Tips for Successful Homeschooling from my 20+ Years of Teaching at Home

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Tips for Successful Homeschooling from my 20+ Years of Teaching at Home

Can you believe it? It's already 'back to school' time! After 20 plus years of homeschooling, you can easily guess that I've learned a few things to make the job of home education easier.  I thought this would be a good time to share some tips that have made it possible for me to teach school, keep the house, and function to some degree of normalcy, all without losing my sanity or quitting.  Even if you enroll your children in public school, some of these things will be good to know. :o)

I've been teaching home school workshops for more years than I can count, first for SCCHE Sugar Creek Christian Home Educators, for SETHSA (South East Texas Home School Association) conferences, and for various groups like WHE and CACHE. (Copperfield, Conroe and Willis). Mostly I teach Lesson Planning, Record Keeping, How to teach Reading, Writing, and Math for elementary students, FlyLady, and child training.

That's actually one of the many reasons I started this blog. It was such a lot of work to put together workshops, even though I do have a lot of materials that I've used over the years filed away. Still, it's a lot of gas, time, and sheer energy. With a blog, I can share what I've taught all these years without using so much of the gas and energy, plus I eliminate the the time away from my home and family.
Here are some things that I've learned along the way in my home schooling journey....

First, Just accept that you can't do it all. You won't do it all...and you don't have to. Period.  You don't have to teach every page in the book nor does your child need to finish every worksheet in his/her book. Most textbooks have a lot of review at the beginning and a lot of 'introduction' of next year's concepts at the end. That's a lot of overlap.  Not only that, some children get concepts more easily than others and so don't need as much practice. On the other hand, some may need more practice on a particular concept that what is offered in  the book.  Some lessons are more easily understood than others.  You make the call..don't let the books or your 'pre-conceived' ideas of what everyone else is doing push you around.  If you are doing school every day, you won't 'get behind'. Consistency is the key.

There is no perfect curriculum. 

Any curriculum will 'work' if you are faithful to TEACH it every day and if your child is ready to learn what you are teaching. If you hop from curriculum to curriculum, you will waste a huge amount of money and time.  Don't change courses until the end of the year. Pick something and stick with it. See how it works and what its weaknesses and strengths are. Research and then re-consider your choices at the end of the year if necessary.  

Readiness is critical. If they aren't ready to read or write or whatever, they won't. 

Consistency is the key. (Yes I just said that and it bears repeating.)  Keep presenting the material, perhaps from different angles and  eventually, WHEN THEY ARE READY, they will 'get it'.  Don't worry if they aren't ready yet for the concept that  you are trying to teach. When it's time, just like potty training, learning will happen, whether it's reading, writing, or math concepts. Time is your biggest ally!

Be a loving mommy and wife. Don't let your schedule and expectations spoil your attitude towards your children or husband. 

If you find yourself getting stressed, take a break and/or lower your  expectations. You are not going to teach perfectly and your children aren't going to learn perfectly. You've got tons of time!  When my children were elementary school age and I was having a new baby every other year, I focused on the three R's. I bought good resource books, like the Doring Kindserly books, and science and history books from the public library to leave around the house. It's amazing what the older boys picked up in the afternoons while I cleaned and paid bills.! When my oldest children were tested in science and history at the end of their elementary school years,  we discovered that they were in the 85th percentile! No questions, tests, or formal lesson plans. were used or administered.  They read their science and history textbooks like they would any other book, because they were interesting. And it all stuck. Besides, I knew they would be studying these things in depth for the next six years.  Why worry or get stressed out?

Maintain balance in your life by maintaining reasonable standards in every area of your life including school. Don't sacrifice the rest of your homemaking duties and family relationships for the sake of a 'perfect' education.

 It isn't necessary and you will burn out if you do this.  Instead, simply understand that nothing will get done perfectly, but you can give every area of your life a certain level of care and maintenance.  Your children don't need the 'perfect' education...they need a 'good, strong, foundation in the 3 R's--and they need a loving happy home. You don't want them to 'hate' homeschooling do you? All my kids want to home school their children and that is the greatest tribute to my hard work all these years that I could ever ask for.

