Save Your Sanity! Tips for the Homeschooling Mom


If you’re new to homeschooling, or still in the stage of considering having a go at it, the prospect can be daunting. You look around at other homeschooling families, and they seem to have it all together, but we all started at the same spot you’re in right now….

The first thing to keep in mind is that relationships are more important than academics. Your kids’ hearts are more important than their grades or achievements. You are the most qualified person to be in charge of your child’s education, because you love them more than anyone else and want the best for them. Be confident!

In addition to these tips, we’ve put together a packet of Homeschool Helps, including planners, graphic organizers, record logs, and templates to help you on your journey! 

Keep a record of all the books you read for school, not just the textbooks / curricula. This is especially important if you’re a Charlotte Mason or Unit Studies family.  Read aloud to your children…no matter their age. The snuggles are priceless, and the books will often lead to soul-searching conversations with teens. If you’re not sure where to start, check out The Read-Aloud Family.

Learn about the different homeschooling styles so that it’s easier to search for relevant tips. You can learn about different homeschooling styles here.  And if you don’t finish the full curriculum, don’t stress over it. There’s so much overlap in the grades that missing some lessons at the end of the year doesn’t really matter. What matters is finishing the year, taking time off to rest, and enjoying time with your children.

There is no one right or wrong curriculum. Take some time to decide what you want your children’s education to look like and find the curriculum that works for your family. And remember, there will be hard days — this is not an easy task, but it is totally worth it. {Fifty Reasons to be Thankful for Home School (on the Hard Days)}

Seek community. You are not on your own in this homeschooling journey! A helpful, inspiring homeschool community can do wonders for your morale. If you don’t belong to a homeschool community, there are many options available. You can join a local association, co-op, or even an encouraging online homeschool group.  At SchoolhouseTeachers, the Mama’s Corner has regular get-togethers to foster community!

Don’t be scared to change if something isn’t working. That’s one of the great things about homeschooling- you can change to suit you and your kids’ needs. You can change schedules, curriculum, topics, routines, anything…and it will all be just fine.  Remember your WHY.  Why did you start homeschooling?  What’s your ultimate goal here?  In A Parent’s Alphabet, we lay out several reasons, from A to Z, to help you refocus.

For high school students, follow your state’s graduation requirements. There are usually multiple tracks – one for college-bound students and one for general education – and it is of the utmost importance that you follow them if your child is college-bound. You can learn more about transcripts and requirements here.

A vision is so important and so grounding. I recommend mom finding a personal vision for school. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hint, Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie, and certainly anything by Ruth Beechick.

Sometimes you just get a little bit down, or off-kilter.  When that happens, and it will, look to Words of Encouragement for New (or Weary) Moms.  You’ll find yourself bouncing back in no time!

Maybe you just have too many things going on at once.  We know…we’ve been there, too.  In Prioritizing Your Life, you’ll find a free downloadable e-book to help you sort things out, find more time in the day, and settle in a bit.

Every mom, homeschooling or otherwise, can use a bit of pampering in her life!  Like they say on the airplanes, if you don’t put your oxygen mask on, you can’t save someone else.  Or in this case…when mom’s burnt out and ready to give up, nothing is getting accomplished.  Find your zen in Pampering for the Homeschool Mom.

A schedule is your servant, not your master, but schedule is a wonderful tool to help you accomplish your homeschooling goals, and just because you have a plan for each day doesn’t mean each day will go according to schedule. You will have interruptions, accidents, spills, and people dropping in. But you can take control!  See how Flexible Scheduling Can Work for You.

The initial excitement of homeschooling is important. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.  Remember to focus on Personal Wellness and Homeschooling for long-term success!

Homeschooling is a full time job. Act like it. Just because you don’t have to drive anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t have special school hours where nothing else gets scheduled. Guard your time you set aside, whenever that time is. All the other things can be scheduled around the few hours you need to get school time accomplished.  See how you can manage the Hardest Part of Homeschooling, when it’s not the kids.

You really can leave grade levels and school metrics behind, and build an interest-led, completely personalized homeschool experience for your children based in your unique family culture.  Finding a mentor, another homeschooling parent to talk to regularly, is a huge boost!  Need a hand up?  See 5 Homeschooling Mentors You Need to Follow.

