If you have been thrown into homeschooling unexpectedly, you are not alone. My family chose it years ago, and have had great success with it, and I want to share some of the homeschooling practical tips that will help you.
If you have teens being homeschooled, read our guide to homeschooling teens.
To begin, let me say that stress is the enemy of homeschooling. If you are stressed, and your child is stressed, then learning becomes much harder. My wife put a lot of stress on herself with our first child, which led to our daughter eventually going to high school. She did great, but we knew we could do better. With our second daughter, we focused on reducing stress and anxiety, which led to even better results. At 14, she went to college full time. Both are successful, but the biggest difference is the focus on non-confrontation and enjoying the learning process more and being ok with a bad day. There is always tomorrow for homeschoolers.
Tips to Reduce Homeschooling Stress
No One Day Is Worth Freaking Out Over
No one day is a big deal. If you have an overall good habit of learning, relax if one day is not the best. We all do not have equally good days at work, either. The important thing to do it wake up the next day with a positive attitude towards trying again.
Get More Sleep
Sleep in, some. Do not let your kids stay up all night and sleep all day but getting up at 9 is OK if you are homeschooling. That little extra sleep can help everyone stay calmer and get better results.
Hard Stuff In Morning
Do your hardest technical topics before lunch. Typically, you can do 2-3 topics in the morning and the rest of the day can be a breeze if you get these done. Once your children understand that morning is for getting the work done, it will be easier. Typically, this will be math, but if your child struggles more with grammar or spelling, then do those instead.
Mix Brain Use Throughout Day
Once the hardest couple of things are out of the way, balance, and mix the rest of the day. You can find YouTube videos of art and give them an hour to watch an art video and practice art. You can ask them to practice music if that is something you have been developing. Educational video games as a break may be good, although we rarely used them. Also, work in something physical. YouTube also has exercise videos and you can either do exercise with them or ask them to do it if you need to work from home.
Remember, when they are at school they get a lot of unfocused, fun freetime. Lunch. Recess. Socializing during breaks. Library. They definitely do not do 6 solid hours of academic learning.
Play Dumb. Don’t Over-Teach
Play dumb. Don’t dictate stuff to your kids constantly. This is not a contest to show them you are smarter than them. Instead, tell them you have not been in school for a long time and ask them to teach you the material. Some of the best learning happens when you have to teach something to someone else.
Praise Frequently and For Effort
Praise frequently. It is easy to think, “of course you know that” but praise them frequently for successes. Also, praise them for doing the work, even if it is not perfect. “I am so impressed you are working so hard at your schoolwork. Good job.” This praise will typically make them work even harder. Of course, it works better on younger kids and you need to seem interested, and sincere about what they are doing. If you are watching TV and mouthing the words, it will not have as big of an impact.
Have More Flexible Learning Hours
Don’t try to do school hours. Start later, go later, have a lot of breaks. While not practical for a school, it is actually a much better way to learn. Your mind recharges when you have breaks, physical activity, and creative periods of time mixed with more academically rigorous periods of time.
Plan Structured Play
Structured play – in the afternoons and evenings, you have a great opportunity to be sneaky and keep them learning. Focus on how to let them play in a structured, problem-solving way. Can they use materials to build a bridge from the couch to the coffee table? Can they write a play to perform? Can they do game design with the tools online that keep it simple for young kids to learn to code? No actual code is usually involved, it is more logic and planning. These kinds of fun activities can lead to better critical thinking and problem solving, which is handy on the SAT or ACT, as well as life.
Identify Gaps and Calmly Address
If a topic is too stressful or difficult, there are gaps. Ideally, learning takes place where kids keep layering knowledge and skills on top of each other, reinforcing the learning. When an earlier topic is not strong, moving forward on the next layer is incredibly stressful. When you are truly homeschooling, you move at the pace of the child. So, if there are gaps, you go back and relearn that stuff. No big deal. In the end, the strength you build by doing that will help them enjoy that topic better, have more confidence, and be more successful.
Have Fun with Repetition
Easy repetition – Learning is not about constantly feeling stupid. It is about confidence in your own ability to know things or figure them out. This means reviewing things that you know, while continuously adding a few new things to keep it interesting. If your kids are very young and still learning to read, sight-reading cards are a great example of this. 80%+ of the cards should be ones they already know or are fairly sure of. Then there should be some new ones in there that make it more challenging. This makes sense. If they know 80% of the words, they are practicing reading. If they know 10% of the words, they are practicing guessing.
Even if your child has not started school yet, you can be homeschooling them to have them advanced in reading using this technique.
Explore the Lost Arts
Teach lost arts that you probably know from your youth. Cards, puzzles, and building models were popular years ago, but have become less of a thing. Breaking out a deck of cards and playing Gin Rummy, or even Solitaire feels good. It is very tactile and different from doing it on the computer. Plus, playing a card game with people is totally different from computer games. You need to read people and interact.
Spend Time Cooking
Teach them to cook – This also can really reduce stress, if you do not worry about the outcome too much. Cooking is a great skill to have later, and the mixing, measuring, and following directions is a great learning opportunity. Don’t let them watch you cook. You watch them cook. Only help when really needed. Let them figure things out. PLEASE do not let your young children near open flame or hot oil, or cut with sharp knives though. Be a good judge of what they are ready for.
Cooking combines basic math, chemistry and reading if you use a recipe. Plus a skill that is kinda useful later on. Many homeschooling parents use this all the time to help with labs, which are hard to do in a home environment.
Have Kids Quiz Other Kids
Facetime Quizzes – Parents can work together with other parents from when the kids were in school, and ask them to study things in anticipation of two kids Facetiming and quizzing each other. This is social and learning at the same time. Let them talk and have fun, but let them know they need to quiz each other as well. This could be colors, sight words for reading, or times tables. Schools can use surveys for students as well.
Good Luck, and Remember, No Stress
It is my hope that these tips can help you have more fun, get better results, and not feel stress when it comes to helping your younger child learn at home. Homeschooling is not easy to do when you just get thrown into it. The good news is that any gap in academic learning can be filled with skills that are more meaningful in the long run. Building confident, happy learners who enjoy problem-solving and learning new things each day is far more important than memorizing the required facts of the week. This is your chance to help your child have a better emotional relationship with learning. The key is positivity and confidence, instead of stress and frustration.