1. Wake up before your children. Getting a head start on your day works wonders. You don’t necessarily have to get up at 5:00 AM, but arising at least one hour before your children do has many advantages. This early morning time can be used for personal Bible study and prayer, personal grooming, laundry, exercise, computer time, cooking breakfast, planning your day, and gathering any necessary supplies for your school day.
2. Have a supper plan each day. Know what you will be serving for supper as soon as breakfast is over. You may like to plan your menus one week, two weeks, or even a month at a time, but just make sure that you plan. List your nightly meals. Each morning check to see if there is something you need to thaw, chop, or prepare early in the day. Having a supper plan prevents kitchen chaos at 5:00 PM.
3. Create a routine. Doing the same things in the same order each day gives both you and your children a sense of security. The more tasks that are routine, the less you have to stress about. In our home, our school day routine flows like this:
- morning chores
- Bible lesson at kitchen table with all of the children
- Mama takes turns working with each child independently, in the same order each day.
- free time for children after they finish their daily schoolwork
- Mama reads to two youngest children right before lunch
- Mama reads Sonlight read alouds to middle children after lunch
Even if you don’t create specific time slots for each aspect of your day, you can create an orderly routine to follow.
4. Tidy your school area each day. When the day’s schoolwork is done, take some time to prepare for the next school day. Have your children gather all of their schoolbooks and various supplies and store them in a specific spot. Erase your whiteboard. Tidy the work spaces (tables, floors, etc.). Put away all games, puzzles, and other activities that your younger children played. I also like to put the next day’s date on our whiteboard along with my 1st grader’s copywork for the next day.
5. Tell your children the “Plan for the Day”. As part of our morning routine, during breakfast I tell my children our plan for the day. This simply means that I remind them of any routine appointments like piano lessons or cross country practice, and the time we will have to leave for these appointments. I mention any visitors we may be expecting, any errands we need to run, and any extra chores or activities I may have for them that day. When we know the plan for the day, we can make the necessary adjustments to our normal routine if needed.
6. Avoid answering the telephone. During school hours, I do not answer my phone unless it is my husband. Phone calls usually take more time than you intend them to, and children usually get off task when Mama is on the phone. I use my answering machine, and I return phone calls after our schoolwork is complete.
7. Stay offline during school hours. I check email, read blogs, and blog before school begins, and I avoid getting back online until all of our schoolwork is done. Planning to spend just a minute to check email or quickly read a blog post, typically turns into five or ten minutes or more. Then the children are all off task, and the toddler has flushed something down the toilet. Discipline yourself to avoid your computer until after school
8. Have your children’s schoolwork planned. Spending time in the summer, once a month, once a week, or whatever works for you, to plan your child’s schoolwork has numerous benefits. Trying to tell three or four children at once what page to do in their math book while the baby is crying and the toddler is dumping out the contents of the kitchen cabinets can make for a stressful day. I make checklists for my children three or four weeks at a time.
I used to plan out an entire semester in one sitting, but then the plans would get all messed up when someone got sick, or we had an unexpected outing. I usually spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon about once a month to create plans for my children. They have little boxes to check off when they complete each subject, and some of the boxes have specific assignments (like read chapter one, etc).
9. Serve snacks daily. Eating a mid-morning snack (and a mid-afternoon snack if you are still schooling at that time of day) makes everyone feel better. My children eat at the schoolroom table while they are doing their schoolwork.
10. Smile. Hug your children and smile at them often. A happy, loving attitude will make every school day flow more smoothly!
Roan is the homeschooling mother of five children whose ages range from 5 to 15. She writes regularly about homeschooling, running, and her family life at her personal blog, Joyful Always.