9 Helpful Hints for a (Relatively) Happy Homeschool

Today I am offering some “helpful hints” that have been gleaned from my 20+ years of homeschooling.  I hope that you will find that applying one (or more!) of these tips helps your homeschool day go a little more smoothly!

Hint #1 – Don’t get into schoolwork when you have somewhere to go or are otherwise in a rush.  I can pretty much guarantee that your little darling will suddenly forget their times tables or the previous day’s history lesson right at that moment and you will end up frustrated and one or both of you will end up in tears…it’s just not worth it.  As I have pointed out on various occasions, it’s okay to skip a day (or a week!) of school if you have other pressing obligations.  Rather than trying to rush through lessons, do yourself (and your child) a favor and take a day off!

Hint #2 – Do feel free to skip pages in your child’s: math/reading/science/name the subject curriculum, if you feel like the information is too repetitive or just unnecessary.  When I get to the section in my kid’s math book where they spend pages on measurements, I breeze through or skip it.  Why?  Because my child (and yours) is going to learn plenty about measurements while helping to bake cookies or figuring out how much they grew in the last year, or any number of life experiences, because, contrary to the assertions of homeschooling’s detractors, homeschooling actually does introduce children to the realities of living in our world.  Also, keep in mind that if you use textbooks that are also used in schools, they will be full of busy work…they are designed for the classroom teacher.  As a homeschooler you can (and should) spend as much or as little time on a subject as you see fit.  If your child needs more review you can slow down the pace or use some other resource (such as math drills) to reinforce concepts.  For the advanced learner you can go at their pace and skip the busy work.

Hint #3 – Do combine grades/subjects if you have more than one child.  Until your children are of high school age, there is no reason not to combine subjects like history and science, not to mention geography or literature, etc.  I’m at the point in my homeschool journey where I am only homeschooling one child, but years ago when I was homeschooling multiple kids, I always used “unit studies” for subjects like history, science, and the like.  Of course, you’re usually going to need to individualize their math, and if you’re teaching one of your children to read, then there’s the phonics, but otherwise, make the whole process easier on yourself by utilizing resources that can be used with more than one child.  Take a look at my post on “unit studies” for more information on how to implement this teaching style.

Hint #4 – Do have older children work with their younger siblings.  I am going to let you in on a little secret: when my youngest son, who is now in fourth grade, was in kindergarten through 2nd grade, my two oldest children did all his schoolwork with him.  Since I’m not a big fan of loading little kids down with a bunch of schoolwork, this meant they worked with him on his math and handwriting and my daughter would occasionally do fun science experiments with him.  Maybe they did some geography and reading comprehension – I honestly don’t remember.  What I do know is that it never took more than 30-45 minutes to get through his schoolwork with him.  And they did it all.  My role at that time was purely of a supervisory nature.  Moreover, since he had taught himself to read by the age of four (seriously, it surprised me as much as it does you, but it’s the truth) and was doing PowerPoint since he was five, at least part of the rest of his day was spent creating things on the computer.  This kid has created literally hundreds of PowerPoint presentations that focus primarily on his fixation with movie credits.  But I digress…bottom line, if you haven’t already figured this out by now, your older kids can be a great asset when it comes to taking some of the homeschooling burden off your shoulders – use them!

Hint #5 – Do make the computer your friend.  We all know about the dangers the internet can pose.  But install some parental security software and by all means, don’t let your kids on social networking sites.  But otherwise, the computer can be a valuable asset that can save you oodles of time.  My fourth grader has three computer software programs that he uses and I recently started requiring him to spend 15 minutes every day on each one.  Those programs are: Rosetta Stone Italian, Quarter Mile Math and Typing Instructor.  That’s 45 minutes of schoolwork every day that I have absolutely nothing to do with (other than to ask him if he did them)!  I might also ask him what new Italian word he learned that day or instruct him to spend more time on certain multiplication facts he’s still struggling with, but I don’t track his progress – I simply don’t worry about it.  If he’s consistently using the programs he is going to learn from them!  He also likes to visit the PBS Kids website and has learned a surprising amount of science from Fizzy’s Lunch Lab.  Find ways to incorporate computer software and truly educational games and you’ll have just found another way to make your homeschooling days happier.

