We are in our 6th year of homeschooling, and I absolutely love it. Well, on most days that is! Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It is without a doubt a commitment of time, energy, money, and space inside your home. My husband and I believe that for our family, the benefits far outweigh the cost! We have chosen to homeschool because we love the flexibility, the opportunity to study topics in depth and to have time to master the material, the opportunity to teach our values to our children, and the chance to learn as a family. We have four children – Aidan is in 5th grade this year, Gresham is in 2nd, Owen is in preschool, and Jonathan is 2.
As part of the Celebrate the 100th Day of School blog hop, I am bringing to you… 100 Tips and Tricks for Homeschooling Moms! Whether you’re just getting started with homeschooling or have homeschooled for several years, I hope that you will find something helpful in this post. These tips are not all my own – I collected them from my own experience and also from several experienced homeschooling moms that I trust and respect. Feel free to add a comment with a tip that you have to share as well!
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- Wherever possible, let kids explore the topics that they are interested in. Encourage a love of learning.
- Don’t be afraid to ditch a curriculum that isn’t working – in the middle of the year even!
- A curriculum that works for one child may not work for the next child.
- It may take a couple of school years to figure out what curriculum works for you. I discovered that I hate programs that are too “scripted.”
- Grades are not really necessary until junior high. Some kids get too focused on the grades rather than focusing on mastering the material.
- On the other hand, grades (along with goals and rewards) can help motivate kids who are intelligent but lack attention to detail.
- Book fairs can be helpful because you can really get your hands on the curriculum.
- If you go to a book fair, don’t be overwhelmed by the vast selection. All curricula basically cover the same things – it’s a matter of finding the format and the price that fits your family.
- No one “covers it all,” not even the schools.
- If you’re concerned that your child may have a learning disability, get him tested, and don’t be afraid to call on professionals for help.
- Apologia Science is a great way to cover science with all of your children at one time. The Young Explorers series is for 1st through 6th grades. I love the depth of information in this series. Your family will come away with a true love for science!
- Recommended curriculum for first grade.
- Recommended curriculum for fourth grade.
- A comparison of four math programs.
- Let kids have input on their curriculum choices, especially as they get older.
Character Development Tips
- Character development may need to override academic development on some days. Choose to see behavior issues as an opportunity to mold and train rather than as an interruption. Having the time to develop character is a huge benefit of homeschooling!
- Make your own character a priority, and don’t neglect time with the Lord.
- Plan in time for Scripture memory.
- Don’t over-plan your child’s day, but what you do ask them to do, require them to do well.
- Model how to go above and beyond. “The sink is so clean now that we’ve washed all the dishes. Let’s go ahead and clean the countertops too!” or “Let’s rescue the neighbor’s trash can out of the street. We would really appreciate it if someone did that for us.”
- Resist the temptation to compare your kids to each other or to other people’s kids. Everyone develops at their own pace.
- Make kind speech a priority in your home.
- Make time for serving others.
- Resist the temptation to complain about the craziness of the school day, the school room being a mess, the noise, etc. If you approach these things with a positive attitude, your kids will be more positive as well.
- The best schedule is the one that works for you.
- Don’t get bogged down trying to duplicate what the public schools are doing – a home is not the same as a school, and learning won’t look the same.
- Teach all of your kids together wherever possible. We do Bible, science, and history together.
- Checklists for the day might work better than a schedule with specific times on it, especially if you have a baby or toddler to work homeschooling around.
- Make use of audio books.
- Record yourself reading your child his or her spelling words. Then they can do their test on their own, and you don’t have to be in multiple places at once.
- A four day school week might be a really good idea. Errands have to be run sometime!
- Year-round schooling might be a really good idea as well. Summer can be a lighter schedule, but you don’t lose ground when you keep doing at least a little school in the summer.
- For our family, I’ve found that it’s best to have a variety of things as part of our school day – reading out loud, working with mom on a new skill, working independently on a workbook, physical work (chores), and time for playing.
- Plan for your toddler or preschooler as well as your older children. It doesn’t have to be complicated! But planning out play activities and simple crafts for younger brother or sister really helps reduce the chaos!
