These tips and tricks help me stay sane while homeschooling my kids
Homeschooling children can be fun, but can also be tricky and stressful. After all, you become 100 percent responsible for their entire education. This is no simple task. In fact, it can be terrifying. Before the pandemic, homeschooled kids had options to participate in all sorts of extracurricular activities such as sports, art classes, science centers, playgrounds and so much more. Now, we are all going through a period where all these things are paused, and we must still nurture all aspects of our children’s development without much help. If you were already homeschooling before the pandemic, then you are probably already as prepared as you could be to handle this difficult period. But if this is your first time homeschooling, and you are now suddenly home in charge of 100 percent of your kid’s education, then these tips will be helpful.
I have been homeschooling both my kids for two years now and these are the things that have helped me along the way.
Let’s start with the basics: Get dressed in the morning
Sounds silly, but it makes a big difference. If you work from home, and homeschool your kids, it might be easy to slack off on some days and forget to take care of yourself. I find this to be quite detrimental mentally to live in your pajamas. Brush your hair, wash your face, put something nice on, and feel good about yourself. It is also important for the kids to get dressed and ready for the day. There needs to be a mental switch from relaxation time to working time. Set a good example for your kids by taking care of yourself. You are their role model.
Sign up with a good online homeschooling program.
There are many options out there. Look for one that has online educational games and virtual learning activities (not just printouts for the parents to do). I find that virtual learning is a huge benefit and it’s not crazy expensive. The homeschooling program I use costs me 15 dollars per kid a month, and they have access to all sorts of learning tools, including reading and math games for each level. Do some research and find one that works for you. There will be days where you really might need a break from homeschooling the kids. When it happens, you will always be able to make sure they get a dose of education without worry.
Give them some space to let out their energy
A kid is a kid. Since you are all in the same space together all day (at least until the pandemic is over), then you need to give them some time where they can just go crazy. If you are stuck indoors, blast some music, put on a loud movie, and pop some popcorn. You can play exercise videos for kids and let them run around and play hide and seek in the house afterward. If it’s a nice day, go outside and play with them. Kids can’t just sit at home all day. They need sunshine, they need to run, play, and have fun.
Kids need to just be kids. Don’t forget to let them be kids in your adult world.
Routine! Routine! Routine!
Establishing a routine is important for a child’s healthy mental development as it gives them a sense of security and stability. From Monday to Friday, the routine should be the same. Discipline yourself to stick to the same schedule. It will be worth it in the long run. The child will learn what he or she is expected to do and there won’t be any surprises. My schedule is not super complicated. Our routine consists of waking up, breakfast, brushing teeth, and getting dressed. Then the kids go on the computer for one to two hours depending on their level, to do their virtual learning. As stated above, a good homeschooling virtual program will have educational activities and games. This is extremely helpful when you are a parent who also needs to work.
After this, the kids grab a bite to eat and we all go outside for some exercise time. Now before the pandemic, this would have been a great time for outings and activities. As it is, we stick to what we can do as a family to stay in the same bubble. We play basketball together, soccer, go hiking, go for a bike ride, play tennis. Whatever activities a park near your home provides is a good thing to do.
Finally, after we come back, I do two hours of hands-on schooling with them. Two hours is quite enough because when you homeschool there aren’t 30 kids in the classroom so the learning process is quite fast. You can fully focus on your subjects, such as writing, math art class, or science, and get it done within two hours leaving you sometime in the afternoon to work for a couple more hours if you need to. Find a routine that works for you and allows you to take care of other things while homeschooling. Multitasking is key.
Prep your meals
A huge, HUGE time and money saver! I can’t even stress enough how important it is to prep. The hours that you would normally need to make lunch and supper and wash the dishes every single day, can be used on so many other things (such as work if you have to, or some mama relaxing time if possible). I usually prep food for two weeks at a time. The beauty of it is that when doing a cookout every second weekend, I involve the kids in certain things. This is a great opportunity to homeschool them. For example, they can help make and roll dumplings. They can learn how yeast is used to make bread (science). They can measure ingredients (math). They can put the pizza toppings or break an egg (motricity). Kids love to get their hands dirty and this becomes a really fun activity for them. The kitchen is a valuable classroom space. I usually take a full day, once every two weeks, and prepare meals that simply need to be put in the oven and heated up. In the end, all I need to do is toss in a fresh salad, and voila. Huge huge huge time, money, and sanity saver.
Don’t just give orders to your kids, talk to them…a lot
I think that sometimes adults might forget that kids are smart. If you use an approach to “explain” rather than “tell them what to do”, it will make a big difference. For example, there was a time when my son didn’t like writing practice. He would tell me that “he didn’t feel like it” and complain at the table, no wanting to do the work.
At the time, I could have gotten mad, and said something along the lines of: “ You will sit down and do your schooling or else no computer games for a week.” But this is not at all my approach.
I sat with my son and focused on his problem. I asked him to think about some important things, such as: What does he want to be when he is a grown-up? Would he like to drive a nice car someday? Would he like to buy that awesome gaming chair? How could any of these things happen if he doesn’t know how to write or read or do math? Someday those things will come into play and make a big difference.
Furthermore, all of us grown-ups have to do things all the time even though we don’t “feel like it”, we would never earn any money, the house would never be clean and there would be no food on the table, Right?
So this conversation went on for a little while, but once I got my point across, the issue was never an issue again. A conversation will bring you a long way. Much further than giving orders and getting angry. You are the teacher, therefore you need to explain to your child what is out there and why they have to prepare themselves. Most importantly, teach him or her to think for him or herself.
Don’t be rigid, be flexible
Sometimes, you might have planned to do something specific such as math or science at a specific time. You prepared the lesson, the materials, the videos….You are ready to begin. But kids are kids and as any parent knows, they are full of questions and wonder. Do not be afraid to put aside your plan and dive into an unexpected subject. Maybe they are curious about a certain period of history, such as the Roman era or the Vikings. Maybe they are wondering why the sky is blue. Maybe they want to know how electricity works. Maybe they are curious about gravity. Do not dismiss those moments, be open to them. There is tons of information out there on any subject. Take these opportunities to show them a video, teach them to type the research in by themselves, and plan a visit to a relevant place in the future to reinforce the subject. You can always do that math class the next day. Do not kill their curiosity, nurture it. After all, this is what homeschooling is truly all about.
Schedule time for reading every day.
If your child is old enough to read by himself, schedule an hour where they can sit down and read a book once a day, ideally Monday to Friday. Make it into a routine. This is good for their development, stimulates the imagination, teaches them vocabulary, and most importantly allows mama a bit of breathing time to do her things. A nice treat for a reward will always be appreciated by the child when the task is done.