How to thrive during a busy homeschool season ~
Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies
I am a huge introvert. Huge.
As an introverted homeschool mama, I have always felt my best when our weeks were filled with ample margin. I treasured that glorious white space in my weekly planner.
Each child used to play one sport. Sure, there were some additional activities sprinkled in, but we had plenty of free time. We hiked daily. We read aloud, leisurely and without restriction, over breakfast and just before bed. We ate dinner as a family every single night.
The kiddos had a consistent bedtime and it was fairly easy to maintain. Our days felt comfortable. Most weeks, we had a certain flow going on and it worked for the entire family.
But now, things have changed.
My children are getting older. At this age, sports teams practice more than one night a week and those practices are longer. There are a few more activities added to our schedules, too. All the activities seem to be clumped in those “after school” hours.
The result? Less of that blessed white space for this introvert.
I knew that this fall would feel challenging for my introverted soul, so I prepared ahead of time. I didn’t want to merely survive the fall, I wanted our family to thrive. I wanted to maintain some margin and make sure we all stayed connected.
And I wanted to eke out some space to introvert. (In my world, introvert is a verb!)
How to Thrive During a Busy Homeschool Season
It’s not perfect by any means, but I am happy to report that our fall, while busy, feels good. Today, I would like to share what is working for our family in the hopes that it will help yours!
Here are my tips for thriving, not just surviving, during a busy homeschool season:
1. A routine that gets you off and running
This varies from person to person, of course. For me, that means an early morning workout and a cup of coffee (or two).
It may seem like adding something to the morning routine would make the day crazier, but it helps me to manage stress. Plus, that morning workout causes a chain reaction.
When I get home, I want to shower right away and get the day off and running.
For the past six months, I have been enjoying an online fitness community called TeacherFit. All that is required is a kettlebell or dumbbells. New workouts are added Monday through Friday. Each workout utilizes high-intensity interval training and they are both challenging and fast.
Everything can be completed at home in a small space. I love this program because it’s easy to do at home, it’s effective, and it’s super affordable. (If this sounds like something you might need, head over to TeacherFit and tell them Cait sent you!)
2. Realistic meal planning
I wish I could say that I am a rockstar homemaker like Martha Stewart, but I am not. I don’t love to cook or to bake, but I do know that food makes for a successful homeschool day. Homeschool kiddos- and their parents- need lots of fuel!
As I mentioned earlier, our weekday dinner hours are spent on the soccer fields. Therefore, a fall meal plan was essential for our family. You can learn more about what our meal plan looks like on this episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.
In a nutshell, I looked at our week and figured out which days I could make meals without stress and which days I’d prefer something easy (read: leftovers).
Then, I asked the kids and my husband what they would like to eat. (It turns out that these favorite meals are not super fast, but I figured out a way to work them in, too.)
It ended up shaking out like this:
- Monday: Simple sheet-pan meal (doubled)
- Tuesday: Leftovers
- Wednesday: Crockpot soup or stew (doubled)
- Thursday: Leftovers
- Friday: Fun Friday Kid Favorite (read: tacos, pizza, burritos, BLT, burgers, etc.) plus a movie
- Saturday: Mama’s night off
- Sunday: Family Dinner Night (more on this in a bit!)
I found four recipes for each day’s theme (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), printed the recipes, and stapled them together in order. This way, when I need groceries the ingredient list is easy to find.
(Again, if you’d like to read more about this, please check out the latest episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.)
3. A super-simple chore chart
When you are homeschooling, you’re living in the space you’re learning in… and this results in messes.
I don’t know if you can relate, but there are certain tasks that I ask my children to help me with every single day. Too often, when I ask for help, my kids grumble, or squabble with one another.
It occurred to me that I could make a list of the top six annoying tasks in my household and then assign two to each kiddo per day. Then, rather than harp, I could just tell the children it was time for chores and they would look at the chart and know what to do… without as much grumbling or in-fighting.
In my world, those six chores include:
- Emptying/loading the dishwasher
- Sweeping the kitchen after a meal
- Wiping down countertops after a meal
- Quick-clean of bathroom surfaces
- Vacuuming the family room carpet
- Tidying shoes (because my kiddos get home and explode their shoes and they then get lost, even though we have cubbies for them. Sigh.)
In August, I made a quick chore chart and printed two copies- one for upstairs and one for downstairs.
It’s not fancy, and it’s certainly not Martha Stewart or Pinterest Pretty, but it is working well! If you’d like to hear more about how it works and what the kids think, you can listen here.
4. Prioritizing read-aloud
One of my biggest gripes about busy seasons is the lack of connection, so in this busy homeschool season, I have prioritized our read-aloud time.
We read aloud together over breakfast and/or after breakfast, before any other chores or academic tasks. It feels special to snuggle up on the couch together and enjoy a story. We all know that reading aloud is the single most important “academic” homeschool task, plus it boosts connection and makes memories.
Taking the time to read aloud in the morning makes for a smoother day overall.
Nature is the best medicine. It is good for all of us, not just our kiddos. I consider time in nature to be just as important as math and reading!
(If you are new to nature study, or if you’d like some new ideas, I’ve shared oodles of our family’s favorite resources here.)
6. A Discman
As an introverted homeschool mom facing a busy homeschool season, one thing that I miss is quiet. Thankfully, a dear friend of mine informed me that Best Buy now sells that Discman you remember from childhood!
On our first day of homeschool, I always give each kiddo a back-to-homeschool treat. (You can learn more about our first and last day homeschool traditions here.)
This year, that treat was a Discman. This helps us to eke in some quiet time during a busy season. The children can listen to an audiobook from the library or they can listen to favorite songs. Best part? There is not a screen involved, just plain old-school fun.
7. Sunday night dinners for the win!
I mentioned above that many of our weeknight dinners are spent on the soccer sidelines. That means we have fewer face-to-face meals with the entire family.
One way to make up for lost time is to make those less busy days special.
In our family, that means that we have a “fun” Friday night meal as a family. This fun meal is usually in front of the TV for a weekly family movie night.
Then, on Sunday night, we have a heartier, much-beloved meal (read: pot roast, roast chicken, lasagna, etc.) and sit in our dining room together. We light candles and use cloth napkins and the kids enjoy sparkling cider.
Whatever you do, be sure to protect the margin you do have when you find yourself in a busy homeschool season.
Don’t worry about what other homeschoolers are doing, and don’t be afraid to do you!
Tell us: Are you in a busy homeschool season too? What is helping your family to thrive? Share here!