Whether you’re starting homeschooling for the first time, are an experienced homeschool mom, or just need a midyear homeschool reboot, try these 5 steps to starting your homeschool with a bang!
5 steps to starting your homeschool with a bang!
You spent hours deciding on your curriculum and may have ordered your books, but you aren’t done yet. Here are a few other crucial steps to hit the ground running and make this your most effective homeschooling semester yet.
1. Start your homeschool with enthusiasm!
YOU set the emotional tone in your home. Your excitement(or lack thereof) for homeschooling will be contagious.
My kids always told me I was “cute” because I was excited about learning new things. And y’know, if you’re new at this homeschool thing, let me tell you. You will be learning along with your kids all the way through the homeschool years. So you might as well embrace it and get excited about it.
Your enthusiasm goes a long way toward bringing your kids’ homeschool education to life. Your kids can’t help but pick up on the value you place on education and on books. And in sharing this with your kids, you’re giving them the gift that keeps on giving for their entire lives.
Besides, it will be clear to them that you enjoy being with them and learning alongside them. Remember, your attitude about them has everything to do with how well they succeed with their homeschool work. Read this If you need to brush up on how to talk to your kids in ways that will encourage them and help them believe in themselves.
2. Plan something exciting or fun on the first day of your homeschool semester (or make homeschooling more fun anytime).
- Go to the beach, park, pool, backyard, or living room and have a picnic. Picnics are fun anywhere.
- If your town has a fun place to go (like a children’s museum, zoo, or aquarium), spend a chunk of the day there. (This is especially effective if the day you do this happens to be on or after the first day of public school in your area. Then you get the place more to yourselves.) Also, you can get narrations out of your kids, either written or oral, as they tell you about their favorite parts of the day. (Click the link above to learn how to do narrations.)
- If it’s the first day of your semester, you could make it a ‘pajama’ or another themed day. Don’t forget to take your “first-day” pictures. But pajama days are fun anytime.
- Have a special breakfast. You can use pancakes and fruit to make faces if your kids are younger. (In fact, this is a great thing to do anytime you want to surprise them and change the routine. ) Better yet, get whipped cream, raisins, nuts, and chop up fruit, and let your kids go to town decorating their own pancakes. You do one, too!
- Make a “fort” in the house with sheets and blankets draped over furniture, give everyone a flashlight, and have a “fun-reading” time where they get to pick things they’d like to read.
- Create a scavenger hunt with clues to help them find their new school supplies.
- Knock off early to play board games. (They could even be educational. Shhhhh)
- Take a mid-day break and have a dance party! (Learn more about the benefits of moving around during your school day later in this post.)
Editor’s Note: This post has a few affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something from one of these links, Train up a Child Publishing might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps take care of our coffee habit – a thousand thanks!
3. Create a Routine or Schedule.
Homeschooling works best when you are following a plan. You don’t have to plan every hour but have a routine. Get up at about the same time, and have a regular morning routine. Also plan a set lunch time, dinner time, and bedtime. Kids thrive on routines — and so do we.
I’m a big fan of time-blocking. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s looking at your calendar for the week, making sure everything that’s non-negotiable is on there, and then scheduling blocks of time to work on specific tasks. Make sure to group your errands or save them for a weekend, so you aren’t turning homeschooling into car-schooling. Some of that is fine, but it’s vital to get into a routine at home and make it the exception rather than a rule as you start homeschooling or begin a new semester or year.
How to plan your weeks using time blocking
Here’s how to plan your weeks using time-blocking. First, grab your calendar (Gmail works great for this) and put in any non-negotiable dates, or dates you know you won’t be homeschooling. After that, carve out 15 minutes to 2+ hour blocks (depending upon the ages of your kids). You can probably get several time blocks of varying lengths in your calendar in a week. Try to make them somewhat standardized to become more of a habit.
A morning block might be a couple of hours with the same routine on most days.
- Kids get up, get dressed, make their beds
- Everyone eats breakfast together.
- Then, while they are still at the table, have devotions, including singing a hymn. Read about how to do hymn study here.
