10 Home Schooling tips from a Working Mom of Four+ - America's Future Foundation

September 22, 2020

Professional Development

10 Home Schooling tips from a Working Mom of Four+

By: Judy Duke

I’ve been homeschooling for 3 years. I have a 2nd grader, two preschoolers, and an 18-month-old who we affectionately call “the disruptor.” I have many friends who suddenly find themselves homeschooling or remote schooling this year, and I thought I would share some tips. Here are a few things that have been helpful to me:

1. Start with a list of priorities: What matters most to you regarding your child’s education? Then think about your style as a parent and consider this when choosing a curriculum. In my case, I like a Montessori/Waldorf/Charlotte Mason type of education. Nature-based and religious, emphasis on play, good books, good habits, and beautiful toys. BUT I am not crafty, and as a working mom, I don’t have a ton of time. So I found a co-op that provides a detailed curriculum complete with tons of resources, exams, shopping lists, and regular online calls and retreats for parents. As a bonus, it has a nice community associated with it. There are so many options out there, and the hardest part, at first, is narrowing down what you want/need in a curriculum. 

2. Set up your space. I don’t have a dedicated room for school. Instead, we work where we’re most comfortable. I cover some subjects in the living room and some at the table, and much of our reading takes place on the front porch. Work where you and your child are most comfortable. 

3. Keep lesson lengths short if your kids are young. It’s really hard for children to focus for long periods of time. You can plan a 40-minute lesson, but your child will likely only absorb a little of that before they stop paying attention. I keep all our lessons to 20 minutes or less. A traditional school day is long for several reasons, but school at home should not be more than 4-6 hours for older kids and less for younger ones. We typically complete all our lesson work within about 1.5-2.5 hours over the course of the entire day.

4. “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life” -Charlotte Mason. Education is so much more than books or lessons. Experience, relationships, 100 things we do outside of books all contribute to our education. And we should count those things as part of our children’s education. When my kids learn a new skill, bake something, volunteer, or have an impromptu question that results in us looking something up, I count all of that, and you should too. 

5. And on that note, I recommend that instead of lesson planning at the beginning of each week, record your child’s progress at the end of the week. I started this because our wonderful co-op recommended it, based on Charlotte Mason’s recommendation, and because to me, lesson planning seemed tedious and like a complete guess — not to mention I often felt behind because my planning was overly ambitious. Instead, I have reading goals for the entire term (our year is split into 3 terms) and we work on a subject for a set amount of time every day — for example, math for 20 minutes a day. At the end of the week, I log what we’ve done, including non-book skills and experiences. This way I can see just how much they are learning. It also helps me identify problems. 

6. Skip some subjects. There are gaps in every type of education. No school is comprehensive. I have my priorities and let some things go. We can always add it in later or outsource it or skip it and they can pursue it later in life. For example, my curriculum includes foreign language work. I love the idea, but I just can’t fit it in right now. I hope to add it in the second half of this year, but it might not happen until next year, and I’m OK with that. Can’t fit in science or history? Get some books from the library and read over one of your breaks or a week-end and do a deep dive into it later. You’d be surprised how much your kid is learning without formal lessons on these subjects.

7. Try not to compare your child to other kids. Of course it warms my heart when my kid is advanced or gets me down if he or she is behind, but what really matters is that he or she loves learning and is making progress. Move at the pace that works best for your child. Slow down or work ahead as needed. My son loves history, and he begs to keep going — so we do more than we need too. Handwriting is a struggle, so sometimes we do less, take a break, or work a little longer into the summer.

8. Remember that you have the entire year. My first year we started with one subject and added another subject every few weeks, easing into the year. I have slowed some subjects down or paused entirely when needed, or only studied some things during the summer. This flexibility is one of the greatest things about homeschooling.

9. There will be hard days. We all have bad days, even kids, regardless of the type of education. You will have days when things are not working or your child is driving you crazy or does not seem to be learning. Remember that days like this would happen in a traditional classroom too — it’s just that you have a front row seat at home. In our case, the good days far outnumber the bad, but we all have our bad days. Don’t panic. Chalk it up to a bad day. If it continues, then put some thought into what needs to change. In my experience, usually problems can be fixed by adjusting your schedule, slowing down or speeding up a subject, or taking a little break entirely. 

10. Outsource. As a working mom, I’m a big fan of outsourcing. I know this is not always an option, but I recommend everyone think about this. I’m not working and teaching my kids alone. I handle what I do well and love best and outsource, trade, or flex the rest. Maybe a tutor, summer camp, a part-time sitter or nanny, co-op once a week where teachers handle some subjects for you, or house cleaners could make it work better for you? Working and homeschooling were both important to me so I started with that and then thought about how to make it work. In many cases, homeschooling saves a lot of money, so why not allocate some of that savings to something that helps you? I recognize this is not always possible but my point is to think outside the box. What could make it work for you? I don’t feel the need to be and do everything and you shouldn’t either.

Good luck! The fact that you’re taking the time to think hard about what to do with your child’s education is evidence of good parenting, and your love for your child will help you be successful, whatever you choose for your child’s education. I intermittently post about our homeschooling journey on instagram, and you’re welcome to follow me there for more.

If you are looking for useful information and resources in your own community, School Choice Week has compiled an exhaustive, state by state guide here.