When we fill our well up, we’re doing our family a favor. When we take care of ourselves, we have a better self to give. We are more present, we probably check our phones less often, and because our needs are met, we enjoy our time with our children. The time we give to ourselves matters and can help us to let go of any resentment and anger.  Pick up strategies for prioritizing at A Home School Mom’s Guide To Self-Care And Keeping Anger At Bay.

Whatever you are great at, whatever makes your heart happy, whatever your child/children do well with —do that first.  It may seem counterproductive to start with the one subject or thing that where you are actually on target or ahead when you feel like you are behind in everything else, but it usually results in more cooperative and happy kids.  See other things to try When Your Homeschool Moring Is Giving You The Blues.

Finally, don’t forget to fill up your tank!  Whether it’s with a cute shirt or kitschy homeschool gear, a treat that relaxes you and brings you joy, or simple inspiration, find something that speaks to you and remember the old adage — when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!


You’ll definitely want to check out…

 homeschool coffee

Finding Your Groove — Homeschool Styles

When looking for curriculum, you’ll want to consider your homeschool style.  It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, and that’s completely normal.  

Not sure what your style is?  


Consider…

  • What’s your teaching style?
  • What are your goals?
  • How do your kids learn best?
  • What values do you want to instill in your children?
  • What’s your lifestyle? Do you prefer routine or flexibility?

Within each of these homeschool styles, you have the flexibility to be creative and make your own student-directed classes.  Maybe your child is interested in becoming a veterinarian, but you can’t find a class for that…make your own!  You’ll need approximately 140 hours of work, hands on and academic, to count it as a full year.  Use this Create-Your-Own Class Planner to help you get started.

Download and print the Homeschool Curriculum Guide

Classical

Focusing on the trivium, the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, this is a Socratic method that includes public speaking, memorization, and a full school day. The trivium stages match up with elementary, middle, and secondary school. This is a rigorous approach to schooling, but produces results.  Compass Classroom offers several great options for classical instruction, and you can try their sample resources for free.

Charlotte Mason

Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, fine arts studies, and living books are all a part of this approach, and there is a focus on instill good character habits.  One of our favorite Charlotte Mason providers is The Homeschool Garden.  (See more information, or just try them free.)

Unit Studies

This approach takes all of the subjects and integrates them in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Field trips and hand-on projects are frequently utilized. Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.  Techie Homeschool Mom offers fantastic, online unit studies that also teach various technologies.  Try one free!

Unschooling

Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom, with a focus for teaching a love of learning and developing the ability to be self-educating. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.

Waldorf

Similar to unschooling, this is a child-centered approach that focuses on nature, arts, crafts, music, and movement.  Much of schooling is done out in nature, and technology is not a big part of this curriculum.

Eclectic

The eclectic method is just a fancy way of saying ‘a combination of styles.’  This includes picking and choosing from the smorgasboard of different curriculum providers to meet your student’s various needs.  Literary Adventures for Kids is a beautifully-eclectic, online language arts program that your kids are sure to love!  Try their Psychology course for upper grades free here.

Textbooks

This is a fairly common style in the first few years of homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your children out of public school, to build confidence.  Don’t forget to do a bit of de-schooling before starting the semester!  Traditional schoolers focus on common standards and often complete a full day of classwork.

Stay-at-Home School

A lot of organizations don’t consider this to be “real” homeschooling since it’s being paid for and run by the government and someone else is doing all of the teaching.  For a small percentage of people, though, whether it be because of job commitments, life ‘events,’ or something else that is preventing them from being able to sit down and dedicate themselves fully to educating their children, institutions such as K12 and Epic really are the best fit.  It’s never my first recommendation, but still a valid option.


One of our favorite all-in-one resources for families is SchoolhouseTeachers.  It includes all classes, for all grades…and it’s one price for the entire family, whether you have two children or twelve.  There are many different learning styles to select from, so if you have one visual kid who needs a relaxed pace and one aural kid who needs a more stringent pace, there are classes that will fit them each.  With over 475 classes available, plus extras for mom and dad, this is my favorite resource to offer new families who are wanting to dip their toe into homeschooling but aren’t sure how to begin!


Want a little help getting started?  Download the free e-book, Getting Your Homeschool Off on the Right Foot!

