As a keeper of the home, I am a very busy woman. I have a house to keep clean, laundry to do, cooking and grocery shopping and dishes to do, bills to pay, a garden to tend to, children to care for, and so much more.
Now it is August, and I must somehow rearrange all of that to include yet another full-time roll: teacher. I am a homeschooling mom, and I love it. But let’s be practical. I have a whole lot of things on my plate. I have, however, had a number of years of practice now, and I’ve picked up some helpful tips along the way.
Here, then, are the ways that I have found to make it all go more smoothly:
- The crock pot is my best friend. I can get up in the morning, throw some ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and come dinner time, all I have to do is serve it. This is especially handy on days when we will be out much of the day, for field trips or group activities.
- I choose either breakfast or lunch to cook, and serve something simple and cold for the other meal. So if I’m cooking a hot lunch, we’ll have cereal & a piece of fruit for breakfast. If I’m cooking a hot breakfast, we’ll have a cold sandwich for lunch.
- From time to time, I look through magazines, online sites, etc. for dinner recipes that are simple and delicious. I save these in a binder and use this collection as my dinner basis.
- I make a menu (and corresponding grocery list) for at least a week, and grocery shop once with the list.
- Each child, even the very young, should have daily chores. Either having a chore list hanging up, or writing the chores in the kids’ daily assignment books lets them know what’s expected so they can keep at it until they are done. We do both. We also all work together, tackling one room each month to deep clean together.
- I have cards printed out, detailing exactly what finishing a bigger chore entails. For example, on the back of the kids bathroom door is a checklist for cleaning the bathroom – sweep & mop, wash counter top & mirror, etc. There is an instructional step-by-step list for doing laundry hanging in our laundry room. In the kitchen is a list of what “picking up after dinner” means.
- In our family, every person has been assigned a specific color. So the child whose color is blue has a blue towel & washcloth, toothbrush, drinking cup, supply box for pencils & crayons, and so on. This helps immensely to cut down on arguing over their things, and allowing me to see immediately who left something out.
- It really helps to have a place for everything, and make sure the kids know where everything goes. I regularly go through and get rid of toys, clothes, and anything else that we no longer need or use.
- I get my youngest up earliest in the morning so that he is ready for bed first at night. This way I can spend alone time snuggling with him and reading to him before bed. One older child showers at this time. Then I spend a few minutes with that child before bed, while the other child showers. Then it’s alone time with the third child. By staggering bedtimes this way, each child has the opportunity to talk to me with my full attention every day.
- I assign one day a week to belong to a particular child. On this day, that child gets to help with meal or snack selection and preparation (giving us alone time in the kitchen), run errands alone with me, gets to pick topics of discussion at the dinner table, etc. This allows me to make each child feel special on a regular basis.
- We get up early and I put the kids to bed early, so that I have some time at the end of the day to just unwind and chat with my husband. We need at least this each day to stay connected. We also talk on the phone nearly every day, even if just to say “hi” and “I love you”, at lunchtime.
- Here is something that I picked up from a relative, but have yet to use on a regular basis. I really want to start doing this more though. One day a week, my aunt makes a simple and fun dinner for the kids – leftovers, macaroni, hot dogs & chips, grilled cheese sandwiches. She makes this and feeds them early, then sends them off to play together or watch a movie. Then she and her husband put on some music, sip some wine, and make a nice dinner together. This “date night at home” is a great re-connector, and is good for the kids to see as well.
- The older kids have their own daybooks where I write down their daily school assignments and chores. This way if I am tied up with the little one, or doing something else, the kids can continue on with assignments that they don’t need me for.
- We do not always do all subjects every day. We usually follow a more college-like schedule of science three days a week, history & geography two days a week, art one day a week. We touch on math and language everyday, of course. Preparing all subjects for every day is overwhelming.
- I work with the youngest child first. He is energetic and eager earlier in the day and after spending time doing activities with me, he is ready to go off and play independently for a while.
- While we have flexibility as homeschoolers, sitting down to do schoolwork at the same time, same place, same way to start each day allows the children to know what to expect and creates a habit in them that makes each day go so much more smoothly.
- I usually plan some fun activity for the afternoons, whether it’s as big as going on an outing, as small as making cookies together, or even just allowing time to have friends over. This way, the kids are motivated to do their work diligently and finish in time so they don’t miss this afternoon opportunity.
- We have a tall homeschool shelf with all of our homeschool books, a large plastic bin for math manipulatives, and one for language manipulatives, stacks of writing paper, unlined paper, and construction paper, and a supply box for pencils, glue, etc. for each child. The kids know where to look when they need something, and where to put things back when they are done.
- I have a large binder which is subdivided by subject, for each child. This way, they can file their work themselves and keep up with their work as we go. I also keep forms in the binders for me to use, such as library lists, and grade reporting & attendance.
What tips do you have for a smoother homeschool year?
Tanya is a happy homeschooling mother to a first grader, middle schooler, and high schooler. She can be found writing about the adventures of another school year at Homeschooling x3. She also loves to cook, and is the food writer for Knoxville Examiner.