Surviving Homeschooling in 6 Steps

Like you, I am relatively new at this whole homeschooling business (thank you, COVID). Still, I actually have seen some amazing things come out of it, and I have learned a thing or two about homeschooling two bigger kiddos with two littler kiddos running amuck! PHEW!

More importantly, I’ve literally taken notes from the many mamas in my support network, so here are their best tips delivered by me to you!

Step 1: Create a MISSION STATEMENT.

In other words: Why on earth are you doing this??? To give you an idea, I’ll share mine:

I am choosing to homeschool my children because I want them to have the freedom to learn and grow at their own pace and with the influence of the Holy Ghost. I want them to read from the “best books,” and I want their hearts to be educated deeply so that they are prepared to be instruments in the Lord’s hands. I want them to have a deep connection with us as parents each of their siblings. I want to bless their lives with the beauty of learning without time limits and pressure. I want them to be free from the anxiety and stress of having time constraints and competition with peers. I want them to develop their own sense of curiosity and the ability to learn so that they are lifelong learners. I want to prepare them to be leaders. I want to prepare them to be parents. I want to help prepare them to be missionaries and servants in God’s kingdom. I want to have a house of order, a house of learning, and a house of God where my children can continue to develop their close relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ. 

Step 2: Determine the “Have To’s” & Extras

You may be part of an online school, or a charter school that gives you state funding. In any case, determine what your “have to’s” are for your childrens’ education. For us, this means daily language arts and math, and weekly science and social studies.

Determine what you would like to accomplish over the course of the year and divide it up by your desired number of school days or weeks. Many curriculums are already broken up for you and you may not even need to think about it! So, rather than assigning specific lessons to each day, decide how many lessons you need to get done each week to meet your goal. Then, each day, just open the book and keep moving forward.

It’s definitely good to keep in mind that with homeschool you have the liberty to take age-appropriate breaks and to speed up or slow down as you wish. While I like to block out our curriculum for the year to keep a good pace, I have noticed that by pushing a little harder some days, we can give ourselves a break on other days when we need to rest.

Past that, you will likely have “extras” that you want to do with your family. For us, that’s music, going on field trips, art class, and playing outside (exercise!).

Once you have an idea of what things you’d like to accomplish, you can move on to …

Step 3: Establish a School Routine 

For starters, decide which days of the week you’ll do school. Many homeschool families (including us) aim for four days with Friday being an extracurricular, field trip, or online learning day.  

With your daily and weekly tasks in mind, create a routine that will work for your family. This may take some trial and error as you evaluate how your children learn best and how you teach best! You may have a set time each day for your math and language arts, then you may rotate through your extras on more of a loop schedule at one other time in the day.

We have found that we do best with getting our language arts and math done first thing in the morning, then we have relaxed science and social studies at the table while everyone snacks (read: baby and toddler are contained!), and then we implement relevant learning shows and activities into our crafts in the afternoon or our show while I’m making dinner at 4 or 4:30PM.

Personally, I like getting everyone going at the same time with their work and treat it like I am a professional plate-spinner. Spin one kid’s figurative plate, then run to the next, and try to keep them all spinning so that I can have more of my day for not-“school” activities!

If you have little ones or other sporadic variables, consider having a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” schedule. For us, “Plan A” is get all of our work done before lunch. “Plan B” is wait for the little ones to take naps! It helps knowing that the world will not end if we have issues getting to things when “Plan A” has to be aborted due to outside factors (teething babies and the like).

Step 4: Plan

Plan & teach how it’s best for you and your children! If you like to have your day scheduled by the minute, do it! Personally, I like having a weekly “bucket list” of things I’d like to do relating to our science and social studies topics. For example, if we are learning about space, I’ll have a list of space-related activities, shows, and books in my planner that I will fit in when we can. I like not being held to a schedule and being able to work with the natural flow of my kiddos!

Realize that, while you may have goals, the most important thing is to educate your children according to where they are at. You can make realistic goals for them, but if they are moving slower in something, it’s ok to take it slower. Follow their pace and enjoy the journey! Teaching the love for learning will have a greater impact than cramming something down their throat when they’re not ready for it.

Part of planning is creating a homeschool space where your things are easily accessible. Take the time to figure out where you can do your work and improve your organization as needed. We work at our counters and kitchen table and have a rolling shelf (everyday school items), closet (learning manipulatives, games), and cabinet (craft supplies) devoted to all of the things!