When choosing a curriculum for your family, you’ll want to consider ‘intelligence’ and learning styles.  A Genius in Every Seat helps you work through determining these factors…
This e-book comes with a workbook component for surveying yourself and your students, along with suggestions for putting the results into practice.

Most Commonly Asked Homeschooling Questions…Answered!

new homeschooler

Can I just pull my child out of school?  Is that even legal?

The short answer is, yes, you can pull them out and it’s legal.  But each state has different laws, but HSLDA knows all of them.  If you’re planning to homeschool, joining HSLDA is a must, no matter which state you reside in, because they’ve got your back. 

How do I get started?

Homeschooling can be expensive if you don’t put some thought into it at the beginning.  {See The Costs of Homeschooling.}  The first thing you should do, especially if you are pulling kids out of public school, is to plan for an adjustment period.  You might hear this referred to as ‘deschooling.’  This will give you time to take some notes and make a plan, but it also gives your student(s) time to transition.  (The longer they were in public school, the longer this may take.)  This is when your child comes to realize that the days of being lectured and provided answers have passed, and it is now time to be more proactive and take some responsibility for their learning.  Trust me…they’ll come to appreciate this.

Deschooling also gives your family a chance to find a new rhythm.  Remember when everyone had to pull their kids out of school, without warning, during COVID?  People were overwhelmed.  Their lives were being turned on a dime.  This transitional time allows you to get past the “argh!  We’re together all. the. time.” phase and into a more family-oriented groove.  I’m not gonna lie…it can be hard for some families, particularly those who are accustomed to running all the time.  But you’ll get there.

Deschooling, however, doesn’t mean watching tv and playing video games every day.  This is a chance to re-ignite that natural passion for learning.  Take up a craft or art project.  Read some books.  Get outside.  Take field trips.  This is a chance to get back to the basics of learning.

Tips for Transitioning to Home-School

  • Keep a routine as best you can.  Set up a daily schedule that includes work, rest, and play. 
  • Try to regulate screen time.  This may be difficult if classes are being held online, but try anyway.
  • Be patient with yourself and others.
  • Be willing to learn alongside your kids.  You might find you enjoy the lessons!
  • If you are working from home, be willing to check in on your kids every 20-30 minutes to be sure they are doing their classes.

One fantastic option for families just starting out is called SchoolhouseTeachers. .. 

  • One family membership covers all the kids…whether there are two or twelve…and everything you need to homeschool every subject for every grade!
  • There are varied course options, including streaming, interactive, and downloadable.  We personally (here in rural-ville) tend toward the downloadable ones, but I know many families would rather have streaming.

If you’re not a member of SchoolhouseTeachers yet, this is an AMAZING time to check it out! You’ll get two years for the price of one, plus extra goodies, when you sign up for an Ultimate (PreK–12) Annual Membership

Use promo code: SHARK20 right now and receive the low rate of $179 for TWO years—only $89.50/yr! You’ll also receive a FREE canvas tote and PRINT back issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine (tote color and magazine issue will vary, no refunds)Every subject. Every grade. Every student.

But how am I supposed to get it all done in a day?

First-time homeschoolers generally try to replicate public school at home.  It’s what they know, and it’s familiar.  Trust me…many mommas have gone down this road before!

Learning to re-frame the day, however, is the first step toward homeschool freedom.  When you understand and accept that there is considerable learning value is almost everything you do, it relaxes your attitude toward school…which transfers to your students and makes for a more enjoyable experience.

How to re-frame?

  • First, learn the lingo.  
  • Does your child understand something?  Wonderful!  They have ‘comprehension.’  
  • If you quiz your child on his ABCs, does he know them?  Great!  He just passed an ‘assessment.’
  • Second, master documentation.

Say your elementary student spent two hours outside, skipping rope, playing with sidewalk chalk, catching bugs and examining them, and making leaf prints.  That’s physical education, art (or handwriting, depending on what was drawn), science, and nature study!

Baking cookies together as part of holiday preparations?  This activity has math (measurement and time), chemistry, reading, home economics, and nutrition lessons!

We’re not suggesting that everyday consist of this type of schooling, though there are families who do ascribe to this theory – it’s called Unschooling, and you can learn more about it here.  

The point is that each day doesn’t need to consist of books, papers, and pencils to ensure that learning is happening.  When children are excited about something, they’re sure to learn and retain more!