Hint #6 – Do use workbooks!  I’m not sure why, but workbooks often have a bad rep amongst homeschoolers.  Maybe they are just a little too “schoolish,” or maybe parents think of them as boring or a waste of time.  But I have found that workbooks can be a great tool and, often, a great time-saver as well.  You can use workbooks to reinforce a subject that you have already taught, or you can use them to introduce a subject.  Check out my “Six Workbooks That Work” post for ideas on workbooks that can make your homeschooling burden a little lighter.  Additionally, if you’re going to be attending a home-school conference this spring or summer, pick out a couple of workbooks that your kids will enjoy and that will enhance your curriculum.  Another tip: if running errands is something you have to do with kids in tow, stick a couple of their favorite workbooks in the car and allow them to use them only when you’re running around doing errands.  You can kill two birds with one stone: you’re getting schoolwork done while taking care of your obligations, and your kids won’t be whining that they’re bored.   Don’t forget to keep a supply of pencils in the car too!

Hint #7 – Do keep the big picture in mind.  Believe it or not, your children will grow up some day.  And knowing that you were the one who taught them not just their ABC’s, but also their times tables and the difference between a noun and a verb and a thousand other things, will give you a sense of pride that is unmatched.  In addition, the memories you will have to cherish, because you actually spent your child’s childhood with them, are priceless.  If you work at keeping the big picture in mind, along with the reasons you decided to homeschool your kids in the first place, it will make it much easier to let the everyday aggravations fade in importance.

Hint #8 – Do sleep in.   Yeah, I know, “early to bed, early to rise…”  Let me tell you something about adages like the one I just quoted:  they are pithy statements that sometimes apply, and sometimes don’t.  Think about it: how many times have you heard “haste makes waste.”  Yet there is also the adage that “he who hesitates is lost.”  Well, which one is it?  I suppose it’s the one that applies in that situation.  In the same way, if you have a lifestyle that demands that you get up early, then you have to get up early.  But if I’m going to homeschool my kids, why would I feel the need to submit myself to an artificially imposed schedule?  Frankly, if you knew the schedule we keep around our house, you might very well be horrified!  I’m not a morning person and neither are my kids, so I’m not a stickler for being up at any certain time.  I just don’t see the point.  And you may find that if you allow you and your kids a little more sleep, everyone’s attitude might be a bit brighter, and hence work will be accomplished with less frustration and more cooperation.  Just a thought!

Hint #9 – Do give yourself a break once in a while!  Being faithful over the long-term as a homeschooler is far more important than the fact that your plans for today went completely awry.  Shrug your shoulders, pour yourself a glass of iced tea and just do nothing for a little while!  It’s okay.  Really.

I hope my list helps your homeschool days go more smoothly!  And by the way, if you have any of your own helpful hints to offer your fellow homeschoolers, I hope you’ll take a minute and share them in the comments!

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  • Shantachavis

    Thanks so much for this post. I too have struggled with not being an early bird, along with the kids. I also feel extremely guilty if I’m not doing school work with them every waking minute of the day. There are times that I have other things that have to be done & they are usually in tow. This article has helped me not to stress so much over every little thing. Thanks again!

    • annegalivan

      I’m glad this helped!  I think moms in general are hard on themselves and homeschool moms are probably the worst. Sometimes I think it’s because we feel like the whole world is watching us and evaluating us…how dare we think we can educate our own children!  But time will tell, and those who questioned my decision 20+ years ago aren’t questioning it anymore!  My kids are not only well-educated but also polite, caring, responsible individuals.  

      I’ve also learned that God can use our difficult circumstances (like my years of chronic illness) to teach our kids things they would never learn otherwise.  I talk about this in some of my other posts.

      Thanks for reading…and sharing!   And be confident that it’s the consistency over the years, not what you get done (or don’t) on any given day, that will ultimately make the difference!

  • HoneyBadger

    I love your attitude, and thanks for the reminders that they will grow up in spite of us. :0) It’s true, and keeping this in mind makes our days more fun-filled and less stress filled. These are great tips!

    • annegalivan

      Thanks for your kind words!  I try to keep a good attitude…when I get stuck chocolate always helps!  🙂

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