Homeschooling: How To Get It All Done
I’m at a season of life in which getting our homeschooling done before 2 PM each day is happening consistently without any stress or hair pulling on my part.
This hasn’t always been the case!
One of the recurring questions I see on homeschooling message forums is a desperate cry from new or just burnt out parents asking “How do you get it all DONE?!”
If you’re a homeschooling parent who is having trouble managing your day, I hope the following tips will help you. These are things I’ve learned along the way that, when I remember to practice them myself, make a huge difference.
The first three are part of my overall philosophy of education, others are daily disciplines.
If you’re skimming this article, here are the tips in bullet form. For more, scroll down and read.
- No formal education until age 7
- Know your why
- Teacher, know thyself
- Keep to 4 subjects a day
- Don’t be afraid to skip
- Set a time limit
- Create “must do” checklists
- Minimize busywork and teacher-intensive curriculum
- Consider schooling year round
- Limit options
- Use audio books
- Meal plan
- Chores and housekeeping
- Sunday night homeschool prep
- Stay off the phone and computer until school is done
No Formal Education Until 7
This is a big one. In many developed countries (France and Finland come to mind), there is little to no formal instruction before a child is 7. And yet Finland has the most literate citizens in the world, and French schools are notoriously tough. Recently I was reading a post by a stressed out homeschooling mom on a popular forum. She was struggling with getting all the subjects covered each day, and mentioned that she often can’t squeeze in history with her Kindergartener.
History and Kindergarten are two words that do not go together in my household! (Of course, a 5-6 year old is going to get some history from the books I read to them, family Bible reading and study, etc…)
My Kindergarteners are learning how to read, playing outside, getting dirty and generally figuring out how to behave themselves appropriately. It’s very important for kids to spend a lot of time exercising their bodies and exploring their world before we require them to sit still and exercise their minds. Charlotte Mason had a lot to say on this subject, and so do a lot of modern day experts.
And just because I don’t require formal schooling, doesn’t mean the child isn’t learning a ton. They’re being read to a lot, asking lots of questions, doing early math through play, hearing me teach the others, figuring things out on their own, and they pick up a ton of knowledge this way.
This summer I’ll be teaching my 3 year old phonics and some preschool math… only because she is ready and really wants to, and this will be fun for both of us. But it’s not a requirement.
Know Your Why
It’s not just kids who want to know “Why do I have to diagram sentences Mom!?” or “Why do I have to do this math when you don’t even understand it Mom!?“.
We as teachers and parents need to understand our why. Periodically I like to assess my overarching goals and values with homeschool. Developing a homeschool philosophy helps keep you from burnout.
Keep To 4 Subjects A Day
Interestingly, in the state where I live, homeschoolers are required to teach only 5 subjects: reading, language arts, math, social studies (which used to be called History), and science. How you handle this is up to your discretion. If you read and discuss a book about botany, that’s science AND reading. And if you do copywork and narration and dictation based on that book, it’s science, reading and language arts. Many subjects have a lot of overlap.
In our homeschool, we’ve found that it works well to do some subjects every day (math), and some subjects every other day (history).
“Content subjects” such as literature, history and science don’t have to be done daily, whereas “skill subjects” like math and writing are best done every day.
You can even focus on one content subject such as history or science on one day a week and do all of the lessons on that day. Some parents even enroll their children in a co-op or class for a few weeks a year to tackle a subject they don’t like or can’t seem to get to.
Don’t Be Afraid to Skip It.
If your curriculum has a lot of repetition, don’t be afraid to skip around. Some kids need tons of repetition, some don’t. (And they might need repetition in some subjects and not others.) Don’t be afraid to fast forward or skip around if your child has “got it”.
Set a Timer
In a school setting, subjects are divided into periods or classes. When the bell rings, students move on, no matter how much was accomplished. It might work for you to set a timer for your subjects – when the time is up, you’re done. Move on.
Create a “Must Do” Checklist
– and check things off as they’re completed. This could be a large dry erase board, a Kanban style board, or a simple computer document you print out and keep handy.
I did this for a time, after the baby was born. Mostly because I needed the visual aid to remember what we were supposed to do every day. If you’re the kind of person who needs to check things off a list, create one to keep yourself on track.
Teacher, Know Thyself
Are you a plan ahead for the entire year person? Or do you do better planning monthly or weekly? I have a loose plan written before the beginning of the new school year, but I update and change things probably quarterly, if for no other reason than I get bored.
Minimize Busywork and Teacher-Intensive Curriculum
I don’t do unit studies because they require too much gathering of materials. At this stage, I need an “open and go” curriculum. I also make sure that everything my kids do for school really counts. That means reading real books together instead of doing “reading comprehension” workbooks.
School Year Round
We don’t currently do this, but it’s a great option so you can relax a little.
This won’t help you with moment by moment teaching, but it does minimize stress overall. Put blinders on. Behavioral economists have taught us that too many choices cause stress and unhappiness.
If you tend to get stressed when reading homeschooling blogs, perusing Pinterest, attending homeschool conventions, or subscribing to “deal” sites for homeschool, then forget it all.
Once you’ve chosen your curriculum, STOP looking. Only let yourself look to these resources if you have a real need for something new. There is no perfect curriculum, so stop searching for it.
Using audio books when you are otherwise occupied (such as in the car, during meals or quiet time, or while doing housework) is a great way to get more done. We listen to Story of the World CDs while running errands to review history lessons. These are available on the Peace Hill Press website or Amazon.
First Language Lessons audio companion (also from Peace Hill Press) teaches grammar. I just ordered this for my 1st grader. You can find free audio books online or at your library. They’re a great way to get more “reading” in.
My entire day goes better if I know what’s for dinner. I make my meal plan on Sunday nights for the following week. It’s a few minutes very well spent.
Schedule Chores And Housekeeping
Some people do better if they get right into schooling before housework, because they’ll get distracted and never begin. Others need to have a semblance of tidy or their brains won’t work properly. I’m in the second camp for the most part.
We do a quick cleanup of the kitchen and dining room and my oldest starts laundry after breakfast. Then I ignore the messes until later when schooltime is over.
Sunday Night Prep.
This is a habit I’ve had for some time that has proved invaluable. On Sunday night I sit down with my Bullet Journal and make my to-do list for the next week.
I also think about what we’ll be doing in our homeschool then too. If you take a few minutes to print out worksheets you’ll need, make a list of library books to check out (or reserve them online), set goals, think about what supplies you’ll need for science or history activities etc – you enter your week with a proactive instead of reactive mindset.
Stay Off the Computer Until After Schoolwork is Done
This is perhaps the most important tip of all!