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Afraid homeschooling is hard? Like anything, there are ways to make it a lot easier. Check out these tips to keep your sanity when homeschooling.
Sometimes, my kids are assholes.
There. I said it. I think there’s a myth out there that homeschool moms are somehow more patient than other moms. At least in my case, that’s completely untrue. I would love to pretend that I am one of those Zen, Daniel Tiger’s Mom kind of mamas, but I’m not.
I believe that homeschooling is the best educational solution for our family, though, and so I power through on the days that I want to sell the kids on eBay.
If you’re a homeschooling mama who’s here because life has gotten so tricky, you’re wondering why you ever decided to have kiddos in the first place, I see you. You’ve got this. Mama, if instead you dream if homeschooling, but are afraid you’re not up to the challenge, I hope you’ll take this as a giant pep talk.
All of us struggle with homeschooling sometimes, but here are 14 tips you can use to make life a little easier.
Make time for you
It’s easy to burn out when you’re home with the kids All. The. Time. The secret to keeping your sanity is to make sure that you have some space in your day just for you. How the heck do you manage that?
You insist on it.
Your personal time might happen when kids are napping, watching a cartoon, or playing all alone. Cultivate independence in your kids, teach them to respect boundaries, and make sure everybody learns the value of quiet time.
It’s not too much to ask. Your needs are important, too. If your children haven’t learned independence yet, there is still time.
If you simply can’t get away during the day to do your own thing without the kids burning the house down, consider waking up early or staying up late to work on things that feed your soul or light your fire. Even full-time, stay-at-home mamas deserve to spend time and energy on things that bring them joy.
Combine kids when possible
If you have multiple kids, whenever you can, try to teach more than one child at once. In our house, the only subjects where the boys and I work one-on-one are math and English. Every other reading, video, science experiment, or art project is done as a family.
This cuts the time and prep work for me significantly, and there is always a way to make the material appropriate and engaging for both my kids.
Make sure each child has activities he can do independently
No matter how much you combine kids for their educational time, sooner or later, you’re likely going to have to work one-on-one with somebody. Make sure each child has some things that he can do quietly on his own.
When my youngest was a toddler, his independent activities included building with Duplos or sticking alphabet magnets on the refrigerator. Now that both kids are older, they might choose to work in a fun workbook or spend time in an educational app while I’m working on my own passions or helping the other child.
Oh, and as a side note, don’t waste your energy feeling guilty if independent activity time involves screens. Choose the highest-quality resources that you can, and realize that your child playing Teach Your Monster to Read for an hour is a small trade-off for the peace and quiet it will bring you.
Involve the kids in keeping the house running smoothly
When everyone is at home, there are more meals to cook and more messes to clean. If you play your cards right, there are more hands to help, too. From at least the age of two, children can help with chores around the house. (If you’re looking for a list of things they can do, check out this post.)
Remember, part of what children should be learning at home with you is how to be a functioning adult. The best way to teach them is to allow them to participate in the running of the house. As a bonus, you’ll have more time and energy for the things on your personal to-do list.
Find friends/get out of the house
Many home educators joke that it’s ironic to be called a ‘homeschooler’ when they’re never at home. It’s likely that where you live, there are loads of activities that will get all of you some social interaction (and the kids some academic enrichment). This is important as sitting at home with only kids to talk to day in and day out will drive you batty.
Homeschooling has grown in popularity to the point that in every place I have lived, there are both secular groups and religious ones, artsy groups and athletic opportunities, academic co-ops, and social get-togethers. Keep looking until you find your people, and get out of the house sometimes!
I know, I know. I just told you to find some opportunities outside the home, and now I’m telling you not to load up your schedule.
Like anything in life, you can overdo it when it comes to homeschooling opportunities. If running from activity to activity is making you crazy, don’t be afraid to cut things out. One of the perks of homeschooling for us has been the opportunity to live life a bit more slowly than some of our traditionally-schooled friends.
Use a curriculum
Many of us have dreams of creating beautifully-crafted studies designed around our child’s individual interests and unique learning style. If this is something that brings you joy, feel free to do it, but know that it is a ton of work to create a curriculum for just your family.
Know that lots of smart people have made loads of interesting resources. You’re almost sure to love one of them. Although purchasing a curriculum is undoubtedly an expense, there is a huge market for secondhand materials.
