Friday, October 18, 2013

Top 5 Steps to a Less Stressed Homeschool Life

I've gotten a few comments and emails lately about feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling in addition to, well, the rest of life.  I do think that occasional feelings of too much are normal, this is a pretty huge venture, but I wanted to take a minute to talk about what to do when it's not so occasional.

I've blogged about a lot of these things before, but in seperate posts.  Here are my tried and tested tips, my favorite go to, keep overwhelming-ville at bay ideas.

1. Know what you want your children to accomplish each year.  After I've chosen my curriculum for the year, I sit down with it and decide how to divide it up throughout the year.  What I'm usually looking for is how many times each week we are going to be working on that subject or curriculum. 

This is also when I decide what holidays we want to celebrate or do projects for, how many book reports I want them to do (and when they should be due), and pick any other projects they're going to be working on (currently this last one only applies to my 7th grader).

2. Decide how your children will know what they need to accomplish every day/week to go along with the plans made in step #1.  I make detailed weekly checklists that show every subject and activity they need to get done every day.

The first time I made them I spent a few hours figuratively banging my head against the table trying to figure out exactly what they needed to get done.  And figuring out the formatting so it would all fit.  And making it look nice and organized.  It was very, very worth it. 

My first versions changed A LOT over the first few months, so don't be discouraged if you find that you need to adjust.  In fact, I still make adjustments over the year as we add or take away different activities.

This gives your kids a sense of control over their day and they won't have to ask you over and over again what's next or when they'll be done.  Plus, you'll also know when they're done and you'll know you're making progress toward the goals set in step 1.

3. Be willing to cut things out.  This is very hard for me.  Very, very hard.  As I look through curriculum and read about all the amazing things there are to learn, my step 1 plan is sometimes a little, um, unattainable. 

I need to reassess and reassure myself over what is truly important.  If we're too frustrated, or things are taking too long, I cut back.  I do not have to do as much as anyone else (and neither do you, I promise), only what is best for my family.  As hard as it is to do the initial cut, the relief and peace that follow can be amazing.

4. Give your kids responsibilities both in school and in your home.  I do this in school by giving them their weekly checklists (I also give Makenna some control over what goes on her checklist and how it's formatted) and then letting them choose what order they want to get their work done.  It's interesting to watch them develop their own routines.

For the home, I have chore charts.  They have chores they need to get done every day and every week.  Their assigned chores cover most of the basic picking up and keeping clean in our home.  While it is more of a chore to teach them how to clean correctly at first, the return far (far, far) outweighs any initial frustrations.  It's such a blessing for our home!

I also firmly believe it is good for them.  There are so many fantastic lessons learned from doing chores.  When we all work together, everyone is happier (and chores get done a whole lot faster).  A happy life takes work.  Plain and simple.  They also learn that when you choose to work hard, you often get rewarded (by getting to play with friends and privileges like electronics). 

5. Do what you love.  What is it that you love about homeschooling?  What brings you and your children the most joy?  Make sure you have made time for those things.  Stick them on your schedule so you don't forget to do them and if you're finding that you don't have time, look to step 3 and cut out something that isn't as important. 

There is so much that is good out there.  Good curriculum, activities, projects, extra-curriculars and new things to learn.  There is so much good that it just isn't possible to do it all and you shouldn't try (or feel guilty about it).  After getting the basics (math, language arts, science, history), choose only those things that you and your children love. 

I would love to hear about what tips and tricks you use to feel a little less stressed and overwhelmed, because, well, I still feel that way sometimes too. 


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