Last year was our second year of homeschooling as my oldest son worked through first grade. It was also the hardest homeschooling year for us as we tackled learning to read and added a 4th baby into our household. I’m pretty sure I wanted to quit every three weeks and was certain I couldn’t continue this journey. Thankfully, this year has been much more peaceful and productive. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself a few helpful tips... but I can't so I'll share them with you instead!
1. Don’t interrupt playtime for school.
Yep, you read that right... Tip number one is not to interrupt play for school. Playing is so important to learning, young children need to play. If my son is lost in his lego world or playing with his sisters, then school can wait until later.
2. Playing is Messy- clean up later
Books, puzzles, toys everywhere- every day. That’s life, and I have no one to try to impress but myself. Messes mean fun and learning has been happening here, and that’s ok.
This is what my living room currently looks like as I write this, thanks to my 10 month old... it happens to us all ;)
3. Read [AT LEAST] One Book a day- outside when possible
Reading with your child is crucial to them being able to read on their own. For second grade, we implemented a 30-minute reading slot in each day where I read with my son and he follows along and then jumps in and reads paragraphs when he sees words he likes and knows. This simple time of discovery and learning should be free and fun, not a painful task. Last year, I would hand my son books he “should” be able to read and then get frustrated if he couldn’t. I wish we had started dedicated reading time earlier, but was waiting for my kids to read independently. It's NEVER to early to start!
4. Reading isn’t a race- it’s a journey.
I felt like my son was “behind” with his reading ability. We had used an online program and he quickly completed grade one, but I noticed many gaps in his ability to read so I picked out a good ol’ fashion paper curriculum and started first grade again. Because I felt behind, I rushed us through instead of working on phonics mastery. I wish I could tell myself to relax. Reading will come... keep practicing and make it fun!
5. Televisions are tools, not babysitters.
The television often feels like an enemy living within my walls, so I have pretty strict TV rules. But, there are some really educational shows that teach important lessons, values, science, and history. In moderation- it’s an excellent tool to tackle new ideas and reinforce other learning that's already taken place!
6. Set Learning Goals
Curricula tends to feel like a challenging race to me. That's probably because we review curricula, so I take the task upon myself to try to read all the material so I can accurately review it. When I use it with my kids, I'm on a schedule and often crunched for time. Instead, this year I decided to set learning goals for each child- topics and material that I want them to learn in the fall and then the spring. Then, we get books at the library, and find projects on pinterest to expand our learning on our time and work towards goals! I find this particularly helpful for my littles. For instance, this fall I'd like my kindergartner to master the ABC's, 10 sight words, numbers up to 50, and the continents. We've done this through puzzles, songs, games, and easy reader books- having fun along the way!
7. Lead by example, and don’t underestimate the long term value.
There are so many things I want to teach my kids, and most of those lessons aren’t from a book. I want my kids to read their Bibles every day, so I read to them from the Bible every day. I want them to enjoy healthy food, so I prepare healthy food even if they don’t eat it. I want them to value education, so I read books and include them in what I’m learning. It’s exhausting, and sometimes discouraging, but I’m not doing this for the moment, I’m doing this for my children’s future and eternity.
What are your tips for successful homeschooling? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
is an author, blogger, and homeschooling mom of four, giving her excellent credentials to run her own circus one day!