- Older children can have time slots in their day when they read to or play with a younger sibling.
- No mom can function without some down time. Everyone can be quiet for an hour in the afternoon, even the ones who don’t nap anymore.
- Need ideas for keeping toddlers busy? 10+ Activities for Busy Toddlers
- Tips for Getting Started with Preschool at Home
- A large tub of rice and some toys (cups, spoons, toy animals, etc.) can provide hours of entertainment!
- Provide a basket of books and rotate the contents each week.
- Don’t feel pressured to push academics during the preschool years.
- An expensive preschool curriculum is absolutely not necessary. You can build your whole preschool experience around books from the library.
- Here is a big collection of learning activities for preschoolers.
- The Imagination Tree has lots of ideas for preschool play and learning.
- Read aloud books that are above your child’s reading level. By doing this, you will raise their listening comprehension level, which is so important!
- Need book ideas? Our favorite books for family read-alouds
- Older classic books help build a great vocabulary.
- Get kids comfortable with writing by doing some writing daily. Journals are great for this. Here are eight real-life ways to get kids writing.
- Tips for teaching your child to read.
- Check out the blog This Reading Mama for TONS of literacy resource!
- Hire a nanny. Just kidding… maybe! Before I had kids, I taught science to groups of homeschoolers. A couple of the families had nannies that came to help with cleaning and household chores, and at the time, that seemed extravagant to me. I now fully repent of my judgmental attitude. A nanny is definitely not in our budget, but if it’s in yours, go for it!
- Plan regular eye exams. I wish I had taken Gresham in sooner! We discovered a significant vision problem at age 6, and after the fact, I realized that he probably had problems starting around age 4… Poor kid! You can read more about how vision problems can hide here.
- Get a sturdy magazine file for each child in a different color to hold workbooks and notebook paper or handwriting paper. Before we did this, we had constant problems with “missing” workbooks!
- This sounds silly, but… make sure everything has a place. Otherwise, it will not be put away. This has taken me a long time to learn! Scissors, tape, glue, pencils – they all need designated homes in your school space.
- You can view our homeschool room here.
- Everyone can contribute to household chores. For ideas on what kids can do, check out this Guide to Chores for Kids for a list of chores by room and by age.
- If you haven’t done chores with your kids in the past, try starting with an after meals procedure (everyone has a specific job to do, all working together) or a room procedure (we’re cleaning the living room together, and everyone has a job). This is much easier to implement than everyone working in different places.
Tips for Streamlining the Laundry
- Choose a day (or two – we have two or I’d never get it all done!) for laundry. Then don’t worry about the growing piles on the other days.
- Label laundry baskets in the laundry room as “darks,” “whites,” “towels,” etc. and sort as you go.
- Buy a different brand of underwear for each child. Cuts down on time spent reading the sizes on tags.
- Buy different brands or colors of socks for each child that are quick to sort.
- Label clothing tags for each child. One dot with a permanent marker on the tag for the oldest child, two dots for the second child, etc. When you hand down clothing, just add more dots! (Many shirts are tagless now, but I love this tip. Maybe a dot next to the printed on tag?)
- Keep laundry going during the day, and the kids can help fold and put away in the afternoon or evening.
Tips for Streamlining Meals and Grocery Shopping
- Keep meals simple. Stick to simple recipes that don’t require a lot of prep time and clean-up time. I usually plan one or two more “labor intensive” meals a week, as well as one super simple night with grilled cheese or something like that.
- Make a monthly meal plan. Cuts down on planning time, and your grocery list stays the same!
- Plan a system for snacks so that you don’t have to spend time thinking about what snacks will be each day. You can read more about our school day snack system here.
- Assign each family member a specific clean-up job after meals.
- Pick a day for grocery shopping. For me, it’s Saturday morning. This doesn’t always happen, but having a plan makes things run much more smoothly! Some people prefer to shop twice a month, so that might work better for you.
