You should learn these five essential tips for a successful school year in homeschooling. Whether you are new to homeschooling or you’ve been on this homeschooling adventure for a while, these five essential tips will help you and your kids have a great school year.
Essential Tip #1: You and Your Kids Are Unique
Each of us is an individual with a unique personality and abilities. As homeschoolers, we should recognize this, celebrate each individual’s strengths, and work to develop each one’s weaknesses. Let’s look at this a bit deeper.
Each of us is unique and specially designed. While our children may share some common interests or personality traits, they each exhibit individual characteristics. So, recognize that your children may learn at different paces or in different ways. They will likely have varying interests and abilities. And there is nothing wrong with that! Celebrate their uniqueness.
Individual Learning Issues
Some children are fast learners; others are not. Some excel at math, while others do great in writing or history. One of your kids may easily pick up new concepts, but others struggle to learn new things. One of your children may be able to read an explanation and catch on to new ideas; others may need to see concepts demonstrated repeatedly to understand something new. Some kids may suffer from learning disabilities and need additional time or help to learn new skills.
Learn how your children learn. Then, cater to those methods that will help them best understand new concepts their way and at their pace. If a child needs additional help, seek it out. The more we know how our kids learn, the better we can help them succeed. Don’t expect all your kids to learn the same way and at the same rate.
Individual Strengths and Weaknesses
You and your kids all have unique strengths and weaknesses. So, learn what they are, take advantage of their strengths, and work on their weaknesses.
Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Capitalize on those strengths! What do you do best? When do you function best? Figure those out and then work them into your homeschooling plans. What are your most challenging weaknesses? How will those affect your homeschooling? How can you improve on those weaknesses or work around them?
Example: Maybe science isn’t your thing; you’ve never been that interested in science. So, first, acknowledge that. Then, how can you get more interested in science? Maybe changing your attitude and outlook on science, recognizing that science is a study of God’s creative design. Or, perhaps seeing how science affects world events around us will generate more interest in science. And if that doesn’t work, maybe you can find someone else to teach science to your kids instead. (Video courses, co-op, even a “science” friend). So, work on your strengths and weaknesses.
What about your kids? Each of them has his own set of strengths and weaknesses. Do you know what they are for each child of yours? Are they great with reading but need more help with math? Are they visual learners? Or do they do better with hearing instructions than reading them? Identify their strengths and challenge them in those areas. But also figure out their weaknesses and target those. What can you do or change to help them become better spellers? How can you teach or present history and make it interesting for your children? How can you teach history and make it more relatable or exciting for your kids? Understanding each child’s learning styles, learning issues, and troublesome subjects will allow you to help them learn better.
So, Don’t Make Yourselves Fit into Anyone’s Mold
Because you and your family are unique, don’t try to be like every other homeschool family! Homeschooling is not a one-size-fits-all operation! Instead, homeschooling allows you to tailor your education plan to fit each child’s individual needs. Isn’t that one of the main reasons many families choose to homeschool in the first place? And that leads us to the second essential tip!
Essential Tip #2: Do What Works for You (and your Family)
Since your family is unique, and homeschooling allows you to adapt the education to suit your children best, do what works best for you and your family! This thinking can cover everything from your school calendar to your textbook choices and everything in between!
Your School Calendar
We are all accustomed to new school years beginning in late summer and finishing in late May/early June. But guess what? There are no rules that require that calendar! Sure, you may need to comply with regulations about a certain number of school days or a required number of instructional hours. Maybe it’s convenient to follow the standard school calendar, but it’s not mandatory! You can do school year-round if you choose. Or perhaps you will use an extended school year but take every Friday off. Maybe a parent has Sundays and Wednesdays off work. Adjust your thinking, take school off those days, and do school the other days. Figure out and do what works for you!
Your Daily Schedule or Routine
Who says a school day must begin at 9:00 am and go until 3:00 pm? If your family does not function well in the morning, why not start school after lunch and go until later in the evening? Or maybe your family is full of early birds – then start school early and finish by noon. (That has never happened in my house, by the way!) Do you start with easy subjects and work your way to the harder ones? Or maybe you tackle the hardest ones first. Either way! It’s your call, your choice! Do what works best for your family!
