The Best Kept Secret to Homeschooling Success and It’s Not Curriculum
So, by now you’re a few weeks into homeschooling. Most days there are tears, and not always from your kids. They won’t listen, you don’t know the subject matter very well, they’re fighting, complaining, and they still want to eat!
This is the visual you had in your mind: peacefully sitting together as a family, snuggled up on the couch or studiously sitting at the table, working hard and quietly together, happy to be homeschooled.
You did not sign up for yelling at your kids all day and now you’re starting to think that your homeschooling friends are crazy!
How can they actually enjoy this torturous lifestyle called homeschooling?
Well, my friend, you are not alone. In fact, there have been many days I have actually said out loud to my kids,
“Why aren’t you all in school?”
I get it.
Although it is a very rewarding and satisfying way to educate your children, nobody said this was easy. Keep reading, and I promise I have some good tips and advice on how to get your homeschool off the ground.
a critical piece of the homeschooling puzzle
If I asked you what is the most important ingredient to homeschooling success, what would you say?
Yes, those are all very necessary aspects of homeschooling and need to be figured out, but there is one more element that is probably more important than all of these. It’s the glue that will hold your house of cards together, making it stable and reliable for years to come.
And the sister to discipline, is routines.
And here are the goals for our children: good attitude, obedience, timely manner.
Disclaimer: I am not going to discuss the different types of discipline here. We all have our opinions on that and that topic is much deeper than we are talking today. I am going to assume you have this aspect of parenting figured out in terms of your beliefs, and what you’re willing to do and not do in terms of disciplining your children. I’m going to talk about this aspect of parenting within the homeschool context, but the actual method is up to you.
Let’s define discipline:
Discipline: training to act in accordance with rules.
This nicely sums up the idea of homeschooling. Teaching your children, guiding them into adulthood, showing them the correct path to take, how to behave, how to act, how to function, these are what you need to get your homeschooling into a happy place.
A side note if you’re coming from the school system:
Your children need help to understand that you are the authority in all areas of their lives, especially if they are younger than teens. If your child is coming from the school system, they are used to you being in authority over only part of their lives. Even small children recognize this. Give them some grace as you all adjust to this new way of living. You are all in this together, and your children may be struggling as much as you are. Don’t forget to honor and respect their feelings in this. Their whole world has changed and probably with not with much say on their parts.
You've got to start somewhere
To infuse some discipline and establish authority, I suggest you start small.
Give your children a small job or task that occurs daily. You can use a chore system that you already have in place, establish a chore system, or just find one thing they can do every day. This will help them practice obedience and adherence to the rules, as well as doing something on your timeline, not theirs.
- take out the trash
- wipe off the counters
- load the dishwasher
- get the mail
It doesn’t have to be big, but it does need to be daily. You are also not worried about doing a good job, just obedience at this point. Doing it well will come later.
Remember the goals: good attitude, obedience, timely manner.
Tell them to your children so they know.
Like I said earlier, I’m not going to go into how to discipline your children, but this is where you would institute your normal disciplining. If you use a reward system, or take away privileges, etc, when they break one of the goals (attitude, obedience and timely manner), then you discipline.
Depending on how strong-willed your child is, this could take one or two days or a couple of weeks. (I see all of you mom’s raising strong-willed daughters!)
Once they can do one job, give them another one. Keep adding jobs, but don’t overload them. I would go with maybe 3 or 4 things they are doing every day with the goals in mind.
This is where a routine comes in handy: you can use the pieces of your routine as the “job” they have to do.
For example, brushing teeth can be a job but you are also establishing a routine because they need to do it every day at the same time.
Other routine pieces that mascarade as jobs:
- getting dressed
- making the bed
- picking up their room
- eating breakfast
What about the school part of homeschooling?
Once they’ve met the goals with their jobs, you are ready to plug this into your school day.
The goals are the same: obedience, attitude and in a timely manner.
If you tell your kiddos to go get their math book out, and they fuss about math, swiftly remind them of what they have learned with the chores. Usually, I am able to just remind my 11 year old when she does this and she’s fine.
However, sometimes they will fall into a pattern of undesirable behavior and you have to meet it. It is important to establish this authority. You are not their friend. I’m sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but until they are adults, you cannot be friends with your child. You have been chosen to care for your child and meet their needs. You are capable of doing this and you can’t let your child’s attitude lead you astray. You do know that homeschooling is the best thing right now for your child. They don’t know what’s best for them, you do.
establishing routines: the backbone of your homeschool
Establishing a routine or rhythm to your day is also vitally important.
If the kids just automatically know that they make their beds when they wake up and then eat before they brush their teeth, there is no battle on all these things.
They just do it.
