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*VETERAN* Mamas (10+ years homeschooling) please


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contribute to a FEW things that have most helped your homeschooling. I'm curious. I was speaking to another vet this morning and we were talking about the few small things that contribute to sanity. (We're also big family mamas so it may be different.) But I am in the throes of school planning and my curiousity is piqued. For me? 1. School time - this might seem silly, but it was only THIS year, after homeschooling for 12 years, that I read a book that talked about how sidetracked mamas can become with cleaning, organizing, doing just one more thing, checking email, etc and before you know it, the day is shot. Having definite school hours keeps you from cleaning, etc. They are right. It's that one thing that helps me the most. 2. It helps me to plan errands, doctor appts, etc., all for one day every couple of weeks, usually DH's day off. It doesn't mean we stay home for 13 days in a row, lol, but it does keep random things from interrupting the routine or accomplishing our goals. She said her best year ever was this year. They actually completed everything they had planned plus had their seventh child! She believes her success was from scheduling school with a six weeks on, one week off schedule. Instead of pushing through the way they always did, they had an opportunity to "re-charge" and then work again. Everyone had something to work towards!

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1. Daily routine. Call it scheduling school time, whatever. But for the most part, we stick to a routine. And yes, we almost always stay in track academicly and keep up the house too.

 

2. Once materials are bought for the year, they are used. If it really just cannot be used, then I'll make do with something at hand, but I don't drop and buy something else. Part of this is simply required do to limits of finance. But curriculum hoping is time consuming and often doesn't net progression academicly. It might even cause regression. Math was the major painful lesson in that department.

 

3. Limit screen time. It's rare for the kids to have screens on during a school day. Usually it's family stuff after dinner.

 

4. Say no to people. There is only so much of me to go around. Yes. I know. Everyone is busy. I don't think that is to anyone's credit though. Being busy is not a virtue in and of itself. Especially if the price of being busy is we don't manage to have time for our greatest priorities. Make sure your time reflects your priorities.

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1. Having a schedule.

2. Having family cleaning time once a week, outside of school.

3. Daily rest time for all, particularly up through 8th grade (we don't have time for it now, sob!).

4. Caller ID and answering machine--I don't answer the phone during school.

5. Scheduling appointments in the afternoons whenever possible, protecting our mornings for schoolwork.

6. Prioritizing math and Latin as the first two subjects done, even if we start school late.

 

Edited to add a few things for high school:

1. Hash out grading and recordkeeping systems during the junior high years. Experiment. Find out what works. (I found out that 1 pt per question grading methodology goes a long way.)

2. A four-year skeleton for high school, based on what colleges want (you will have to guess what colleges your children might conceivably be interested in) is super, super helpful. Even if things don't work out exactly, it will keep you mostly on track.

3. Decide on and create a transcript format before you start high school. Then you can plug in each course as it is finished. This also will help keep you on track.

4. If possible, write a course description prior to each course, that includes the evaluation criteria, record grades on it as you go, and then print out a finished copy and throw it in a manila envelope with the papers from the course. Store that in a tote with the textbook. Each of my children have a file drawer with folders for their papers for current courses, so all they have to do is pop them in the folder. Easy-peasy.

 

All of these things should make the college admissions process much less stressful. I hope! I haven't gotten to that point yet. But I have commiserated and helped a couple of moms who did NO recordkeeping during high school and then had to create/produce a transcript. NOT FUN FOR ANYONE. I'm hoping not to be in that situation . . .

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Some things I am learning our echoing what is being said on this thread by the experienced mamas, such as set school hours.

 

I am newbie but here is what I am planning after homeschooling a year and having spent some time reflecting.

 

1) We start at 8 am. If the child isn't dressed and chores done, no breakfast. If you don't eat by 8 am, you wait until break and then still need to finish chores first. This is not my problem but dc's and certainly this would be the case if they went to brick and mortar schools. I want to be done with school by 12 pm so our afternoons are free.

2) Schedule breaks in- I knew pushing through was burning my kids out, but I didn't realize how much I needed them, too! I have 3 15 minute breaks between 8 am and lunch. I use the 1st to do my own devotions, the 2nd to do chores and the 3 rd to prep for hands on projects. It helps recharge me and avoids me scrambling to set up. I set the time so the kids understand it is only a 15 minute break http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/public/style_emoticons/#EMO_DIR#/smile.gif.

3) Prep time for me- I try to write out our schedule on a dry erase poster I got at the dollar tree that says what we'll do at one time and make sure we have every thing about 15 minutes before school starts. Once a week I spend time reading through the next weeks lessons and make sure we have all we need.

4) regular school hours- in summer, M-Th will be school days with no commitments outside the home from 8-4 pm and we won't leave the house until then. Fridays we will do a light fun day and do field trips, nature walks, hands on science and journaling, etc. I want 8-12 to be school hours and 12-3:30 to be down time for the kids and time for me to get chores and projects done. Starting in fall, we'll do a co-op one morning a week and then one day a week we'll have an exploration day, but M-W-F will be similar as far as being home 8-4. No family visits, extra curriculars, errands, housework, etc, is done during this time. Think of it like a job that you need to clock in and out of. It's too easy to be distracted other wise.

5) Make sure the grocery shopping and housecleaning get done on weekends so we are not doing this on school days. Pretty much the school week should start with a stalked fridge / pantry and clean house, that way only day to day chores are done during the week.

