By Betsy Chastain
Many things can cause disharmony in our homeschools. I’ve come up with a few ideas that might be able to lower your “stress meter.”
- Prayer: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). How could we even start a day without giving thanks to God for giving us this day and asking Him to guide us through it?
- First subject: Recess! I know that our children don’t want to get up in the morning and get right down to the business of schoolwork. We let them sleep until they are rested, but we make sure they are up at a decent time and that they will have at least one hour before we start lessons. That also gives me at least an hour to read the blogs!
- Laundry/dishes: I start the laundry early, before we begin any schoolwork. I do the dishes and all of the house straightening the night before so that the house is ready for the day when I get up in the morning.
- Meals: I decide what I am going to prepare for all the meals each morning. I thaw out food or start the crock-pot or bake the bread. I find that if I know what meals I am to prepare, I am less stressed when I look at the clock and realize that I have only 15 minutes until suppertime!
Working: We try to spend two hours in the morning with work, have a lunch break/recess for about two hours, then finish up with two hours in the afternoon.
Flexibility: It’s the children we are doing this for, so enjoy them while they are here. Be flexible. Be spontaneous. Aren’t these some of the reasons we do all this?
Numerically: I write my lesson plans as “Day 1, Day 2” etc. I found that if I had my plans listed as “Monday, Tuesday,” etc, and we took a day off, I had to scribble all over my plans to rearrange everything. Too stressful! If you number them 1-to-whatever, then when you take a day off, your schedule is still fine. You just begin the next time you get together for school with the next numbered day.
Year-round school: Teaching year-round and taking short breaks when you need them is less stressful than trying to get everything done according to the public school calendar. You can take more days off when you want them, and not all during those hot summer months. It is less stressful because you don’t have to spend so many weeks re-teaching the things your children forgot over the long summer break!
Buy used: If you didn’t spend a lot of money buying it, you don’t feel stressed if you didn’t use it.
Don’t do all the activities: Do what works for your family. Don’t stress out because you haven’t done everything listed to do. Those teacher’s editions were made for a classroom teacher to find activities to keep 30 children under control for an eight-hour day.
Free: There are many sites where you can learn for free on the Internet. The library also contains many things available for your use.
Tickets: We use a system in which I calculate the overall grade for the week. I average all their written work and come up with a percentage. That percentage corresponds to a number of “tickets” on my chart. Our chart has a 6-ticket maximum. Each ticket is good for playing an hour of video games or choosing a video to watch. We call it “electronic time.” That’s it for the week. When the tickets are gone, then no more video games or movies. Besides motivation, it’s also great for limiting the amount of time your children spend sitting at the TV or computer! We use these tickets for motivation to get schoolwork done properly. They are not a punishment for not being a “smart” child, just motivation for them to do “their best” work–not necessarily to be the best.
Grade levels: Grade levels are something the public school devised to give the public classroom a focus. If your children are doing the work and learning, they are at grade level. No college or future employer is going to ask your child, “Did you learn to read by the time you were 6?” or, “Did you learn your multiplication tables in third grade?” Your children will know these skills by then, and that’s all that is important.
Testing: If you want to see how your children are doing “according to the norm” (whatever that is), then you may purchase easy-to-use test booklets at a school supply store or online.
One on one: Teaching your child yourself is like having a private tutor for him or her. You know what’s the best way to learn anyway.
Do not compare! As 2 Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Manipulatives: When our children were younger, we had shelves of Montessori items they could choose for themselves to do. The younger ones would pick and choose (and make a mess of) all those neat learning items, while we worked one on one with the older ones.
Morning/afternoon: Right now our children are at a very independent learning age. I will work with the younger one in the morning while the older one does his independent things. Then in the afternoon we switch “mama time” around.
Multi-age activities: We do science, geography, reading, and other “all together” time learning. Sometimes we have the older child read to or work with the younger one.
Frequent breaks: Do take time from work to hug and play with the baby. This helps the older ones learn patience and waiting their turn. Younger ones learn waiting when their needs are not immediately met.
You know the questions people ask about socialization, but are they saying that the public school children have the best social skills of all the children in the world? I certainly hope they don’t believe that.
These questions stem from the misconception that we learn our social skills in classrooms full of peers, run by government institutions. But do the public school children have time during class to socialize? Or is that after school and during after-school activities? Since we, as homeschoolers, spend less time in actual class, then we have 4 or 5 more hours in a day for social activities than those in the traditional classroom!
TV: By limiting or eliminating your TV time, your home life finds more stress-free hours in the day. Because your child is not subject to ads (which exist solely to tell you that you are not content with what you have), you have less-stress shopping. Your children are also more receptive of others’ gifts to them. As Urie Bronfenbrenner, a professor at Cornell University puts it:
- The primary danger of the television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces as the behavior it prevents. … Turning on the television set can turn off the process that transforms children into adults.
Meal Prep: I have an “available meals” list on the refrigerator. It lists all the meals I am able to make with the ingredients on hand. I just glance at this list each morning and choose what I will prepare that day. When I’ve made that meal, I cross it off the list of available meals and write the ingredients on the grocery list that hangs beside it.
Menu list: Use a menu list the same way as the “available meals” list, except that it is more specific.
Grocery shopping: Of course, the meal list makes the grocery list less stressful too, as I have listed all the things I need to make good meals the next week on the grocery list as I used them.
Bulk items: I cook and chop up chicken breasts, then freeze them in small bags to be ready in an instant for casseroles or stews. Chop and freeze those vegetables from the clearance produce rack. Also, make double meals so that you can freeze half for a quick meal later.
Housecleaning: I use a list like “Monday, vacuum; Tuesday, dust;” etc. This makes you do a little something each day, and you don’t have to spend several hours at once to get your house in shape.
Chores: Don’t forget to make a chore chart for the children to help with daily chores too. They can be a big help even in the smallest task.
I hope you have found something here that will make your homeschool less stressful. Remember, God loves your children even more than you do. You may have days when you feel like you cannot keep up with the task of homeschooling, but there is never a second when God isn’t up to it.