The following is a post from contributing writer Tanya from Finding the Teachable Moments.
Don’t make school a chore.
Last year I made the rule that there would be no TV or video games until school was finished. Being our first year of homeschooling, I thought my children would come to accept it and it would become part of our daily routine. Instead, school time became the “bad guy” that kept my kiddos from enjoying their favorite pastimes. Learning together became a chore rather than a journey.
So now we have an overall daily limit on screen time that can be used anytime from morning until bedtime. If they choose to take a break from school related activities to watch an episode of Curious George, that’s fine. Sometimes a break is needed. Having the freedom to make independent choices within limits is important too. As an added bonus, it is also teaching them to budget their time. My oldest son intentionally saves his TV time for evening. Now it’s his choice not to watch TV during school, not mine. I’m not saying whining and complaining over limitations goes away, but it becomes a protest against a household rule and takes the heat off of school.
Is there a way you can make school less of a chore in your home?
Let go of rigid schedules.
It’s good to have a basic idea of what you want to accomplish on a given day or week. But if you try to have a strict hour-to-hour account of what you want each day to look like, it becomes frustrating and stressful when interruptions throw your plans out of whack.
In a traditional school setting, everything happens in scheduled increments of time. Having structure like that can be appealing to Type A girls like me and it’s tempting to strive for the same type of order in our homeschool life. But we don’t have a school nurse when someone gets sick or a janitor to clean big spills. Things happen that are not on the schedule and that might mean mopping up paint when you should be teaching nouns.
You also don’t want to miss a chance to take advantage of teachable moments that might come up spontaneously. Don’t miss out on a precious learning opportunity because you have it written down somewhere that it’s time to practice spelling words. I try to think of my daily plan as a rough outline that is subject to change. That can be really hard for us “planners,” but I believe it will lead to a much more relaxed and rich homeschool experience.
Don’t let curriculum dictate how you “do school.”
If you hand me a curriculum with 100 lessons, I naturally feel obligated to complete all 100 lessons, exactly as they are written. And if there are 20 questions on a page, I want my child to answer all 20. It’s a Type A thing.
I’ve come to learn that it’s okay to leave some answers blank. It’s also okay to ditch curriculum all together at times and count cooking as math or writing a thank you note as writing. I’ve learned to use purchased curriculum as a suggestion rather than a requirement. It’s okay to use the general scope and sequence of your chosen curriculum and find other ways to teach a concept from time to time.
Give your child a voice.
Some of our best days last year came when we sat down as a group and talked about what we would be learning. I asked the kids what they knew (or what they might guess to be true) about a topic, wrote their ideas down, and posted them prominently.
The kids love feeling that they are an important part of what we are learning. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it was a lesson I had to learn. I thought planning a lot of hands-on learning activities would be enough to engage them, but they craved more. We all want to feel we’re an integral part of the big picture.
Spend one-on-one time with your child unrelated to school.
Go out for ice cream, take a walk together, go shopping together. Spend some one-on-one time with each of your children in some way that has nothing at all to do with organized school time. It will go a long way toward building relationships.
I made the mistake of believing the one on one time I spent with my kids for school was “our special time together.” It is special, but it doesn’t allow as much opportunity to get personal and strengthen emotional bonds. Be intentional about spending time with your kids. Enjoy them!
Tanya, a homeschooling mom of three who is passionate about hands-on learning, can be found writing at Finding the Teachable Moments.