10 Tips for a New Homeschooling Year
by Julie Lavender
The term ‘homeschooling’ means different things to different people these days, especially in light of the current COVID crisis. Whether your upcoming school year includes homeschooling by choice or homeschooling by necessity due to coronavirus changes, keep these tips in mind for a smoother school year.
1. Commit each day to God.
Remember that your kids are a gift from God and give thanks each day for the opportunity to teach them. If your day starts off in a sprint, that may just be a quick popcorn prayer when your feet hit the floor. Giving the day to God and recognizing that He is Lord of everything from the moment you wake up starts you off on the right foot.
2. Be flexible.
Establish a schedule and routine for each day, if that’s what works best for your family’s needs, but keep in mind that circumstances may arise that will alter the schedule. Staying flexible reduces tension and stress and helps you meet whatever challenge interrupted the schedule. The baby may be unusually cranky. The dishwasher may spill water all over the floor. A sick relative may call with a request for help. Morning rain showers may beckon mud puddle play instead of science lessons. Construction vehicles working noisily in the empty lot across the street may call for attention in place of math lessons. The beauty of homeschooling is: “There’s always tomorrow” to finish that lesson plan. Flexibility and spontaneity are part of the homeschooling adventure.
3. Keep in mind that learning at home looks different.
It’s common to expect your home education to resemble that of a public or private school setting. Let go of that notion and create your own concepts. Stretch out on the floor to complete worksheets. Sit in the front yard for reading aloud time. Listen to audio books in the car while running errands. Work on math or vocabulary flash cards while sitting at the beach or swimming pool.
Remember that schooling at home means you can work in the evenings to complete the tasks, if that works best for you. Maybe mornings are too chaotic with an infant and you have the added help of Daddy being home in the evenings. Dad can help with lessons while you care for the infant one evening and switch roles the next evening. Weekends are fair game for schoolwork, too, if Saturday works better for academics.
4. Don’t over plan the day.
Schooling fewer children takes less time than an entire class of students. You may realize that you only need a couple of hours a day to complete the lessons. Scheduling too much in the day causes unnecessary frustration. Factor in time for chores, meal preparation, and other necessary requirements for the day along with schoolwork. You may tend to think you need just as many hours as a traditional school day, but that’s not true. Much time is lost in a traditional school setting with moving from one place to another, changing classes, gathering materials and so forth. Teaching one child a particular concept requires way less time than teaching a classroom of twenty or more students that concept. Less time is required to teach the same amount of material each day, and you’ll find that you have extra time in the day for other family fun and requirements.
And remember that you don’t have to do every subject every day. You may choose to alternate subjects and still get the job done.
5. Combine subject matter when applicable.
Teach all your kids together whenever possible. Subjects like Bible, science, literature, social studies and history lend themselves well to this idea, with possibly giving individualized assignments to each child after the group time. An older child might write an essay on the diseases encountered while building the Panama Canal, while a younger one might draw a map of the Panama Canal and its surroundings. Math and language arts should be taught according to the child’s ability level, building on the concepts previously learned. However, if the children are especially close in age, these subjects can be combined, also.
6. Use every available resource.
A plethora of homeschooling curriculum abounds. If possible, attend a homeschooling conference to peruse various products to help you make an informed decision. If that’s not an option, ask other homeschoolers for advice and study the products online. Bear in mind that you can always switch to another product if that particular one doesn’t seem to work for your family.
Many free resources are available online, especially now. Also available online are a wealth of homeschooling blogs and social media homeschool groups that exist primarily to support, encourage and assist fellow homeschoolers. Tap into these resources and meet new friend and comrades along the way. Take advantage of the public library, also.
Join a local homeschooling group for support and to share the homeschooling journey. If you don’t have access to one locally, join a virtual group in some fashion to alleviate feelings of isolation and for encouragement. Find some way to connect with other homeschooling families.
7. Learn with your kids.
Think of yourself as a facilitator, instead of a teacher, and try to learn something new each day for your children. Let the kids explore their creativity. Build the curriculum around each child’s interest or passion at that moment.
8. Give yourself grace and be patient.
Some days may not go as planned, while other homeschooling days may be flawless. Give yourself grace for either. It often takes time for a homeschooling year to find its groove. Take breaks when you need to!
9. Incorporate quiet time.
For you and for the kids. Stay in God’s Word and don’t neglect prayer time. Each day will go smoother when you make this a priority. Encourage quiet time for each child, age appropriate, too.
10. Have fun!
Enjoy educating your children and treat it as a gift from God. Treasure the experience!
Julie Lavender is the author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell). She writes for Guideposts Magazine and other publications and speaks at writers conferences. Julie has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and taught public school before becoming a stay-at-home mom and military wife. She homeschooled her four kids for more than twenty-five years.
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