Ten Habits of Happy Homeschoolers

I’ve been around the homeschooling block.  I often think back to my first few years and the things that I worried over incessantly.  The nights that I stayed up lesson planning and scrutinizing my every decision.  I still worry a bit I suppose, but after many years we are into a rhythm that works for us.  Homeschooling has just become so much a part of our home that I wouldn’t even know who I am without it.  It certainly doesn’t cost me any more sleepless nights.

School

That got me thinking – what has changed?  Is it just that I’m more relaxed?  Am I just better at it now?  Truthfully, I am better at it.  I’ve developed habits that have made us happier homeschoolers and that have made me a better mama.

So . . . ta da!  I present to you, my Ten Habits of Happy Homeschoolers.

Ten Habits of Happy Homeschoolers

#1 Taking Time For Myself

I take time for myself.  Even if it means I have to wake up early or stay up late, I set aside an hour or so a day.  I need the time to pray, to read, to blog, and to just think about things.  In the summertime I weed my garden, and if any kids come around, I offer them a rake and they run the other way.  Because I need quiet time.  I crave it.  Every day I take it.  Nobody will give it to you.  You have to take it.

Karen-happy-Mom

#2 Keeping A Clean Enough Home

Like quiet, I crave cleanliness.  I feel peaceful when things are in their place.  When you believe in exploration learning with hands-on projects, cleanliness can be elusive.  And when the kids never leave because, well, you decided to homeschool, cleanliness can be elusive.  When you have a big family, cleanliness can be elusive.  I’ve come to accept that my house won’t be perfect, but we continually work together and keep tidying as we go.  You can read more about my cleaning system right here.

Housekeeping and Homeschooling - chore chart with stickers

#3 Just Saying No

I say no.  A lot.  I say no when people ask me to tend their kids because I’m a stay-at-home mom.  When my phone rings in the middle of a math lesson or when I’m reading a fairy tale or any number of other important things I do every day, I say no.  And I say no when someone wants us to join more clubs, sports, or groups than we have time or energy for.  I say no to wonderful things because they are not AS wonderful as our peace, sanity, learning, and family time.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I say yes to.  But I also reserve the right to say no.

#4 Lifelong Learning

I don’t just teach.  I learn.  This does three things for me:  First, it shows my kids I live what I preach.  They watch me far more than they listen to me, so I try to be a great example of a learner.  Second, it allows me freedom from lesson planning.  Instead of preparing the math lesson the night before, my kids know that I read the math lesson with them, work the example problems with them, and then check the answers to make sure we’re all doing it right.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything.  I take the role of student right alongside my kids.  Third, it pushes and stimulates me.  When I go to the library to get my kids a book on gravity, I also check one out for myself, on my level.  Learning on my level pushes me to new heights of understanding.  And that feels good.  I often say my real education began after my university days were over – when I became a homeschool mom.

Karen-sitting-with-her-graduating-class

#5 Keeping A Routine, Not A Schedule

We have a great routine, but not an exact schedule.  For years I had a schedule.  It had little time blocks on it with subjects listed by them.  But we could never keep things in the appropriate time blocks, and that stressed me out.  Now we have terrific routines instead.  Whether it’s 7:00 A.M. or 9:00 A.M., if they hear “morning checklist” they know what to do – clean their rooms, get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, and be ready for breakfast and school.  It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if my kids hear the words “written work” they know what to do – that’s what we call our math, reading, and writing, and those assignments are all in their planners.  If they hear “Layers of Learning” they jump right on it and get their learning notebooks and writing utensils and come with mom, because it’s time for learning as a family from our unit.  If they hear “chore time” they immediately get their chores done and check off their chart.  And if they hear “bedtime” they know to get their pj’s on, brush their teeth, and come join in for family scripture study and bedtime stories.

Bedtime

#6 Holding Weekly Family Night

This may seem silly when homeschoolers get more family time than just about anyone else, but I swear by this one.  Our family night is the BEST night of the week.  We don’t let anything else get in the way of it.  We take turns teaching little lessons that help us be the kind of great people we want to be.  Honesty, integrity, cooperation, compassion, service – any moral lessons that build us as individuals and as a family.  Then we do an activity together – a family bike ride, hide and go seek, trampoline tricks, a board game, charades, a nature walk – anything goes as long as everyone participates.  Finally, we have a yummy treat.  Num num.

Family-Night

#7 Enjoying Dinnertime Chats

We talk over dinner.  Our favorite conversation tradition is going around the table and each getting to tell: (1.) The best part about my day, (2.) The worst part about my day, and (3.) Something I learned.  My kids love that they get the floor without being interrupted, and it’s just an awesome way to sum up our day.