Don't Compare Your Kids to Other People's Kids 
This will stress you out to no end and put needless pressure on your and your children! You are who YOU are as a family. Share what you love but don't try to be what others are. Others will be better at some things than you. Other families have different priorities.  Be yourself and let your kids be themselves.  They will excel in what they love and be weak in some areas, just like public schoolers. Yes, you will be able to help them with deficiencies more than could be done in a large group setting, but some things can't be 'taught' away. Some kids are naturally better at math, spelling, art, writing, speaking etc.  So what?  We don't have to be great at everything!  A scientist doesn't have to be good at art and an artist doesn't have to be good at math. A homemaker doesn't have to excel at calculus, and a programmer, doesn't have to be good at creative writing.  Do you understand what I'm trying to say here?

Take Time to Train Your Children--Discipline problems won't just 'go away'. You can't teach disobedient children

Just ask my Aunt Joan. She taught first grade for 20 years. There came a point where teaching simply wasn't possible any more. Children are not being trained in simple obedience and that leads to chaos in the classroom and that is just as true in the home school kitchen!  If children won't sit still, pick up toys, or be quiet, they are not going to do school work either. If they have an attitude issue, they will not be able to able to focus on school. Stop everything and deal with discipline issues in a loving way. Homeschooling is as much or more about character as it is about education. My children have excelled both in school and in jobs more because of their CHARACTER than their EDUCATION.

And Finally...Maintain a Certain Semblance of Order and Routine.  

Start supper first thing in the morning. You will be too tired to cook at the end of the day. Do a load of laundry every day.  Pick up before bed, so the house won't be in total chaos first thing in the morning. A messy house and home schooling is just too discouraging to bear! Make a schedule of what order you are going to clean, teach, cook, etc. and then work on these tasks in that order but don't fret about the exact time everything is done, just the order. Start with the most important things first. Devotions, Dinner, Math, Reading, Writing, and Laundry are essential. Other things can wait.  

PS. Don't forget to HAVE FUN! These years are so sweet, short, and precious. Don't spend them fretting over non-essentials or lack of perfection in some area.

There are so many more things on my mind that I'd love to share, but I don't want this post to get too long. So I will stop for now and if it seems like these tips really help you, I'll do a 'Part II'.  Let me know in the comments what you think...and feel free to email or post any questions you like! I've answered TONS over the years. :o)


Caroline said...

Thanks for posting. Will be "schooling" my goose this year again (he's 4 1/2) and really looking forward to it again. WE haven't decided what to do next year, so I'm really wanting to enjoy this year alot. Keep 'em coming.

Trudy said...

This was awesome, Donna. Please do a Part 2!

Trudy and

Jill said...

This was a wonderful post! I'd love to see a part two. :-)I've always wanted to homeschool, but was hesitant about costs etc. I'd be interested in any helpful info you have to share! I will be schooling my 4 1/2 year old as she has a late birthday. I have to say I noticed and liked your tea set in the background of the one picture. LOL I have an eye for tea sets! Have a wonderful weekend! Great pics they are so adorable!


Ky said...

I'd love to sit with you and over a cuppa pick your brain about training the kids to pick up their things when asked. I get tired of raising my voice after asking numerous times and then having to stand over the 3 year old with a wooden spoon while he reluctantly does what he is told.
Great post Donna...and I just love the white hutch/buffet/display cabinet in the background of a couple of your photos.

Lorraine said...

great post and I am like the previous comment in that some of the time I too have attitude problems from my sons so admire your patience being a home school mum

Maria Killam said...

But it's August, home schooling starts then? You are a dedicated mom! Love this post, my sister will be home schooling her kids when they are old enough so she'll need to be reading your tips on how to do it!
Those children are precious and beautiful!

Melissa said...

Great post Dona, I look forward to any insight you have. Wednesday just turned three but she is so bright, any advantage we can give her whether we school her or trust her to the public school system (We have not decided). So, I'll anticipate a part two as well!

Donna said...

Hi Maria, Public school starts in August, and most moms who plan to home school are making there decisions Now about what to buy and studying there books so they will be ready to teach. There is so much preparation involved!

Frankly, we do school all summer but with lots of interruptions. I have to say though that it amazes me how quickly the public schools start...August 15th around here. I usually wait until Sept.1.

I'll do another post in a couple of days on home schooling. Don't forget everyone about my homeschooling basics list. It's a good one for those parents looking into teaching at home. :o)

Shona Cole said...

this is just what I needed to read today as I am working on our school schedule for the year. I always get nervous at this time cause looking at the books to read this whole year seems like a mountain. but somehow we make it through it all by breaking it down into bits. I need to be reminded every year. Thanks for taking the time Donna :)

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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