It's that time of the year: birds are singing, flowers blooming, pollen on the air...and homeschoolers fight homeschool with every fiber of their being. Yet, you as the homeschooling parent, want--need--them to finish something related to homeschool. Your house is a mess, your kids aren't listening to you, and you are overwhelmed.
Homeschool doesn't have to be overwhelming but it often can be. Distractions get in the way of both parent and child, and the academic part of homeschooling can quickly feel like a chore. Here are some ways to manage an overwhelming homeschool life:
Have a change of scenery
As I write this, my daughter is beside me on our deck. We're sitting on a bench together, papers and books and laptop before us on a table. Birds are chirping, our chickens are clucking, the duck is quacking, and I expect Carl, our rooster, to crow any moment. Carolina blue skies are overhead, dotted by big fluffy clouds. It's a glorious day--and we are homeschooling. She's working a word search for spelling.
The thing is, we just started--and it's already 12:03 in the afternoon. It's nearly impossible for us to start in the early morning hours, so we start when we can: after animals have been fed, breakfast eaten, and clothes changed. Sometimes, a change of scenery, like coming outside on a gorgeous day, can help a great deal. Take materials to the park with a big blanket, or go to the library. Sit at a library table and, quietly, do the lessons.
The biggest distraction for my daughter are screens. Her tablet, her borrowing my phone--they all have a tendency to suck time and motivation away from her. One thing we're going to do, starting tomorrow, is to institute a new family rule: no screens until academics are finished and chores are done. I say tomorrow because this is an ongoing issue and, frankly, one I just came up with. When you're overwhelmed, you have to come up with things as you go to see what works and what doesn't.
Here me out: you don't have to finish the curriculum. If academics are hurting your relationship with your child, stop the academics. Take a couple weeks off and do fun things: plant a garden, visit museums or parks, rearrange the child's room--do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. Go for long nature walks and talk about what you see. Then, come back to academics a little at a time.
Not even public schools finish entire math books. The purpose of homeschool is to cultivate a relationship with your child and institute a love of learning. If learning has become a form of torture for you both, it's time to give it a rest. Try something new, like just reading the history book aloud. Do science projects.
There's a caveat to this, though: if you have a high school-level student, it's important for the sake of the transcript that curriculums do get finished. Have a heart-to-heart with your student and just lay it out: you must push through the curriculum to graduate high school. A lot of life is simply pushing through. We need to make sure our children understand that.
Take time for yourself
It's one thing for the students to be overwhelmed; it's another when the homeschooling parent gets overwhelmed. Know that it's perfectly okay to reach out to another homeschooling family and ask if they want to trade time. You invite another group of homeschooling children to your home, with their academics they're working on, and all the kids work on their individual tasks at your table, while the visiting kids' mom gets a much-needed break. Maybe she'll get her hair done, or nails, or just have a couple hours for a mental health break. Then, she watches your kids while you get a little break.
Take a week off academic homeschool and make it a homeschooling project to organize parts of the house that are cluttered and overwhelming. If you use your dining room for homeschool, as I do, try to figure out a way to store homeschool materials when they're not being used so you can actually use the table to dine on. If you are blessed enough to have a dedicated homeschool space, take a day or two to organize and redecorate it--particularly before starting a new grade or homeschool year.
Biblical characters battled being overwhelmed, too
Christian homeschoolers often think that they're the only ones to get overwhelmed. Just because a biblical character was close to God doesn't mean they didn't battle being overwhelmed. David, Jeremiah, Elijah--even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were overwhelmed at some point in their lives. We can learn from them and how they handled being overwhelmed. Having an active and constant prayer life, being in the Word, and surrounding yourselves with praying friends can all help you in being overwhelmed.
Everyone faces a season of being overwhelmed. I feel like I am a chronic overwhelmer--to the point that I needed help, so I wrote a book about how biblical characters handled being overwhelmed and what we can learn from them. I learned so much during the writing of this book! Overwhelmed: Biblical and Practical Ways to Manage a Crazy-Busy Homeschool Life can be found in my online store (autographed) or non-autographed books are available on Amazon. Balancing homeschooling, parenting, discipleship, home management, and life can be extraordinarily tricky. In this mercifully brief book for overwhelmed homeschool parents, I give biblical and practical strategies on how to manage a crazy-busy homeschool life. Using Scripture and practical suggestions, I encourage parents who are caregivers and homeschooling, and parents who are homeschooling children with special needs. In addition, I show how biblical figures handled stress, and applies those lessons to real-world issues homeschoolers face.
