We have completed our first month in our new homeschooling routine at our house and my plan has certainly seen some adjustments. I never imagined the challenges of juggling time with each child in addition to feeding, changing diapers, and keeping the little ones happy. I didn’t think morning nap periods for my infant would change so drastically within a month period. There have been moments when I have been ready to throw in the towel when a child is inattentive, experiencing frustration, or not desirous to do anything. Balancing discipline and encouragement is a challenge. I imagined it all would just be so beautiful. I might just finally get everyone quiet and seated next to me on the couch to do the next period of school only to have baby start screaming through the monitor. How do you keep everything running peacefully and still keep the house in order?
At the same time, learning alongside my children has brought the greatest joy to my soul. As I sit and guide my daughter into the world of reading, my heart rejoices that I get to take her on this journey. To watch as they delight in science experiments and drawing projects, my heart rejoices that I am privileged to take responsibility of their education. Each sweet moment as we cuddle on the couch, I rejoice because they are with me. I get to speak hourly into their life. We get to clean our house together, prepare meals side by side, and learn life skills every moment as education becomes a lifestyle rather than a program. To know that I get to speak the love of Christ into their little souls and guide them, Lord willing, to a Christ centered worldview, I feel honored.
I have searched homeschooling forums and asked many a homeschooling mom how she does it all, because although I might be a homeschooling graduate, I have no idea how my own mom did it with three little ones, let alone managing the eight of us that she had.
It takes a godly determination to do this thing. I have to keep my vision and purpose in the forefront of my mind. Why am I doing this homeschooling thing again? (To learn more about why we have chosen to homeschool, visit here.)
1. Pick your priorities and do them first thing.
The most important things in my book are math and phonics. These are also the more difficult subjects and easy for little ones to get distracted. Do these things first thing in the schedule when the students are freshest.
2. Rotate fun and harder subjects.
To keep things fresh and fun, rotate between the subjects your kids love and the ones that are more challenging. In this way, we do math and phonics, then circle time (fun period), and then workbooks (a mix of fun and challenging).
3. You don’t have to do everything EVERY day.
The greatest encouragement I found was in this simple truth: you don’t have to do every subject every day! Since math and phonics are the priority this first year, we do these subjects each day. But history and science I was trying to do every day too which was driving me crazy to get it all done while still keeping them happy in their learning. So, I scratched that. I decided to do two days of science and two days of history, and then leave Friday open for art projects, music, and science experiments. A breath of fresh air.
4. Keep baby busy in the play pen.
I have found setting up a pack n play with lots of little exploratory toys is great for keeping babies busy during school periods. You might adjust to different stations as the baby gets bigger. Playdough station, coloring station, blocks station, etc. I remember keeping my 2 year old busy in this fashion last year. 15 minute time blocks at each station. Now, I often have my 3 year old play in the pack n play with baby while I work with big sister during the first hour if baby is not napping.
5. Keep the toddlers learning alongside big siblings.
As much as possible, I keep my toddler sitting alongside us during our circle time. This is great training ground for teaching him to sit still and learn together. I require him to sit for at least the initial 30 minutes then I release him to cruise around and play.
6. Take regular short breaks.
I have divided our schedule into 2 solid hour blocks. The first hour is math and phonics (for my 5 year old alone). The second hour is circle time, which includes Bible, Character, Memory work, History or Science, and Read Alouds. My 3 year old sits in on this period. Finally, during lunch preparations, I have both of my kids at the counter doing their workbooks while I prepare lunch (Karis is doing her math, criticial thinking, and copywork books, and Titus is doing a preschool workbook series -love the frugal simplicity of Rod & Staff books). But after each 30 minute to one hour period, I give the kids a thirty minute break to get out and play. This is when I do my housecleaning task for the day, clean up the dishes, do dinner prep, and care for baby as needed. So it adjusts daily, but I will often work for 30 minutes on math, then a 15 minute break, followed by 30 minutes of phonics and reading practice, then another short break.
So in this manner, I’ve simplified the schedule drastically. I want to keep the experience fun and the learning environment enjoyable. They are still little and we have many years ahead of us.
I need to learn to enjoy the journey and remember…learning is a lifestyle. They are learning as we do household chores together, as we prepare meals together in the kitchen, as we set the table and practice our manners at meal times. Education is not limited to the class room. There is grace to adjust and flex the routine as needed. And praise God other women have gone before me!