Homeschooling tips to help you save your sanity.
TIP 1: Get Organized
- Use a Planner or Activity Calendar
- Try a Curriculum map *super helpful for multi-grade homeschooling
- Gather & organize your supplies so you only buy what you need
- Set up your environment for independence
- Give yourself a break!
TIP 2: Use a Planner or Activity Calendar
You don’t have to use mine or even stick to it religiously but planning out your month, quarter or year is SUPER helpful and keeps you on track.
You can create your own homeschool planner (I used Calendarlabs to create mine) or you can download mine for free. Using a planner does not mean that every minute of every day is planned out. Some people work well that way but my family and I don’t.
I use it as a guideline for our routine and pacing out our learning so I don’t get overwhelmed or when we get behind I know what to do to catch up or scrap because we just don’t have time.
There are plenty of free homeschooling planners out there if you don’t have the time to make your own. I made my own and honestly didn’t use it- or at least not exactly the way it’s written. It helped me prepare and stay organized and when my son wanted to repeat activities we did.
At first, I ended up using it more like a weekly calendar/ planner and looked at the week ahead to prepare the activities on Sunday. Now I choose 1 or 2 activities a week (and have no or low prep activities on standby just in case we have a rough day or someone gets sick.)
TIP: If you are using a formal packaged curriculum you can take a look at the scope and sequence of each subject. It should break down the concept for that week or month and you can create your own activity calendar to match your curriculum.
TIP 3: Try a Curriculum Map
The big idea of a curriculum map (for me) is not to over-schedule or plan out every minute its to add accessibility to learn from your lifestyle. You are essentially looking at what is age/developmentally appropriate to learn that comes up in context and add depth when they are ready. For a great example for preschoolers would be snack math, reading books about life skills, investigating backyard science, etc. Formal lessons are not necessary but and most of the time you really only need to find a great picture book to introduce a topic. See my book list posts for help finding books on popular topics.
We do not stick to our curriculum map religiously and I integrate academic subjects in fun practical ways either planned activities or learning invitations that I prepared or as it organically presents itself. It’s like googling & reading a map before driving to a new place. It makes it WAY easier to identify where you are going and how to get there from where you’re at. It also shows where concepts overlap and you can move around topics so the fit more naturally.
We homeschool preschool and the play-based learning activities on our calendar are selected based on my curriculum map of the CA preschool standards.
If you look at the map I made I highlighted the month of September to show what topics we may work on. The CA Dept. of Education created a 200+ document CA preschool learning foundations CHILD DEVELOPMENT. The intentions are well meaning but even I couldn’t get thought the whole thing and I LOVE all things curriculum!
For an example of what a curriculum map might look like in another grade level please see the sample below.
TIP 4: Gather and Organize your Materials
Look around your house and see what homeschool supplies you already have. What books, crayons, markers, paper, arts & crafts, etc. do you have that you could use as homeschooling supplies. Gathering and organizing the supplies you do have saves you time and money. You have easy access to what you need when your supplies are organized and that way you know exactly what you need. This also helps you take advantage of end of season clearances and you already know if you have the room to store the clearance treasures!
One example is our process art box. I had a TON of arts and crafts supplies that where here and there. I was tired of fishing things out of the garage and not being able to find them so I created our process art organizer. This is SUPER easy to set up and after the first round or two of practice it is meant to be an independent activity. Clean up is a sorting math activity. Sometimes we incorporate patterns and symmetry, if it organically occurs.
TIP 4: Set up Your Environment for Independence
Set aside some space just for homeschooling. You’ll need short and long term storage, work space, prep space and shelving. We set up our homeschool area with very little extra space. We use a small Ikea bookshelf and a small organizer. The activity on top of our bookshelf is his AM activity that he does by himself when he wakes up (it took about a year to transition to independent work). The shelves are low and easy to get to. Each shelf has one activity, game or books for him to explore. I have a separate space for our daily lessons (which aren’t supper formal), arts & crafts or any activity I need to prep and keep out of reach until I’m ready to clean up a mess.
TIP 5: Give Yourself a Break
Outsource & More Play
I don’t plan on doing everything myself. I do what I can and sports & music is not in my bag of tricks. We sign up for soccer, gymnastics, TBall and Swim lesson (we rotate each season not all at once) and kids music lessons.
Outsourcing this has really helped him in SO many ways. He is a super active kid and having that kind of an outlet has been exponentially beneficial. He’s more calm and focused. He has taken off academically and LOVES every minute of learning. He blows me away with some of the things he knows and understands at his age and the whole point of being more formal with our school at home is to nurture that love of learning.
Use what you have
I set up our space re-purposing old furniture and school supplies ( I still teach part-time but since I am job sharing this year I do not need all of my supplies). When we need supplies I buy them on sale (back-to-school), ask for them for Christmas or birthday gifts when family asks or I hit up bargain bins.
Celebrate the Small Victories
Use the planner to take notes and make adjustments when needed.
My first year of homeschooling I used a planner to get myself organized. My next few years I used the planner AND curriculum maps together and used to think the curriculum map and planner meant that’s what I HAD to do.
Now I know the curriculum map is more of an outline and I document what we actually DO on our planner and note any progress (or challenges) for the day. They are usually hand written notes on a post it or directly on the planner. It’s not fancy but it works. I make notes about once a week. The rest of the time I document with video and photos. These really do help when you’re looking back at something.