from Tamara | Buffalo, NY
I think that one of the most important pieces for success with homeschooling - with anything - is how you start the day. Especially now, when stress levels are high and the time at home feels endless, it's really easy to sleep in late and allow more media. But this just sets up your day for frustration.
Rhythm is KEY. Setting up a schedule helps kids know what to expect next and reduces arguments. Everyone likes to know what's coming next! With young kids it helps when it's not mom/dad saying what to do but the schedule says so. Older kids feel empowered to be able to take charge of their own day. The schedule should be developed to show what follows what in the morning and afternoon, and for each day of the week. Not necessarily exact times, which can just create unreasonable expectations and frustration when things don't happen at the "right" time. We first determine the big moments - breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner(!) - and work everything else around these. Think FLOW.
Adjust your internal clock a bit, but get up at a regular time and go through a usual routine. Even though I'm working from home now, I still help the kids get dressed and ready to meet the day. We all go downstairs for breakfast like usual and unfold into our morning routines. I even say goodbye to them (which they find hilarious) when I "leave" for work -- back upstairs to the study!
A bit of a surprise to us when starting homeschooling was the realization that "lessons" don't take up the same amount of time one-on-one as they do with a group of kids in a classroom. It's basically 45 min to at most 2 hours (depending on age) of direct teacher-to-student lessons, 30-60 min of academic nourishment (experiments, board games, painting, building etc), another 30+ of reading and lots of open time for free play, exploration, nature, and just being.
Another thing we realized early on is just how powerful peer-pressure and an authoritative-presence really are for holding a child's attention. I don't mean the bullying kind of peer-pressure or the abusive kind of authority. I'm referring to the kind of peer-influencing that comes from children watching their friends listening intently or following directions or working on a project...and then following suit. I'm referring to the kind of dependable and commanding leader-presence that gathers us into the circle, leaves little room for chaos, and inspires and empowers us to do better.
It's good to remember that these two forces are strong in school classrooms, but are usually missing in at-home, direct-teaching spaces. Your home simply is not the same as a school and your relationship with your children is definitely not the same as what classroom teachers have with their students. So cut yourself some slack if you child "just won't pay attention" or needs lots of guiding, reminders, and re-focusing help from you. It can often seem (and is true) that you'll spend an hour prepping for an activity that is completed in 10 minutes. Expect this and you'll (hopefully) be less upset over it.
The old adage of "every moment is a teaching moment" is so true. Most home school teaching isn't with desks and chalkboards, but paying attention to what's around and what your kid is curious about and building off of that with research and stories. There are a billion websites and resources being shared right now. Do a quick search and commit to just a couple resources at first...it's an unbelievably overwhelming rabbit hole and will just leave you in tears if you try to review everything, determine what's the best, and piece it all together into the "perfect" lesson.
As hard as it all can feel, to be able to homeschool is also really exciting and empowering. You get the opportunity to bring to your kids the topics and adventures that are important to YOU, not just what a school or teacher has on the agenda. Even better, you get to see exactly what your kids know, how they learn, what they are interested in, what they need, and just how smart and creative they truly are.
You get to see - firsthand - all those "a-ha!" and "I get it!" and "This is so neat," moments that enhance their lives and shape their interests.
Hearing from others can be the antidote to the overwhelm and stress you feel as you navigate homeschooling. Longstanding teachers, retired educators, brand new homeschooling parents and guardians, budding teacher candidates...we want to hear from you! Please contact us to share your wisdom, struggles, support, ideas, advice, empowerment, and inspiration.