6) No more than one school hours co-op / park day type thing a week and no more than 2 after school activities a week and never before 4 pm. Co-op should be fun and socially interactive at this point, not academic. This might change as they get older, but for now this restrains me from dragging them around to everything under the sun. This year co-op is basically a horse back riding class and a kids in nature class held on a farm from 10-1. We won't try to do any school those days. Monday we'll have AHG from 4-6 and we'll do AWANA's either Sunday 4-5:30 or Thursday 7-8:30.

 

That's all I got right now but this is going well. We have had less days that end up getting skipped or cut short so far.

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Quiet time. Ours is done over the lunch hour. The boys all get their lunch and either go to the playroom, to their bedroom, or outside. Yes, this means we don't have family lunch and they don't eat at the table. They can do what they want, but they have to stay quiet enough that I can't hear them or else I send them to their bed to read. Without this hour in the middle of the day, I would go mad.

 

Having a school room. We all get distracted when we school around the house. We do much better when we hunker down in the school room until the work is done.

 

We've always mostly gone year round, but I've just recently discovered the wisdom of actually scheduling breaks (no guilt) instead of just taking them whenever (I'd always feel guilty).

 

Keeping it simple. IOW, don't buy every shiny supplement to go along with things. These usually sat on the shelf and made me feel guilty. I could also add tons of time to the boys' days by adding things that "just take 5 or 10 minutes".

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We are a family if 7.

 

Less fancy stuff. The fancier a program the less likely it will be done. I tried a ton of reading programs with my third child. Picked up OPGTTR at the library sale.

 

Stay away from the computer. We have used it a lot in the past. But, really it can take so much out of our day. I am purposely returning to real books like MUS instead of Teaching Textbooks.

 

Reusable programs and make them work for the next child. Stop trying to buy the perfect thing. They pretty much all teach the same thing.

 

If you move, check the library system first. A good library is worth it's weight in gold.

 

Paper and pencils and copy work and written narrations are very simple and amazing tools. You can buy 5 different language arts programs this year. Or you can really focus on the process and progression of oral narration to written work.

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Before your school year begins:

 

- Purge. I know that most read this and think that they don't really have much or it won't matter. It will. Box up, sell, or donate items that are not used on a regular basis. Go from room to room and determine what is excess or sitting around for "maybe used in the future". Eliminating or putting away (in garage, basement, attic, etc.) will reduce the amount of housework needed to keep your house clean and looking clean.

 

- Reduce clothing. Seasonal clothes should be put away until the appropriate season. Make sure that young children cannot get into them. Label properly with season and sizes. Old clothes that are stained or torn should be trashed. Save perhaps an outfit such as that for messy crafts or yard work. Clothes that are too small should be donated or sold. If waiting to use as a hand-me-down, put it away and properly label. Clothes that are overly big should also be stored away with proper label. The reason is that this will reduce your laundry and excess mess. If left in drawers or in closet, they are bound to fall on the floor and end up in the laundry room. It keeps things looking cleaner with less laundry work. I know this because my children always came out with a bunch of laundry every time they cleaned their rooms; most of it was clean. Also, be sure sheets and bedding are put up so that children don't drag them down on a whim. Make sure they ask before using. It will reduce laundry.

 

- Begin now with setting a consistent bathtime, bedtime, and wake-up time. If you establish a set time for bed and waking (bath so that it doesn't interfere with bedtime), the rest often falls into alignment.

 

- Sit down and make out two months worth of menus. Be sure to include family favorites, which can be repeated. Pull out or print recipes. Don't be overly ambitious - just items you would normally have. Put the menus and recipes together in a book. Each week (I can only do weekly as we can't store enough for two weeks), choose five (or six/seven) menus. Shop for those items. Throughout the week when schooling you won't have to wonder what is for dinner. You can choose what to cook on each day, but you know that you have those five or more meals in the house.

 

- Chores. Have children get up at their designated time. Give them one hour before school. During this time they can eat, dress, and do a chore. During this time you can do a chore as well or check your emails (or forum). Do school after that hour. When they take a break for lunch or recess, throw in a load of laundry and check your email or forums. Resume at the scheduled time. When school is finished, have the children do a quick chore. You can check your email or forum post real quick. Get dinner going, run some more laundry, pick up the house, etc. After their baths and bed, do whatever else you feel needs to be done. Take a shower. Go check your internet items. Grade papers if needed and get to bed at a reasonable time. Remembering that checking email and forum is just that. Post and write as you wish but don't linger.

 

Just have to see what will work for you and your family. The purging of house and clothing really made a huge difference for me.

 

Edited to add: I also don't accept phone calls during school. There is a machine or friends text. My husband texts me. If it was an emergency, they would let me know. I really don't have time nor do I want to chat during school time. If there are neighbor children who interrupt classtime, put a note on the door explaining that the children cannot play until X time. Appointments and library events or such do happen. Typically I know in advance and schedule around them.

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1. Daily routine. Call it scheduling school time, whatever. But for the most part, we stick to a routine. And yes, we almost always stay in track academicly and keep up the house too.

 

2. Once materials are bought for the year, they are used. If it really just cannot be used, then I'll make do with something at hand, but I don't drop and buy something else. Part of this is simply required do to limits of finance. But curriculum hoping is time consuming and often doesn't net progression academicly. It might even cause regression. Math was the major painful lesson in that department.