Your Curriculum Choices
No one requires you to use the same textbooks and workbooks as anyone else! You can if you want, or if it’s convenient for you, but you don’t have to follow everyone else’s choices! You don’t even have to use all your textbooks from the same publisher! Choose what works best for your kids – what will help them master the material you want them to learn. Do you want to teach history chronologically? Go for it! Do your kids learn better through stories? Then find materials that will help you present the material through stories. (Hint: There are so many resources available for homeschooling parents; you should be able to find anything you want to teach!)
Your Teaching and Your Kids’ Learning Styles
You are unique, and so are your kids. Work within that uniqueness to help your kids learn and be the best that they can be. Learn how they learn best. Focus on their natural gifts and abilities. Work with them to bolster their academic weakness. And above all, challenge their character! Your most important task as a parent and a homeschooler is to help your children become the best person they can be – academically and spiritually! Teach them to think for themselves. Encourage them to rise to challenges and master difficulties. I often told my children that I did not expect them to ever “be the best;” instead, I challenged them to be the best they can be, to do the best they can do in every area of life.
You chose to teach your kids at home for a reason, to help them learn to the best of their abilities. Don’t fall into the trap of “sameness” in the homeschool world.
Essential Tip #3: Homeschooling is NOT a Competition
Too often, many look at life as a challenge or a competition. We must be the best at everything, get the classiest car, have the biggest house, or even have the most children. We think these things bring us prestige. Unfortunately, many bring that same mindset into the homeschooling world, also. Homeschooling is not a competition; our kids are not contestants on “Amazing Homeschoolers Today!” So, I’d like you to ban that mindset from your thinking. Challenge your kids, but challenge them against themselves, not against others. Urge them to be their best, but don’t compare them to others.
Set an Academic Pace and Routine that Works for You and Your Children
Your child may not learn as fast as your friend’s children. So what? Set a learning pace that works for YOUR child, not your friend’s children. The other families in your homeschool co-op may start each school day at 7:30 am. If you or your kids are barely functional, don’t try to start school! Set your academic goals and your daily routines for the children and family that you have, not for the ones that live next door. No one awards prizes for who starts school earliest each day!
Stop with the Comparisons!
Are your kids all the same? Don’t you think it would be boring if they were? Your kids are not the same as the other kids in your homeschool group, either. And that is just fine! Stop comparing your kids to other kids you know. Let your kids be themselves! Just because your friend’s child is reading chapter books by age four does not mean your kid must do the same. If another child finishes Algebra 1 at ten, it does not mean your child is behind or lagging if they are still mastering long division. Stop comparing your kids to others! Instead, value your kids for who they are and what they learn daily. Constantly work with them to advance and meet new challenges, but stop with the comparisons!
It is More Important that your Kids Learn the Material than it is that they Get Through Every Book
Have you heard or seen discussions like this? “Oh, no! It’s almost the end of the school year, and my child has not completed his math book; what shall we do? Shall we work over the summer? Should we just start with the next book in the fall? All the other kids have finished this book! We must be so far behind!”
Pushing your child to finish a book, just so you can say you finished, is not productive in the end. It is more important that they work at their own pace and thoroughly learn the material than it is to finish the book! Getting to the end of a book does not equal learning the material. Your goal in teaching your child is for him to master the material, not just finish a book.
Essential Tip #4: Flexibility/Adaptability is Essential
Let’s face it; life doesn’t always go according to plan. The unexpected will happen. Your day will hardly ever be without some kind of disruption. So, you have two options for dealing with these disruptions. You can let them defeat and discourage you, or you can learn to adapt, be flexible, and cope with the interruptions. Which reaction do you think is more helpful? Which approach will teach your children the best life lessons?
Adaptability/Flexibility is the Homeschooling Mom’s Superpower
Homeschooling mom (parent), flexibility is your superpower! When you learn to adapt to interruptions and disruptions to your plans without coming completely undone, you have mastered a great skill! Learning to adapt to life’s inevitable interruptions will make you a stronger parent, a better teacher, and a positive example and role model for your kids. Don’t let circumstances derail you or get you down. Adaptability and flexibility will help you rise above the distractions of life.
