Welcome to the last installment in this weeks homeschooling series where I answer the rest of your homeschooling questions! So far we’ve covered:
- How to Start Homeschooling Your Elementary Student
- How to Start Homeschooling Your Teenager
- How to Start Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child
- How to Homeschool During Difficult Circumstances
And now today I answer the seven homeschooling questions I hear the most from people. Thankfully, I’ve answered some of them before, so I can just drop in a link rather than start from scratch. If you’ve worked through all my posts and STILL have a question, please leave a comment below or drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to reply.
How do you motivate kids to do their work?
If you enjoy nagging, and chasing your kids down to do their work, this question doesn’t apply to you. Otherwise, keep reading. First, make creating self-motivated learners a goal in your homeschool. Ultimately, you want kids who can leave the nest and function as well-rounded adults right? Well, that doesn’t necessarily happen after years of their mom telling them what to do and correcting all their mistakes for them. It starts with instilling obedience at a young age; you need kids who do their work the first time you ask or experience consistent consequences if they don’t. However, make sure you’ve set age appropriate (or ability appropriate) goals for your kids. If they don’t do their work, make sure it’s not because they can’t. Give clear instructions and guidance, either verbally, or in lesson plans, for your children to follow. Make sure your children get lots of breaks to move around, even when you think they’re “too old for that”. Keep a routine and schedule to your day so your children know when work is due, and when you’re checking it. Don’t forget to offer praise for a job well done!
- The Preschool Circuit – Part 1 Part 2 Part 3– this series of talks by a friend recommends a great method to help build up a child’s ability to sit and work on tasks independently.
Some kids will struggle more than others, but you can’t just throw up your hands and say, “That’s just how they are! I can’t do anything!” No college professor or employer will be so forgiving. They need to learn these lessons while in a safe and loving environment (your home) so mistakes will be felt, but also dealt with in a loving manner. Some kids respond better to external motivation that comes from someone other than mom or dad. Look into online classes or, for older students, community college courses where someone else is calling the shots, the stakes are higher, but you can still provide support to help your child stay on task. But, with that said, don’t be afraid to let your child fail. A bad grade, a missed deadline or opportunity- these will help your child to lift themselves up and work harder next time. That feeling of frustration, sadness, defeat- that becomes their motivation. Encourage them to pick themselves back up, but don’t pick them back up. And let your children see you fail, and how you recover. If you always do everything for them, eventually they believe themselves incapable of doing things for themselves, which is the last thing you want!
Self-motivation, or internal motivation, really kicks in when kids become teenagers. They can finally understand why they need to study these subjects and they see how completing this work can get them closer to their own goals (of say, becoming a doctor). Older kids understand that often it takes hard, uncomfortable work to get better at something. Little kids don’t; that’s why teaching long division is so painful and why you need external motivation in the form of rewards or consequences. Big kids know practice and repetition are necessary and eventually they’ll learn to get their work done so they can move on to doing what they enjoy. You’ve set your own big picture goals, but make sure your kids have their own goals to work towards and motivate them.
Lastly, make sure you are modeling the behavior you want in your children. Do you leave half-finished work laying around? Do the kids know you turn in work late, or not correct their work on time? Do you always blame someone else, or other circumstances, when you can’t finish something, or turn it in late? Don’t expect your children to do better than what you show them on a daily basis.
How can I get school done with lots of little kids?
- The Best Methods, You’ve Never Heard Of, to Occupy Toddlers During School – this post will make you laugh, but if you follow it’s advice, you’ll probably get child protective services called on you
As for actual advice, first, know that homeschooling with lots of littles is just hard. Nobody is homeschooling with a baby, a toddler, a preschoolers, and a few older kids and having an easy go of it (no matter how it looks on Instagram). There are tips I can give you to help you get through your days, but just know that, with little kids life isn’t predictable and if you can’t roll with it, you’re going to get very frustrated with homeschooling. Also- you’ll feel like you’re failing most days, but when you get to the end of the year, you’ll see how much your children actually learned even when you thought most of your time was spent cleaning up messes, yelling, and changing diapers.
