I hear your big question, “How do I do school at home?” Before we dive into that, let me welcome you into this experience of learning at home. Perspective is a huge thing. View this as a blessing. Look for all the good that WILL come of it.
You “get” to have a staycation with your kids! You get to see how they are doing in their learning–not just academic learning, but how they are doing with things like developing a love of learning, respect for others, kindness, attentiveness, and more.
This will probably not be the easiest thing you have ever done.
But your family can benefit greatly. Look at this as an opportunity to learn to BE. Be together. Discover new things about your family members. Love on each other. Learn to be patient and kind even when everyone is stressed. (Because that is HARD!)
I have been homeschooling my four-boys since the beginning. My eldest is now in 7th grade. My youngest is in kindergarten. I have homeschooled while working full-time in the Emergency Department, while starting a business from home, while working from home, and with babies/toddlers in the mix. I understand.
Before I tell you how we do school, let me assure you of a few things:
Home is Not School
Even if you are doing online learning through your school, do NOT expect home learning to look like a classroom. It is not. During this time, you are doing school at home regardless, so embrace it. Look for ways to enjoy school and learning.
De-Schooling is a Real Thing
Because your home is not a typical classroom, do not expect your kids to behave like it is. When most families start to homeschool, they go through a process of “deschooling.” This involves learning what it’s like to learn at home. Those who analyze such things say that it takes about one-month of at-home learning to obtain a new normal for each year of schooling the child had. In other words, don’t expect your kids (or yourself!) to adapt overnight. It’s ok.
Make a list early on. What is absolutely essential for your kids to do? Do those things.
For our family this looks like:
1. Memory work
The rest is good and we normally get to it. But those are my top priorities.
Grace can be a tricky concept to grasp. I like to think of it as karma in reverse. Grace is NOT getting what you deserve.
Let go of the mom-guilt. You won’t do everything perfectly. That’s ok. Give yourself grace.
Let go of perfect-kid expectations. They’re new to this. They’re going to push the boundaries to see where the lines actually are and how much they can get away with. Hold firm! But give grace–be kind even when you want to scream. And when you screw up and yell at your kids? Apologize. Forgive yourself.
Mental work requires muscle work. The harder something is, the more movement many kids (all of my boys) will need to do. They’re not at school, so let them move. Let them do math laying down, standing up, bouncing in their seat, wiggling all over. (And, perhaps, driving you crazy.) Let them read upside-down, sprawled over a chair, while walking, and holding the book open with their feet while their hands fidget with slime/Lego/toys.
Reading Builds Relationships
I require my boys to read to each other every day. Reading stories builds bonds. This daily activity improves relationships.
What Our Typical Day Looks Like
This is what our typical day looks like. We did not start out this way. We evolved and figured out what was going to work best for our family. You will too.
Routine Over Schedule
Most of us do better with a routine over a strict schedule. The great news is, while your kids are at home, you can do this! You have no deadlines! Our day now has times, but it evolved into this based on our routines. And, although I have listed times, we are very flexible for all of these times except the 9:00 school start which I am only slightly flexible with.
My kids are independent in the morning. This is because I don’t function in the morning. If we get a late start it’s usually my fault. But they have been trained to do their “morning stuff” independently. They don’t always DO the stuff. But they know how and are capable.
7:00-9:00 “Morning Stuff”
“Morning stuff” not a fancy title. This is the list of items they are required to complete before 9:00 when school starts. They start their “morning stuff” whenever they wake up. We do not use alarm clocks. If they’re actually sleeping (not just faking and reading a book) at 9:00 then I let them sleep. But my latest sleepers are usually up by at least 8:45. (We’ll re-evaluate this when they hit the teenage years.)
- Get dressed
- I try to make sure they put their socks, shirt, and undies in the laundry basket each night. Otherwise, they inevitably wear the same things day after day. But I don’t fight that in the morning. That’s an evening reminder.
- Time Alone with God (Bible and Pray)
- The boys who can read and write have a Time Alone with God journal. This helps them know what to read when they’re starting out. It contains a spot for them to journal something they are thanking God for. They can also write down what they are talking to Jesus about. My 10-year old is still working through the guided TAG Journal for the book of Mark. My 12-year old uses the other version of the TAG Journal.
- Eat breakfast + take vitamins
- Breakfast must include a source of protein. Vitamins are required for every member of the family. Every person in today’s world has gaps in their micronutrients. My kids take a multi-vitamin and omega-3 each morning. (This link and some others are affiliate links; they do not raise your price. Thank you for your support!)
- Chores are assigned about once a year. They keep them and learn to do them well. Chores range from emptying the dishwasher, to taking care of our chickens, to cleaning the bathroom.
9:00 Together Time
This is the start of our school day. We start with the most important priorities. We are always memorizing a verse of the Bible. Sometimes they memorize them quickly, other times it takes weeks. But we are always learning. After the current memory verse, we review previous verses. We’ve been doing this for 8-years, so we have quite a build-up. We review about five verses per day.
Some years we do a Bible study during this time. Sometimes we don’t. This year we are not.
