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I'm all about keeping homeschool simple.
Well, I should say, I am NOW all about keeping homeschool simple.
When I first started many moons ago, I pretty much made it as complicated as can be. Unfortunately, that seems to be my natural inclination.
I plan, plan, plan some more, and then over-plan on top of that. I dream big, plan big, and then fail big.
I'll get exhausted from planning, preparing, buying the materials, prepping and organizing them that when it comes to Get-It-Done-Day I'm tapped out and taking a nap. For a month.
Then I feel like a failure and the cycle begins again.
No bueno. No bueno at all.
Now, I keep it simple and my life has never been easier and happier. In fact, sometimes it feels too easy and I get that panic feeling deep inside until I remind myself that no... this is right. Let go of that need to try and be all and do all and plan all.
The 12 Ways to Simplify Your Homeschool
I want the same thing for you. Let me share with you 12 simple tips to keep it simple and let go of the homeschool day bloat and planning overwhelm.
1-- Get Real
Don't lie to yourself. Don't self-sabatoge, don't set such ridiculous expectations on yourself that you can't possibly succeed. That's not fair.
Get real. What can you do today? What isn't going to happen? Tackle today and then move on to the next tomorrow.
If you find yourself regularly having to ditch some things it's time to re-evaluate.
- Is there a way to make things easier? Brainstorm some solutions and implement one at a time.
- Is there something that needs to be dropped? Drop it and don't look back.
- Is there something that you need to make sure happens that's not? Look at what's keeping you from accomplishing that item. Try a new approach.
- Is it that you need to prep ahead of time?
- Do you not have money in the budget or time to buy all those little supplies you need (this was me with Unit Studies... good grief, that was a lot of little stuff, feathers, walnut shells, sand shakers??)?
- Do you lack motivation?
- Are you trying to cram too much in one day?
- Are you trying to do it at a time where you're worn out, burnt out, hungry, or tired? Pick a different time to do it at.
- Do you just hate that subject?
- Is there someone else that can help you tackle it?
Take an honest look at your days, evaluate and get real.
Drop the idea that you're going to be Wonder Woman + Mrs Beaver + Mrs Brady + Batman + Albert Einstein + Emily Dickinson + Vermeer + Bach + Inspector Gadget all rolled into one.
I've already filled that position: it's not up for grabs.
I kid, I kid. I know, it wasn't funny. It was a lame joke, but hey, that's what happens when your only audience is a bunch of children who think everything is funny. Your comedy routine suffers.
But at least they think I'm funny. My mom gave up on me years ago.
2-- Focus Up
Sure, you may have found amazing things to do with your kids. Those crafts, those experiments, those projects, those printables, those games, those those those those those... brain explosions.
What is it you want for your child? For yourself? For your home? Really think about it. Drill down to the most important things (use a paper and pen) and cross off those things that would sure be nice, but aren't really fitting in to the main idea.
Whenever you are making a decision about your schedule, curricula, plans, and extras pull out that list. Does it fit the big picture? If so, do it, or plan a time to do it at another date. If not, drop it and don't look back.
DON'T look back.
3-- Stop Looking
We Homeschool Mamas have a major weakness: looking for new things to use to teach our children.
We look at what Suzie, Joanna, Amy, and Trina are doing and what their kids are accomplishing and think... "maybe my kids would do XYZ if they had LMNOP too."
We think to ourselves, "sheesh, they're really struggling with math, what other resources are out there to help me help them?"
This quickly snowballs and all of a sudden we've got a new set of books, several sets of manipulatives, more extras, and a membership to a practice site.
Stick with what you've got. Give it a good solid go for a good length of time. If something is not working, first, look to see how you can use what you have, either in the actual curriculum or with the materials you have laying around your house.
After a good college try (more than a week) with that goodness, if you don't have success, then start to look at other resources.
Just set a limit before you begin to research.
Find a different approach to the problem and use what you have at hand. Don't let curriculum hunting be your hobby.
4-- Keep looking*
Okay, I just said *don't* look for a new curriculum. I may or may not have lied to you.
Well, I didn't really. You do need to stop shopping (I see you clicking around over there).
However, our homeschool life changed when we found a ultra-simple yet ultra-effective curriculum. It fit our lifestyle, it fit my homeschool priorities, it was quality, it was self-teaching, and it was super duper simple.
Like, I can wake up and not have to think about what we're going to do every day. It's just there, ready to go, always.
*If you can find a similar solution for yourself, do it. Otherwise, put the internet away and get back to homeschooling.
5-- Cull Your Schedule
Take an honest look at your schedule. Make it work around your family's natural rhythms and not someone else's.
I love Confessions of a Homeschooler, but I really really can't do their schedule no matter how hard I tried at first. Not that Erica advocates for us to use her schedule. I just really wanted to be her. Or at least have her homeschool.
Set a designated time for your school. How long do you want your day to last?
We use Robinson Curriculum, so we have a very set schedule that really really works for us: 2 hours of math, 1 hour of writing, 2 hours of reading. Then they have the rest of the day for chores, play, and extra learning they're interested in.
