In Part I of this series on Homeschool Hints, we talked about some basic principles to help in your transition to homeschooling. Now I’d like to move into some practical tips to help your day run more smoothly.
- First of all, the key word is PLANNERS. Buy a teacher’s planbook from a teacher supply store. And look for the planner with the most space…you’re going to need it, especially if you are schooling more than one child. If these are too expensive for your budget, never fear. You can create your own using Excel, or a piece of paper and a ruler, if you are technically challenged. You can also find templates to print for free on the wonderful website of Donna Young (http://www.donnayoung.org/). She has an abundant supply of free planning forms available for homeschool parents to use. If you are a Type-A planner like me, you will find this website addictive! Now that you have a planner, buy or create one for each of your children. At the beginning of the school year, you can purchase these inexpensively at any store with school supplies (or you can create your own). The year I decided to use a planner for each of my children was the year homeschooling became manageable…yes, really. Every weekend, I write in each child’s planner, listing their individual work for the whole week. While this may seem an overly simple idea, it revolutionized our homeschool. Now, each child knew exactly what was expected of them, without my having to tell them. No longer did they ask me every ten minutes, “What do I do now, Mom?” interrupting while I was trying to work with another child. No longer did I have to check my planner every ten minutes to see if everyone was on track for the morning. And, best of all, my early–riser children began getting up (BEFORE me) and completing a good portion of their independent work before breakfast, leaving us lots of time for reading great historical fiction books, science experiments and art projects. I used to spend time every weekend planning out all of our work for the following week. Now that I am more experienced at this, I have it down to spending time about once a month, planning out our work for an entire month, thus freeing me up for other things. Trust me, the best thing you can do is to invest in some planners for everyone!
- Another tip that seems like a small thing but has big results is this: Don’t answer the telephone. We tend to do school in the morning hours at our house and are usually done shortly after lunch (my kids are early risers). When we began homeschooling, I purposed to not answer the telephone during school hours, knowing it could be a major distraction. Interruptions of any kind when you are trying to teach your children are disruptive to their learning, and a quick “five-minute conversation” can easily turn into a half-hour wasted. My friends know to call me in the afternoons if they want to talk to me, and an answering machine insures that important calls aren’t missed (it also allows us to pick up if it’s Daddy!). Your kids will appreciate having your undivided attention and their learning will benefit from a focused environment. We also added a sign to our front door that discourages solicitors (“No Soliciting—Homeschool in Progress”).
- And now, the MOST important tip for today: Before you do anything…PRAY. Don’t enter the arena without putting on God’s armor and provision. Homeschooling is not an easy task and we need to be sure we are leaning on God’s strength to be the patient and loving teachers our children need. The days that nothing seems to go right at my house tend to be the days that I stumble out of bed late and don’t take the time to pray before going to greet my children. I try to pray for each of them individually, for our school day, for strength for me as their teacher and for all of my friends who are beginning their school day as well. I don’t want to ever presume to undertake this high calling without leaning on the divine help of the Saviour.
In the next installment, I will provide some curriculum reviews and some resource recommendations. Please check back soon for Part III.