If you’re lucky, you might buy your curriculum secondhand and then sell it when you’re finished. If you have multiple children, don’t discount the fact that you could possibly get more than one year of use out of a resource.
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Work to your strengths/trust your instincts
You know yourself and your family best, and one of the great gifts of homeschooling is that you have the agency to tweak your family’s education program to make it one that everybody loves.
My kids and I love to snuggle and read, so I chose a literature-based curriculum. Other families choose work that the kids can do independently in workbooks or online. Still others choose to let the child’s current interests lead his schooling.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Create the school that works best for your family. (Oh, and never forget that you get a vote. Make sure the school you’re creating works for you, too.)
Don’t try to recreate a classroom environment
Although certain homeschool laws include attendance requirements and standardized testing, you are not trying to recreate the public or private school educational model in your homeschool. You don’t need to worry about minimum hours per day, educational milestones, or academic assessments in the same way that school administrators do.
Enjoy the freedom that this gives you, and don’t worry if your personal family school looks a lot different than that of the public or private school down the street.
Prioritize your relationship mom-kid relationship over your teacher-student one
You are Mom first, period. Don’t strain your relationship by stressing out about the work that the kids are doing (or not doing). If your kids are super-resistant to a particular subject or activity, ask yourself why, and see if you can easily make a change.
If everyone is super-cranky at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, consider whether or not you might all be better served by playing hooky and going to the park instead. Remember, there’s no reason you can’t make up the time on Saturday, next month, or not at all.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
The stakes feel super high when we’re homeschooling. After all, if our kids fail to thrive in school outside the home, we can blame the teachers, the administrators, or the system. If they’re not learning at home, we feel lousy.
Remember that your child is an individual with his own like and dislikes, learning challenges and emotional hang ups. He’s not destined for failure if he can’t write his name properly right away, memorize his multiplication tables, or focus on a read aloud for more than a few minutes.
If he were schooling outside the home, he might have to be held back or pushed along with the group. In your personal school, he is exactly on schedule, whatever that is.
Don’t let milestones make you crazy.
At some point, you are going to need help. Maybe your kid will decide he wants to learn calculus, French horn, or parkour. Maybe you’ll just need five stinkin’ minutes to yourself.
There is always help available if you need it. Sometimes, you have to think outside the box with this stuff, but there is almost always a solution. If there aren’t local experts who can help you with challenging subjects, look for courses or private instructors online.
If your budget doesn’t allow for childcare, perhaps another family would swap childcare or a tween homeschooler would be willing to come in as a mother’s helper for a few hours a week at a reduced rate.
You can start to feel like a bit of an island when you’re homeschooling, but remember, you don’t have to do it alone.
Create some kind of a schedule, no matter how relaxed
Most families thrive on a bit of a routine. Although you don’t need to stick to a strict schedule, you should at least have a vague idea of how you’d like your days to go.
You have the wonderful benefit of being able to base this schedule on what works best for you and change it whenever it stops working.
Want some help creating your family’s homeschool schedule? Download my free Homeschool Schedule Creator–one of the dozens of useful resources in the Subscriber Hub of my Mama’s Lounge!
Know the rules you need to follow and do a little every week to manage your records
Familiarize yourself with the homeschooling rules in your area, and do what you need to do to stay compliant. (If you don’t know the homeschooling laws for your state, you can visit this site to get more information. Visitors outside the US can Google their country name and ‘homeschooling laws’.)
Setting time once a day or once a week to log what you’ve done, mark attendance on a calendar or chart, or add items to your child’s homeschool portfolio ensures that you are always ready to go if anyone wants to check in on the work you’re doing in your homeschool. It also ensures that you have a record of all that important work that you’re doing with and for your family.
The You Got This, Mama! Homeschool Planner has spots to log and summarize the work you’re doing in your homeschool. Check it out here!
Yes, homeschooling can feel like stay-at-home-motherhood on steroids sometimes, but it doesn’t have to make you crazy. You may not ever be as calm as Daniel Tiger’s mom, but follow the 14 tips I listed above, and homeschooling won’t feel quite so hard.
Mama Goes Beyond is not a Homeschool blog.
But I have homeschooled my two boys for the last five years. And I have all sorts of ideas for ways we can make homeschooling easier, organize our homeschool days better, and have a lot more fun in the process. Click the button below to access all of my homeschooling resources.