Children love routine and structure, they thrive on predictable days. In fact, we all do. When we get sick or get back from vacation, we crave the structure more than anything else. Our children do, too. You will circumvent many arguments if you establish routines.
The most important aspect of this, then, is to train your child to the routine.
I think a lot of moms fail when they plan out just the perfect routine/structure/schedule and then just expect the kids to be able to do it. It takes time, teaching, and practice before you can expect your children to do the routine.
For example, let’s say your 6 yr old brushes her teeth before she eats breakfast. You just gently remind her that tomorrow she needs to eat first. This is not the end of the world, mama. It’s OK if she has dirty teeth for a while before she learns. She’ll get there!
An example of a good morning routine:
- wake up
- get dressed
- eat breakfast
- brush teeth
- make bed
- tell mom you’re ready for school
All of those tasks can be done independently by a 4 yr old. Of course, making breakfast might have to be done by you, but you could put some granola bars and fruit out the night before and a young child can feed themselves, if needed.
This will look different for all families. Some families eat breakfast together and read the Bible or their school read alouds during that time.
Some moms have a nursing baby and the kids have to get themselves completely ready for the day while mom cares for the baby in the morning. There are about as many different ways to set up a routine as there are families out there.
The important thing is it has to work for you. Don’t be afraid to change it if it’s not working after a couple of weeks. Don’t forget to remind your child of the routine during the training process!
Your routine will need to go all day, every day. I keep referring to a morning routine, but your kids will need this to go all day.
You are creating a rhythm that carries you throughout your days. This is your goal, momma. The rhythm does the work, like a wave carries a ship through the water.
If you want to tie your rhythm and routine to a time, then do it. It’s your schedule, your decision to do what is best for your family. If you want to assign 8 am is breakfast, 11 am is lunch and 2 pm is snack and all the school times in between, feel free!
You can do whatever you want!
You’re the mom!
this is all great, but what do you do?
I have done this all different ways over the years.
Here is our current morning routine:
- wake up (this time varies)
- watch TV or read for a 30 min “wake up time” (we are not morning people)
- get dressed
- do animal chores
- eat breakfast
- start school at 8:30am
I have a hard start time and lunch time and that’s the only thing I set a clock to.
We do read alouds first at 8:30, then move into school.
My 13 yr old is completely online, so she is able to do her school while I do school with my 11 yr old.
I will admit, this is the easiest season of homeschooling so far. But since it seems like yesterday that I had all of my babes under my roof, I do remember how it was. It was easier for me to have a pretty strict schedule in those days, with times assigned and 15 or 30 min windows of activity for each child.
I also doubled up on things, especially when I was nursing. There is a lot of school that can be done during a nursing session! But again, if you have to fight with a child just to get them to come to you—and they know you’re stuck in the chair nursing!—then you’re done.
That’s why this routine setting and discipline approach is so important. It’s much nicer when you can say “OK, 5 yr old, we’re going to read now while mommy nurses the baby,” and she says, “OK mommy!” Or better yet, since she already knows that reading happens during nursing, she brings you the book and is ready when you are.
That’s the beauty of a routine!
No questions, just auto pilot, being carried by the rhythm of the day.
But that doesn’t happen on its own.
It takes time and care to help your child have the self-control to do what you would like them to do. You cannot overlook this area. Homeschooling is not just about the school. You are also building people, teaching, guiding and showing them how to be strong and confident.
To wrap up, here are the key take away’s form this post:
You are in charge. Be confident!
Set up a routine and train your kids to it.
Set them up for success by assigning small jobs to teach them obedience and self-control. Add more jobs as they get the hang of it.
You’re only looking for the 3 goals of peace: good attitude, obedience and done in a timely manner
Add in school as they can show they can achieve the above goals.
And above all, be patient with your children and yourself as you implement this new way. You can do this!
Sound too Old school?
I know this probably sounds very old school, especially in this age of attachment parenting and similar concepts. I have 2 attachment disordered children, so trust me when I say I understand the importance of this type of parenting.
But like everything in life, there needs to be a balance.
You can attachment parent and discipline.
There is so much out there about the child’s feelings and how they trump all other issues in the moment, but that is not true and is not doing your child any favors. We all have to learn how to control our emotions, which is the root goal of this entire idea I’m presenting.
If your child has self-control, they can get through many situations in life where others may fail. In my opinion, it’s the number one character trait you can teach your child.
So go ahead and wear your baby and sleep with your kids. I did all of that, too. But don’t be afraid to establish authority and boundaries, as well as expecting your children to have self-control and respect for what you’re trying to do. Yes, they have an opinion that can be listened to, but they are not the only people on this planet and they have to be at peace with this.
We all do.
Teaching this in the home by expecting your child to obey during school, will help them out tremendously in life. I implore you to take up this difficult task and do it. The rewards you will reap later, especially in their teen years, are worth it.