How to Win at Homeschooling

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Whether you work from home, have a screaming newborn to deal with, or have 5 adorable children, you need to make sure that homeschooling works for YOU. There's no place for pressure and breaking down, feeling like a failure and giving up, not if you can create a homeschooling journey that works for you. If you don't know how, let me help...

1. Sit down, and think about your day.

What does an average day look like for you? How can you make changes so that more time can be freed up for homeschooling? Does that laundry really need to be put away at 11am? Could you put it away whilst the kids stuff their faces at lunchtime instead or during downtime after their evening baths? Write out a brief timeline of how your average day looks every day, include basic things like eating breakfast, household chores if you must, nap times and whatever else you think needs to be included. When you've done that, look at it again and ask yourself what can be removed or changed. Maybe the housework is only done at weekends now with just a brief tidy up instead during the week? Here's how these changes worked for me:

Before I began homeschooling, I would get up in the morning and help the kids with breakfast, but they were already used to getting themselves dressed and washed, and would even make their own breakfast if they were up before me. I would drop them to school and then start my working day at 10am-3pm. (Working from home). Now? I still need to work but I can't leave the children to self educate all day. Leaving them to work alone for too long would cause problems, so how can I make this work for me? I choose to let the boys sleep for longer, until 8am, and I start work earlier at 8am. I bought the boys an alarm clock which goes off to wake them up. They love going on their iPads, but they know they are not allowed until they have made their breakfast and eaten it, got dressed, brushed their teeth and made their beds. This is enough incentive to get them to complete those first tasks of the day. I don't need to help them, so I start my working day at 8am. At 9:55am, an alarm clock I have set on the boys iPads goes off, reminding them school starts at 10am. I know that I need to fit in as many hours of work as possible, to be able to sit with them for the more important school work later, so it makes sense to set them up with activities from 10am-12pm, that they can get on with independently.

I break 10am-12pm into three sections:

  1. 10am-10:30am, a mix depending on the day of the week of 10 minute maths workbooks, 10 minute vocabulary workbooks, curriculum based maths books and telling the time worksheets (check out my timetable blog for more details)

  2. 10:30am-11am, I set out challenge cards based around science, engineering and growth mindset that they need to complete.

  3. 11am-11:30am, arts and craft activity that’s been set out

  4. 11:30am-12pm, K’nex, Lego or jigsaw puzzles

You can take these ideas and tailor them to the age of your children. For me, it’s about leaving my kids for two hours to get on with things they can cope with without getting overly frustrated or bored. They still need my help at times so I just step away from my work to give them a hand, but they never need more than a few minutes of my time.

2. Make life skills a part of their education, especially if it helps you.

Maybe there‘s chores you simply cannot leave until another time, perhaps you work a night shift and need to prep dinner? I don’t think enough emphasis within education is put upon life skills so there’s no harm in getting your kids to muck in. if they help you with the cooking it’s a great way to learn about measurements and measurement conversions, as well as how to tell a courgette from a cucumber. Maybe you need to get the ironing done? Why not set it up in a central location so that you can give them instructions and can keep an eye on them? Maybe while you’re ironing they can help with the tidying, or simply working on activities, maths or other workbooks, or even watching an educational documentary they can write about later? My children have Go Henry cards and I can’t rate them enough. We don’t do chores during the week, only weekends and they enjoy seeing their chores ticked off knowing they will be getting paid for them. But it doesn’t all have to be about money, just the promise of a trip to the park is enough. Use incentives to keep your kids engaged. See my blog post on how rewards do work.

3. Mix up homeschooling with day trips & shopping

Every Tuesday we go out for the day. I’m not dripping in money so this can’t always be at an expense, and sometimes I can’t even think or find somewhere to go that’s linked to what we are learning about, but there’s always good old nature to fall back on. I try to visit places that relate to what we are learning about, and if I can ever bring my two year old grandson with us, I do. But if I’m struggling to find a place I always fall back on nature, learning about our environment and the living things around us is a trusty subject that never gets old. I bought a great book that gives good ideas on how to make a simple trip outdoors more interesting. Check out my Bargain Buys blog and find it listed. Day trips, even to the park (for physical education) break up what can be a pressure cooker environment. It’s hard work being couped up in the house all week trying to educate and entertain your kids, a trip out even once a week helps you and your kids take a breather and reflect. It also gives you a chance to enjoy them. That’s what it’s all about, right? On Thursdays we go shopping. The boys each get shopping lists and calculators to work out what the total is going to be. For me this is another important life skill, learning how to shop, budget and use a calculator. After shopping there’s time to visit the library, park or spend some time gardening. It’s another chance to break up the week. Remember, the whole point of throwing these days into the mix is so that you are not bogged down stuck in a timetable all week. If you limit those rigid timetable days, you’re more likely to stick at it and succeed.

4. Enjoy early ‘half terms’ and days off by homeschooling over the weekend

If there’s an opportunity to do some homeschooling over the weekend, perhaps when there’s two of you to work with the children instead of one, you should take it. Who says that schooling needs to be Monday to Friday? For every weekend day you homeschool, take away a homeschooling weekday If it helps you. Perhaps you have an outing planned over the weekend that links into your home educating curriculum? I recently got to week 5 of homeschooling and realised I needed a break. There was lots of personal issues going on at home and I could tell it was affecting my ability to teach effectively. I decided to have an early ‘ half term’ the following week, a decision made all the more easier because we were planning to go away for the weekend to visit an Anglo-Saxon village. An early week off with the knowledge we would have a whole weekend of learning was an easy trade off. Sometimes you need to shake things up a bit so that you can take any breathing space you need. If this helps you be better the next time you sit down to teach your kids, it’s well worth it.

5. Turn the TV To your Advantage

In our house I incorporate the TV just one day per week. From 10:30am on Friday's I put on a movie or documentary related to what we are learning about. I try to put something on that will last until 12pm when we have lunch, but if that can't happen, I get the boys to write about what they have watched using Microsoft Word. One of the things I really want to encourage is their typing skills.

So far, we have watched Beowulf (learning about the epic poem from Anglo-Saxon times), I've downloaded David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth and we've watched episode 1 and 2 (in relation to living things and life processes), a documentary on the vikings and the Staffordshire Hoard (all part of our vikings and Anglo-Saxons learning), and most recently Fern Gully so that we can discuss impacts on the environment. While the boys watch the TV, I work. In essence, this all means that there is only two days per week the boys have to work independently for any period of time. I make this part of the day fun, usually setting the boys up with popcorn and blankets to make it a really chilled out experience. But they do have their trusty red notebooks to make notes throughout the films.

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