Sing a song. The past two years we have been learning old hymns because we incorporate them into our study of history. The boys don’t necessarily like this part. They prefer when we sing “fun” songs. I highly recommend selecting a memory verse that has a song. Start out with any of Bible verse songs from Slugs and Bugs or The Rizers.
Pray. Sometimes we just talk to God. Sometimes we pray for a specific people group or area of the world. This year we have been learning to open the Bible and learn to pray by using God’s own words. The book Imaginative Prayer is absolutely amazing for teaching your kids to experience prayer. (It’s not weird or New-Age at all, don’t worry.)
My middle schoolers end together time with CNN10. The younger two are dismissed for a snack or can stay for the news. CNN10 is aimed at kids and it is a very good overview of the news. (Yes, I recommend this even for those who do not normally watch CNN.)
10:00 Break and Snack
Honestly, this doesn’t always happen at 10:00. Sometimes we get a late start to our “together time.” (This could be my fault or it could be because a kid didn’t finish their morning stuff on time.) It happens after we pray. If we’re running late, it is 20-minutes. Otherwise, it is 30-minutes.
10:30 School Resumes
This is the time for someone to be working with mom. There is only one of me. Everyone has independent things they can be doing while they wait for their turn. My goal is to have all the one-on-one stuff done before lunch. This means math, spelling, phonics, and language arts. Independent things include math drill, math, foreign language, typing, reading to a sibling, piano, and sometimes science.
My husband is normally home and prepares lunch for us. This is an amazing blessing. When he is not, either one of the boys or I make lunch. It’s simple. Usually sandwiches, a veggie, and a fruit. We often watch Mystery Doug (short, interesting science questions) or listen to the Classics for Kids podcast (classical music) at the start of lunch. Each of these is less then 10-minutes.
1:00 School Resumes
We do our group subjects after lunch. This includes history and science. They also need to finish anything not completed in the morning. My goal is for everyone to be done with school by 2:00. … and it rarely happens. 🙃
Fresh air and sunshine are good! Boredom and a chance to create are also good. If it is safe outside, my kids stay out for 2-hours. This might not be possible for all families. Currently, my kids are “digging a mine.” This means they are digging a hole. They dream about finding some fossils.
The highlight of their day is their screen time. I’m not crazy about this as I see how it impacts attitudes and attention. They play on their Kindles and Xbox. I’ve already told them that April will be a screen-free month. (School subjects still can have screens.) You can read more about how and why we go screen-free here. But essentially, they need to reset their brains. They use this time to learn to play together again.
That’s our typical day. Yours might look something like that. It might look very different. The important thing is that you figure out what works for your family. Use your time together to build each other up. Play together. Read books together. Love.
Here are some of the resources we use and love.
History, Science, Bible
My Father’s World is our core curriculum. We use My Father’s World for our core curriculum. I really love that it has a family cycle. That means that everybody is learning about the same things for history, science, and Bible, but they are doing work at their own level. It is a lifesaver—or maybe a sanity saver.
We love Math-U-See. I chose it for several reasons, but the main one is that it fits all learning styles. The kids watch and listen to the lesson, they build the concepts with the blocks, can read the lesson in the textbook, and have enough worksheets to practice with.
I like All About Spelling because it is direct teaching (explains the rules explicitly), and it is multi-sensory. The tactile learning portion is very valuable for those who are not naturally good spellers. Learning the rules of our crazy English language has helped ME even as I taught my kids. I also appreciate that it focuses on HOW to spell instead of drill-kill-test. All the kids like this spelling curriculum. It has also helped families with dyslexic kids tremendously.
All About Spelling has a big selection of free resources and learning games to help your child learn to read and to spell.
We use typing.com for (obviously) typing. It’s free, very well done, and includes a lot of typing games. My kids look forward to typing each day. In fact, I make them set a timer because they’d practice for an hour if I let them.
There is a podcast called “Classics for Kids” that has biographical information on all of the major composers studied. I am finding it to be well-done and engaging and the kids are finding it fun. The best part is that it is “sticking” and they are interested in learning more. As a bonus, each episode is only 6-minutes long. We use this at lunchtime.
We also use Hoffman Academy for online piano lessons.
There are 4 levels of learning a new language. The foundational level is listening. The more they listen for the first year the better they will do. We have Epic* (a wonderful ebook service) for our kids. They listen to Spanish picture books every day. (The books are narrated with karaoke-style word highlighting.) We also use Epic to supplement history studies, fun e-reading, and audiobooks. *Note: Epic does not work on Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon wants you to use their (inferior) ebook app.
After my kids can read AND have had a year of listening to Spanish books, they use Duolingo to learn Spanish. Although one of my kids recently changed his language to Mandrin. 🤷♀️I’m ok with that. As long as he’s learning to communicate in another language, I’m ok with his choice.
How to Legally Homeschool in Your State
The Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) has created an easy-to-use Homeschooling Quick Start guide at hslda.org/quickstart. They are working to make homeschooling possible and accessible to everyone—including those who are homeschool-curious! They have guidelines on what each state requires.
You’ve Got This
You can do this. I believe in you. Your kids believe in you. You can do school at home. Remember, give grace, prioritize, stay active, and above all, love.
For more encouragement, come join my Facebook group Healthy Homeschool Moms.
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