I know, just the title of this post is a little presumptuous… But like all of you, we have great days and really great days and awful days and really awful days and a lot of ordinary days in between those!!! I do know how to make the really great days roll around and to be quite honest I am a little pathetic at following my own tips sometimes… and I fail hopelessly at the most obvious things. But after years and years of schooling I can see that there are certain things that “happen” on the really great days and they inevitably don’t happen on all those other days!!!
- Have a Vision:
- Have a Plan:
- Get to Sleep Timeously:
- Save the Screen Time for Later:
- Don’t Cram:
- Stop the Clock:
- Expect Interruptions:
- Make Memories:
Every homeschool has a different idea of what a great homeschool day looks like. I can totally understand that – for some folk a great day is getting the reading done, for others it is everyone getting through their assignments without grumbling… whatever it is if you have a good idea, and don’t be afraid to dream big and envisage details… then you can work towards achieving that. My idea of a perfect homeschool day means starting the day with a walk on the beach… to implement that I need the tide to be right (every other week) and whoever is first up to make muffins for breakfast… and clean up. I had to do a little bit of training to achieve this but as soon as I had the vision I could achieve it!!! Once you have a vision you can work backwards to achieve it… figuring out the steps it takes to achieve that goal.
I need to know what my students are up to so that when we do actually sit down to work I have everything we need handy. If I want someone t make a dictionary page while I read to them or someone else to colour in the state we are learning about in history… then I need to have that material at hand. There is no point in siting a child down to work with you and then dashing off to get materials… trust me your student will be gone before you get back. As I finish work with a child for the day I glance at the next day – just in case there are materials or ideas that I need to gather.
Anyone with young children knows that the time it takes for them, from deep sleep to wide awake… zero to hero… is instantaneous. For me not so much!!! I take a little while and some coffee. The less sleep I have had… the longer it takes and the more coffee I need. In order for us to have a great day I need to wake up as my children are stirring – ideally before, but lets not push it!!! Staggering to start the day is never a good start for me or any kids, because of that I am a firm believer in never ever wake a sleeping child and since bedtime is on a bit of a sliding rule… depending on when we have dinner and just how many stories and “one more chapters” need to be read… waking up can lag somewhat. That being said I would rather get going with our day a little later than drag short folk from their sleep and have the grumpy consequences… just no!!!
It is so tempting for me to have my morning coffee in front of my laptop… check my email and see what I have missed on twitter over-night… but honestly it sets the tone for the day… I am distracted from the task at hand and while I should be paying attention to getting going and giving some late risers encouragement or a cuddle before they launch their sleepy selves… I am looking away at a screen. Honestly no email is that important… and twitter really will survive without a couple of my retweets!!! Not to mention kids learn by example… and screen time for them before school is a definite “NO.” My kids don’t want to get off once they are on, and because they are torn away they feel hard done by and can be down right grumpy about anything that isn’t online after that. They do get screen time, at the end of the day if there work/chores are done… they get an hour-ish, it is a reward and at the far end of a good day they see it as that. At the start of a bad day screen time appears to be a “right” rather than a reward and is just not a good idea ever. Without screen time my kids seem to find much gentler ways to wake up… a quick game, a read, some cooking at the cooking toys… really it is just better for all of us to avoid screen time before we have actually begun our day!!!
Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you have to do it all. Figure out what absolutely has to be done and get started with that. Often you just cannot run errands, do reading, do history, art and music and a couple of pages of math in a day. Accept that somedays you will get a lot of schoolwork done and other days you will be learning about other stuff!!! So often I can look at a day and just be paralysed by all that needs doing… but just getting started is often all we need to get going. I am all for a rolling start… for the student who has fallen behind in some area… I can assure you that saying you have three weeks worth of science to catch up is going to get you nowhere… but if you say lets start and see how far we can get before lunch… often amazing things will happen!!! One thing I have found is that by adding time into the school-day equation and the pressure of having to finish by a certain time can steal the fun learning experience straight out of a project and it just becomes work. Time is the one pressure that can turn a stunning day into a disaster. For years we wasted two school days a week because we had to be finished school by a particular time to dash off to extra-murals. Removed the extra-murals and the time constraints and regained two whole days a week!!! I am not saying don’t do extra-murals, just schedule them well away from your school time… ours are right at the end of the day…
This is your school and your day and if you require a rest in the middle of the day then have it. After lunch we find a spot to collapse and read or nap… sometimes a read on the couch for an hour is enough to recharge and get folk inspired and moving again and other times a real nap in the bed under the duvet… actual sleep. I know horrors imagine a nap, like a small child in the middle of the day – I never thought I could sleep during the day until my children began sleep deprivation experiments on me. I am not afraid to say I toss a pile of books on the bed and little folk read around me while I have a nap – often for all our sakes, I need it the most. If your room isn’t safe for over curious small people that could get up to mischief while you nod off then make it safe… if you don’t want over zealous children wandering the house then shut the door… make it work, make a plan.
While it is important to have a plan or an intention often these can fly out the window on the spur of the moment. I am all for seizing opportunities and if an outing or something fun presents itself in the middle of a morning I won’t say no… a little distraction often means that students will return to their work later with more enthusiasm and if they don’t a little extra for a couple of days to catch up isn’t the end of the world. I do turn the phone off… it is just too much of a distraction, but I won’t say no to a neighbour that needs help, providing my children with an opportunity to serve is a huge part of learning!!! Don’t panic about interruptions and that your children will get behind – they aren’t going to lag by years and they will eventually finish school. Ask any teacher in a regular school environment about distractions, there are heaps of them, it is the nature of life… our kids need to learn how to handle them with discernment – which ones are important and need entertaining and which ones to say: “That is just a distraction, let it go…”
And the Se7en + 1 thing…
What do you want to be remembered for… I would love my kids to remember that I did stuff with them… but I have to be a little bit intentional about it otherwise days can turn into weeks, into seasons and before you know it… I do plan to do something fun with my kids most days – if I didn’t plan it then it wouldn’t happen. They wouldn’t be any the worse off they can figure out how to have fun without me!!! But I realise that my children are only with me for a time and I want to spend time with them that isn’t just work… My plans are vague and simple… paint outdoors, bake a cake… play a game… timed races up and down the road (we have a very quiet road!!!)… no I don’t schedule it and no I don’t tell my kids the plan… because so often plans go awry. But if I have an idea to bake a cake at least I can have the ingredients handy, if I plan to paint… I can make sure there are copious amounts of paper to go round. I can also schedule a little bit of time for this… painting can take hours and a batch of cookies fifteen minutes.
Once I started this post I realised that se7en + 1 tips were a little but limiting… as I was brainstorming away I could think of heaps more tips to save a day… but this is a start and you are welcome to add ideas in the comments… What are the things that make or break a day for your family?
I am writing homeschooling posts this month, no really!!! And I did promise a whole week of “Back to School GiveAways” but we got a little distracted by our Sketchbook Project… never fear your GiveAway posts are going to roll out all weekend… honestly I can’t wait to get started with them!!!