 

3. Limit screen time. It's rare for the kids to have screens on during a school day. Usually it's family stuff after dinner.

 

4. Say no to people. There is only so much of me to go around. Yes. I know. Everyone is busy. I don't think that is to anyone's credit though. Being busy is not a virtue in and of itself. Especially if the price of being busy is we don't manage to have time for our greatest priorities. Make sure your time reflects your priorities.

 

 

I've been at it for 17/18 year (lost count after 10), and I absolutely agree with everything Martha said.

 

Consistency. Also, have some fun. It is okay to take a day off every once in awhile. I remember occasionally making hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and then reading most of the day to the girls or going outside for nature studies and play. But it always comes back to the 4 points Martha makes.

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Know what you're going to have for dinner by 10 am.

 

Don't get sucked into chores 'just because you're home" actually, don't get sucked into ANYTHING 'just because you're home'. School time is school time. Treat it like a job.

 

New curriculum comes out every year, that doesn't mean you need to buy it.

 

Martha's #2--a resounding YES.

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I am SO happy to read these lists! I had never thought about how much effort clothing takes in our home, and growing up in So Cal I never grew up with "seasonal clothes". Though we've lived in Colorado 16 years, I never gave a thought to putting up winter clothes or summer clothes and narrowing chocies in the closet!

 

Duh!!!

 

Thanks for the great tips, keep 'em coming!

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Make your own planner with (this is the biggie) a place for the kids to check off what they have done. Then, when you DO have to deal with a crisis (the cows are on the road, you have a set of twin lambs) you can say, "Do the next thing".

 

Realize that a little bit, every day, adds up.

 

Write down every book your kids have read--before high school if you can, but you WILL need that list for high school.

 

Start a music rep list at least by 8th grade. You will need it if you have a music major kid. It is a PAIN to try to recreate one from stacks of programs.

 

 

Don't carry your main to-do calendar. Always be able to say, "I don't have my calendar with me. I'll have to check and get back with you." It's SO much easier to say no on the phone or in an email when you realize that that week is insane.

 

 

Planners: At our house we have two - one for the kids to tell the assignments and check off, the other for me to write down what *I* actually did. Honestly? The second one is just an "encouragement journal" of sorts. Plus? The little kids lose their Excel sheets all the time. The high schoolers get real planners and write down assignments AS THEY ARE DONE. They use the Excel sheets to see their assignments.

 

You're right - every little bit adds up. I encourage new homeschoolers to keep a journal or a short log. Because on those days when you are CERTAIN you have failed your kids (and you WILL have them) you can pull it out and remember when Junior struggled with X and hey! He doesn't anymore. This is so important.

 

The list of reads - Good Reads is AWESOME for this. We can keep books, opinions, date read, pages, etc all on there. I highly suggest every up and coming freshman get a GoodReads account.

 

Music rep list? What is this? I have a girl who I was CERTAIN was a Lit major and she's changing plans on me....

 

 

LOVE the calendar reply. Making a mental note of this to use.

 

 

1. Daily routine. Call it scheduling school time, whatever. But for the most part, we stick to a routine. And yes, we almost always stay in track academicly and keep up the house too.

 

2. Once materials are bought for the year, they are used. If it really just cannot be used, then I'll make do with something at hand, but I don't drop and buy something else. Part of this is simply required do to limits of finance. But curriculum hoping is time consuming and often doesn't net progression academicly. It might even cause regression. Math was the major painful lesson in that department.

 

3. Limit screen time. It's rare for the kids to have screens on during a school day. Usually it's family stuff after dinner.

 

4. Say no to people. There is only so much of me to go around. Yes. I know. Everyone is busy. I don't think that is to anyone's credit though. Being busy is not a virtue in and of itself. Especially if the price of being busy is we don't manage to have time for our greatest priorities. Make sure your time reflects your priorities.

 

We do #1, and #3 well.

I work hard at #4.

 

I am adding #2 to my goals. I'm starting to realize keeping it simple (i.e., NOT trying to do two programs, not switching, not using what I found for $5 at a curriculum sale instead of sticking with the same L.A. program all the way through is costly in the long run and not just in terms of $$.)

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Know what you're going to have for dinner by 10 am.

 

Don't get sucked into chores 'just because you're home" actually, don't get sucked into ANYTHING 'just because you're home'. School time is school time. Treat it like a job.

 

New curriculum comes out every year, that doesn't mean you need to buy it.

 

Martha's #2--a resounding YES.

 

 

Oh. My. Goodness! YESSSSS to #1. You have NO idea how much stress this will remove from your life. And might I add shop with a list so you know you can make complete meals? There is nothing so frustrating as running to the store at 4:30 in the afternoon (again) so you can make supper. It really makes you harried before DH comes home and makes him think you spent your whole day frustrated, lol, instead of just the last hour.

 

#2 was what I learned this year.

 

#3 I'm considering printing out and pasting to my computer, my mirror, and my forehead.

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I love reading all of helpful tips from others!  Some things that have helped tremendously over the years are:

1. Have a timer and use it. A portable one works best. It can be used for everything from "beat the clock" to teaching littles to work independently on their math. It mostly helps me keep track of my time when I go to do a chore or two.

2. Like Martha, we use the curriculum we buy. Since I love all kinds of books and curriculum this is a hard one for me. I always ask my dh to ask me how and when I'm going to use a new piece of curriculum before I buy it. Having to think this through before buying something, has cut way down on buyer's remorse and things just sitting on the shelf.