Please know that you are not alone! Every homeschooling parent feels overwhelmed at times, and more in some seasons. It's important to recognize when you're reaching that point, and to do something about it.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
How to Organize Your Homeschool
Homeschooling your kids and taking control of their education is such a wonderful and rewarding feeling. It can also feel very overwhelming! There is a lot that comes with homeschooling from the curriculum, educational resources, and supplies that can make it difficult to keep everything together and organized. Not to worry though, here you will find some homeschool organization tips to help you.
Color coding can be done in a couple of different ways. If you are homeschooling more than one child, assigning each child a color can help you to know whose work you are looking at, and who forgot to put away their supplies. If you are only homeschooling one child you can color code by subject. Having your homeschool supplies color-coded can make finding what you need when you need it easier for you and your student. These color-coded labels can help you do that.
Clipboards are inexpensive, versatile, and they can be invaluable tools when it comes to organizing your homeschool. You can put your daily or weekly schedules on them and they can also be used as portable workstations for when you or your student don’t feel like being stuck at a table or desk.
Chances are that some of your homeschool curriculum and resources are digital so you will need a way to organize all of those resources too. Start by creating a folder for each subject on your computer, those folders can be further subdivided into topic and grade level so that you find exactly what you need when you want it.
You will want to keep a portfolio of each of your homeschool children’s work through the school year, but where are you supposed to keep it all? Grades and unit tests can be stored as computer files if you prefer, or you can print end-of-the-semester grades and put them in a binder for each child. Add this Annual Record Portfolio, and you'll have all your child's grades at your fingertips.
What about all of their completed projects you ask? You probably don’t have room to store them all, particularly if you have more than one student. You can, however, document their completed projects with pictures that you print and add to their portfolio, or simply keep them as a digital archive.
If you are a homeschooling family, and you aren’t using your local library you really should be. There are so many amazing resources that you can check out and use as part of your curriculum, or just for fun, and it’s all for free!
The trick is to make sure that the borrowed library items make it back to the library and don’t get lost in the books and resources that you already have at home. That’s where the library box comes in, all you need is a milk crate or storage box where all of the borrowed materials can stay when they are not in use to make sure they are returned. Hot tip: I use this collapsible trunk organizer for a library box. It keeps the books in one place in the house, and it's easy to transport in my van back to the library. It folds down so we can take it in the library to re-stock. Plus, when it's not holding books, it's great for groceries.
Bookshelves can be used to hold more than just your textbooks and workbooks, and they are relatively inexpensive. Adding a bookshelf to your living room or homeschool room is an easy way to help keep your homeschool organized.
Purchase totes, baskets, or canvas storage bins that will fit comfortably on your bookshelf. Make sure that each tote, basket, or bin is clearly labeled so that you know what belongs inside of it. If you have younger students who are just learning to read pictures on the outside of the boxes can be very helpful.
A Place For Everything
You know the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place," well, this is true for organizing your homeschool as well. Have a designated spot for your textbooks, workbooks, paper, art supplies, learning manipulatives, and anything else that you might be using as part of your curriculum.
Having a designated spot for each item makes it easier for you and your student to put things back when they are done, and that makes it easier to find them the next time they are needed. If you find that you have more things than you do space it might be time to purge some of your materials or put them in storage until you need them.
Over the door, shoe organizers can be used to store so much more than just your shoes, and it is a convenient way to keep some of your smaller items together. The organizers with clear pockets are great because you can see what’s in them quickly.
These pockets are a great place to store index cards, markers, crayons, glue, painting supplies, pencils, and flashcards. You can also use them to hold your office supplies and any cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, that you may use in your homeschool room.
Having your homeschool materials organized means that you can focus on the important parts like teaching and learning what works best for your learner. Everyone’s homeschool organization will look different based on the number and age of students they have, and the space that they have in their home. Do you have any amazing homeschool organization tips that you would like to share? Comment those ideas below!
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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