I don’t know about you, but my kids cried a lot in my first year of homeschooling, mostly due to unnecessary stress that I caused . I also found myself floundering under the weight of my lofty ideals and unrealistic homeschooling expectations.
Today I want to encourage new homeschool moms how to plan and prepare so that you don’t burn out, feel discouraged or think that homeschooling doesn’t work for your family.
By all means, plan your homeschooling with lofty goals, aims and high hopes. Then pray, and break it down and hone in on just one area at a time.
Introduce new routines, skills, subjects or approaches slowly. Gradually encourage your children to learn and master these before adding another.
I love being practical! (You get my blog name, right?) I have found that if I express my expectations the night before, my children do better the next day. This is especially important if there is some level of anxiety about the coming activity or event. Children can visualize themselves and plan how they will respond and react.
Here are very normal, everyday suggestions that can help elevate your homeschooling routine and prepare your family, especially after a break, illness or life interruptions:
- Explain clearly how the next day will unfold and what will happen and how you want your child to respond. Answer any questions and discern if your child needs to talk about their fears or anxieties. Reassure your child with gentle encouragement.
- Set up a specific routine for your day the night before.
- Ease into good meal times, bedtimes and daily habits so that your days flow more smoothly.
- Lay out breakfast and the school area ready for the new day. Nothing throws good plans out like early morning chaos and confusion.
- Avoid your cell phone, social media, answering phone calls or accepting interruptions. These kill smooth, flowing, productive homeschooling.
- Use a timer. Keep lessons and chores short and sweet.
- Use music. Nothing sets the tone of the activity quite like music. Use soft, sweet background music for quiet times and activities that require concentration, and music with a beat for action and fast activities.
- Habit training is your best friend! Train your children in their routines, chores and activities so that your days flow smoothly.
- Explain the details of your expectation, e.g.:
“In 5 minutes, when the timer rings, we are going to pack up your toys and get ready for bathtime.”
Set the timer and prepare for bathtime. Then, when the bell rings, help your child clean up with a song (we loved Barney’s ‘Clean up’ song) and quickly move on to the bathroom. Moms, you must be ready and available to execute the routine with your children until they can do this with a simple prompt. Your expectation should be gradual, but you are aiming to eventually give a one word prompt like “Bathtime” and set this in motion without explanations, repetitions, remonstrations or refusals.
This will work for school too. “
“After breakfast and morning chores, I would like all of you …. on the couch for storytime/ … at the school room starting …./ …. dressed and ready for ….”
- For schooling, explain the activity and then show them exactly how to do it. This is vital for handwriting, maths, spelling and new skills.
- Help and encourage them through each step. Repeat and work on the same activity for several days before expecting your child to do it with more confidence and independence. For some children this may take a long time, especially in some subjects. Put your mind at ease and simply continuing tutoring and gently urging your child through their fears. (I had to tutor my junior high schooler side-by-side through almost an entire year of maths, but when she started her next grade, she worked independently and only called for help when she needed it.)
- At first each subject requires your hands-on, detailed approach, but gradually your child will learn and master the work or activity and only need your quiet presence next to him/her as they learn to work more independently.
I recommend you do not start your homeschooling expecting to do the whole package. Ease into the full curriculum gradually adding one or two subjects each week over a month.
- Grow your expectations gradually, e.g.: if you want your children to do their work independently, first start with a hand-in-hand approach and do it with them. Then tell them that the next time they will do it on their own, but that you will be there with them. Only when they are working correctly and with the correct attitude, can you back off and allow them to work independently.
- Whenever your child hits the wall or has some block, go back to where they last mastered the work and try another approach or substitute another method.
- If your child is fearful, stressed or uncertain, take a break from the written work and do something practical, concrete or hands-on.
- If you or your kids keep failing to achieve the goals you had in mind, stop and ask whether your children are ready and mature enough for the expectation. If not, ease off and start at the point where they can master the activity.
Real parenting and homeschooling work is in addressing your child’s attitude. This is by far the most draining, difficult aspect, and will require grit and determination to stay on point, encouraging and admonishing their best attitude and response.
Many of my homeschool days seem “wasted” with character issues that we addressed. Often parents feel that this is a burden too hard to bear, and they feel like a failure. But it is ultimately is our responsibility. It may seem easier to “send them to school” than to work on the underlying issues, but this is the most important reason we chose to homeschool!
Poor attitudes may only rear its ugly head in your child’s teen years, but always address attitudes while your children are still young. Do not accept their bad moods, negative talk and sulks and tantrums.
State your expectations in the positive,
“Next time we do (whatever activity) … let us be really positive/ cheerful/ and do our best … / or … Next time this work makes you feel really (name the emotion) …. call me and I will come and help you and we can work on it together … / Tomorrow when we start … we are going to (be specific and positive) …. “
Again, in my first year of homeschooling, I disciplined my children far too much and I expected immediate changed hearts and attitudes, but found that this didn’t happen. I quickly realized that I needed to pray for Godly wisdom, search for alternative approaches and find the underlying causes for negativity or rebellion. Parenting is done on our knees, isn’t it?
You can always start again. When we had epic meltdowns, or fail days, I would encourage myself and my kids that we would start again the next day. More than once, we simply stopped our work and we cuddled together to read aloud from our favourite reader, or went on a nature walk or did some Fine Arts instead. Most new days start with hope.
The Lord is so gracious and meets us with fresh mercy and grace each morning! Begin again in hope. Just start small, work slowly and keep moving towards your expectations. Don’t give up!
In Grace, Nadene