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Homeschool Management Tips!

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By Tamara Eaton

Time-management has always been an interest of mine, but when I had four children in four and a half years, it became more than an interest, it was a matter of sheer survival. I couldn't possibly do everything, so I had to learn to establish priorities, find creative ways to do the necessary things, and put everything else on hold.

Homeschooling moms everywhere face the same challenge--how to juggle homeschooling, housework, cooking, mothering, some personal time, and being a good wife all into one twenty-four hour period? (Not to mention getting a little sleep, as well.)

We now have six children (second grader through teens), and have always homeschooled. This year, we have children in all levels of schooling: elementary through high school. I have even more reasons now to exercise creative time-management skills!

Here are some tips that have helped me over the years:

  • As each new year begins, write down priorities and goals. Once you have a working plan, you can modify it as needed, but this helps you feel more in control of your time. The goals will seem more manageable and you will feel less overwhelmed. You can't do it ALL, so do the important things first.
  • Make sure the goals you set are reasonable. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Simplify your life. Develop a system for keeping your house as neat as possible, at least in the important areas. Get the kids to help. Start them while they're young. Lower your expectations. Perfection is not a realistic goal with children in the house.
  • Simplify your meals. Some of the healthiest meals are the simplest meals. During the homeschool year, we keep breakfast simple, with cereal or oatmeal and toast. Lunch is also simple, consisting of sandwiches or soup and fruit. The children also make their own lunches. Paper plates are used for quick clean-ups. Dinners are kept simple on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Many times the children help prepare these meals. I prepare something more elaborate on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but even then it's often something that I can put in the oven or on top of the stove earlier in the day and have ready for dinner without a lot of last minute preparation.
  • De-clutter your home. To decrease frustrations, have a place for all homeschooling materials, pencils, papers, books, scissors, etc.
  • Work on children's attitudes and training. Don't just let things go. Deal with them so they don't get worse. Summer is a good time to train them to help with household chores and cooking. Sometimes it's necessary to take off for a day or two for training in these areas during the homeschool year. It's important that your children learn to be responsible and realize that it takes the whole family working together to make our homeschool and household run smoothly.
  • Tackle the areas that bother you the most at first; think of ways you can avoid problems in the future and ways you can correct any problems now.
  • Don't try to do too much all at once. Focus on one area at a time. For example, right now, my closets all need reorganizing and de-cluttering. A realistic goal has been for me to do one closet a week until they are all finished.
  • Take 15-30 minutes to do some of the "dirty jobs" that you've been putting off for ages, yet bother you every time you think about them. Clean one window or one drawer, then stop, and get back to the normal routine.
  • Don't "nag" your family about helping around the house; instead, quietly, firmly, and politely tell them what you need done. In our home, children, who don't follow instructions when asked, get added jobs or responsibilities.
  • Limit outside commitments. Trips take a large chunk out of your day. I try to stay home during the week as much as possible. It's especially needed with small children in the household. If we go too much, it upsets their routine and it's difficult to do schooling or housework.
  • Begin each school year early to allow time to take breaks when needed, or school year round.
  • Watch your attitudes. They set the tone for the children's attitudes.
  • Don't feel guilty if your homeschool doesn't sound as educational, organized, or perfect as your friends' homeschools. Very likely theirs is not as picture perfect as it sounds. They have their trials and struggles at times. It's very difficult to be objective about your own homeschool, especially if you are just beginning. Talk to other homeschooling families and get their perspective. This should provide encouragement and give you some fresh ideas.
  • Don't think that you have to tackle fifty projects and unit studies a year to be productive. There are many ways to learn and busy homeschooling parents can't always work in all the projects they'd like to do, especially when there are younger children in the household. Elaborate unit studies and hands on projects are great, but you might have to limit them if you don't feel you can handle them at this stage in your homeschooling adventure.
  • Field trips are also something that some families have a difficult time scheduling during the busy homeschooling months. We try to do some in the summertime when things are less hectic.
  • Keep things simple. Give your children time to learn. Teach one skill at a time and let them practice it, a little at a time, building upon their new skills. This gives children confidence in their abilities and makes learning fun.

Review your homeschooling from time to time. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I overdoing it?
  • Am I trying to make something simple complicated?
  • Do I need to find a new method to teach a needed skill?
  • Am I committed to too many outside activities?
  • What can I eliminate in my life right now?
  • What is essential?
  • Am I being consistent with the children?
  • Do I need to take some time to work on their manners? Teach them to be more responsible?
  • Would I do better to postpone certain projects or unit studies until later? Next month? Next summer? Next year?

Homeschooling for many families requires charting their own course, their own road map, instead of following the traditional methods of education set forth by public or private schools. Fortunately, we have many homeschooling pioneers now and we can learn much from them, but ultimately each family has to decide upon the right approach for themselves.

Give yourself time to adjust and find the best plan for your family. Look toward the long-range goals instead of expecting to see quick results in every area, although there will be good fruit that you can already see. Some of the fruit of your efforts won't be seen for years. Hang in there. It will be worth it.

Copyright 1995 by Tamara Eaton

Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.

Copyright ©  2004  Eclectic Homeschool Association

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