In my work as a homeschool consultant and in my travels around the country I’ve been blessed to be able to speak to hundreds (thousands?) of moms, over the last several years, about their struggles with homeschooling. I have to point out that most people are doing a better job than they think they are but are so worried about what they aren’t doing that they sabotage themselves. It becomes this death spiral of angst when really the kids are just fine but mom is feeling out of control.
I thought it might be helpful for a short list of things that will help you have long term success in your homeschool. Simple things, because life is complicated enough and no one has time for complexity. Part of what gets moms in a bad place is feeling as if they aren’t in control. These five keys to success will bring peace to what you can control which will leave you better able to handle those uncontrollables when they pop up.
- Stop overthinking. Prayerfully and with the input of your husband choose curriculum or a method and stick with it. You can’t discern the success of a math program in one month and you can’t pick all of your curriculum based upon your children’s opinions. There are going to be books or assignments they hate, that’s life and they should get used to it earlier rather than later. If you rehash every decision based upon their opinions you are guaranteed to never accomplish anything. When you’ve planned how you are going to homeschool then you should just plunge in and do it, finding joy where you can and adjusting for bad days. Evaluate at the end of each semester but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater if there are struggles here and there. Commit and find peace.
- Have the children do chores everyday. A house full of children and their messes can easily get overwhelming and make homeschooling seem impossible. If your children are trained to pick up after themselves and to do some basic chores every day your house will be clean enough and, really, clean enough is clean enough. You should not be killing yourself while your kids are hanging around watching you. Sweeping, mopping, dusting, folding, wiping, straightening are all tasks that even very young children can help with. Have a time in the morning, before you begin your school day is good, and in the late afternoon and give everyone a task. Older kids can do even more. Picking up as you move through the house should also be a habit. If your home is orderly (not perfect, just clean enough) you will feel better about being in it all the time.
- Make a menu plan. I resisted this for years. I can be a real dope sometimes. Making a menu plan for a week/month is like giving yourself the gift of several hours each day. I make my plan on a monthly basis using Dawn’s pretty calendar. I post it in the kitchen so if I’m not home someone who is home can see what needs to get done. This saves time and money. You aren’t ordering in when you’ve dropped the ball and there is a lot less food waste. I make frequent use of the crock pot and Instant pot to help with getting meals on the table as well. I also have at least five meals in my freezer ready to go at all times. I order my groceries for delivery or pick up based upon the week’s menu.
A good way to get started with this is to sit with your family and ask what their favorite meals are. Write them down and use this as your framework. Make the plan with your calendar open so you know which days you need to use the crockpot and which days you will be home and can cook something in the evening. Don’t forget to allow for days to consume leftovers or the occasional pizza night. Teach the kids that are old enough how to make a few basic meals and always have the pantry stocked so they can make those meals. Tacos, scrambled eggs, grilled chicken, pasta, all easy dishes that your kids could make should you be in a pinch for a meal. Cooking is a life skill and you need to make sure all the kids have basic cooking skills.
- Get dressed. It sounds silly but it helps. If you want to feel competent and in control then walking around all day in your pajamas or yoga pants isn’t going to help. Put on a nice outfit, whatever you feel good wearing, do your hair, put on a little lip gloss and you will feel much more pulled together and able to face the day. It really doesn’t matter if you aren’t leaving the house and the only people you will see are the ones you gave birth to. They deserve your best, more so than anyone else. Make sure the kids get dressed as well. No slouching around in your pjs all day.
- Plan. Writing something down imparts a little magic to it. It’s a promise that it will happen. I write down lesson plans each week. Beginning on Thursday I start filling in my lesson planner for the following week making special note of any projects, readings, crafts or experiments I wish to include. This gives me the weekend to prepare and I’m not frantically trying to, on the day, assemble the stuff needed to refract light or grow a bean. Having a plan brings peace and it honestly takes less than an hour to do it for five kids. It’s time well spent.
Doing these five things will not guarantee you a perfect homeschool experience but it will put you on the right track to cope when things do feel like they are spiraling in the wrong direction. I wish I could give you the formula that could guarantee perfection but as it is I can only give you the benefit of my hard won experience. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years and, hopefully, I’ve learned from them. I’ve had a few years of “hot mess homeschool” and it’s a stressful and unhappy way to live. These five, not too time consuming things, help keep the hot mess at bay.
I’m going to link you to a few places that I find inspirational or helpful in all of the above.
I use the Erin Condren teacher planner for my younger three. That’s an affiliate link which will give you $10 off if you order.
My friend Jennifer Mackintosh produced a video on how she sets up her lesson planner and I’ve shamefully copied her method.
I frequently go back to Leila Lawler’s blog and read her Reasonable Clean House posts. Her methods are practical and doable without any fuss. If you feel like you need some helpful information in this regard read through these posts.
In addition to making free planner pages available Dawn writes about her seasonal planning process here.
I really enjoy Jennifer L. Scott’s YouTube channel. I have read all three of her books and her approach to daily living is refreshing. She’s a happy place to visit. I’m linking to her freezer cooking video here. I found a lot of inspiration in watching this and even if these aren’t the kinds of meals you might cook, the methods are useful. I also enjoy her wardrobe and make-up videos.
Homeschool Connections has many free homeschool webinars to watch for some encouragement and inspiration.
Thanks for reading my friends and let me know your success tips in the com box!
I feel like we’re kind of alone in that February is the time of year when we finally hit our homeschooling stride. We’ve finally worked out which subjects need which amounts of brainpower and parental input, how to rotate Mom among the kids, when food and other breaks need to occur, etc. Any ideas on how to get all this done BEFORE about the twentieth week of school? Thanks!
Mary Ellen Barrett says
It’s wonderful that you’ve hit a stride. I have too this year but it’s not a given. You have great questions and I have a draft of a post that I’ll finish soon to address how to get off to a good start. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. God bless.
Thanks! I’ll be looking forward to it.
Virginia K. says
Great article. I was thinking as I read your 5 points, “but first you need to pray” and then I scrolled back up and saw the photo! Touche! Fellow New Yorker here finishing up 21 years of homeschooling 4. I’ll be checking in on your blog regularly just for the fun of it!
Mary Ellen Barrett says
Thanks so much for the kind words! Twenty-one years, you’re a rock star. I probably should have mentioned praying first but I have written about it an awful lot and in this post I was just focused on the practical. I’m so glad you’ll be stopping by again. Thanks so much and God bless.
I’ve followed the same advice you have for years and then put it into a workbook to help other moms organize their school, meals, chores, prayers and extra time. It’s helped many women. I hope you’ll check it out!!! http://Www.aplanforjoyinthehome.com
My comment isn’t related specifically to this post, but I just had to tell you how much I enjoy your blog and when you are a guest on Homeschool Lifeline on Radio Maria. It just so happens that every time I feel like the wheels are about to fly off, I end up with some magical slice of time alone in the car and you just happen to be on. Today was Happy Husband Happy Homeschool. My children aren’t school age yet and who knows yet what education path we will choose (though I probably should decide. The moment of decision is rounding the block and heading for my front door.), but your talks and writing are still such a resource and lift right when I need it. Thank you and God bless.
Mary Ellen Barrett says
Nicole, thank you so much. You’re comment was such a day brightener! God bless.