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Ten Tips for Homeschool: Each Learned the Hard Way

ten homeschool tips

Are you the type of mom who likes to plan ahead and make lists? Or are you are the type of mom who is more disorganized and always short on teaching time?

I am a real mom, not the Martha Stewart of Homeschooling. Planning ahead and staying organized are not my strong suits.

I will admit there have been times when I’ve had to run to a discount store for underwear when I got too far behind on the laundry. And even though I’ve been married to the same wonderful, forbearing man for 32 years, there are still days when I’ve simply forgotten to cook dinner.

How does a mom keep on track with teaching homeschool lessons when she is organizationally challenged?

I could attempt to inspire you with Biblical principals, great quotes, and examples of planning ahead. I could set lofty goals before you. I could even try to make you feel guilty for not being better organized. But that is not my purpose.

Doing my best in homeschooling is important to me, and therefore I’ve had to develop strategies for successfully completing each year. I hope these ideas will encourage you as well.

10 Tips for Homeschool That I’ve Learned the Hard Way

1. Plan

Okay, you’re laughing at me. I just confessed that I’m not the organized type. But at some point, I realized that if my children’s education was important to me, I would have to invest time in planning.

Realistically, I know I won’t keep up with daily lesson plans. But I found out that I can sit down once a month and write out monthly objectives.

What works best for you? You might prefer a summer planning marathon or weekly reviews of what you accomplished and have left to achieve.

2. Consolidate Teaching Time

How often per week do you teach history or science? Do you and your children function best with a little everyday or a moderate amount two to three times per week? Another option would be to study a big chunk once a week?

It worked best for me to teach history and science twice a week through about fifth grade. I find doing history or science in one or two weekly chunks is more interesting because we can dig deeper into the subject before running out of time.

3. Choose Your Time Wisely

Know your students, yourself, and your household. When is your most productive time? Personally, I could care less about Alexander the Great at 8:00 AM but find him truly fascinating later in the day. I learned to make my own natural rhythms work for our homeschool instead of against it.

4. Bedtime Bonus

One ritual that was consistent in our home when the boys were younger was our evening bedtime story time. We often used compelling history books or books with science topics during this special time of family bonding.

5. Combine Courses

Double up by combining literature with history, history with geography, or geography with science. The possibilities are endless. But many times a single assignment covers several disciplines at once. You do not have to have distinct tasks for every single subject every day. It is okay — even preferred– to have subjects overlap.

6. Think Outside the Box

Creative map and timeline work can count for history, geography, and art. Pay attention to community service hours, scout projects, and other non-school endeavors that are actually educational.

Keep school fresh by occasionally surprising the kids. Would they get a kick out of having school in a weird place for a day? Pile pillows in the bathtub (empty, of course), and have the kids work in the tub. Or go undercover by draping a blanket over a table and doing school underneath with pillows, blankets, and flashlights.

My favorite was to turn the master bedroom into the classroom. Take everything you might need onto the bed and pretend to be on a boat surrounded by sharks. Provide a pathway of socks that become tiny islands to step on for getting to the bathroom.

7. Mini Mega-Cooking

The days I cook a few extra meals to put in the freezer are a blessing. I often double a recipe so that I can have one for a busy day or a sick friend.

I almost never cook a single chicken anymore. It takes the same amount of time to cook two simultaneously.  Another great habit is browning several pounds of ground beef at a time (perhaps with onions) and freezing what I don’t immediately need. The frozen supply can be pulled out for a head start on chili, tacos, spaghetti, and other family favorites.

Crock pots are a mom’s best friend. Good pizza coupons are treasured. And the husband who offers to bring home the occasional Chinese or deli meal is worth his weight in gold!

8. Share

Teaching plans and resources can be shared with a friend. Although I love co-ops and have been involved in them yearly since 1991, they aren’t feasible for everyone. But if you have a friend who is teaching the same course as you and would be willing to share the work load in planning lessons or gathering resources, what a blessing!

Checking in with each other offers the added bonus of accountability.

9. The Baby Connection

Babies and toddlers are without a doubt a blessing to a family. Learn when to include them, when to work around them, and when to wait until they are asleep.

Some moms have a high tolerance, and some babies are low maintenance. As a mom with low tolerance and high maintenance babies, I had to learn flexibility. Special toys only brought out during teaching time helped. They enjoyed the read-alouds even though the material was over their heads.

History costumes, building forts or re-creations, and other hands-on projects can often be completed with little ones in tow. For work best done uninterrupted, use nap-time or videos. (Yes, I happily used quality videos as babysitters!)

10. Summer School

Use summers for history or science projects and field trips. We had a couple of short summer school sessions based on appealing material that the kids were eager to dive into. Count the hours toward the upcoming school year. Summer school provides leeway in your schedule and less pressure during your more formal school time.

Caveat

You have to find your own style. Just because I do things a certain way doesn’t mean you should, too. I intend for this list to be encouraging suggestions not the 10 commandments of homeschooling. If a tip doesn’t work for you, adjust it or toss it.

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