As I mentioned above, make sure you are teaching your children to work independently from an early age, that way you can give them an assignment and expect them to sit for 15-25 min (depending on age) and work on it. This takes time and it takes consistency, which can be hard when there’s tons of screaming banshees everywhere around you, but make that the focus for as long as it takes to create the habit. (Kids won’t listen? See below.)
Work on subjects together, giving the littlest members something special that only comes out during school hours to occupy them while they “do school” with their siblings. Plan subjects that require focus for an older student during your youngest child’s nap times, and enforce nap time for wiggly toddlers! Keep them in bed with an audio book if you need to. Take turns helping your older children; one plays with a younger sibling while you correct math with another. Lastly, consider bringing in a mother’s helper a few days a week to watch your kids so you can focus on a subject that’s troubling one child, catch up on correcting work for another, and give yourself some breathing room so you’re less likely to snap.
How can I prevent burnout?
- Planning to Prevent Burnout Now -steps you can take when planning your homeschool year to make burnout less likely to strike in February
- Attacking Fall Homeschool Burnout for Happier Holidays – if you find that you start your homeschool strong but are wiped out by Christmas break, this post is for you
How do I balance homeschooling and housekeeping? (i.e. Will my house always look like this?)
- Keeping a Clean House While Homeschooling; The 13th Herculean Task – when everyone is home all day your home will be messier, but you can learn to put your focus where it’s most important to keep everyone happier
How do I stop second guessing myself? Am I really capable of teaching my kids?
The short answer is yes. You know your kids better than anyone else and it is possible for you to teach them. Teachers go to school to learn all sorts of things that don’t apply in a homeschool setting. I would never think that my experience homeschooling would make me qualified to step into a classroom and teach a large group of kids with mixed abilities what they need to know to meet state standards. That’s what teachers train to do. And I think many teachers who were sent home this spring by COVID-19 and forced to teach their own children would instantly recognize what they do for work, and what was happening at home, were completely different. But can I teach my kids elementary level subjects? Absolutely. And if I start feeling overwhelmed with middle school or high school subjects, I can outsource those courses to tutors, online courses, or parents at the local co-op. Even as I turn over control to other people, I can choose what courses my children take to make sure they are in line with our educational philosophy and don’t interfere with family obligations or activities.
You will screw up and make mistakes. There will be gaps. It won’t always go according to plans. But as a product of the public schools myself, I can say that those things happened in my education, and I saw mistakes made while my sons were in school too. No method of education is perfect. What makes or breaks a child’s education is whether or not they have parents, or a mentor, who supports and encourages them to work hard and do his or her best. You can do that.
My kids won’t do their work. How do I get them to listen to me?
- Rules and the Role of Obedience – clear cut rules and consequences apply all the time, not just when you’re homeschooling. If your kids don’t listen to you during school hours, I’m going to guess you’re struggling to get them to listen any other time as well. This is an area that needs addressed before you can successfully homeschool.
How do I create a schedule, or routine, for my day?
You can set up a rigid hour by hour schedule, or you can break your day into chunks of time (morning, afternoon, evening) with a list of tasks to be completed during each chunk. You can keep a schedule that runs week by week for months on end, or start you week by planning out a new schedule.
Honestly, there’s so many ways of organizing your day, it’s tough to give advice, except to say you want a schedule that you can stick to, so in this case, it’s more important to pick one that works for you, the parent/ teacher, than the kids. I’ve always found it helpful to have anchors throughout the day. Morning meeting always starts at nine, lunch is always at noon, afternoon prayers is always at three; I have goals for what we do between those things, but they can fluctuate to accommodate whatever is going on that day.
If you’re looking create a schedule start by going week to week, until you strike on a system that works for you and your family. Don’t be overwhelmed, just start with something-anything! and go from there. Thankfully there is no one right way (except in that having a schedule, your days will run better).
Phew! I think I’m done! Anything other homeschooling questions will have to happen in the comments or I’ll come back and add it in later! I hope y’all have enjoyed this series. I much prefer writing all my thoughts down vs. doing a live Zoom information chat, social media post, or Instagram story because then all this stuff is here on the internet in perpetuity for anyone searching. You can save it, send it, and reference it whenever you need to.