- Everyone cleans up from breakfast and does a short chore or two, such as feeding the dog, emptying the dishwasher, throwing in a load of wash, or sweeping the kitchen floor.
- While older kids are doing this, you spend 20 minutes with your youngest (preschooler).
- Then everyone begins with math or daily work, depending upon how you structure your day. If you have a baby, it’s probably time for a morning nap, so you can begin working one-on-one with your kids. We always did math close to the beginning of the day, but you may prefer another order to your day.
- You can also vary your children’s subjects so that all but one of them are doing independent work. That way (hopefully) you can minimize interruptions.
- If you have a toddler, you’ll have to plan things for him/her, have your other children take turns playing with him, or occasionally pay an older child a few dollars to play with him so you can focus on school with him your other children. (Or a combination of all three strategies.)
Other Time-blocking tips
⏲ SET AN INTENTION on your calendar for what you want to do in each block. Decide how often you will do language arts, history, science, art, music, etc., and create blocks for those. You can certainly put more than one subject in a block, as you read in my morning block example.
⏲ Remember that you don’t have to do every subject every day. Or you have a daily block for math + reading, and a set time Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for other language arts and history, and Tuesday and Thursday for science.
⏲Timeblocking (or planning by any other method) works best if you leave time in between the blocks for transitions and knocking out other items on your to-do list or that come up. Don’t over plan!!
⏲Don’t forget to add in short blocks for chores and meal prep.
⏲Remember — you’re more likely to follow through if you have a task on a calendar. If you’ve set an intention for a scheduled block of time, it’s a little harder to be indecisive and lose your children’s attention. (Then it’s, “Oh well, let’s check out Instagram.”)
⏲Use a timer for getting chores done. You’d be surprised at how much faster you and your kids can work with a timer, especially if you are doing household chores! Make it a game and race the timer.
⏲If you’ve never used a calendar this way, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish during your scheduled time blocks, especially if you put your phone on silent and turn it over so you can’t see the screen.
4. Teach your older kids to be more independent by helping them learn to plan their own work.
Middle and high school students should learn to schedule their work within your parameters. For example, if you’re planning 180 days of school and their math book has a certain number of lessons, have them fill in which lesson they’ll be doing each day. Get your high school students a planner to help facilitate this.
You’ll have to work with your older students on scheduling project-type assignments, like writing a paper, until they learn how. (First of all, get used to giving your older kids firm deadlines for when their assignments are due.) Then, teach them how to work backward to set mini-deadlines for when they will have their topic chosen, thesis statement written, research completed, outline written, and so on. They will use this school planning skill academically and throughout their lives. And in the short term, it will make your high school years much easier. Teaching your high schoolers to work independently is critical if you have more than a couple of children you are homeschooling!
Also, hang a monthly calendar on the wall, so everyone knows the schedule for everyone else. Make sure to plug in all your regular activities, outside classes or co-ops, field trips, church events, service projects, doctor’s appointments, and part-time jobs.
5. Homeschool more effectively by learning brain-based teaching tips to help your kids retain more of what they learn.
This is a biggie. Science says that your kids’ brains can adapt and change themselves according to experiences. This is called neuroplasticity. We used to think that your brain and mental abilities were completely inherited and you got what you got. But this is not accurate. Research has proved that our brains change as we learn new things and learn to think about things differently. How exciting is that? And it applies to you, too!
This has huge implications for homeschooling and education, so educate yourself to make the most of this! Check out these links below to learn what you can do to add brain-based teaching methods to your toolbox!
- Brain-based Teaching Tips--this is an introduction post to brain-based teaching for your homeschool. It focuses on how to talk to your children in a way that encourages them to have self-confidence, which greatly affects their academic (and other) performance.
- If your kids are sitting at a desk or in a chair all day doing school, they miss out on an easy boost to their learning retention. Read about how moving their bodies more will give your kids great learning gains.
- Try this quick technique to get your children ready to learn and see the difference it makes.
- This post has two tips about learning – integrating subjects and adding an element of emotion to help to learning stick.
If you want to start your homeschool semester with a bang or give your homeschooling a reboot anytime, add these to your routine and please share them with your friends using the sharing buttons below.