I just finished my fourth year of homeschooling, and I love it! I am not perfect at it, nor is it always easy to balance working from home with teaching kids and maintaining a home, but it is worth it.
I wanted to round up my best advice in one place for those who need homeschool encouragement while also working from home.
1. Strive for Optimal Learning
I strive to teach in optimal learning times. This isn’t always possible because life can get crazy, but think about it. If you had to learn something new right now or were to sit down and write a five-page essay, how would you do it successfully? You would probably do best on a full night of sleep, when you are eating healthily, aren’t stressed, and when you are working during your prime time of the day.
Your children are going to have optimal and non-optimal times as well. If you can center your focused learning time around the optimal time, you will experience more retention and less resistance. Trying to do school when they are tired or in the middle of a growth spurt is just not worth the fight. Use these days to learn through reading aloud, crafts, or games.
There are several days that we start off in a great homeschool rhythm and then, bam! Someone is frustrated or crying over something. I try to encourage, motivate, and console the child, but sometimes they get into such a funk, it is better to just be done with that assignment or to take a long break and come back. If you are forcing school work through tears, no one is benefiting.
2. Initiate Intimate Learning
Another benefit of homeschooling is being able to connect with your child on a deeper level than a typical teacher does. Don’t be afraid to become a student with them. There are so many exciting things to learn! I am relearning history and diving deeper into subjects that I never had the chance to do as a kid.
Take breaks of pure instruction to just talk about what you are learning together. Create a natural discussion that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer connected to it. For example, I might put down the history book we are reading and show appreciation over something new I hadn’t heard of or ask what they would do if they were the historical figure or what they would do in the situation – i.e. would you be afraid of coming to America or would you participate in throwing the tea into the Boston Harbor?
3. Remember the Long Term Goal
Another helpful thing I like to do is to create a few different goals for the year. This helps me establish my priorities and stay focused on them. It also relieves some stress. If the goal is to learn addition facts, then I’m not going to stress about subtraction or be discouraged by someone else’s child who is further ahead.
After a few months, it is easy to see if progress has been made and you can celebrate with your child in that. Also, when a goal is established, I am going to pull in different resources to meet this goal – i.e. what games, crafts, books, etc can I bring in to help.
4. Don’t Be the Only Teacher
We live in such an amazing time that we have been blessed with an abundance of resources. I think of all these resources as different tools/teachers in order to encourage the love of learning. Here’s what I mean by this, instead of reading everything myself, I look for engaging audiobooks we can listen to in the car or during mealtime.
The history curriculum Story of the World comes with a CD that we enjoyed listening to in the car, or I will play additional audiobooks that support what we are learning. For example, right now we are listening about Abe Lincoln’s life when we are in the car. I try to find games, online videos, songs, anything that adds another layer of depth to the learning because worksheets can get old quickly.
Other people can teach them too. Sometimes daddy will take over a science lesson or will do a project with them. Or another mom and I will switch off days for experiments and projects. My mother-in-law also loves to spend time with the girls giving piano and sewing lessons.
Look at the people in your life, what skills can they teach your child through bonding, maybe sewing, baking, fixing a car, etc. What questions can they ask of someone in a certain career, lived during a certain time period, or went on a trip? All learning is beneficial.
5. Remember You are Teaching a Human
It is natural to think that learning is a linear process. You should just keep progressing, right? Our brains are far more complex and amazing! Sometimes learning will backslide or halt when a mental development is going on. Other times there will be amazing growth and then no growth for three weeks. Don’t get frustrated; there is so much progress happening in their brains that you just can’t see. During struggle periods, I try to remind them of how far they came.
For example, it took a long time for my eldest daughter to grasp basic addition. When she was 5, I told her, “Right now 1 + 1 is hard for you, but next year you are going to say that is baby work.” That of course made her cry because she thought I was calling her a baby – haha – but then I asked her, “Did you know how to play the piano when you took your first lesson? Did anyone expect you to know how to play a song on your first day?” And we talk through that.
And now that she is eight, I remind her of the time she thought 1+1 was hard, and she agrees that 1+1 is indeed baby work.
Learning is a process that takes a lot of mess-ups and tries, but then once we get it, it is easy. We just have to keep working at it and not to expect perfection on a new lesson.
For times when you need to teach kids to stay faithful to doing the work, I try to point back to my own life and struggles. If my daughter does not want to do school, I remind her that I don’t always want to cook dinner or clean the house, but what would happen if I didn’t? How would it make her feel if I just complained about having to make her dinner every night? I lovingly remind her that God gives us all jobs to do, and right now her job is learning and it does no good to have a complaining heart about it. These types of talks usually come with a lot of tears, so I try to keep my words encouraging and try to send her to her room for quiet reflection time (which she thinks is punishment but I tell her it’s not haha) and lessen the school load slightly.
I have a lot of favorite resources that I am listing out into a huge post. Whether you are homeschooling temporarily or for many years to come, invest in the parent-child relationship first and the teacher-student relationship second. You’ve got this!