You’re likely already well aware of the benefits of homeschooling, and contrary to what many may believe, they extend beyond just being able to attend class in your pajamas and getting to skip “the name game” on your first day of the school year.
Yes, homeschooling is essentially one-on-one instruction, and studies show that the lower the student-teacher ratio, the better the learning environment. You truly can’t get a better student-teacher ratio than 1:1, or small groups in situations where you’re instructing all of your children. Homeschooling also allows you to customize learning for your children, spend more quality time with them throughout the day and, above all, discover creative ways to make learning fun that would be difficult or impossible in a traditional classroom setting.
But homeschooling children isn’t easy, and a successful experience all starts with a good routine. Let’s focus on that word for a moment: “routine.” There’s a difference between a routine and a schedule, and it’s important to differentiate between the two. A schedule is a list that can change over time, while a routine involves forming habits that eventually become natural. It’s important to focus on establishing a routine with your homeschooling, and not so much a schedule. Research shows that kids thrive in environments where a routine and general structure are established. We’ve put together some tips and suggestions on how to create an effective routine. Read on for more:
How to Create an Amazing Homeschool Routine
Establish a Learning Space
The first thing you’ll want to ensure is that there’s a designated homeschooling space in your home where you can conduct lessons without distraction. Perhaps this is a converted dining room area, your basement or a spare bedroom that’s been turned into a learning center. The bottom line is that you don’t want to be setting up shop at the kitchen table or in a room that your children are used to playing in. An established learning space should be an area where all of their books, school work and all of your instruction materials are stored. It should include desks or tables where your children can work independently on lessons after you’ve instructed them. And, most importantly, it should be an area where your children enter and know that it’s time to learn – just as they would if they were to enter a classroom in a school building. It can take some work and creativity to establish such a space, but it’s an important step in creating an effective homeschooling routine.
Plan the Work and Work the Plan
Homeschooling takes a lot of planning and preparation on your end in order to establish an effective routine and a positive experience for both you and your children. As the teacher, it’s up to you to create a lesson plan for the year and meet any curriculum goals that you establish for your children. It’s also a good idea to create a monthly and weekly lesson plan to further break down the curriculum that you set for the school year. In addition to planning out the year, you’ll also want to set goals – but don’t do this by yourself, include your children in on it as well. Planning out the work is important because it gives both you and your children something to work toward throughout the school year. And when you set goals and have a plan to reach them, you’re much more likely to follow through on them. You might even write them down and hang them in the learning area as a constant reminder of part of what you’re all working toward during the year. When everyone is aligned and committed to meeting the same goals, everyone becomes much more invested in achieving them.
Make Sure You (and Your Kids) Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Don’t go into homeschooling under the assumption that you can cut out the breaks that are scheduled into a normal school day to finish earlier. You and your children will need to take breaks too, and one of the great things about homeschooling is that you’ll be able to be more flexible on when these breaks are taken. Again, this all goes back to why you want to create a routine and not so much a schedule with your homeschooling – because you’ll have to be flexible and adjust accordingly. We suggest breaking the school day into chunks of time when you plan to cover different subjects, leaving some margin in there to take regular breaks. These breaks are great for giving your kids’ brains a rest, and good for you to take care of anything on your “to-do” list throughout the day as well. Bottom line: Don’t cram five hours worth of lessons into five hours worth of instruction, spread it out over six or six-and-a-half hours to build in some break time so you can accomplish everything on your lesson plan without rushing through things.
Flexibility is key in any homeschooling situation. It’s one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling overall, as you’re better able to customize learning with your children. This permits you to spend more time on subjects that they’re struggling with or alternate your lesson plan so that they’re working on certain subjects at times when their attention and productivity tends to be greater. If your child has a meltdown over his math lesson, it’s OK to drop it for the time being and move onto a different subject or take a break, eventually moving back to it later after there’s been some cool down time. If one of your children is a morning person, you can adjust your plans so that they complete any independent work before your other children even wake up for the day. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you and your children don’t have to be in lockstep all day, every day. You can adjust your lesson plan accordingly so that the routine is in line with both you and your children’s preferences.
Don’t Think You Have to Cover Every Subject Every Day
While you want to be dedicating equal time to each subject, don’t think you have to cram them all into one day. Instead, consider spacing them out throughout the week to allow you – and your children – to better zero in on certain subjects for longer periods each day. For instance, if your child was frustrated by the math lesson on Monday, maybe give it a rest and don’t pick it up again until Wednesday. Sometimes, some time away from a particular subject can do everyone a lot of good, especially your child. Then, when you’re ready to take the subject back up again after taking a break, you each know more about what to expect and you both can navigate it accordingly, learning from any difficulties that were experienced last time. It all goes back to being flexible with your lesson plan and making adaptations when necessary. While it’s still important to cover every subject, how your child learns can help dictate when and how often you teach such lessons.
Make Time for ‘Specials’
If you ask any child who attends public school what their favorite part of the day is, you’ll likely be met with “gym class” or “art” or “music.” Kids love these “specials,” as it allows them to take a mental break from learning and focus on something that’s just as important, but often more enjoyable. You should be sure you’re making time for these specials as well, as they’re important to any child’s all-around development. And what’s nice about homeschooling is that you can customize these special times to always keep them fresh and interesting. For example, for gym class you might take them to the park one day or have them play a game in the backyard. For music, you can focus on age-appropriate composers and musicians – and introduce them to music that you enjoy. You might even see if your local park or library hosts any musicians or music time that is catered specifically to children. The options are plentiful, but it’s important to make time in your routine for these activities.
Make Learning an Adventure
Field trip! Homeschooling doesn’t have to be something that’s exclusively done in the comfort of your home. One of the great things about this customized instruction is that it allows you to take matters into your own hands and complement lessons with real-world examples, or field trips. For example, if you’re learning about animals, a trip to the zoo might be in line. Or if you’re learning about plants, a visit to a local garden or farmer’s market could help add another layer to this learning. Learning is about a lot more than just reading a textbook – it’s about getting out and exploring real-world examples to reinforce certain lessons. And one of the great things about homeschooling is you can take these little field trips during the normal school day, when attendance is likely to be low while most people are at work and most kids are attending school. Even playing educational games can help develop new skills and make for a more well-rounded experience. If it’s a nice day, you can take school outside for the day for a change of scenery. When you homeschool, learning can be a fun adventure.
Homeschooling is more than just fun and effective, but it can be a highly rewarding experience as well. But it all starts with establishing a good foundation, and any good homeschooling foundation begins and ends with a routine.