Homeschooling laws differ from state to state. While some states do require certain subjects to be taught during specific years, there are others that leave it up to the parents. If you live in one of those states like we do, that leaves a lot of leeway for subjects, topics, and approaches to your homeschool day. And if you’re like me, all the choices out there can get overwhelming.
I know during our first couple of years, I was just so excited to do everything, that we almost did nothing. We did the basics—math, science, reading/phonics, spelling, etc.—we packed it all in to every day. I soon realized that while my son was gaining so many experiences, he wasn’t retaining all the information we were covering. And I thought, what’s the point of homeschooling if we don’t learn anything?
That’s when I decided it was time to simplify.
11 Ways to Simplify Your Homeschool Day
I made the mistake of over-scheduling our every waking moment during our first couple of years. While it might have a fulfilled a purpose to begin with, it quickly became a nightmare. Once our oldest could keep time, though, it was like homeschooling Rainman. He was the keeper of time and we literally had to remove all schedules from the wall. And truthfully, it was the best decision we ever made. This allowed us the freedom to study on a particular subject/topic as long as he wanted or we needed.
Combining subjects is a great way to simplify your homeschool days. Using unit studies is one way to ensure that you continue learning a certain topic, but can include a wide range of subjects. This is a great way to cover several subjects for a wide range of ages in one sitting. We do this often when my kids ask to learn about a specific animal or country.
If you’ve never heard of block scheduling, many high schools use this technique. It is a great way to cover all the subjects you want to cover in a week, but not cram them in to every day. There are several different ways to do block schedules, so the key is to choose one that works for you. Some people do the core subjects every day and rotate others like Science, History and Foreign Language. Others choose to rotate every subject through the week to break things up and dedicate more time to them.
Plan Breaks in Your Day
Some days you just need a break. Much like recess at a school, it’s important for our kids to take a break during the day. Whether you send them outside or not depends on the weather. However, you can take time during lunch to change the pace: do a devotional, do a read-aloud or even play an educational game. Changing it up helps them get out the wiggles, as well as refocus when its time to get back to work.
Plan Ahead for the Week
Whether you’re a planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants homeschooler, its important to have an idea of what you want to cover during the upcoming week. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to a set plan, but it will give you an idea of where to start and where you might want to go with your studies that week. I quit writing lesson plans a long time ago because it stressed me out when we didn’t complete everything on the list. However, I still have an idea of what I want to cover each week, which does help keep us on task.
Put Everything Away and Just Play
Some days you realize it’s just not working, especially with younger children. Those are the days we pull out our sensory bins that can be tailored to our studies. Games that emphasize what we’re learning or something we need to work on such as counting money or learning proper manners. There are also fun ways to learn facts for science and history by making a matching game with flash cards.
Allow Older Kids to Teach Younger Kids
If you have a wide range of ages, one way to simplify your day is to allow the older children to help school the younger ones. Our oldest often helps supervise math for our oldest daughter. She thinks a lot like him when it comes to math, so it works well. He is also great at helping supervise reading with his brother, who grasps it. He is only 10, so I don’t put a lot of pressure on him and just allow him to help them with subjects they do well in, while I still help with the ones where they struggle. He is also a great helper when it comes to occupying the 4 year-old while I work with the middle two.
Take it Outside
We don’t do this often enough, but on nice days, take your schooling outside. Whether you change up the schedule and decide to just observe nature or take the schoolwork outside, a nice breath of fresh air is a great way to refocus and re-energize your homeschool day/week.
Think Outside the Box
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The desk and chair isn’t always the best homeschool method. Some children require more hands-on, kinesthetic learning, while others might need more visual or auditory lessons to make it stick. Don’t be afraid to step outside the traditional schooling methods to make learning fun and make it work. While this might seem like more work, it is actually a great way to simplify your day. When you find what clicks with your child’s learning style, it makes your day easier!
Don’t be Afraid of Textbooks
Many homeschoolers believe that moving away from the textbooks is a way to simplify; however, I say bring them back. If you’re struggling to get all the learning in you need or are afraid your child isn’t learning what they need to, textbooks can be a great way to stay on task. It doesn’t mean you have to follow a rigid schedule, it just gives you a guideline to follow on what to study and when.
Quit Browsing Pinterest
I have high hopes of being one of those amazingly, crafty moms, but the truth is…I will never be her. While I have spurts of creativity, crafts seriously stress me out. I love the look of homemade projects and I even love the idea of doing them, but it really isn’t me. I had to quit browsing Pinterest because it was stressing me out and making me doubt my ability as a homeschool mom. I kept seeing all the wonderful projects that “good homeschool moms” were doing and I felt like was failing my children. However, I have learned that not every homeschool mom is the same, and therefore every homeschool is different. My daughters still love to be creative and I do allow them to have that freedom, but within parameters and with some structure that doesn’t stress me out.
What are some ways you simplify your homeschool days?