beverly burgess

7 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Homeschool Day

8 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Homeschool Day

Let’s face it. Some homeschool days can drag on and on. There are days we overschedule, days when the kids seem to take forever to complete the simplest of tasks, and still other days where an emergency visit to the doctor to have an eraser removed from your two-year-old’s nose takes precedence. 

As the summer winds down, many homeschoolers are looking for ways to schedule their homeschool year without pulling their hair out. How do we balance it all without feeling like we are tied to textbooks at our kitchen table? Here are seven ways I’ve learned to relax and finish our day in record time. 

1 :: STOP WHEN MASTERY HAS HAPPENED. 

Does your child really need to do those thirty math problems just because they are in the workbook? Do they understand the concept by completing only ten problems? Go with that, and move on when your child has mastered the skill. Don’t feel obligated to complete work just because it’s there or because a textbook publisher thought six pages was the appropriate amount of learning in this lesson. 

2 :: SKIP PARTS OF TEXT BOOKS THAT DON’T SPEAK TO YOU.

We use textbooks as more of a guide, rather than a script to follow. We pull out what we need and what excites us, and ditch the rest. All of the links, bonus questions, extra experiments, and “check this out” areas need not be done. Keep it simple. 

3 :: COMBINE SUBJECTS IF PRACTICAL.

Combining subjects is a great way to streamline homeschooling time. Work in language arts essays with history work. Combine art and language arts. We use unit studies when we can. Even if not embraced fully, combining subjects is a terrific way to seamlessly blend subjects into a cohesive learning experience. 

Schedules and routines look great on paper, but the reality is that the day seldom goes as planned.

4 :: MAKE A SCHEDULE THAT WORKS.

Not every subject or learning experience needs to be covered every day. Try a four-day schedule, and leave the fifth day for down time or for finishing up projects or work that needs more attention. Try a Monday, Wednesday, Friday/Tuesday, Thursday schedule. Maybe foreign language or physical education only needs to be done twice a week. If you are scheduling every subject daily, be sure that you are realistic about the amount of material you think you can cover. 

5 :: DON’T LET YOUR SCHEDULE RULE THE DAY

Schedules and routines look great on paper, but the reality is that the day seldom goes as planned. If we miss an assignment due to illness, or life, we simply move it to the next day. I also evaluate the lesson to decide if this is something that can be tossed entirely. Certainly, you don’t want to skip learning that needs to happen in progression, but tossing an experiment, art project, or busy work is perfectly acceptable. 

6 :: STOP COMPARING

Comparing your day or homeschool to others is a quick way to lose confidence. Comparing makes you feel as if you can’t keep up with what everyone else is doing. Set goals for your children and homeschool, and work toward those. On days when you fall short, look at the bigger picture of what has been accomplished and where learning has leapt ahead. 

7 :: TRY A DIFFERENT METHOD

If you are feeling suffocated by a schedule, try tossing it to the side. Go with the flow for a few days and see how the kids are responding. If it’s working, great; if not, try again. Unschooling can be a great way to alleviate the pressure of a schedule. Give it a go to see if it works for your family. 

Pinterest, blogs, curriculum providers, and Instagram can suck time from our day and make us want to try every new thing that comes along. Loosely schedule what you want to cover each week in a planner and then whittle it down to more specific details. Be flexible when you don’t get to everything. Tomorrow’s another day. 


6 Tips to Wrap Up Your Homeschool Year

6 Tips to Wrap Up Your Homeschool Year

[We're so excited to welcome the wonderful Beverly Burgess to the HSL blogging team! I'm not posting the video, but there was definitely some happy dancing going on in the office when she signed on as a regular contributor. —Amy]

It’s May and I’ve lost my mojo. I even doubled my caffeine intake to no avail. 

It seems most every homeschooling parent gets to a point when they need to wrap up their school year. Even those parents that homeschool year-round, feel the pull of spring in May; the need to be done.

Homeschooling parents can quickly be overcome with the amount of material that’s accumulated throughout a long and creative homeschool year. Wrapping up the year can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to get that clutter off your kitchen counter and put the homeschooling year to bed. 

1. File end of year paperwork. Be sure to file any end of year paperwork required in your district.  Evaluations, portfolios, or other measures of progress, as well as letters of intent to homeschool, may be due now. Spend some time and get those out of the way so you can enjoy the summer days. 

2. Update transcripts/report cards and evaluations. Don’t wait for months to finalize report cards or evaluations. You will want to complete this task while the information is fresh in your mind. Tracking courses and progress is especially important if you are creating a transcript for your high schooler. Grades, field trips, courses, online classes, community groups, service projects, lab work, job experience, internships, apprenticeships, extracurricululars; all are easily lost or forgotten if not immediately recorded. Unschoolers should also record any classes, experiences or community involvement for their portfolio or transcript. 

Unit studies can be easily put away in file folders labeled with the year or grade of the child. 

If your child has completed a class through another organization, be sure to gather certificates of completion or grades from the teacher, if that is offered as part of the class. 

Kids' school work can also be saved digitally. Take a photos and file in a folder for your portfolio or create a scrapbook of your incredible year. Grandparents especially love thumbing through scrapbooks and sharing memories with their grandchildren. Scrapbooks are also a great way to deter naysayers who might think your kids sat around eating Cheetos all year long.

3. Toss the rubbish. What do you do with the hordes of paperwork that have accumulated? If your children are in their elementary years, save a few special pieces of artwork and toss the rest. The craft stores have pizza-style boxes that you can buy which are great for storing both artwork and academic work. The pizza boxes stack and store easily on a shelf, don’t take up much room, and hold a lot of material. Save one or two papers each month from each subject and toss the rest. I usually save one paper that shows beginning skills and one that shows mastery. My district/state doesn’t require evaluations of our work but I do save the boxes for three years and then get rid of them.

If you have many 3D sculptures, dioramas, hanging mobiles, and the like for art projects, it can be tougher to part with these masterpieces. Gifting the grandparents or aunts and uncles is a great way to share your homeschooling days with relatives. We always told our kids that if it didn’t fit in the storage box, we could not keep it. Certainly, a few special pieces were kept but the majority went into the box or were gifted away.

4. Clean up the extras. Dump the moldy bread science experiment that’s been sitting on your shelf for weeks. Organize your homeschool space if you have one, clean off the desks, put the glue sticks and crayons back in their holders, give everything a good spring-time scrub down.

5. Label and store books. I have a filing system for all of my books. At one point, I was homeschooling three kids in three different grade levels. The number of books, texts, instruction manuals, and other material accumulated through the years, was astounding. Before you pack everything up for the year, label the inside of every single book with an approximate grade level. Include chapter books, workbooks, and manipulatives in this process. I also place grade level stickers on the spines, so that when I store them, I can easily pull the next grade level I need for the coming year. Having organized books has been a lifesaver on so many occasions. 

Donate, sell, or trade any items that you won’t use again. As my kids aged up through grades, I save curricula that was going to be used again. Any grade level items that we’d no longer use were donated or sold.

6. Plan some fun activities to celebrate

Get out of the house by planning some time with friends to celebrate the great weather. A picnic in the park, care-free playground days, lunch out with the kids, or a field trip can give you some much needed energy to push through those last few weeks of homeschooling. 

Be proud of all your kids have accomplished this year. Don’t worry about the small things that didn’t get completed. Your children have likely learned so much exploring their own love of learning. Enjoy these last days and finish strong!