3. I try to make and return phone calls and emails during only one part of the day so that schooling isn't interrupted, or I get too distracted.

4. For the past few years, I've scheduled all of my yearly medical appointments during June or July. It's easier to get an appointment and doesn't add to our schedule while we're schooling.

Edited by Artichoke
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This has been a great read. For us...

 

A) a school routine is key. I am trying to be as consistent as possible to making this happen 4-days per week. We have one long 5-hour nature class that we absolutey adore that takes the 5th day of the week. This year I plan to schedule time off differently. Leaning towards 5/6- weeks on with 1- week off for planning, deep cleaning, and an extra special field trip.

 

B) menu planning and making it to the grocery store. Honestly when this happens everything runs very smoothly, even if things come up.

 

C) quiet time each day.

 

D) stop reading about every curriculum under the sun and stick with what I already fell in love with and chose. Also, this same thing applies to booklists. Just make a list and read the books already!

 

E ) end and begin the school time with something fun. We start with art every day (yes, everyday) and end with interest led topics. I sprinkle in lots of reading aloud. Then all the rest seems like not much!

 

F) saying no. Took awhile, but it has been a breath off fresh air to say no and put what we need/want front and center.

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Daily routine is huge. I deviate from it quite a bit, as I have a part time job, but we need routine to have something to deviate from. Also, I need to stay inspired and motivated. This board and different books help in that department. Also, keeping it fun! Fun for everyone. Lighthearted jokes, ect. Sometimes before I have a busy day I make a schedule for every single thing I will need to do so that I know if I really can do everything, or if something has to change. I don't set myself up for failure. If I write out a schedule for the whole day and there isn't leeway to go to the bathroom or eat my own lunch, then something has to be chopped.

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I think having a rhythm has helped me the most and when we get off of it- we all really feel it! We have a large family with many young children and I have never been able to get school done from 8-12 or have set hours like that. Instead we have had morning work and afternoon work. We also have independent work. When subjects are properly placed and everyone knows their routine, we are very productive! *just realized I think we have been homeschooling for 9 years not 10... unless you count preschool. I have basically considered myself homeschooling from birth... but anyway... oldest is a rising eighth grader....*

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Oh. My. Goodness! YESSSSS to #1. You have NO idea how much stress this will remove from your life. And might I add shop with a list so you know you can make complete meals? There is nothing so frustrating as running to the store at 4:30 in the afternoon (again) so you can make supper. It really makes you harried before DH comes home and makes him think you spent your whole day frustrated, lol, instead of just the last hour.

 

#2 was what I learned this year.

 

#3 I'm considering printing out and pasting to my computer, my mirror, and my forehead.

 

 

...In traffic, because school's let out and everyone's hitting the grocery store...CRAZY making.

 

Also, because you're TIRED. You've been schooling all day and you have to then make dinner because the people Want To Eat and having to run out makes me what to throw granola bars at them and call it a day.

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Planning

School- we switched to the 36 week file folder system last year and it was great. Everyone knew what had to be done by the end of the week. School hours were strictly enforced. Plan floating times off for an illness, a crisis, and a few bad days.
Meals-menu plan for at least a [edit] month  week, make the accompanying grocery list, then keep a copy of each. Make another for the next [edit] month week and so on.
Chores-we assign chores for the month and post them on the calender. Daily chores and weekly chores. Chores are done immediately after school.
Activities-make sure they're posted on a large calendar and make your dinner plans accordingly and prep dinner as much as possible before you prep lunch.

Academics

Integrate subjects as much as possible.
If what you do is high quality, you don't have to do as much of it.
Master it before you move on-it pays far better dividends than limping along to the next level because the schedule gods decreed it.

General

Declutter like your sanity depends on it-it does.
Don't move on to the next task until the one you're working on is done. There are a few exceptions to this, but they're rare. It can wait. So can your kids most of the time. Having one completed task i. more satisfying than having three partially done tasks.
Limit your own computer time. Don't get sucked into endless discussions. Make your post and say your peace. Go back once or on rare occasion, twice to clarify and then move on.
Be professional-this is your career. Managing a household and a homeschool requires management skills-learn some.
Don't believe in the perfect curriculum-it doesn't exist. What works for one family isn't going to work for another. Be prepared for the possibility that a crisis could mean having to change your preferred approach to homeschooling. This is not failure-it's adapting to reality.

Miscellaneous

Either teach your kids to do their own laundry or try a laundry day where everyone helps sort then drops what they're doing and helps put everything away as soon as the drier buzzer goes off all day long until every last bit of laundry is done and put away. Make a crock pot dinner and have sandwiches for lunch.
Read threads or other writings about homeschooling through a crisis. It will make the ones you face go smoother.


My 15 and 17 year olds start community college in the fall and I'll be homeschooling my youngest who is 7. It's been 13 years of homeschooling and it's been good and challenging. It's easier if you keep your priorities in line and your life in order.

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Oh my, I've been homeschooling for about 10 years!

 

Biggest lesson I've learned so far is that falling behind in math not only slows math but it also hurts their advance in science in the high school years. I think if my younger ones have trouble with math I'll cut out history or literature to work more on it... those subjects are content based and don't need to build like math, grammar, and writing. So prioritizing the things we work on, not for deciding what to do but for what can be dropped if more time is needed to work on high priority subject.

