We get ONE SHOT at homeschooling our children.
I remember when we first began homeschooling - there was SO MUCH before me. So many options for curriculum. So many fun projects. So many methods.
Looking back, I wish someone would have told me to keep it simple. Find a few beautiful things and dive into those. Set homeschool routines with engaging activities that play into your child's strengths and interests.
Don't discount their hearts.
Place beauty first.
It took me a couple years to get to that point of simplicity and effectiveness, and now that I have teens I can look back and see what really WORKED - and what continues to work to this day.
Make Reading Your #1 Priority
Yes, it really is that simple.
Read. Encourage your children to read alone. Read aloud.
Strew books around the house.
I talk to many parents who tell me their children don't enjoy reading. Maybe it hasn't been modeled for them, or maybe a public school has beaten the love of reading out of them.
(In our house EVERYONE - even the canines - read!)
Hear me on this: do not let reading aloud come in last place. In fact, put it in first place. Develop a time for reading aloud, provide things to keep little hands busy, and choose engaging books.
Give your children a feast of books to read on their own. Create a time in your day for everyone to just sit and READ.
Never let anything come in the way of time to read.
Now that my oldest is almost a homeschool graduate I listen to her fond memories of our read alouds. Both of my children will say, "Remember when we read that book....".
Reading has increased their habit of attention, expanded their vocabulary, and given them a gift that cannot be bought in any store.
(Check out 5 Ways to Raise Readers for more tips.)
Implement a Routine
I'm not much of a schedule gal.
One of the reasons we began homeschooling was because I detested being a slave to the public school SCHEDULE. It beat all of the joy out of learning. It didn't inspire wonder.
I knew, however, that my children needed a routine. They needed to know what came next each day and what was expected of them during a day.
In the years when I had kids in elementary homeschool - and even into middle school - our routine looked like this:
- Get up, dressed, make bed
- Breakfast (Morning Time) - time for devotion, music, and read alouds
- Math, English, Science, Piano Practice
- Quiet Time -- you know all homeschools need quiet time, right?
- play time
Keep in mind, I needed to be flexible with this - especially with an active little boy in the house. He was going outside just about every hour to burn off steam. Sometimes we would get caught up in a project that would take all morning.
My children always knew, however, that our skeleton of Morning Time, Math, Lunch, History, and Quiet Time was there. This guided our days and eliminated a lot of confusion and unhappiness.
Morning Time & "Elevenses"
Before "Morning Time" was the big buzz in the homeschool world we were doing a time at breakfast that included devotions, Classical music, reading aloud, and memory work.
One year I wanted to change the routine a bit, so implemented the English tradition of "Elevenses", which was tea and a snack at 11 a.m. We used our teapot from England, made scones, and did our read aloud during this time. What a sweet memory for all of us!
However you decide to structure this time, be sure to include things that are important to you each and every day. If you have this time each day then you can ALWAYS say you accomplished something, even on the worst of homeschool days.
Sometimes I had a little one that was crabby in the morning and needed some time alone before we got going - in which case we saved our "morning time" until lunch time. You know your children and what will work well on any given day.
That freedom and flexibility is one of the most glorious things about homeschooling!
(Read How to Make the Most of Your Homeschool Time for more thoughts on this!)
This gave ALL OF US so much peace in our homeschool days.
Early on I believe it saved our homeschool. I wasn't used to having children in the house all day. I needed QUIET and time to recharge. I needed time to take care of household chores, sit down to read, and maybe fold some laundry.
I went back to our naptime schedule from when the kids were little - and if they didn't feel like napping they had many options of things they could do while STAYING QUIETLY IN THEIR ROOMS.
If quiet time is just a part of your day and you set the expectation firmly and consistently, you will not have a problem with implementation.
I'm not going to say much here - but instead direct you to Why Homeschool Mamas Need Quiet Time.
Take Care of Math!
Please hear me on this.
Do your research early on. Decide on a math program. Stick with it.
I fell into the trap of listening to what everyone else was doing. I fell into the trap of feeling I had to try the math curriculum with the largest presence at the homeschool convention. I fell into the trap of listening to my child when they said they didn't "like" the math curriculum.
In the end, I learned a lot by the time my second child came through our homeschool.
We have used Saxon Math since the beginning with him - focused a lot on math facts - and math is simply a non negotiable in our house.
When your child gets to the point of taking the SAT and ACT you will look back and be thankful you chose a solid math program from day one.
If your child needs help with math -- OUTSOURCE IT! There are abundant resources online and in person now. We don't have to let our kids flounder in math.
My prayer for each of you is a peaceful, productive homeschool.
I know the days will sometimes be long and difficult, but if you have certain practices in place you will minimize those.
You will look back on your time homeschooling with so many fond memories and children who have benefitted from a consistent, beautiful home education.
Is there a certain practice that just "works" in your homeschool?
I'd love to hear about it!
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