A day in the Life…
A prospective homeschool mom asked, “How do you make schooling a priority while juggling littles/housework/running errands? What does it look like to teach across different ages/levels/grades?”
The short answer is…it depends. Life keeps happening in and around us – is it a day when someone has a cold? Do we have too many errands, appointments and need to grab our books for “car school”? What’s this year’s mix of bigs, littles, and babies?
The long answer…
There’s been a few principles that have helped me organize our homeschool (so we’re actually getting it done, mostly) and keeping some semblance of a
well managed house …er… clean enough …er…handling basic sanitation and nutrition.
The basic principles:
Know your priorities
Have a plan ‘b’ and a plan ‘c’ that fits with your priorities
Hang the most important parts of your school & chores on “pegs” in your day.
Mom’s time should start with the littles first.
Reward yourself and your kids for accomplishing your priorities
#1 Know your priorities.
What do you want to get out of homeschooling? Write it down and put it on the fridge. This is my list. I want the kids to:
Grow into virtuous participating citizens
Become well-rounded adults who have been challenged to become their best selves
Have family unity with their parents and siblings in preparation for their spouse
Knowing my priorities helps me make long-term, short-term and split-second decisions. What’s more important: finishing this math sheet or dealing with my kid who was unkind to his brother? Since my priorities are that I want him to grow to be virtuous, he can do the math sheet after he’s apologized and rectified the situation.
#2 Have a plan
I plan on 3 levels:
1.Plan A “In my dreams”
If life were perfect and easy we’d take 1-2 field trips per month, finish all our books each year and watch videos in the evenings correlated to their lessons. We end up actually living out the Plan A “In my dreams” about 3 school days per year (maybe 2 1/2?).
2. Plan B “Druthers”
Life is normal and we don’t have any clean clothes and the plumber is on his way over, but we still have to get school done, so “I’d rather” (thus the “druthers”) get science done today and skip history. I plan on getting about half of my Plan A “In my dreams” list accomplished. Druthers can change depending on the kid and the day; this child is behind in math, so he has to do math and can skip English, but that girl has to get her English done and can skip science today.
3. Plan C “Survival Mode”
Some life emergency (the flu, a relative in the hospital, a difficult pregnancy, etc.) has made school come to a screetching halt. However, I don’t want to give myself ammunition to feel like a failure, so if we can only accomplish math, English and one other subject, I’ll feel like this school year has been accomplished. We try reeeeeeaaaaallllyyy hard not to live in survival mode too long. But it’s bound to happen sometimes, so if I plan for it then I can work my plan even when my head and heart are occupied elsewhere.
NOTE: “Survival Mode” doesn’t feel good. So don’t expect job satisfaction or warm fuzzies about homeschooling in the middle of executing Plan C. The gift of homeschooling is that we can keep our families in tact, even when school CAN’T be the priority. The purpose of Plan C is making sure you’ve thought through your priorities so you WON’T feel like a failure when you come out of “survival mode”.
#3 Hang priorities on “pegs”.
Hang the most important parts of your school & chores on “pegs” in your day. (I learned this from Holly Pierlot).
You have to eat lunch every day. The baby needs a nap. Your husband will come home. Choose things that are going to happen each day. Put those in your daily schedule FIRST. Then around these pegs (before them and behind them) hang your #1 priorities for the day (math for this kid? getting the laundry started? phonics for that kid?). Then on either side of those hang your #2 priorities for the day, and so on. You’ll be making sure to finish your priorities because it always comes before & after something that’s going to happen each day.
#4 Start with the littles.
The kids who can read can do a few things independently, while you get the toddler playing. Let the toddler play in your lap while you give a few minutes to an older child who needs help. Then when the older child is working and you’ve engaged the toddler, again, so he’ll continue to be interested in his toys, you can give your attention to the next child who needs you. It’s motherly multi tasking at its finest. It’s exhausting, but effective in short bursts.
#5 Enjoy the fruits of your labor
Reward yourself and your kids for accomplishing your priorities. We do this in big and small ways.
I like to pack the majority of our school into 24 weeks (we get our classical history, science and literature curriculum done for the year in those weeks.) Then I spend another 3 weeks before and after intensively working on weak areas for each child. We take a month off to play (and spring clean) and our summer school is 6 weeks of delight-directed and child-led topics. (I choose 2 subjects they’ll work on, but do it using a different method or using different books and they choose 2 subjects they want to study for their summer school.)
We do seatwork 3 days per week, extra curricular activities take up 1 day a week, and we do home ec (folding all that laundry, groceries, cook ahead) 1 day a week. The reward for the kids getting their schoolwork done is the extra-curricular activities. The reward for me is my house being in order if only for a few hours.
“When you’re done with that math page, you can play legos for 15 minutes while I have a cup of coffee with my favorite creamer.”
We’re all trying our best – and in the end – our best is the most loving thing we can give our families. There’s a “key” to making this all work — you have to give yourself grace. You have to have permission to fail, rest, rejuvenate and try again. Your homeschool doesn’t work with out YOU. Are you treating yourself as the most significant priority in this equation?
And when it’s all said and done…all this planning can be gone like a puff of smoke because the short answer to “How do you make schooling a priority while juggling littles/housework/running errands? What does it look like to teach across different ages/levels/grades?” ….it depends.
And you can always contact me! Highland Dove Homeschool Helper would love to schedule an individual consultation and we can work through your specific situation together! We can even schedule distance consultations in person, by phone or skype!
*Photo credit to Bria Cate