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This year I started a weekly working date with my husband. Every Saturday morning, super early, we go to Starbucks for a few hours together and my husband works on his stuff and I plan my week of homeschooling and family scheduling and my private tutoring sessions. It's fabulous. Definitely one habit that I'm going to keep- and because we only drink black coffee it's a relatively cheap date.

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I've always worked and homeschooled, so juggling it all is a perpetual motion machine. Thirteen years now, almost 75% completed.

 

The two biggies would be to develop routines and to inch your children toward independence. The reality is that times of crises will come, and you may have less and less of your time to homeschool as your family grows, gets older, etc. etc. If you don't have a "machine" in place as you go along, it is much harder to keep going IMHO. Mine now do their own planners and pretty much manage their own schooling other than spot checks and times when I grade their work.

 

When they were younger, I had a particular time after lunch that I did errands with them in tow. Then their schooling got longer, and I shifted my errands to when DH got home and weekends. Now that I'm sure that they can stay behind and do their work, I can do a few errands when it fits my schedule.

 

We do as many medical and dental appointments as we can during the summer so that it doesn't interfere with the main school year.

 

I also subscribe to a grocery shopping service where I order online and then just go to the drive-thru to pick them up. That saves so much time, and I plan my menus around their specials. In the long run, I'm convinced that doing that saves us money because I build my list all week and don't have any impulse items.

 

We do some chores during the week, but Saturday is our big cleaning day.

 

The best advice I ever got was to embrace homeschooling as your focus. Everything else has to be weighed against that. With that reality, there are some things that you just can't do.

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Say no to people. There is only so much of me to go around. Yes. I know. Everyone is busy. I don't think that is to anyone's credit though. Being busy is not a virtue in and of itself. Especially if the price of being busy is we don't manage to have time for our greatest priorities. Make sure your time reflects your priorities.

 

Martha, thanks for this. We recently moved. In our new church there are several families that homeschool (unschool, actually). I've been surprised at the expectation to go here and go there and do this and that. While I appreciate being invited and included, I usually say, "I'll have to check with our calendar." And, of course, I've intentionally left the calendar at home! :)

 

If we were to take off one day each week for "Ladies' Bible Study" and another for Co-Op and another for Park Day and another for "hanging out" and another for a field trip to Walmart, ;) then when would we get our school work and housework done?

 

Thank you for the reminder to make sure my time reflects my priorities.

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This year I started a weekly working date with my husband. Every Saturday morning, super early, we go to Starbucks for a few hours together and my husband works on his stuff and I plan my week of homeschooling and family scheduling and my private tutoring sessions. It's fabulous. Definitely one habit that I'm going to keep- and because we only drink black coffee it's a relatively cheap date.

 

We have the same cheap date! Though I can't plan there, I need piles of the books around me for that, but still, if you're drinking just black, it's cheap!

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A few small things that would contribute to sanity?

 

Hmmm...the idea/attitude that if my kids didn't understand something the first or second time, that we'd come around to it again. I saved us much angsty angst and worry if I would take a deep breath, let the kids sleep on it and try again the next day.

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I hs'ed from 1988 until early last sometime last year (?). 6 kids: oldest was ps'ed, other 5 were hs'ed K-12.

 

 

General routines, allowing for interruptions and sidetracking when I began feeling like I needed a break. I think this is why we never suffered from burnout. But along with this I also never adhered to the traditional timelines like 'done with high school by 17-18yo, start college at 18-19yo, finish by 22yo, etc.'.

 

Staying home. I had to stay home and just do school with them.

 

Making sure the dc had free time to pursue their own interests every day - at home. Necessary to balance out the hard work I made them do in their schooling.

 

Cutting out all distractions, whether they came in the form of outside activities or draining people. I was ruthless here and have no regrets whatsoever about it.

 

Realizing that each child was not just an intellect. I thought of them as needing training in 4 areas - physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional - and worked on each area with each kid.

 

Physical work. In whatever form was available. Every day. Chores, raising various animals, gardening, helping neighbors, house and property maintenance, jogging, walking, biking, swimming, hiking ........

 

 

Kathy, in the above post do you mean you have no regrets about not doing regular outside activities? This is something I am trying to come to terms with as it is just not possible during this phase of life (and I'm not sure if it will ever be possible). It's encouraging to hear you have no regrets about that, if that's what you meant.

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1. Don't compare your kids and your homeschool to other people's. This either leaves me prideful or discouraged.

 

2. Stay home. My family can't do well at our homeschooling with a million other activities and commitments.

 

3. It's okay if each year looks different. That's pretty normal.

 

4. It;s okay if your kids are not working at genius or advanced levels as long as they are doing well and challenging themselves academically.

 

5. Treat homeschooling like it was a paid job. You may have the flexibility in the workplace to take off a day here and there, but at some point you do have to work. Homeschooling is the same. Be flexible enough to enjoy it, but remember that you are ultimately doing very important work that can't always be put off.

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Great suggestions so far!

 

I have found our best years to be those where we stuck to a weekly schedule, meaning, for instance, that TOG Week 20 did not spill over into TOG Week 21. :mellow: Too many times, I would let things last longer than they should b/c there was more I wanted to do, but when I forced myself to stick to schedule, we burned out less and got more done. It's OK to not get every "extra" done.

