Homeschooling is going great this year, but it wasn’t easy getting here. We went through a lot of trial and error the last couple of years, and I came out of it feeling like it was a disaster, but my son was reading and that was the goal. We learned A LOT in the process, and I’d like to share it in hopes that it will encourage any discouraged moms who are just starting out. Hold on to your hats, I’m about to get long winded up in here!
This year we are using The Good and the Beautiful for Preschool, Arts and Crafts, Language Arts, Math, and Science. It’s an amazing curriculum and we LOVE it!
What Didn’t Work For Us Last Year (A Lot)
- Doing the 1 lesson/day approach in all subjects.
- Winging it with curricula and lesson planning (we pulled from TGTB, Teach your child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and Discoveryk12.com. All were great resources, but we lacked consistency).
- Not taking a scheduled break between subjects, but trying to wing it based on behavior.
- Treating school as something to just check of my to do list.
- Not including little brother in school.
- Trying to do school 5 days a week. Fridays SUCKED. Everyone was done by then.
What We Are Doing Differently This Year
We start every day with a prayer and a story from the New Testament (we use the printed version of this one). It only takes an extra 5-10 minutes, but starting off the day having the spirit with us makes all the difference.
We break up the Language Arts lessons into manageable chunks. Instead of trying to finish a lesson every day, I now look through the lessons ahead of time and plan each day based on how much I know my son can handle. Sometimes we do more, sometimes less. Sometimes the minibooks stack up for us, so I’ll set aside a day’s LA lesson just to read our minibooks. This approach has worked really well for us, and helped Kender (my 6 year old) build confidence because he isn’t getting so overwhelmed. There’s no need to finish a lesson every day. Some lessons are really long (for those we sometimes spend the whole week on one lesson), and some are really short. We are learning how to go at our own pace, and it’s awesome.
PLANNING! Last year I did the whole open and go approach (which is totally possible with The Good and The Beautiful, but not ideal for me), and I ended up missing a lot of instructions and confusing myself and Kender. This year I took the time to carefully read all the introductions and instructions for the manuals in all our subjects, pray for guidance, and plan them out by week specifically for my children. Things go much more smoothly this way, and we have far fewer frustration meltdowns (from both me and my son).
We start with family style learning. After our prayer and New Testament story, we jump into science. Last year science was really hard for me because it requires prep work and I was just winging it every day! Man I had a lot to learn lol. Science units are so much fun to do together now that I spend a few minutes ahead of time to get prepared! We usually split up the activities to stretch out one lesson per week, and that works really well for us. My boys LOVE their science lessons.
I take preschool slowly with Rhett (my three year old). I just focus on reinforcing those letter sounds instead of doing a lesson a day. We usually end up working on about 2 letters per week and reviewing pretty much every day. He LOVES being included in school! Last year it was a pain because he always interrupted us, and I could never keep him occupied with toys or other activities until Kender and I were finished. Including him makes things much easier for all of us.
We have a scheduled break every day. After Scriptures, science, preschool, and math, I sit my kids down with a snack and a drink and let them watch Bill Nye the Science Guy. It helps reinforce what we learned in science, and they love how silly that show is. Last year we didn’t make breaks a priority, and that was a huge mistake.
I strategically use screen time when needed. I usually use screen time to give one brother a break so I can have one on one lesson time with the other. My ideal is to reduce screen time to an hour a day, but in our current season of life that’s just not realistic… Ryan (Deputy Dreamy) is SO busy with his jobs and the house, and I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, which means I’m rather large and tired. As long as I limit them as much as I can and know what they are watching/playing, I’ve made my peace with it.
We talk about our feelings. Taking extra time when needed to work on behavioral issues is something that has really helped our homeschool run more smoothly. We focused on this a lot during our “summer” break. We set school aside, and just worked on getting that 6 year old behavior under control. I’m teaching Kender that talking about our hard feelings helps us solve our problems a lot faster than pouting or throwing tantrums. He still tests the boundaries sometimes, but he’s come a long way from the multiple daily tantrums he used to throw. Taking a step back and focusing on behavior really paved the way for us to have a good school year. It has helped tremendously!
I treat homeschool like it’s my full time job (along with motherhood of course). It’s not just another thing to check off the to do list. It’s something I want to do well, and make sure my kids enjoy. I try not to schedule appointments in the mornings anymore because it messes up our schedule. There was a huge learning curve for me these past couple of years, but homeschool has really grown into a passion for me. Our days aren’t always perfect and we still have meltdowns here and there, but we’ve got down a good rhythm and I’ve learned how to adjust when things aren’t working. I’ve learned how to follow the guidance of the spirit when planning our lessons and tweaking how we do things.
We do school 4 days a week instead of 5. Monday through Thursday we have New Testament, Science, Preschool, Math, and Language Arts. We reserve Fridays for New Testament, Poetry, Art, and Reviews. It doesn’t take long, so we have a day that we can be flexible and just have fun!
What Worked Last Year That We Are Still Doing This Year
Last year we came up with a reward system that worked really well for us, and we continue to use it this year. I made some cute printable “points” and I give Kender a few points for each task he completes. When we are done for the day, we count his points and he decides if he wants to save them, or buy something from our prize box (I buy little dollar store goodies every month or so, and he helps me set prices ahead of time based on how interested he is in each prize. He sets a higher price for the good stuff!). You can download the points for free here: Free Printable Reward Points for Kids.
I’m so grateful for the other homeschool moms who have put themselves out there and shared their tips on social media and answered my annoying questions. They’ve inspired me and helped me get to where I am today! Above all I’m grateful for my loving Savior and my Father in Heaven. I know that He hears my prayers, and has guided me on this journey. He can guide you too! ❤️
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Check out Mikael from Monson Schoolhouse and Ashlee from Grace and Grit. Both are amazing, sweet, and strong homeschool mommas who have shared a lot of great things that have worked for them on their YouTube channels and Instagram.
Good luck to all you homeschool moms who are just starting out! YOU CAN DO THIS!