I have been homeschooling for as long as I have been a parent. Homeschooling has become our way of life, our chosen method of education. I can say with confidence that I have learned more along the way than my three children have. I have learned more about self development, self awareness and emotional intelligence than I have about academics. No doubt, I value the ability to read, write and be able to do math. However, I see no point in learning at home if it results in tension, or stressed out / anxious children and mothers! For that reason I think it is crucial that us mothers share not only what curriculum we use, but also what helps keep the flow in our homes.
It goes without saying that my house is not the perfect environment but I feel the following ‘hacks’ have helped keep the peace, for the most part.
There’s that saying, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,’ right? We all know it, but it is such a dreaded task that we tend to avoid it. My planning has evolved over the years. When my eldest was 4 years old, I was ambitious and tried planning on a daily / hourly basis. But then child number two came along, and then child number three, and it was no longer doable. Once my second child reached 4 years, I tried planning on a weekly basis. That lasted about two years and began to fail once my youngest became a preschooler. Now, with three kids above 5 years old, I plan on a monthly basis. I forcefully sit myself down with a calendar and the workbooks I have chosen and plug in assigned papers. I also add any field tips or classes they attend. To keep it exciting I put some vague items on it such as ‘art activity’ or ‘nature walk’ which I decide the details of closer to the day. I don’t specify any times on their calendars, it’s simply a list of tasks they know they have to complete before the day is over.
2. Meal Planning
I feel like my day is always smoother if I know, from the morning, what’s for dinner. I despise the mental drain of figuring out what to make, and wondering if we have the ingredients on hand. On the weekend I sit and decide 5-7 meals I want to make throughout the week (I only plan dinner – lunch and breakfast are whatever we have on hand). Sometimes I specify which day I’ll make what, other times if we will be out all day I will make something quick and simple. This brings me to the next hack.
3. Online Groceries
Once I figure out what is for dinner during the week, I make a list of any ingredients I may need. Then I shop online. Both Walmart and Loblaws provide online shopping and free pick up. I find that shopping online keeps me focused as I stick to my list, without having random items in front of my face as I walk down the store’s isles. Not to mention, I don’t have to take kids who potentially don’t necessarily want to shop that day which makes for cranky kids and a cranky mom. We also tend to save money this way.
4. Cleaning Routine
Once upon a time, weekends meant chores. The house was cleaned from top to bottom, laundry was washed, bathrooms scrubbed and everything put back in it’s place. As I’m sure you can imagine, this meant chaos, and resulted in a tired Momma who wasn’t rested enough for the week of homeschooling that lay ahead. But then I read this book called Simply Clean and it was a game changer for me! I don’t necessarily recommend reading the book because in all honestly, it was not simple. It was filled with lists and charts and actually gave me anxiety. But there was one huge thing that I took from this book and that was to have a cleaning schedule. I don’t keep mine rigid given the fact that our lives just can’t handle it, and if we miss a day, its easy to combine two of the chores in one day as needed. Our cleaning schedule looks like this (I didn’t follow the one in the book).
We still have our daily tasks of general tidying, dishes and sweeping. But this has given us a skeleton to work around and spreads the chores out nicely throughout the week instead of cramming it all into a weekend. Our weekends are much more relaxed with more time to spare now.
5. Birthday & ½ Birthday Dates
Yes, this one is random, but I think worth mentioning. We aren’t big on birthdays. But, as a homeschooling family, our kids tend to spend a lot of time together which has both benefits and downfalls. I feel as though kids really thrive when they get that one on one time with parents. And it’s not easy to fit into a homeschooling schedule. So, my husband and I take each child out on their birthday, just us and the child. We go out to eat and / or do an activity such as bowling or a painting class (one year we did a sushi making class!). We also decided, to ensure each child gets that special time at least twice a year, we pencil another date about 6 months after their birthday. Yes, the dates are few and far between, but I truly feel they have a lasting effect on building strong parent – child relationships.
There are other little things here and there that have helped us along the way but these would have to be my top five. It’s not a guarantee and we inevitably fall off the wagon every now and then but we get back on and keep on going. Homeschooling is about learning about life, and I hope and pray our homes are a peaceful haven not only for our kids, but for us too.