Thriving at Home
Tips from a Seasoned Homeschool Mom
I wish I had kept count over the years how many people have said to me, “You homeschool? I could never do it, I’m not patient enough.” Now with school closures due to the pandemic, many of those impatient people and thousands of others find themselves at home, schooling their kids. In hope of helping make family time at home both productive and enjoyable, I’m sharing simple methods that have worked well for our family and helped us to thrive at home together.
Meet your kid’s emotional needs first
Kids will want more from you than they want from a teacher, as their parent they want you to meet their emotional needs for security, attention, and connection. Taking “time in” with them can prevent them from needing a “time out” later and can reassure them that they are your first priority.
Set up a schedule that is flexible
One mistake novice home schooling parents make is they try to make a strict schedule run by the clock like they do at school. Home study is very different, and establishing a flexible schedule prevents frustration. A daily flexible schedule may have several start times for morning, afternoon and bedtime and then an order of tasks from there without set time limits. Making a weekly schedule with a special activity on certain days of the week, such as a science or art project, or a game night can help kids can things to look forward to, especially when their normal activities have been cancelled!
Encourage kids to be self motivated with goals
When kids set their own goals it tailors their day to the development of their unique interests, and they are self motivated and confident their daily rowing is getting where they ultimately want to go.
Write out clear expectations with finish lines
Involving the kids in the writing of their weekly task list based on their goals helps them be more committed to carrying them out. I have found kids are willing to focus and work their best on a task better when they can see an end in sight. When I ran a marathon I felt spent until I came around the corner and saw the finish line, I gave it everything I didn’t know I had until I had crossed that line. Give them a finish line to cross by writing out very specific daily expectations in each subject.
Motivate with the natural reward of guided free time
It may be true that treats, tv time or other bribes can be used to get children to comply, but when the award goes away so does the desired behavior. The best natural reward I have found is free time, it is simple, effective and healthy!
Depending on your kids, they may want to spend all their free time playing video games and end up dealign with screen induced grumpiness. Set simple limits by giving kids options they can chose from for their free time. You are sharing the control, they can still chose an activity within the approved ones.
Supplement their studies with a unit study on a
subject they choose that interests them
This keeps learning exciting! My second and fourth graders are doing a Magic Schoolbus unit as a supplement right now. They watch one episode of the original series each day, write several full sentences about what they learned, and draw a picture of it in their science journal.
Make daily chores, cooking and mealtime
responsibilities part of the their day
Being home during the day is a great opportunity to develop life skills! Having a simple daily chore chart to divide up meal-time responsibilities can help everyone know how they can pitch in. Throwing a little learning into the meal is a good supplement to their learning too. We watch ten minutes of news as we prepare lunch and it brings up good topics for discussion as we eat together.
Establish a quiet time in the afternoon
All ages of kids (yes even teenagers!) enjoy listening to a great book read out-loud, it’s magic! Put out a bin of building toys, play-dough, art supplies, or a puzzle and read a book aloud while kids play quietly. Supplement their studies and have meaningful conversations by choosing a historical fiction that goes along with what they are studying for school. For younger kids a quiet time box filled with toys, coloring books and activities they only get to use during quiet time, keeps contents novel and interesting and works wonders at keeping them independently entertained for a period of time. Having a “read-a-thon” where everyone reads or looks at their own books (and you get some work done) with popcorn and snacks makes for a great quiet time too!
Have regular accountability meetings
Check in on their chores, responsibilities, studies, and goals. We have a simple system we use, accountability cards and accountability cash, that has their responsibilities, studies and also their own personal goals and to do list all on one card. At the end of the week they can turn it in for accountability cash at their meeting (if they finished it) and then fill out another card for the coming week.
This has simplified life at our house and keeps us all on track.
Have older kids tutor younger ones
Your family dynamic may have built in tutors!
Older siblings are often capable helpers, and it is great for them to review things they learned in previous years of study too.
Turn Phones and Other Electronics in During Study Hours
Having a have a strict, no phone policy during study hours helps kids focus.
Kids are still developing their self control and phones are the ultimate distraction.
Find ways to balance out structure with spontaneity
Schedules and plans provide the structure and framework for the day and also leaves more time for spontaneous color to decorate the walls without complete rainbowic chaos. It has been said if you are at odds with your kids, you’re not having enough fun with them! Taking ten minute breaks when needed and intentionally making time for fun makes time at home together memorable as well as productive.