For many of us, it’s Back to School time after a holiday break. A fresh new year always brings with it hope that everything in your life can be better, easier, and faster – at least according to many of the Top 10 Lists I see in magazines lining the check-out aisle at the grocery store! I particularly enjoy articles like, “Top 10 Ways to Lose Weight and Eat as Much as You Want in 2011” or “Top 10 Ways to Create More Time in Your Day in 2011.”
In the spirit of such articles, I present 10 Ways to Make Your Homeschooling Days Easier in 2011. I doubt you’ll find many suggestions that are completely new to you but they will help your homeschooling days run more smoothly if you are careful to implement one or more of the suggestions.
- Stay connected to the source of your love and patience. For me, that means that I need to be attending church regularly and setting aside time for prayer and Bible reading. My renewed goal this year is to read through the Bible again. You can find several different Bible reading plans at Heartlight.
- Take care of yourself. While I am often tempted to stay up much too late working on projects or reading, I just can’t burn the midnight oil and get up early in the morning the way I used to when I was younger. If I get too little sleep, I am tired and have trouble dealing with the day before me. Sleep, regular exercise, and eating healthy meals are all important for maintaining our bodies. Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anybody else. For more on taking care of yourself and avoiding discouragement, check out Staying Encouraged About Homeschooling by Avoiding Discouragement.
- Set up a schedule or a routine for your days. A schedule or routine is simply a tool – if you don’t use it on a particular day, the schedule police won’t come and lock you away forever! On the other hand, homeschool days with no schedule or routine run the risk of accomplishing little. For more help in this area, I have found Managers of Their Homes to be a good resource. As well, check out Making a Schedule Work For You here at the Homeschool Classroom.
- Be realistic about behavior – both your behavior and the behavior of your children. Realize that everybody has bad days – even you and me. While consistently bad attitudes must be addressed, it is unrealistic to think that we can live together, work together, learn together, and love together without any bad moods ever. Try to deal with the occasional bad attitude from a child with grace and love and then move on.
- Preparation, preparation, preparation. I have found that the more I have the school day organized, the easier and smoother the day flows. Workboxes and assignment sheets help to keep young people on track in their independent schoolwork. I try to gather any materials we need for science, history, and art projects ahead of time to avoid last-minute frantic searching or disappointment. I usually cut out timeline figures and lapbook pieces ahead of time as well. Any prep work I find time for before the school day begins is always time well-spent.
- Stay on top of grading. Getting just a few days behind in grading can mean for an extremely long time spent grading papers, depending on the number of children you have. As well, children deserve daily feedback on any independent work they have completed. Catching small problems in comprehension early can help keep large problems in comprehension from happening later.
- Start early on gathering materials for portfolio evaluations. Many states require portfolio reviews or standardized testing each year to homeschool legally. I have chosen to do portfolio reviews each year for my children. I start setting aside materials to put in their portfolios throughout the year and take pictures of all art projects. For a more detailed discussion of how I prepare my children’s homeschool portfolios throughout the year, check out Homeschool Portfolios.
- Make a plan for meals, use power cooking tools, and lower your expectations for gourmet meals. Homeschooling is extremely time-consuming. Let me say that again – there is nothing quick and easy about homeschooling regardless of what curriculum is used. In our family, due to my husband’s work schedule and my children’s swim team schedule, our biggest meal of the day is lunch. To have a hearty lunch in the midst of a busy homeschool day, I rely HEAVILY on power cooking tools – my crock pot, freezer cooking, and make-ahead meals. I’m also certainly not above running out for cheap pizza or having hot dogs and chips when I’m particularly pressed for time!
- Realize that your house is going to look lived in most of the time because you are actually living there most of the time! This was a hard concept for me to truly and completely accept. I do try really hard to keep things neat and tidy but children and homeschooling are just plain messy. If you’re always stressing about the messes, homeschooling is never going to be enjoyable. Keeping a clean and orderly house is important but it’s also important to be realistic about just how clean and orderly the house can be at all times.
- Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Let go of curriculum guilt. Take a mental health day. Stay in your pajamas all day. Sometimes a break from the ordinary can be just what you need to take the pressure away from homeschooling!
So, do you have any great tips to make your homeschooling days easier? We could all use some tips as we move into the BLAH days of January and February! You can also share any great tips you have regarding losing weight while eating all of the chocolate you want. (Just kidding!)