Family-Dinner

#8 Having Family School Time

I felt ragged when I tried to plan individual lessons for every kid in every subject and keep up with them all.  Exhaustion was taking over.  Starting to do family school where we all learned the same subject at the same time was the BEST THING EVER for me.  At some point I realized that the lesson I was teaching my second grader about Asian geography was more than I knew about the subject when I graduated with honors from a university.  The idea dawned on me, we can all learn this stuff together.  Now we do.  We all learn history, geography, science, and art together.  Of course, my first grader might end the lesson with a sentence or two narration about what she learned while my seventh grader will have to write several paragraphs or pages, but the material is the same.  We read great books, have discussions, do cool projects, and get involved in what we’re learning as a family.

#9  Correcting School Work

I correct my kids’ schoolwork, but even beyond that, THEY correct it.  If they’ve made a mistake on their work, they need to fix it.  I mark what needs to be fixed, and then they fix the mistakes.  In theory, they shouldn’t leave an assignment until they’ve gotten 100 percent on it.  Now, not everything we do is graded.  In fact, a good deal of it isn’t, but if something is graded and marked, they are expected to fix their errors.  I  was a public-schooler, and I remember shoving my corrected papers deep on my backpack, never to be looked at again.  One of the perks homeschoolers get is a better student-teacher ratio.  Finishing the lesson is 100% is doable and teaches us not only the lesson, but also character traits like perseverance and hard work.

#10  Prayers for Patience

I pray for patience.  Sometimes more than once a day.  Sometimes more than once an hour.  It’s a routine I simply couldn’t live without.

These ten habits didn’t happen overnight.  I’ve spent the last decade tweaking things in our lives and in our family to make things run without running me ragged.  And, like everyone, we are still a work in progress.  There’s no doubt though, that these habits have made homeschooling happier.

Do you have any habits you can’t do without?

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6 Comments

  1. We have the habit of “bedtime talk.” Every night, at bedtime, either before or after his story, my son talks. And he knows he can talk about anything. It might be a story he’s thought up. It might be about something he enjoyed that happened that day or even something that happened on the playground weeks ago he’s still not sure about. For some reason, right at bedtime is when he wants to do his big talks – we’ve talked about everything from religious beliefs to steam engines to just whether or not underpants are really that important.

    The other routine is our prayers – bed and morning ones especially. His whole night is ruined if something keeps him from saying his bedtime prayers with me. And his whole day is if we don’t say our morning prayers.

  2. That’s a great habit Crystal. My kids love being tucked in too, because it means they get our 100% attention to tell us anything and everything they want to. It doesn’t really matter what you talk about, but it is so very important to keep those lines of communication open!

    Can’t get through the day without prayers! Isn’t it awesome when even kiddos realize that?

  3. Dorothea Mills

    So, I think what your doing is great. You definitely have a gift from God for organization! And I have been homeschooling for several years and struggle with organization. My daughter craves organization and I am feeling slightly breathless at the time thankful about some of the things I can download and use. How long does it take you to come up with a lesson plan, what are your mental steps and will you say “Yes” to saying a quick prayer for the organizational skills God wants me to have will arrive.

  4. Dorothea, I don’t really spend a lot of time for specific lesson planning. On the weekend (either Friday afternoon if I’m on top of things, or Sunday night if I’m not), I fill out the kids’ school planners with their assignments for the week. They like being able to look at their whole week and always having something to work on if Mom is busy helping someone else.

    I also reserve books from the library or send some books to their Kindles.

    I look through our Layers of Learning unit booklet and add things to my shopping list for the projects we want to do. Most weeks we have everything, but every so often there’s something I need to get.

    All in all, I spend about an hour a week. This is possible because I have curriculum materials that make me happy already. We use Saxon for math, Sequential Spelling, and Layers of Learning for history, geography, science, and art. All I have to creatively plan is our writer’s workshop and any field trips or outings we’re taking. It’s pretty quick.

    I used to peruse materials and ideas for hours, but I realized I was spending more time planning than teaching. Keep the planning to a minimum and just learn alongside your kids with great books and projects. I enjoy Pinterest, so if I come across something I want to use, I also pin it and add the idea to my unit booklet so I can see it when I get to that unit.

    As far as my mental process, I think I’ve learned that I need to rely on my routines and say no to extras most of the time. Routines give our minds a break. We can go on autopilot and eliminate stress when we have little bits of routines throughout the day. It keeps me sane and less stressed.

    Most people try to get organized like they try to diet – all or nothing, and failure means giving up. Instead, just choose one thing to work on. Master one small thing at a time. Decide to just always unload the dishwasher before bed, or mark your daughter’s assignments in her planner on Friday afternoon for the next week, or plan a menu a week ahead. Choose one small way to be organized and work on that.

    All the best,
    Karen

    1. Are you kidding me? Evje just joined right in, that smart little whippersnapper! And there is no habit in the world that isn’t worth breaking sometimes for the right reasons. I never once wished I had said no to you sweet Ruthie. She was a joy to have in our home and the experience taught our kids more than any math or reading lesson ever would have.

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