 

Another thing is to avoid the temptation to try everything that is new. This came up between me and dh this week, wrt ds who is a rising junior. I was rethinking the approach I took to some things with dd (who just graduated and attending college in the fall), and dh stopped me and said I needed to consider whether or not what I had done had resulted in her getting accepted into the universities she wanted (it did, with no problems). It's so tempting to tweak and reconsider, but the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it philosophy is valid! I'm not talking about things that were disastrous (in our house, chemistry -- going a completely different route this fall), but things that were fine but could be different (for example, dd took SAT subject tests, but no AP's - that was the specific choice I was rethinking). Hope that makes sense.

 

All of that goes along with the idea that the curriculum we have, we use. I, too, made the mistake a few times of curriculum hopping with a particular subject in a single year, and it felt disjointed and made everyone frustrated.

 

Planners for EVERYONE! I have a master planner, and the kids each have their own. I wish I had started this earlier with my oldest dd, but at least now I have everyone on board. It avoids many of the "discussions" where the kids want to claim they weren't told to do something if it is written in their planner in their hand. It also helps them know when they are done, and it keeps me from allowing more and more things to get added to an already adequate schedule. :o

 

Meal planning - as others have said, that is HUGE. As I have gotten more disciplined with this, I have realized that without our crockpot, we might not eat! Also, keeping lunches simple has helped our day. The best days are those when the kids fix their own lunch, whether that means leftovers or sandwiches or something simple and microwaveable. Easier for me, and good life skills and responsibility for them.

 

Keeping up with my own planning/scheduling/grading. Some years I have diligently prepared on Sunday night for the week ahead, and other years I have tried to wing it. Obviously, one approach is better! That also means for me that I have come to recognize that not EVERYTHING needs to be checked. Seriously. If a math page gets missed, but the quiz/test scores are still strong, it's not the end of the world.

 

Great thread! Thanks to everyone who has posted!

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I'll chime in, even though I only have three kids, and this is only my eighth year. I'll tell you what experience has taught me.

 

1. Research classes and curriculum in spring, finish in early summer. Avoid changing programs unless disaster strikes. This has only happened to me three times, and two of those were first grade with a child who turns out to be "sort of dyslexic"-math and spelling had to be scrapped mid-year and replaced. The third was a science program that I had not fully researched and turned out to be all wrong for my young scientist.

 

2. As your child gets older, challenge him or her with greater responsibility for organizing all the school materials and managing her time. My failure to do this with a child really caused him a rough start when he went to high school, but YMMV. We aren't the most organized bunch here.

 

3. Routine and a home school space are very, very helpful.

 

4. Be very wary of overcommitment, for yourself or your child. Because I have a half-time job, I've almost totally avoided volunteering to organize field trips, run co-ops, or allow too many activities for my kids. This year for the first time, I'll do a bit of the above, but I'm only teaching one child and one is not even at home any more. IMO, I'm doing an important job and it has to be top priority if I want my students to value their own education.

 

5. Make real work, at home or paid, a part of your program. This work has such value for the child-in terms of simply learning how to take care of himself, as a means of making some money while still at home, and getting real world experience.

 

6. Seek out good mentors for your older children. We have been incredibly fortunate to have some of these people in my boys' lives. One was an employer, one a martial arts teacher. I know better now when looking for jobs or extracurricular activities these relationships are really rare and valuable and I take that into account. Of course there is family, extended family, our religious and neighborhood communities, but because our families are not geographically close, their influence has been unfortunately more limited than we'd like. Some of these other mentors have filled those roles.

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Mom of soon-to-be large family, who will eventually have students from pre-K to high school at once -- thanks for this thread!

 

You can do this! :) At one point, I had kids in pre-K, elementary, middle school, and high school simultaneously. It certainly has its own challenges to have kids spread over a broad age range, but it is surprisingly doable. I tried not to think about it too much until I actually arrived at that stage; a thread like this is a great thing to have to help you tackle your days!

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1. Six weeks on, a week off. This has been essential for my sanity. On the off week I can catch up on appointments, house cleaning, whatever, but mostly just take a break.

 

2. School hours. Not planning music lessons or volunteering for things during the day. Not checking email or answering the phone. Along with this is no screens for kids during school hours.

 

3. Seeing myself as a professional. This has been harder, and may sound weird. But at one point I realized that if I wasn't teaching my kids, whoever was would be making money doing it, and would be seen as a professional. I try to engage in professional development, reading and learning more about teaching or specific subjects or methods. This helps me to stick to #2 also, I can without guilt say to my neighbor who shows up at 1:30 to chat, "I'm sorry, I can't talk now, I'm teaching."

 

4. Stick to the plan and the schedule. Unless something is counter-productive, just keep plugging away. Also planning from early spring to early summer and then taking a total break for a month, not doing any school work or planning.

 

5. Plan with room to move things around, because things will change.

 

6. Learning that tools that help me to be a better teacher are better than the best curriculum. An imperfect curriculum taught by a good teacher is much better than a "perfect" curriculum taught imperfectly or not at all. A good teacher who knows her subject well can teach from a white board better than the "best" curriculum.

 

7. Keep up with correcting work or checking on work daily.

 

8. If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, I would have had a much stricter routine, but with less subjects. The way I'm teaching my youngest that is different from my oldest is I am holding her to a higher standard, but with fewer things. I'm not trying to teach her all about the different types of landforms, for example, but I am insisting that she learn cursive well and efficiently. Do it right or do it over, but with fewer things. I think with my oldest, I tried to do too much too fast and a lot of it didn't get done very well.

