Back to (Home) School! 10 Tips for Less Stress

Friday, August 16, 2019

Backpacks are flying off the shelves, cute lunchboxes are ubiquitous in every store you visit, and those shiny new boxes of crayons are awfully tempting... But let's be real: You're a homeschooler. You can do your "back to school" whenever you want!

(If you *aren't* a homeschooler, my friend Colleen has tips for you!)

Maybe you've started back already. Maybe you're waiting until September. Maybe you never really stopped? We're starting back Monday, because for some reason I let my oldest child set the schedule and "the third Monday in August" will forever and always be our start date. This will be our fifth year homeschooling, and while I've got some tips for a smooth transition, I've also enlisted the help of some of my veteran homeschool mom friends for the best tips I could find!

1. A "soft start" is your best friend. 

Let me tell you something that will make your life a lot easier... You don't have to do every subject the first day back. Or even the first WEEK back! Start on a Tuesday or a Wednesday so that your week is already on the short side. Begin with the bare minimum—math, handwriting, religion. Add in more subjects as you get into the rhythm of things, and don't feel the need to "get it all done" when you're still getting used to your new normal!

2. Plan easy meals for the first week back!

It's always shocking to me how much mental energy it takes to get all the moving parts in place for a homeschool day. There's no longer a chunk of free-ish time in the morning to do laundry/meal prep/dishes/meal planning... Plan your meals NOW and make them easy ones so you aren't throwing in the towel after riding the struggle bus all day long! If you're a pro, maybe you'll turn one night into "cooking school" and let your kids make dinner for you ;)

3. Make it special!

My friend Blair plans a special breakfast for her kids every year, with new school supplies, a Bible verse to serve as their theme, decorations, and treats. I love what a fun tradition this has become for them!

You don't have to go all out for breakfast, but maybe your first day tradition is just... Going to the playground in the middle of the day when you know it'll be empty! Or having ice cream for dessert after the first week back. Put your own spin on it, and make sure it's something that will be fun for you, you deserve it!

4. Put. Down. That. Phone.

Turn it off. Plug it in upstairs or in another room. Keep it far, far away from you and don't let yourself touch it until you're done with the mom-intensive parts of your school day! Everything will go much more smoothly if your full attention is on the task at hand.

5. Find your rhythm.

We like to knock everything out in the first couple hours after breakfast and then be done for the day. I know other families who sleep late and get most of their school done while little kids are napping! Figure out what works best for your family and don't worry about what somebody else's day looks like.

Maybe you need to get math done first while everyone is fresh. Or maybe you have a math fiend who needs to save math for last to motivate him to finish everything else up! Your family will be different from other families, and your kids will likely need different things as well! Isn't it great that you can tailor your day to make that work?

6. Stop fretting about everybody's knowledge.

So your elementary kids can't remember every detail from their history book... Or maybe can't even remember the big picture... Think back to high school—did you have a good grasp on every fact you learned in every class you took by the time you graduated? Nope. You forgot a bunch. So will your kids! They'll loop back to the important stuff later in their schooling, then again if they take college courses, and yet again in their pleasure reading when they're adults. Not everything will stick, and that's okay! (Just so long as they know the difference between the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, right Dwija?)

7. Take care of yourself!

You are spending so. much. time. Organizing books, checking math problems, making checklists, correcting pencil grips, figuring out how to occupy the toddler... It's physically and mentally exhausting! Don't let your needs slip through the cracks—Sara recommends this Healthy Mind Platter to make sure you're getting what you need to fill your bucket, too.

8. Be at home.

I know this sounds obvious, homeschooling happens at... home. But it's so easy to think to yourself, "I don't have to take anyone to school, we can run errands whenever we want! Or go to the playground with friends whenever! Or make appointments for any day!"

And then you end up scrambling to finish things up after you've finished running errands, and school becomes a total afterthought. Just because you're schooling at home doesn't mean you're available 24/7! Be at home when you need to get school done, and find time for errands and other things that doesn't interfere with your school schedule. Amy has great thoughts on boundaries in this post!

9. Organize early, organize often.

Do NOT start the year with piles of junk shoved behind/on top of your homeschooling books (please tell me my kids aren't the only ones who will just shove things ANYWHERE when they're cleaning up...). Get your area as clean as possible, put any books you're not using this year away, give yourself permission to throw away those broken crayons and colored pencil nubs, and start fresh! Then plan on doing the same thing during Advent and Lent. You'll be much happier when you know where all your homeschooling materials are and your kids will be happy with fresh supplies and a clean space!

You may even want to get the rest of the house organized too, if possible... Think of it as a "homeschool nesting period" and organize the kitchen, the laundry room, whatever you can get organized so that the chores you have to let slide don't wreak havoc on your home!

10. Don't be afraid of wrong answers!

I love how my friend Melody says it in this post: "I now want my children to embrace their wrong answers because I understand that there are no true right answers without them."

At the end of the day, it's not about the mistakes corrected, books read, worksheets finished, paragraphs written, or tests taken. You have the unique opportunity to lead your child in finding a love of knowledge and Truth all day, every day. Don't focus on what's wrong, teach them that every wrong answer can be corrected, and ultimately brings us closer to understanding what is right.

Want a few more reading recommendations to gear up for your homeschooling year?

Colleen P. has a great roundup of digital resources here!

If you're homeschooling in tough times (and even if you aren't!), you'll find some good advice in Martina's post.

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