After homeschooling for more than 14 years, I have discovered that developing good homeschool habits is one of the keys to a successful year. Here are my hopefully helpful hints:
Have a Start Time
Starting your homeschool day at roughly the same time every day is a very good habit to have. It helps assure that you don’t get distracted with other tasks that will take ‘just a minute’ but wind up derailing your entire day. Having a set start time gives your children a predictable routine, keeping them on schedule in the mornings. Starting at the same time each day also means ending around the same time each day. This will help your homeschool day not run too long and free up your afternoons (or mornings, depending on when your start time is).
We start between 8:00-8:30 every morning. I wake my kids up around 7:00 so they have time to get dressed, make their beds, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, and feed the animals before we sit down and get to work. It’s worked for us all these years! I feel like having them wake up early is also a great life skill and habit to have. I enjoy getting started first thing in the morning and feel like it makes our day so much more productive.
Have a Routine
I’m not a big schedule person when it comes to planning our days. We don’t have blocks of time or time limits or a set order that we do things in. We do have an easy-to-follow routine that keeps on track without making us feel tied down to a rigid schedule. We start school at roughly the same time each morning, work through our subjects, don’t turn on the television or use electronics (unless it’s school-related) until school is over, and pick up our messes as they come.
Our routine does not just cover our homeschool time. The kids know we have a pretty familiar routine each day. Besides waking up and completing our schoolwork, they have daily chores that have to be done. Feeding dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and the rabbit are chores that must be done in the morning. They also have to keep the yard mowed and tidy, check water troughs for the cows and horses, feed the cows in the winter, keep their beds made and rooms tidy, put up clean clothes, and do numerous chores inside the house to help.
In the mornings, I let them know if we have any plans for the day – running to town (it’s a good 15-minute drive from our house), grocery shopping, library trips, or appointments. This gives them a good idea of what to expect for the day. It also keeps me from over-planning or lets me know if we need to move something, like an art project or science experiment, to another day.
Expect Good Work
When your child knows that they are expected to turn it good work, it helps the days to roll more smoothly. Good penmanship, complete sentences, neatly ordered math problems, and well-written papers are to be expected. If work is not done to their best ability, they must redo their work. When your child knows that this is the norm, they will do their best work the first time to save time and hassle!
Every child’s ability varies widely, so you know what to expect from each child. I don’t have the same standard for, say, penmanship for each child because I know that some of my children try to write neatly, and it just isn’t as “neat” as my other children’s writing. But if I know my child is doing their personal best, then that is all that I expect.
If you’re constantly disappointed in the work your child is doing and if you know your child can do better, then I suggest you raise your expectations and let your child know what they will be from now on. I definitely don’t recommend raising the bar too high because that can be frustrating for both of you but assess what your child can and can’t do and set the expectations from there. Your child should produce work that he or she is proud of.
Prioritize Down Time
Having plenty of time to rest and recharge is essential to our homeschool days! Luckily, we are finished by noon or a little after each day, so my kids have plenty of free time. Even if they’re outside feeding animals or doing other chores, they’re in the fresh air and they’re able to think and exercise and move around. Plus, they enjoy all of their outside time! Playing basketball, jumping on the trampoline, running around throwing the football, riding horses, and playing disc golf (a new game Eli got!) are all ways they kids get moving and burn off some energy.
Having plenty of time that isn’t scheduled is very important for children. When they go outside to play, I don’t tell them what to do. I don’t make them do a certain number of exercises or play for a certain amount of time. I provide plenty of opportunities and resources for them to use (frisbees, balls, swing set, trampoline, bikes) and let them decide what to do. Sometimes they’ll run off and build a fort in the woods or work on their chicken pens or try to train one of our dogs. Using their imagination and teaching themself how to do things is all part of learning and growing. It also helps relax their brain from the structured learning they’ve been doing all morning.
The kids love riding on the side by side, even when they’re working while doing it!
I like to have an hour or so in the afternoons where I can sit and read or watch Zeke play outside (without having to be involved). Having time where I don’t have to plan or think or work is necessary for me. When the weather is nice, I can sit outside for hours! I like to take a drink and a snack to the porch or a chair in the yard and just relax. If the weather isn’t nice, I’ll lay on the couch or sit on my bed and sometimes even take a quick nap!
The kids love to deer hunt in the winter and have plenty of time for morning and evening hunts.
Help Around the House
Running a household and homeschooling is not easy. There are always chores to do and messes to clean up and piles to organize. I could not keep my house as clean as it is without my children’s help. I don’t have a set “chore chart” or anything for them, but they know they have morning chores, afternoon chores, and nighttime chores.
I usually dole out chores based on what needs to be done in the moment – washing the dishes, sweeping and mopping, swapping laundry, picking up toys or books, taking out the garbage. I try to give each child one or two things to do at a time. If we each do two chores, then that’s eight things we can get done pretty quickly!
I always a helper willing to help cook breakfast!
I like to go to bed with the kitchen and living areas clean and tidy. It makes me much more likely to make a good breakfast and start my day cheerfully than if I wake up to a messy house and lots of things to do first thing in the morning.
Before you start school in the morning, delegate one or two chores to each child so you’ll start your day with a mostly clean house. When school is over for the day, everyone helps pick up and put the house back in order before dispersing off on their own. Before bed, have everyone assigned one room to tidy up or a specific chore to do before they go to bed. It makes a difference!
What are the homeschool habits that help your day run more smoothly?
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