You’re ready to start homeschooling for the day. Your kids are at the table. They’re sitting up, alert, pencils poised, and ready to begin. Books are open. They’re smiling. You’re smiling. Everybody’s leaning in toward each other. The family dog is lying quietly on the floor nearby.
The kids are moaning and groaning. You want to begin homeschooling for the day. The kids are fighting you. “Can’t we skip a day?” “I’m tired!” “Why do I have to change out of my jammies?” “What difference does it make?” “Can I watch one more Spongebob?” You get them to the table, and at least one of the kids immediately lays their head on it.
Finally, they’re up, sort of alert, and ready to start. But you’re interrupted by the dog who starts barking at a squirrel it sees through the window. You let the dog out, but by the time you get back to the kids, their heads are back on the table.
On mornings like that, it’s a rough uphill climb to a good homeschooling day.
Every day isn’t going to be like Julie Andrews and the von Trapp children, singing and frolicking through the Austrian foothills in perfect harmony. That’s a given. Some days aren’t going to be perfect. You’ll have lots of chaotic moments when you’re homeschooling.
The truth is, it’s easy to set up in the morning so your homeschooling day starts on a positive note. There are even a few simple things you can do to keep things running smoothly through the day.
And it doesn’t take a lot of work.
First, you need to check your mood and mindset.
Never forget that your mood impacts your kids more than you know. If you’re dreading the homeschooling day, they will too. Check in on any personal grumpiness you’re feeling in the morning. Do your best to clear it, sort it out, or shake it off.
Insert a little self-care in your homeschooling day to help. Something that YOU and the kids can all look forward to. A 20-minute chair yoga class? A mid-morning break for a driveway pickleball game? Why not?
It’s inevitable. A lot of homeschooling days are going to include subjects and lessons that the kids don't like. That’s why you add activities that’ll get your bodies or minds working and that you’ll all enjoy.
Then, post a daily agenda where everybody can see it.
On a big white board or writing pad sitting on an easel, write up the schedule for the day. Make sure you include the timing too. For example, list how long you’ll work on different subjects, when the breaks are, when you’ll finish for the day, and so on. Do your best to stick to it.
This is a powerful tool to keep you and the kids focused and on task.
Do a 5 to 10 minute warm-up activity at the start of the day.
Daily warm-ups get kids’ minds engaged before the homeschooling subject lessons begin. It also sets a positive tone for the day. For example, you can post a quote and ask them to interpret it. You could do a quick word game, or ask a history trivia question. Better yet, your kids could take a turn to create their own warm-up questions for the rest of the group.
The warm-up works best if it's a question pulled from a subject all the kids study and can answer. This way, they’re all able to take part in the short discussion that follows. You don’t want to leave anybody out, because then they’ll tune out.
Discuss their answers as a group, and follow-up by asking why they chose that answer whenever you can. Those “why” questions are excellent opportunities for critical thinking practice.
Critical thinking skills are key. I plague kids with lots of “why” or “how” questions in my Essay Rockstar courses. Why did they make that statement? How do they know it’s true?
Next, as you move into your lessons, go over the day’s learning objectives.
A learning objective is another word for learning goal. This is also a powerful tool to keep the kids focused through the homeschool day.
Your curriculum should have the learning goals or objectives listed at the beginning of each lesson. Make sure you go over them with each child every day. If the learning goals are relevant and easy to understand, they’ll help diffuse resistance to school work.
When your kids are goal oriented, they keep the end in mind and work to reach that end. That’s one way they’ll feel success. As an extra reward, if they reach their learning goal early, they can take a short break or work ahead to finish their day earlier.
Don’t beat yourself up if things go off track during transitions.
Transitions between lessons can be a very tricky time of the homeschooling day. Don’t beat yourself up if you find that it’s super hard to get kids focused on the second, third, or fourth lesson of the day. Everybody struggles with that!
Mom, you’re a pro at managing your kids, and you’ve been doing it for years. You know them best and deal with their different energy levels throughout the day, every day. Sometimes the kids need to blow off some pent up energy with movement, sometimes they’re hungry and need a snack. Sometimes they need to step away from the desk for a bit and go to the reading nook or take a five-minute chat break.
Rotate through different subjects at different times of the day through the week. This helps a lot if you find they’re tired and struggle to focus at a particular time each day.
Do a quick wrap-up with the kids at the end of the homeschooling day.
Finish up with a group or one-on-one meeting with your kids. Review what they worked on that day, and ask them to share their daily wins and questions with you. Ask for their feedback on their lessons. Listen to their ideas on what they might want to do differently tomorrow.
The wrap up conversation is a powerful way to get your kids invested in their homeschooling. It's important that kids feel they have a voice in what they learn and how they learn it. They become active participants in their education instead of passive recipients of it.
After you’re done with the kids, do a quick review of your homeschooling plan for tomorrow.
Go to your homeschool planner and read through the plan you completed today. What did you get done, where are you ahead or behind? What questions did kids have that need answers?
Jot down notes in your planner or journal. Do it every day. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll remember their comments later. You’ve got too much going on during the week for that!
Then, while the day is still fresh in your mind, revisit the next lesson for that each subject in your planner. Depending on what you accomplished today, tweak your plan for tomorrow as you see fit.
A successful homeschooling day is about structure. Once you set up a structure that works and everybody enjoys, you’ll be a homeschooling success story.
Try the techniques I wrote about and tell me how they work for you in a comment below.
You're a homeschooling rockstar!