other... read a great book together. That's maybe it! :)

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  16. I’m a kindergarten teacher who misses her students a lot. I’m hoping we go back to school so we can at least have some type of closure for the school year. My students have come so far with their fine motor skills but I’m concerned that now they are home they are back to the phones and tablets playing games most of the days. I truly believe technology has taken away so much from childhood. Children need to color, cut, make a mess, work puzzles, paint, draw, hold a book and turn the pages, run, play games etc.

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  17. Wonderful tips here. I just found your blog and can see I need to take a bit of time to read back through past posts! :-) I like the tips to simplify as much as possible (I am famous for over-complicating EVERYTHING) and also watching out for wasted time. When home all day, some days it does seem the like minutes tick by faster than ever! If I'm not careful 45 minutes or more can pass in a blink of an eye. Being very aware of how time is being spent is a great tip.

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