11.25.2013

Working Out The Kinks - Homeschool Tips and Tricks

Two months in and our school year is rolling along without any glitches.

I'm no expert, but I wanted to pass on a few simple things that I changed that have made a very big difference this year.

None of them are new ideas.  In fact, I'm pretty sure these were all recommended to me when it wasn't going so smooth.  What can I say, I'm a slow learner and sometimes have to roll back around before I take other's wisdom.

So here are a few things we do that have nailed out the kinks:

Start each day outside.


No matter what.

This one was hard for me.  I like to sit on my comfy couch and drink coffee until it's time to start school.  But my kids wake up in a ball of energy that I can't contain.  Trust me, I've tried.  So getting outside and running some of that morning energy off has been life changing.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  But if you're ever at my house at 7 AM and get an earful from a puffy haired child, you'd feel my pain.  Most days it's just 10 or 15 minutes, but I grab my coffee and go sit outside while they swing or ride bikes.  I'm determined to keep this one going during Winter, we will see how that goes.

A few chores before, none during.

I used to try to start Josie on something then run and get some housework done.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Not giving my full attention to either.  This year, I gave myself a pep talk and decided that housework could wait.  I had a precious 2 hours before I would start to lose my kids attention and school had to be the priority.  I have to make my bed and have a clean sink before we start, but the rest I've let go.  Amazingly, I still get the house cleaned up by the end of the day AND I get the added bonus of a condensed school time.  I have her attention and we are able to cruise through.

Speaking of full attention...

Put the phone away.

I'll admit it, I'm addicted to my phone.  If I can reach it, I'm going to check it.  Every 52 seconds.  Gotta stay up to date on every status update, am I right?!?  I've had to make my 6 year old my accountability partner on this one (told you, addicted).  When school starts, I leave my phone in the kitchen. This might not be a problem for you, but it was for me.  Not having it on me has really helped me focus.  And, surprise, I don't miss anything of any importance on social media!

Fail to plan, plan to fail. 


I'm an over planner in every area of my life, but school is the one that makes the biggest difference. I like to have our lessons, field trips, special activities, and days off planned a month in advance. I try to take one night a month to go meet up with a couple other homeschooling friends and spend the night planning. If I can't get away, I do it at home, but its way more fun to have girlfriends there with me.

Most of Josie's curriculum is straight forward but I still like to do mini units and extra activities when I can. I put all these on paper, download any worksheets I need, and make a detailed supply list for the month. I always drive home after these nights so pumped up to keep schooling. I need these nights to refocus and feel prepared. 

And while we are on the topic of planning...

Use Pinterest wisely. 

Sometimes, Pinterest stresses me out.  Too many fun ideas, not enough hours in the day.  So I made a board for each month and when I find things I want to do, I stick them on that board. Then when I go to my planning night, I just pull up that board and go to town. I'm able to download what I need and I'm ready to go!  So easy!  Plus, whatever we don't get to will be sitting on that board next year.

Last preparation tip. And it's another big one for me. 

Set up the night before. 


I actually reset for the next day while Josie does her last subject. We use work boxes. I honestly don't know how people school without them. Basically, each subject goes in a drawer of her work boxes. Everything she needs goes in the box. Glue, pencil, dry erase marker, whatever she needs to finish is in the box. There have been days I forget to set up her boxes and it makes the next day feel rushed and disorganized. Not to mention I waste a ton of time pulling worksheets and trying to figure out what we are doing. 

Obviously, I'm a fan of organizing and planning. 

Moving right along.

Snacks.  On the table.  


We get up by 7, but don't start school until 9.  That puts a good hour and a half between breakfast and when we mosey on up to start educating.  And nothing made me more frustrated then having to stop after one workbox to get snacks.  Snack prep and consumption took at least 20 minutes and that doesn't include re-corralling them up the stairs.  So a few weeks ago, I decided to make a plate of food to bring up with us.  It's always some form of fruit or veggie and dip, sometimes cheese and crackers.  It's not a meal, but has been enough to tide them over until lunch.

Last one:

If it's not working, take a break.

Last year, if something wasn't clicking or if Josie wasn't in the mood, I forced her through it.  I wasn't able to leave a box in my planner unchecked.  There were days we would both leave the school table frustrated and angry.  Not exactly my goal for school.

This year, I've learned that sometimes, you just need to walk away and circle back around.  I'm no longer hesitant to let her get up and do something she enjoys to help her refocus.  I rarely let her totally skip whatever it is she didn't want to do, but I've learned that if she starts to put up a fight, I'm not going to win.  She may finish the task, but what I lose is more important then math.


Happy Homeschooling!

5 comments:

Danielle Huddleston said...

Great tips :) I used to have a firm no phone rule but the more my boys are able to do certain things by themselves the more I am need of finding something to do. Just sitting there causes me to rush them so I am allowing myself phone time again. I do have to be careful though because it is so easy to get on it when I should be paying attention to them! It is different for everyone I am sure. My Mother in-law would not answer questions her boys had about subjects in their textbooks(highschool). She said the answers were in there and they should find them. My mom on the other hand helped us with every problem we had. Sorry for going on a speech! If you can't tell, I have not had adult conversation yet this morning!

Amber said...

I started doing the snack thing when we got back from the beach and it has oddly made a world of difference. Livi loves sitting there snacking while doing school. I may or may not have a few bites too!

Autumn said...

Awesome suggestions! Some things that I've known I need to be doing, but haven't been... I wish I could join you for your planning sessions! That's a great idea!

My name is Rita said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

These are awesome ideas! I needed that reminder about going outside. Lately though it's been like 10 degrees in the morning though...so I just need to find a physical outlet for them!