Disruptions and Distractions WILL Happen – Adapt
You should get a reward if you can get through a single day without distractions or disruptions to your homeschool plans. Seriously! Can you imagine a day when no one argues with anyone about anything, the toddler doesn’t spill something messy, when no school projects or assignments take longer than you planned, or the phone doesn’t ring? We almost need to plan for interruptions or disruptions because they will happen. All the time! So, learn to adapt.
One of the best ways to adapt to disruptions is to plan a routine or a pattern instead of a rigid schedule. If you focus on a strict schedule and you get upset when your schedule doesn’t go strictly according to plan, you are setting yourself up for discouragement and defeat. If kids are excited about a project they are working on, let them keep working. Don’t let a clock dictate your day. (Unless, of course, you have appointments scheduled, etc.)
Get Your Supermom Power Box Ready and Use It
Bad days will happen – even in the homeschool world! Your kids will get sick, and you might not feel well. Everyone may be overtired and cranky, or someone might spill their cereal at breakfast, and everything goes downhill. We are delusional if we think every day will be perfect, full of sunshine, roses, and cheery faces smiling back at you as you expound your latest history lesson.
So, do advance prep work for those unplanned and unexpected bad days. Get your Supermom Power Box ready! What’s that, you ask? Gather a collection of books, educational videos, games, worksheets, puzzles, puzzles, themed coloring books, whatever. Keep these in a secret place and bring them out to use on those “bad days.” Your kids can still be learning, and you may rescue an otherwise unproductive and “worthless” school day.
So, what will you put in your Supermom Power Box?
Essential Tip #5: Organization Helps
Organization means different things to different people. I get that. Some think organizing requires matching baskets or tubs filled with similar toys or pieces throughout our shelving units. Others consider themselves organized if they can find a needed item in less than 30 minutes. Whatever your organization style, having some sort of organization plan always helps!
Being Organized (even slightly!) Helps With All of Life
Just a suggestion: Even being somewhat organized will help in every area of life! How will being organized help you? Let me list some ways:
- Being organized will save you time. Who has extra time daily to hunt for items you know you have but can’t locate?
- Being organized will save you money. What happens when you can’t find those needed items that you know you have somewhere? Too often, we rebuy them, wasting money on things we already have but can’t remember where they are.
- Being organized will save you from (some) disruptions to your school day. What will your kids do while you are hunting through the house to find the manipulatives you need or that book you plan to read them? How long do you think your children will sit quietly and wait for you to find those missing supplies? (Hint: Not Long At All!)
- Being organized will save your sanity. Having your supplies organized will help your days go more smoothly and efficiently, help your schedules and routines stay on track, and help keep your home more peaceful.
What Should You Organize?
We already stated that “being organized” will help your days go more smoothly. So, what should you organize? How will this help your homeschooling? Consider these suggestions:
- Keep your school plans (calendars, lesson plans) organized. Whether you do that digitally, in a planner, or use some combination doesn’t matter. Just have a system! Make plans, keep them in a way that makes sense to you, and your homeschooling will benefit.
- What about all those worksheets and papers you copied or printed for your kids to use? Where are they when you need them? In which pile on your desk did you put them? Find a system for storing/organizing them that works for you, and use it!
- Where are the glue sticks or the colored pencils when your kids need them for a project or assignment? Having a planned place to store them will make your day flow more smoothly!
- And then there are the books. If you’re like me, it’s too many books! I had a friend who labeled and shelved all her books just like a library, complete with spine labels of the Dewey Decimal numbering system. I’m not advocating that you go that far in organizing, but if that’s your thing, why not? Instead, encourage your kids to return all books to the shelves when they finish reading them. Scout your shelves for the needed books before your homeschooling week begins, so you save time during each homeschool day.
Get Organized and STAY Organized!
Do you remember hearing the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place”? That’s the goal of being organized. Have a plan for how and where you will keep things, then stick with your system. After using supplies, return them to the correct place. Use your lesson planners. Prepare your worksheets and books before the week (or new day) begins, and keep them in a planned place so you can find them when you need them.
Essential Tips – Quick Review
So, let’s quickly review these five essentials for homeschoolers.
- You and Your Kids are Unique
- Do What Works for You and your Family
- Homeschooling Is NOT a Competition
- Flexibility/Adaptability is Essential
- Organization Helps
These five essential tips will help your school year flow more smoothly, be more effective, and provide a better homeschooling experience for you and your family.
Happy homeschooling! Have a great school year!
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