That harried, nagging busy-ness that plagues modern life can be especially hard on homeschool parents. Here’s how to chill out, slow down, and stop feeling so scattered.
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.
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.
It’s okay to scale way back if Pinterest-perfect holidays are making you stress more than you celebrate.
Moms, we know how hard you work all year long. Your efforts truly make the world a better place. So, with the holiday season upon us, I’ve decided to do something different this month. Instead of bringing you my latest, greatest curriculum discoveries, I went digging for resources intended especially for you—and I think I’ve found just the thing!
Amy Bowers blogs beautifully about “creative family living” at mamascouts.blogspot.com. She is also the host of periodic online learning labs. This month, for the fourth year in a row, Amy looks forward to helping folks gear up for the season with her online resource, Holiday Lab. The primary aim of this lab is to inspire a calm, restorative holiday season and help readers find ways to be truly present to the beauty of the season.
In a letter to subscribers Amy explains, “Holiday Lab is a process (your process). A yearly reflection and meditation about tradition, creation and the shadow and light in our lives. This is not a to do list, a manifesto, or a guide book. It is an invitation and permission to carve out a tiny bit of quiet and to reclaim ownership of a season whose success and magic is often borne on the shoulders of moms and women.”
Sound good? I thought so, too! Here’s how it works. As a subscriber, you receive a lab in your inbox ten days in a row—weekdays only. As each lab is yours to keep, you can work at your own pace throughout the season.Each lab opens with an inspiring quote followed by a lovely essay written by Amy. In past years these pieces have been reflections on such themes as maintaining health, making space—both physical and mental, the value of simplifying the holidays as well as her thoughts on family traditions.
Do you journal? Is this a practice you’ve been meaning to establish forever? Get started by using Holiday Lab’s thoughtful journal prompts. Each prompt is a question inspired by Amy’s essays and will get you thinking about the way that you approach the holiday season.
The creative projects portion of each lab is great fun. Here Amy provides ideas to try with your family or, if you prefer, to do all on your own. Previous project ideas include vision boards, making ornaments and surprising someone in your community with a special handcrafted treat. Each idea nicely complements featured essays and journal prompts.
I love the recipe ideas that Amy provides in a section she calls “Soul Food.” Each looks nourishing and delicious, but also simple and straightforward—just what we need this time of the year.
A very special Holiday Lab feature is the private Facebook group Amy moderates for participants. Here members offer one another additional support and ideas to infuse the holidays with meaning and mindfulness.
Holiday Lab celebrates Christmas as a cultural tradition and is secular in its approach. Amy notes that everyone is welcome; the themes explored are “broad enough to serve any religion or ideological framework.”
In the upcoming months of homeschooling, holiday magic-making for family and friends, pause for a second and give yourself a gift. Holiday Lab starts November 30th. The cost for the lab is $30. To register, go here.
In the festive days ahead, you’ll probably find your days are especially full. Throughout this time, give yourself extra self-care. Make time for creativity, reflection and good food. Dance and laugh with friends. Drink cocoa! Make many moments to pause with your little ones and just absorb the simple beauty of the season. Happy holidays, everyone.
Back in the days when two of my three children were in school, I lamented the morning time, when we were rushed off our feet to get out the door on time. Packing lunches and bags, making sure school uniforms were clean (well, cleanish) and homework completed felt like a herculean task. I wasn’t really very good at it, and it made me feel incredibly stressed. Often, I ended up shouting at the children and the day started on the wrong foot. I’d wave them into school, then I’d squirm uncomfortably all day as I waited for them to come home so we could make up and start over.
It’s an unpleasant memory. I’m glad we don’t have to do that anymore.
That said, sometimes I catch myself being that manic, stressed lady who wants to get out the door on time, but just can’t seem to get each of the planets into alignment. Turns out, school or not, I find it hard to get everyone dressed (and keep them dressed) (let’s not talk about the child who likes to take everything off minutes before we leave the house) and out the door. Turns out I overfill the day and we end up rushing from one thing to another. Turns out that even as a home educator I find myself shouting at the children because of the pressure to be somewhere.
Fortunately, we can start over a lot sooner. I don’t have to wait all day to say sorry, take a deep breath and just calm down, for pete’s sake.
When I’m doing that hare-brained thing I do when we’ve got swimming at 9.30 and violin at 11.10 then a meet-up with friends at noon, followed by clarinet at 4.30 and a run scheduled straight after, I have to stop for a moment and say, “Lisa, what on earth are you doing?” Kids are overscheduled, yes, but what about mothers? I’m overscheduled and I hate it! (Someone do a research study about us!)
So I take a deep breath and I step back and think about my priorities. I imagine what my ideal day would look like, and I think about what my children love doing most: cycling around nature reserves, going pond-dipping, reading books on the sofa, drawing, watching documentaries together. And I wonder why I’m doing any of that other stuff. I slow this tightrope walk down, circle my arms in the air for a bit, rock from side to side and attempt to regain balance. I want this to be enjoyable. I want it to be graceful. I want it to be fun.
I think we can easily achieve a consensus that rushing and getting stressed is not fun.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m a yoga teacher. As such, I believe in the power of thoughts. My latest mantra (repeated words or phrase that shapes our thoughts and distracts us from unhelpful ones) is, “I have all the time I need.”
I have all the time I need.
Because I do, don’t I? We have time to read books on the sofa. We have time to cycle around nature reserves. We have time to draw. We have time to lie on our bellies and stare into ponds.
Sometimes it’s worth just taking a deep breath and reminding myself. I have all the time I need. And so do you. Let’s go stare into a pond together. I don’t mind if you’re not on time, because, really, I can’t guarantee that we will be.
From yoga stretches to fresh air, these quick tricks will help you turn around a homeschool day that's taken a turn for the not-so-great.