If you’ve been too busy to think about changes you need to make in your homeschool, now is the time. I have some ideas for changes we can all make now, regardless of our homeschool approach.
Make Your Homeschooling Fast
The first change you should make to your homeschool now is to make your homeschooling fast. I wrote a very popular post called How to Homeschool in an Hour a Day. At this point in my homeschooling, an hour of direct teaching is all that I need to do on most days. This does not include individual tutoring, editing papers, or the courses I teach in our co-op. One of the reasons we homeschool is so that our children do not have to sit at a desk for seven hours a day. Research is conclusive that our attention is not sustainable for long periods. The shorter the lesson, the better. Short, frequent lessons are more effective in helping our children learn anyway. Short lessons are especially helpful for your children who have attention challenges. It’s even helpful for distractible moms!
We do morning family time as a way of saving time. We can complete many subjects in short order. I reserve Fridays for teaching things that I never have time to teach. We watch Bible or history videos, study art, or read about contemporary issues. The afternoons are reserved for independent work. My kids actually prefer their independent work time. They read and prep for their co-op classes, do math, Bible, piano, extra reading and writing, and exercise. They love structuring their own time.
The most common cause of homeschool mom burnout is trying to do too much. If you’re stressed and overwhelmed, reevaluate what you’re doing. God doesn’t ask us to do more than we can handle. Sometimes the stress is circumstantial. There is an ill family member, a job loss, or a move, to name a few of those circumstances. But more often than not, the stress comes from driving kids to two co-ops, six sports practices, and trying to complete two math curricula. It can also come from directly teaching individual students when that isn’t necessary. If you have a preschooler or emerging reader, more of your time is required. However, the younger the student, the less formal teaching you should be doing. When your student can read well, he can be asked to work independently. He can ask older siblings for help. He can wait for you to finish what you’re doing and go on to another question or subject.
Make Your Homeschooling Easy
The next change I recommend you make now is to make lessons easy. Planning lessons that are too easy for gifted children is something to avoid. Very easy lessons that are far beneath a gifted child’s ability level are demotivating for them. But in most cases, even for gifted children, lessons that can be completed without struggle are more motivating. Consider your own response to a difficult, time-consuming task. The harder it seems, the less you want to do it–the more likely you are to put it off. Many children who are resistant to reading are resistant because the reading material they’ve been given is too difficult for them. We want our children’s lessons to be easy and quick to complete so that motivation stays high.
Making it easy can mean skipping repetitive, unnecessary work. Curriculum authors want you as the teacher to have enough work to meet your needs. They aren’t implying that your child must complete every exercise, every page, or every book they suggest. I used a curriculum that would have exhausted me in college, let alone junior high. I cherry picked from the material to make sure my students wouldn’t hate it and me. A particular issue I’ve noticed with some homeschool curriculum is the expectation that students write a paper every week. That isn’t a requirement even at the college level, so I don’t expect it of much younger students. If you’re confused about what’s reasonable to expect, ask a traditional student the same age as your child how much they have to do. Expecting a little more than what public schools do is understandable, except you also want your child to have more time than public school students do.
If your child is struggling with grade-level material, give them material that’s a step down. We often don’t want to do that because we are afraid our child will be behind. The opposite is actually the case. If your child resists the work, she is more likely to get and stay behind. Give her work that makes her think she is a competent student. She will be motivated to get back to grade level on her own. If you can, find ungraded materials. Do some research on an easy curriculum for the subject your child is struggling with. Ignore the teachers who scare you by saying it’s too easy. There’s no such thing as too easy if it helps your child understand a subject. For example, don’t worry about college when your child hasn’t mastered algebra. Just focus on making algebra easy.
If you can’t find a curriculum that does the trick, find a teacher who can make concepts simple to understand. Reaching a struggling student can be like translating a foreign language. Someone else may have the words or the illustrations that will click with your child. Getting help isn’t failing. Not getting help when it could benefit your child is failing them.
When you make a subject easy for your child, you make it possible for him to love it. We all hate things that are hard, that we don’t understand. When the light comes on, we discover the joy of learning the material.
Make Your Homeschooling Fun
Finally, change your homeschool now by making it fun. Not everything we have to do in life is fun. I will never enjoy cleaning toilets. Some children will never enjoy certain homeschool subjects. But we can do our best to make things more enjoyable. We can pair less enjoyable activities with something pleasant like music, for example. We love to do chores with upbeat music playing. Some children find that working together with you as teacher or with other students makes material fun. My son resisted his art curriculum until I suggested we do art together. This is also why we are so committed to our homeschool co-op. My children love science, unit studies, and high school classes because they are doing them with other students and sometimes with another teacher.
You can make school fun by incorporating games. The advantage of digital curriculum is that it often gamifies learning, taking advantage of a proven motivator. Online educational curriculum or just games can supplement your primary curriculum and may end up being the most educational. I have written a post on the best online sites for grammar. Games don’t have to be on the computer, however. Talented teachers have created a number of card, board, and group games to teach just about everything. My post of the ultimate list of grammar games was my #1 post in 2016. I refer to it all the time myself.
In addition to using games, make your homeschool fun by incorporating variety. Anything that’s done repeatedly can become dry. As important as homeschool routine is, it’s also important to change things up in your homeschool. If you’re a textbook family, consider taking a break to do a unit study. If you are a unit study family, consider doing some traditional curriculum for a while. One year our co-op decided to only do field trips. We had focused on subject-intensive courses for quite some time and we needed a break. Surprise your students with a new plan, a new twist, or even just a new recipe. It will keep their minds fresh and help to eliminate oppositional attitudes.
I do not want to suggest that if your children don’t enjoy doing schoolwork that they should not have to do it. Having fun is not a requirement. But it is a worthy goal.
I created Grammar Galaxy to make language arts fast, easy, and fun. I had to share what mom Elizabeth recently told me. She mentioned that their schooling had been a little off schedule because of a move. She wrote:
We got back on track yesterday and started Mission 8. Let me tell you, it’s been fun, but my son lost his mind on this lesson! I have NEVER seen him laugh so hard during any lesson, for any subject since we started homeschooling. When the queen told Ellen, “I hate you” with tears in her eyes, he fell off his chair. He actually begged me to read the story to him again! I laughed equally hard at your instructions to try mixing up synonyms and antonyms at dinner (But [to] let your parents know what you are doing). Our 5 year old was so offended when he told me dinner was just terrible! You really did it. You truly made grammar fun. I didn’t think it was possible but you obviously deserve some kind of medal! THANK YOU!
If you have a 1st to 3rd grader, a beginning reader, or a reluctant reader, I highly commend it to you.
Which of these homeschool changes are you going to make this week? Let’s talk about it on Facebook.