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This year I started a weekly working date with my husband. Every Saturday morning, super early, we go to Starbucks for a few hours together and my husband works on his stuff and I plan my week of homeschooling and family scheduling and my private tutoring sessions. It's fabulous. Definitely one habit that I'm going to keep- and because we only drink black coffee it's a relatively cheap date.

 

 

I would LOVE to do this! But, alas we are down to our youngest two at home. They will be 12 and I guess we "could" leave them home for an hour or two but I'm not there yet:(

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1. Six weeks on, a week off. This has been essential for my sanity. On the off week I can catch up on appointments, house cleaning, whatever, but mostly just take a break.

 

2. School hours. Not planning music lessons or volunteering for things during the day. Not checking email or answering the phone. Along with this is no screens for kids during school hours.

 

3. Seeing myself as a professional. This has been harder, and may sound weird. But at one point I realized that if I wasn't teaching my kids, whoever was would be making money doing it, and would be seen as a professional. I try to engage in professional development, reading and learning more about teaching or specific subjects or methods. This helps me to stick to #2 also, I can without guilt say to my neighbor who shows up at 1:30 to chat, "I'm sorry, I can't talk now, I'm teaching."

 

4. Stick to the plan and the schedule. Unless something is counter-productive, just keep plugging away. Also planning from early spring to early summer and then taking a total break for a month, not doing any school work or planning.

 

5. Plan with room to move things around, because things will change.

 

6. Learning that tools that help me to be a better teacher are better than the best curriculum. An imperfect curriculum taught by a good teacher is much better than a "perfect" curriculum taught imperfectly or not at all. A good teacher who knows her subject well can teach from a white board better than the "best" curriculum.

 

7. Keep up with correcting work or checking on work daily.

 

8. If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, I would have had a much stricter routine, but with less subjects. The way I'm teaching my youngest that is different from my oldest is I am holding her to a higher standard, but with fewer things. I'm not trying to teach her all about the different types of landforms, for example, but I am insisting that she learn cursive well and efficiently. Do it right or do it over, but with fewer things. I think with my oldest, I tried to do too much too fast and a lot of it didn't get done very well.

 

#1 YES!!!!

 

It's natural that at about week 4, people start to slow down. Week five you drag them through by the ear just because you get to take week 6 off.

 

#2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 YES! What a fantastic post.

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1. Six weeks on, a week off. This has been essential for my sanity. On the off week I can catch up on appointments, house cleaning, whatever, but mostly just take a break.

 

2. School hours. Not planning music lessons or volunteering for things during the day. Not checking email or answering the phone. Along with this is no screens for kids during school hours.

 

3. Seeing myself as a professional. This has been harder, and may sound weird. But at one point I realized that if I wasn't teaching my kids, whoever was would be making money doing it, and would be seen as a professional. I try to engage in professional development, reading and learning more about teaching or specific subjects or methods. This helps me to stick to #2 also, I can without guilt say to my neighbor who shows up at 1:30 to chat, "I'm sorry, I can't talk now, I'm teaching."

 

4. Stick to the plan and the schedule. Unless something is counter-productive, just keep plugging away. Also planning from early spring to early summer and then taking a total break for a month, not doing any school work or planning.

 

5. Plan with room to move things around, because things will change.

 

6. Learning that tools that help me to be a better teacher are better than the best curriculum. An imperfect curriculum taught by a good teacher is much better than a "perfect" curriculum taught imperfectly or not at all. A good teacher who knows her subject well can teach from a white board better than the "best" curriculum.

 

7. Keep up with correcting work or checking on work daily.

 

8. If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, I would have had a much stricter routine, but with less subjects. The way I'm teaching my youngest that is different from my oldest is I am holding her to a higher standard, but with fewer things. I'm not trying to teach her all about the different types of landforms, for example, but I am insisting that she learn cursive well and efficiently. Do it right or do it over, but with fewer things. I think with my oldest, I tried to do too much too fast and a lot of it didn't get done very well.

 

 

#8 is good to hear. That is my goal for the Fall.

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Martha, thanks for this. We recently moved. In our new church there are several families that homeschool (unschool, actually). I've been surprised at the expectation to go here and go there and do this and that. While I appreciate being invited and included, I usually say, "I'll have to check with our calendar." And, of course, I've intentionally left the calendar at home! :)

If we were to take off one day each week for "Ladies' Bible Study" and another for Co-Op and another for Park Day and another for "hanging out" and another for a field trip to Walmart, ;) then when would we get our school work and housework done?

Thank you for the reminder to make sure my time reflects my priorities.

 

 

Ugh. Everyone thinks their thing is the thing you should do "just once a week/month". Just like everyone thinks their thing is only "$5-$25". Yeah and added up, suddenly we're broke and not getting school work done.

 

I'll add/repeat another:

 

Treat it like a job you need to keep and want to keep. If I'd do it to earn a paycheck, I should be willing to do it for my kids or dh.

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contribute to a FEW things that have most helped your homeschooling. I'm curious. I was speaking to another vet this morning and we were talking about the few small things that contribute to sanity. (We're also big family mamas so it may be different.) But I am in the throes of school planning and my curiousity is piqued.

 

While it has looked different as the kids have grown and I've added (and now subtract) kids from our homeschooling, these things have been huge to a successful year:

  • Start early and on time every morning. We start school at 8:00. That means breakfast, chores, morning maintenance is done.