What do I do about my special needs child? 

This is a subject that’s near and dear to the Homeschool House leadership, as each and every one of us has at least one special needs child.  You’ll find several articles on our blog about this subject.  Here are just a few….

Uh….planning.  Is that really necessary?

In a word, yes.  Benjamin Franklin once said,’ Failing to plan is planning to fail.’  What that means is that you need to have some idea of goals before you start teaching.  Is college a goal?  What about learning to read by the end of the year?  Different ages require different goals.

Some parents plan an entire year in advance.  Others plan for the month, or the week, while some just plan for the day.  How you choose to plan is going to be largely dependent on your preferences.

Me?  I’m a planner.  But I don’t like planning long-term because things are always changing (hello…COVID, anyone?).  After many years of homeschooling, our family has found that planning for the week ahead works perfectly for us.  Even then, there are some weeks when things change and the planning book gets marked up.  Life happens.

Some people do their planning online, while others prefer to use a paper planning book.  As part of the planning, you’ll review what’s coming up in each curricula subject, make sure you have materials and library books on-hand, and take into consideration any upcoming appointments during the school day.

If you’re planning for an entire month, plan to sit down for about a full day to lay out exactly what needs to be done. If you’re planning for a week at a time, prepare to spend about an hour laying out the week’s work.  Some people (no finger pointing at one of our Shack leaders J ) prefer to write down at the end of the day what was accomplished….no planning required and her book is never marked up with changes!  Again….personal preferences.

Planning a Bit Easier

There are some curricula that take all of the planning out the mix.  A World of Adventure, BookShark, Sonlight, My Father’s World…these are all curricula that provide the planning sheets for you.  It’s open and go…just make sure that you have any materials on-hand for art or science lessons (they’ll tell you what you need).  If you’re just starting your homeschool journey, and very anxious about planning and making sure that everything is covered, you might start out with something like this.

How on earth do I homeschool multiple ages at once??

Whether you have two children or eight, homeschooling multiple children is a juggling act.  One of the best things that you can do is have some ‘schooling together time’ so that there is a set time when everyone comes together as a unit.

Teach Together

With children of about the same age – up to four years apart – you can teach some of the subjects simultaneously.  Curricula such as The Good & the Beautiful, Gather ‘Round, BookShark, or A World of Adventure lend themselves toward this type of family-style teaching, with cohesive read-alouds and teaching time while each student gets an age-appropriate workbook.

Read-aloud time doesn’t have to mean that all the children are lined up neatly and politely on the couch!  Legos, coloring books, and other quiet play toys are a great way to keep little (or not-so-little) hands occupied during this time.  Discuss the reading as a family at the end of each session.

Unit Studies

Similar to the curricula cited above, unit studies allow your entire family to work together on one topic, with each student researching or studying at their own level.  After a family trip to the aquarium and some study-together time, a toddler might color a page about seahorses, while a high schooler might do a research paper on the same topic.  Together, all of the students could complete a science experiment, play a game, and do art projects.

Individual Subjects

While it’s easier to combine history and literature, subjects such as math and science need to be a bit more age-specific once students hit middle school.  Again, if they are only a couple of years apart, students could still study together.  Middle school, however, is when students begin to work independently, so this is a good opportunity to give them some of that freedom.  For many families, math is the one that requires each student to have different, grade-appropriate lessons, and tends to take the most of mom’s time.  An outside course, such as the Saxon Dive CDs, can really help here!

What curriculum do I need?

Choosing the right curriculum for your family means first determining your family’s homeschooling style.  Some families are strictly one style, while others prefer a blend of styles.  Within the leadership of the Book Shack, we cover nearly every style imaginable…so if you ever have questions, just ask, and one of us will be glad to assist you. You can also check out reviews!

Your family might try out one style and find that it’s not for you.  It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, and that’s completely normal.  When contacting the Book Shack for assistance, however, it helps us to help you if you know your family’s preferred style.  

What style is best for your family?

  • When choosing a style (and there’s a good chance you’ll change as your children grow), consider these questions…
  • What’s your teaching style?
  • What are your goals?
  • How do your kids learn best?
  • What values do you want to instill in your children?
  • What’s your lifestyle?  Do you prefer routine or flexibility?