Editor’s Note: This time of year is often referred to as the “winter blues.” The holidays are over and the end of the school year is far off in the distance. It can be challenging to keep a positive attitude (both mom and kids!) and to keep pushing on with school. We hope this article will encourage you in this time and will cause you to pause and consider how you can continue to make homeschooling a joy every day.
by Christy Rucker
I have yet to meet a homeschool mom who has not considered putting her children into school because they’ve had a rough day in their homeschool. Or maybe it has been a rough month or even year. She has felt overwhelmed by the work involved in educating a child. Has this been you?
Could simplifying your homeschool make the task of learning at home more manageable? Simplification could be the difference between a homeschool parent who makes it through the long haul and one who gives up after a few years and sends her child to school because she “can’t do this anymore.”
How can you simplify your homeschool?
1. Start with less and add more later.
Make a dream list of curricula, resources, and books you would like to use next year. Then cut it in half. It is better to start with basics and build as needed than to overbuy and have regrets. Buy the history book, but not the activity book. Buy the science book, but not the special notebook. Buy two readers to get you started, not the entire list of books you hope your child will read. You can add other resources later if you need them and have room.
2. Skip the enrichment activities.
Many curricula come with fun enrichment activities, projects, or experiments. You do not have to do them all. You can choose to do two a week, or you can choose to do none at all. You can also move these activities outside your school time and do them for fun. Choose activities that are easy to set up, easy to clean up, and use easy materials.
3. Pare down assignments to save time and energy.
If the math assignment has fifty problems, can you cross out twenty? If the grammar assignment asks for ten sentences, would five do? What is the minimum that would be effective for your individual child in each subject? They don’t need busy work like in public school.
4. Create a time boundary for your homeschool day.
If your school day feels like it drags on forever, set a specific time boundary for schoolwork, and then stop. This can be a certain number of hours based on your child’s age, such as choosing to do three hours of school each day for a fifth grader. Or you can set a certain timeframe for schoolwork, such as finishing by noon. The key is, no matter what happens, you keep your time boundary and stop when it is over. Dog threw up? The clock keeps ticking. Baby needs a diaper change? The clock keeps ticking. Math took two hours today? The clock keeps ticking. You can carry over what isn’t finished to the next day or even eliminate it if it isn’t important.
5. Don’t use a curriculum at all.
Not only will this simplify your homeschool, but it will save money as well. Do you need a spelling curriculum with all the fancy crossword puzzles and fill-in-the-blanks? Or would a free spelling list from the internet work just as well? Do you need a special game to teach your child all fifty states? Or would a wall map and a blank US map be just as effective?
6. Keep your planning and organization methods minimal.
One year I created an entire crate system for my children. One crate per child, one folder per day in each crate, and then each subject’s assignments put into each day’s folder for the entire year. It took me an entire summer to compile, and it was gorgeous. The system worked for about two weeks and then crashed and burned. It was not a simple organization system. If you keep your planning and organization methods simple, then you will be less stressed. One example is to have a general idea of what you would like to cover; then plan only two weeks ahead. This makes it easier to adjust when things change. Simplify your systems so that you don’t have to work hard managing them.
7. Only teach a few subjects.
There are so many good topics and curricula out there. It is easy to feel the urge to fit them all in. Spanish! Latin! Entrepreneurship! Personal Finance! Clay Modeling! Photography! Trying to fit a lot of electives into your school day can lead to overwhelm. Consider pulling some of these subjects from your homeschool time and pursuing them on the weekends or in the summer for fun.
Simplifying your homeschool will make for a smoother day, happier children, and a more relaxed mom. Give it a try!
Christy Rucker is a homeschool mom of two boys and the author of The Simple Homeschool. She lives in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and works for the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania. Her hobbies include gardening, reading nonfiction, mentoring new homeschoolers, and encouraging God’s people to grow in their faith. She has been known to say that food is her love language. Christy can be found on Instagram at @christyrucker.
Copyright 2020, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2020-21 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
I was very blessed by this grace filled message. From a new homeschooling mom
Great article! Love the part about crossing out 20 math problems if they just got the description of busywork.
And her system that she took so long to design and then implementing it only lasted 2 weeks. Been there. Done that.
Great advice throughout this article!