 

  • Start the morning with family Bible time. Again, this partially serves to hold us accountable to our start time and get everyone together at 8:00. But over the years, the time we've spent in Bible study, scripture memory, sometimes singing, praying together and then making any family announcements, organization or decisions has been huge. First thing Bible is a tithe of our time, in a way, and gets our focus where it needs to be.

 

  • Easy, fend-for-yourself breakfast. Nearly every morning, we have very easy breakfasts of either oatmeal, toast, cereal, or possibly made ahead muffins or bread. I do not cook hot breakfasts on weekday mornings.

 

  • Routine for the littles. Wandering littles are not conducive to my teaching. If I take the time to organize some independent seat work, hands-on manipulatives & file folder games or train my olders to take a turn doing something constructive with the littles (now youngers), I can really concentrate during my one-on-one time with the olders. The time invested in teaching the olders to help and the youngers to receive the help is worth it.

 

  • A stache of chocolate, a fragrant candle and some classical music. These three get me going and keep me going.

 

  • A weekly menu plan (including available lunches).

 

  • My binder: Contains among other things each child's yearly schedule*, syllabi for any outside classes [w/ teacher contact, deadlines, books], each child's reading log, my reading log, volunteer logs, various school helps I've collected over the years, compiled memory work, most recent transcripts for my high schoolers, and previous years' curriculum/classes.

 

  • Saturday house cleaning. Deep cleaning like bathrooms, floors, dusting, mowing, lawn stuff. Weekly cleaning is really just light maintenance.

 

*The schedule is really a list of classes with curriculum and books used, teacher contact, credit earned, college credit earned, outside tests taken (SAT, AP, CLEP, National Latin Exam), volunteer work, jobs, extracurricular, awards or contests. These yearly schedules not only help me organize the school year in the preceding summer (and get a good look at what the year may look like for each child), but are huge resources for college admissions, scholarships, etc.

 

Lisa

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What a great thread! I am still learning after 18 years of homeschooling.

May I humbly suggest for older students utilizing weekend free time and evenings wisely.
My kids wanted to participate in co-op which removes one day of school. High schoolers need to work on some subjects daily. Skipping math one day a week puts them behind quickly. Lots of students hold part time jobs and have other outside activities. We use free time on weekends to catch up or stay on track regarding reading assignments, edits/corrections, tests missed, research, etc. I have seen this as a life skill my older kids have appreciated when they moved on to college and jobs.

Lots of encouragement: Don't assume your kids know you think they are great. Tell them! Andrew Pudewa once said when editing writing assignments, always give a positive comment for each correction marked in the paper. Quite a challenge, but oh so encouraging!

Have your kids help with cooking: I usually have a sous chef in the kitchen at dinner. One teen is considering a career in culinary arts.

Laundry: All my people do their own laundry and have for years. My daughter-in-law has thanked me several times that my son knows how to cook, clean, and do laundry. He still doesn't put the seat down, though.....

 

How could I forget to set aside some time for yourself? Years ago, I joined a gym. I went when the littles napped. Eventually, we turned our FROG (finished room over the garage) into a workout room. My kids know someone better be bleeding before they come interrupt mom when she is upstairs =)

 

I also searched out other moms of high schoolers to have weekly coffee/fellowship with. Though some have come and gone, one gal and I have met for the last 3 years!

Shalom,
Teresa

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AMDG

 

I've read many of the ideas (and learned some new ones to try!) but haven't read them all. I don't think anyone mentioned this one and I think it's so important that I may even put it in a separate thread so ppl who have stopped reading this one will see it. Ready?

 

Girls do NOT begin to experience the hormonal roller coaster (and attendant craziness) at menarche. It starts, or at least in our case it started, much earlier. I really wish I had had a heads up about that. So I think the thing to know is that a few vague memories from way back when might let you down when you're not expecting those little ovaries to start firing.

 

Also, I strongly recommend *NOT* going to homeschool conferences. Skip them altogether. Veteran friends, acquaintances, acquaintances of friends, friends of acquaintances, acquaintances of acquaintances are the resource you need. No matter how shy or introverted you are, this is far better. They know the real ins and outs of the curriculum **in real world scenarios with real world kids.** They don't have a vested interest, usually, in getting you to buy some slick program. They can tell you what works with what kind of kid and give you the work arounds we know we need. Homeschool conferences make you doubt. Skip them.

 

Come up with a phrase you can use when people accost you/question you/quiz your kids/et c. You think you have this handled and you probably do but they never, ever, approach you when you're ready, all your children are well behaved and well, and everyone remembers every multiple of every number. Come up with your phrase/answer and practice so when they approach you, your screaming toddler, vomiting kid, whatever, you can whip out the old stand by without having to think about it.

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You can't sacrifice yourself on the altar of providing a good education for your dc. Figure out what YOU need to maintain good physical and mental health, and then make it happen. If that means school starts an hour later so you can exercise first thing, then that's what happens. If that means your dc can't be in all of the activities they did last year, so be it. If you aren't at your best, everyone suffers.

 

Have a regular routine to follow. Start the day with the dc the same way every day, if at all possible. When everyone knows what to expect, they get better and faster at it.

 

Require everyone to help with clean-up at the end of the meal/activity/day. You didn't make all the mess, and you shouldn't be the only one who puts things where they belong.

 

 

 

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