This way of doing school has really been freeing for me and the kids. We get our boundaries and our flexibility. We have a routine and schedule without feeling like we're set in cement and dying.
Oh... wait, that's just me.
Find what works for you, then for your kids. Then cull the rest. Keep your schedule simple. Don't over schedule yourself; don't micromanage yourself.
You don't need to assign every minute a task. Especially if you're a person like me that loves the idea of a schedule but dies inside the minute she has to live it. Then you rebel and the guilt/shame cycle renews. But hey, you're free now.
6-- Drop the Excess Planning
You're a planning maniac that has literally turned into a literal maniac. Why are you creating extra work for yourself when all you really need to do is just not... do that?
Can we just take a second to point out how freaky her eyes are? Yikes! Make it stop.
Is what you're using currently helping you or is it causing more stress/anxiety/work? If so, let's find a new method.
Look at #8 and use the same thing for yourself. Find a planner that speaks to you. I've used the Weekly Homeschool Planner with great success.
I love that it is blank, customizable, and there's no distracting colors. I love cute things, but gosh, they clutter my brain fast.
I can change that planner to be anything I want it to be and only print out what I need.
I also write in pencil and use post-its on it so I can move things around without stressing myself out.
Now that I use RC I don't really need this whole planner anymore. I just do our 5 hours, add in a few extras here and there and call it good. It's beautiful and thorough.
7-- Clean it Up
Make your chore time simple. Here's a chart I recently made that we're trying out:
(TC 9yo, LM 8yo, TA 6yo, SC 4yo)
It seems complicated, but it's really not. I've broken up the chores into different times of the day to spread out the workload and have chore time faster. What used to be overwhelming to the kids at the end of the day is now manageable and a lot less painful. It makes for a simpler day because of its ease, speed, and a lot less tantrums (myself included, of course).
Make sure you realize I said we're TRYING it out. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work and we move on. I expended 20 minutes of time making that schedule and hanging it up on the fridge. I didn't even use colored ink.
Ditch the cute checklists, the over-thought, over-complicated ways of giving assignments. Pull out a spiral notebook for each child, write their assignments in it the night before and they check it off as they complete each assignment. They can also retrieve their own materials.
9-- Ditch It
I tried workboxes. I hated them. I felt like it was a ton more work for myself, plus, half of my stuff wouldn't fit in the daggum things. Annoying much?!
If I forgot to fill them, it just ruined my day or delayed my day, which could very well ruin our homeschool day if I let it. Some days, I did let it.
I tried different systems and I found one that semi-worked for us.
I wound up, in the end, just having a magazine holder for each kid and putting their stuff in it. They also had a locker basket with some of their supplies in it. Each was color coordinated to match a child. They grabbed their stuff needed and did what matched their spiral notebook assignments, materials at the ready.
So basically, not workboxes.
If you find that workboxes don't work for you, don't despair. Here's an interesting solution that actually combines the spiral notebooks with the workboxes. I thought you might like it.
Otherwise, find or make up your own solution, or ditch it all together. Some people find workboxes simplify their day, and some don't. No biggie.
You've heard of breakfast stations right? Or making ahead your lunches so they're ready to go? Now, this takes some pre-planning and prep work, but in the thick of the day, it can save your bacon (I totally said that cliche on purpose).
If your baby is extra fussy and needs some lovin', your kids can head to the kitchen and grab their own breakfasts. Then they can get going with their day without waiting for mom to feed them before they starve to death... meanwhile, said baby is breaking the sound barrier with her cries of agony from an unknown origin.
Lunch time rolls around and you're caught up helping a kid with his reading and you don't want to stop the momentum you have to feed the rest of the kids.
Does that sound really mean? Whoops.
They can head to the kitchen, grab the pre-made lunch and wham-o, problem solved. Kids are fed and CPS isn't banging on your door for not feeding your kids lunch at the right time. Not that they do that... but still... you never know nowadays.
Here are some resources you may find helpful:
11-- Create Procedures
Dude, Pam is a genius. She came up with a procedure list idea to plan how to use her various curricula. She takes the resource, lists out the steps to use it and in the order of operation. Now, each time she pulls out that resource she knows exactly what to do without having to re-think the process out each time. What a great use of brain power and time. I'm all about efficiency.
Pam breaks it down even more for you, if you're interested, along with a great example.
12 -- Just the Essentials, Ma'am
Did I say this one already? Whoops. But not really.
What is it you want your children to learn? List them in order of priority. Do the essentials, cut the rest. Or at the very least, keep the non-essentials at a manageable, simplified version.
That's a wrap for our 12 ways to simplify your homeschool day! I would really love two things.
1) For you to pick one of these and use it in your homeschool. Don't let it stress or freak you out, just give it a whirl.
2) I'd absolutely love to hear your ideas on how to simplify your homeschool day. I may be all those amazing people rolled into one (har har), but I still don't know everything. Where I have found to simplify my day, that's great, but there are other areas that probably could use simplifying that I hadn't thought of yet.
Share and share away!!