Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
“How’s school going?”
This seems to be a common question among homeschool circles this time of year. We’re about a month or so in, time enough to have a rough idea what’s working and what’s not. Our plans look so perfect on paper, but it takes a few weeks to get a feel for how it really works.
Only now do I feel like we’ve finally found our homeschool groove. Yes, it’s taken us five years! I’m fairly certain most of you work out the kinks a lot quicker than that!
I recently revisited this Power of the Beginner article and it took me back to those early days, trying so many options, reading every homeschool book I could find, researching different philosophies and always feeling completely in over my head.
Sure, there are days I still feel like that, but at five years in I can confidently say I know what’s finally working for us. Of course, these won’t work for everyone, but just in case you’re also in the “trying-on” stage or exploring different ideas and options, perhaps one of these will be just the ticket for you.
5 things that are finally working
Don’t eat the frog first thing.
I know. We’ve all been taught to eat the frog first.
But with all due respect, Mark Twain, you clearly haven’t tried to teach my son math first thing in the morning. Although every resource I’ve read urges math first thing in the morning, for us it’s just plain foolishness to tackle our toughest topic right away.
Like Caitlin’s routine of Coffee and Books, we find that beginning with something we love makes the whole morning flow so much better. Now we begin with piano. I know not every child would choose that as a favorite, but we’re learning together, the three of us, using an online piano course through Udemy (they have sales–we paid $30!).
We’re only three weeks in, but we do it every day and LOVE it so far. After piano, we transition into math, and I’m amazed at the difference. Zero tears. No anxiety. Perhaps Mary Poppins knows better than Mark Twain: a spoonful of music makes the frog go down.
Create a chore/lesson plan system that really works.
With juggling homeschool, household, writing, speaking, blogging and leading a church, having a streamlined, simple system for meals, chores, and lesson plans is an absolute must for me. After five years I finally feel we’ve found our system.
I shared here about the household chore chart and routine, and now I’ve created a weekly Schedule & Lesson page that’s copied and ready to quickly fill in with each child’s lessons, making notes for any upcoming schedule or chore changes. Then I can just cut off the day’s strip each morning (10 seconds) and the kids are set for the day. Happy dance!
Read aloud, read aloud, read aloud. (Then go outside.)
Confession: We have started (and ditched) some sort of history program every single year. We’ve had great intentions. But with all the other topics, I just don’t have time for all the enrichment projects, crafts, and activities that fill many history curriculums.
This year, we’re just reading aloud. Lots and lots and lots. We’re cruising through all the Story of the World books, which my children adore. I find that 30-minutes of compelling read aloud is worth more (for us) than an hour of crafty activities that take me double that time to prep and clean up.
Lacey Meyers Photography
Similarly, we’ve adopted Jamie’s idea (from Give Your Child the World) of reading at the dinner table. Instead of saving it for bedtime when I’m nodding off, or taking up precious “school time” with stories, we’ve moved the bulk of our reading-aloud to after dinner, when Daddy can join us (or clean the kitchen while I read!).
It also gives great fuel for conversation the rest of the evening, since we’ve all just shared a captivating story together.
Other than reading aloud, the other best practice is just getting outside every day. Between 1-4pm, every afternoon, the kids have completely free and unstructured time outside. It does us all good.
Don’t feel compelled to do every problem or page.
After we did Dutch’s state testing, the wise administrator (a seasoned homeschool mom) encouraged me: “Don’t feel like you have to do every problem! If he gets the first 7 right, skip the last 3.”
I know this seems rather obvious, but this was huge for us! Math used to take forever because Dutch has a hard time writing out the problems. I now see that his frustration wasn’t so much with the math, but with the length of the lessons.
Now, if he’s “got it” and understands the concepts, clearly showing his competency, I let him skip the rest of the section.
Lacey Meyers Photography
I see now that in years past, I let too many things interrupt our homeschool routine. I pride myself on being “flexible” and “going with the flow” and I love the freedom that homeschooling affords.
But. This can also be the downfall of homeschooling, when I let every other thing dictate our days. Our move out to the country has been a godsend in this respect. Now, we stay home. Like, every day.
We have lots of visitors and evening/weekend activities but our weekdays are devoted to learning, exploring, reading, creating, growing.
Now it’s your turn: What things are finally working for you? We’d love to hear!