Step 5: Plan… Again… For Toddlers & Babies

If you’ve got one or more little ones running around, you know how HARD it can be!

For starters, do whatever you can to help them feel like they are a part of things. If you’re doing table work, buckle them in their high chair and sit them up to the table with a similar activity (coloring, puzzles, etc.). They may even love to have the same handout as their big siblings (or, reject handouts that you don’t need!).

Do your hardest work when they are their happiest. For us, this means doing our one-on-one language arts and math first thing in the morning right after everyone’s had a good breakfast. Sometimes, it’s even worth the sacrifice to get it done before we clean the kitchen or get ready because the babies are just happier in that magic hour after breakfast! That’s way better than the hour right before lunchtime and their naptime, I’ll tell. you. what!

Here is a quick list of some toddler activities to keep kids busy while you teach, but you can also check out my super mom list of no-fail toys and activities here. Accept the mess and realize it’s the price you pay for a busy little one while you teach. You can clean it up later!

  • Crayons & coloring books or scratch paper
  • Sensory bins
  • Special toys
  • Melissa & Doug Water Wow books
  • Color Wonder Books
  • Boogie Board
  • Magnadoodle
  • Mini tongs to sort the colors of pom pom balls into cupcake liners, ice cube tray, etc.
  • Blocks
  • And so forth!

I’m not a fan of extra screen time for littles, but if it’s impossible and you really need to get stuff done, call up your friend Daniel Tiger and have him come for a little visit.

Step 6: Get Help!

Homeschooling can definitely be overwhelming, especially if you have certain things you’re not comfortable teaching or if you have little ones running around. The good news is that we life in an AMAZING time in education! Help is honestly just a click away with all of the online learning opportunities we have available to us.

If you struggle (or hate) teaching a certain subject, sign your child up for a virtual math class or a tutor. If your kids are doing some online learning, you can have them alternate between the computer class and their one-on-one instruction time with you as well.

You may also love having someone (Grandma?) to come over a couple of times a week to help out and give you a break. We haven’t done this yet, but if I continue, this would be a HUGE game-changer.

Older kids can even take turns taking care of the little ones while you teach the others. Those bigger kids can tutor or read to the younger ones as well. You might be surprised at the many wonderful things that will come out of this!

Step 7: Take Care of Yo’Self! 

Perhaps I should have added this in the “Plan” section, but make sure that amidst all of your school planning that you are planning for your own personal fulfillment. What brings you joy?

My current planning system has a section for To-Do’s, a section for my weekly calendar, a section for my weekly homeschool “bucket list,” and a section for my “sunshine list,” or the things that are fun and bring me joy! These need to be things that aren’t to-do’s. They are the things that can be started or stopped anytime, but that fill my soul. I bet you can come up with some for yourself! And if you’ve forgotten, think back to when you were younger. What things were you involved in and how can you implement them into your life (perhaps in a new way) now?

Be sure to share your successes freely with your loved ones and friends. Tell grandma what your son’s learning, or how well your daughter has been focusing. You can even write your successes down on where your family can see to be an encouragment for everyone, even yourself!

Feed your spirit with the good word of God. Get in your scripture study by listening to it in the morning, or by finding quiet time in the afternoon. Your connection to God will help you in every way as you educate your children. Your example will be priceless. Then go forth and freely teach them what you’re learning!

Work on your morning mindset. (I know I need to work on feeling more joy when I hear the pitter patter each day!) Give yourself time to wake your body up – stretch, breathe, go on a morning walk. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? YES! 

Have some quiet time in the afternoon once your “have-to’s” are done. This would be a great time for an audiobook or quiet reading. My kids love cuddling up to a good stack of books, and I love the time to rest as well!

If you need alone time in the afternoon, get your kids everything that they need for the next hour or so (snack, water, quiet activity), then set a timer and set your expectations for them to allow you some quiet time. Such a sanity saver! It may be a great time for a pre-determined educational show! You may even decide to make a list of approved shows or activities your kids can do while you are resting.

Be sure to get out and find ways to get alone time once in awhile. Go to a park or meet up with friends! Do whatever fills your soul.

Connect with other homeschoolers. Struggle together. Cry together. Plan together. Strengthen each other.

Get outside on hard days and reconnect with God through nature, or just do something cozy and fun when relationships are strained. 

Accept that it will be hard and imperfect. But, it can still be beautiful.

Last of all, LAUGH!!! DANCE! BE SILLY!!! Make memories!

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