- If you have to shop with kids along, give older kids their own list and cart and meet up in the front of the store. Saves time (once you train them on how to pick the right package size, etc. of course) and cuts down on fighting!
Maintaining Your Sanity
- Make sure you hang on to your sense of humor. Some days you just have to laugh… or go crazy!
- Don’t teach your child something while frustrated. Take a break if necessary.
- Play music while doing chores. Music can really change a grumpy mood!
- Leave margin in your schedule. Unexpected things always seem to come up, and tasks take longer than expected, especially if you have three or more children. Don’t overschedule.
- That being said, one activity outside the house can be fabulous for everyone’s sanity.
- Make time to get together with friends. Find other homeschooling moms and encourage each other.
- A morning out at the park on a beautiful day is worth the schoolwork missed. It can be made up another time. And there are plenty of things to learn outdoors!
- No one said you have to read bedtime stories! A wise homeschool mom recently told me that she was always too tired to read at that point in the day and would be too tempted to rush. Night time was her kids’ chance to read by themselves, and she read books aloud during the day.
- A supportive homeschool dad is a precious possession. Make sure you appreciate all the things that dad does!
- Some seasons make homeschooling difficult. Cut yourself some slack during times with a newborn, periods of sickness, etc. We had a rough season last year when my husband was working two jobs and gone all the time. I wrote about homeschooling during difficult seasons here.
- A wise mom once told me that it is totally normal to feel like giving up about once a month! Take a deep breath, step back, and remind yourself of all the reasons you chose to homeschool.
Money Saving Tips
- Curriculum from Rod and Staff is very affordable. We use their grammar, math (along with Making Math Meaningful), and preschool work books.
- Have kids write on paper instead of in the book and reuse the book for the next child.
- Take advantage of the public library. Check out a ton of books on a specific topic to encourage research skills.
- Set up a clear procedure at home for library books. Ours have a designated shelf, and they are not allowed to be taken upstairs (and lost and forgotten about)!
- Plan a routine for library trips – the same day every week or every other week, etc. When we don’t do this, we end up with fines!
- Buy enough crayons, notebook paper, notebooks, and glue sticks during back-to-school time to last for the whole school year. The price on these items skyrocket after back to school is over!
- Our Brother All-in-One Laser Printer/Scanner/Copier was the best money we have ever spent! This link is the one we have. The price is great and it has excellent reviews as well. Before we had a laser printer, we spent way too much on ink cartridges. Half the time we couldn’t print because I didn’t want to buy more ink! I use our laser printer almost daily to make copies and print things. There are SO many free printables online, but an ink jet printer makes those printables awfully expensive!
- Organize a used book sale in your community. Our church has a used curriculum and book sale every spring, and it’s a great way to pick up materials for cheap!
Large Family Tips
- If older kids want to paint or do playdough or whatever the younger kids are doing, it’s probably not worth the battle to say no. My oldest is now in 5th grade, and his workload is greater. But he has also outgrown his desire to do what the younger boys are doing, so it all worked out!
- Kids ages 8+ can easily learn to do their own laundry. Assign your kids each a day of the week to get their laundry done.
- Institute a “leaving the house” procedure and practice it. Train your children for what needs to be done – bathroom trip, shoes on, appropriate clothes for the weather, etc. It is very hard to get out the door with a crowd, so you have to be intentional!
- Cook with one child each night. You can teach them how to prepare meals, and it’s a great chance for some one-on-one time.
- Plan your day ahead of time – meals, errands, school, etc. I’ve found that there is no more “winging it” once you have several children!
Materials that are Worth the Expense
- A sturdy hand crank pencil sharpener. We have this one from X-Acto, and it works well. Be aware that you have to mount it on a table or wall!
- Plenty of bookshelves.
- Pattern Blocks
- Linking cubes for math
- A small indoor trampoline. Ours gets a LOT of use!
- Large drawing paper
- A laminator – I don’t have one, but so many people have said this is worth it. It’s on my wish list.
- Clipboards – We use these all the time for scavenger hunts, grocery lists, etc.!
Be sure to visit the rest of the Celebrate the 100th Day Blog Hop!
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