Intention – Part One

Photo Credit - Sarah Justice

Photo Credit - Sarah Justice

Whenever a group of people are united in their intention and move forward together, manifestation is the natural outcome. By working together with your children, step by step, day by day, you will manifest the greatness that is within your children and yourself, and you will create new opportunities of growth for your family. – Lawrence and Bonnie Williams

Autumn is near and soon we will enter into the month of September. Many of your children have begun (or will soon begin) their Oak Meadow coursework. As you begin to guide your children in the next step of their educational journey, it is important to take a moment to reflect upon what it is you, as the home teachers, are providing for them. At the most basic level, you are helping your children with the learning process in the areas of language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, as well as in the creative arts. As we all know, offering these subjects as learning tools are very important. However, if you wish to make the most of this school year, you will need to recognize that you are doing more than just helping your children become knowledgeable in these areas. At a deeper level, you are enabling them to express their inner potential. The academic and artistic subjects are just the focal points you will use in the process.

What do I mean by “expressing one’s inner potential”? I am referring to how we take what is inside – what is not visible – and express it outside of ourselves, so that the whole world can see it. The process of transforming the inner into the outer is called manifestation. Oak Meadow believes that in order to manifest our children’s education successfully, certain steps must be followed. We need to have clear intention with our process and our goals. We need to clear time and space for focused learning. We need to give attention to the process. We also need to assess our progress daily and make adjustments.

For those of you who are in your first year working with Oak Meadow’s K-3 coursework, you have been provided with the book, The Heart of Learning, written by Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams. If you have not yet begun reading this wealth of information, I highly encourage you to start now. For those of you have read it in previous years, I recommend that you reread it, particularly chapter 8 (“Working with Creative Tension”), chapter 10 (“Focus, Process, and Relationship”), and chapter 12 (“Creating Boundaries and Clear Communication”).

Rhythm is also an essential part of the learning process. We each have our own unique rhythm; however, this unique rhythm is but a minor embellishment upon the major common rhythms that we all share as human beings. The major common rhythms are a result of many factors that originate from within our bodies, such as our heartbeats or sleeping patterns, as well as from our external environment, such as the day/night rhythm and the seasons. If we are to be effective teachers, we must understand these rhythms and know how to use them in the learning process. Oak Meadow’s former Social Media Coordinator, Amanda Witman, posted a lovely article on “Rhythms, Routines and Rituals” in Oak Meadow’s blog. If you have not yet read this selection, you might like to add this to your beginning-of-the-new-year readings.

Homeschool Rhythms

1f92e050d1d92acc194774307894663acWhat do you think of when you hear the term, homeschool rhythms? It could mean many things, but for each family, the homeschooling rhythms will be unique as they segue into personal school lessons and extracurricular activities. As you establish a rhythm for your family, keep in mind that it should never be a burden, nor end up as a forced schedule. It is meant to be a sequence of simple activities that is beneficial and frees the home teacher from constant decision making. The most significant goal in creating a homeschool rhythm is to use it as an aid in bringing quality to your family life.

Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family. The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family. Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays. 15037919424_1f629f7f2a_oThe monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.

As a homeschooling family, it’s important to live fully in the moment. However, maintaining a balance between the present moment and the scheduled activities is the key to a vibrant and healthy family life. An essential part of this balance exists between active and quiet times. It offers times alone and times to share with others. It also provides times to focus on the family, as well as work at building community with other families and community members who share similar values.

13172heart of learningThere is so much valuable information that has been shared on the In the Meadow blog regarding rhythms and homeschooling. In Amanda Witman’s most recent post, she referred to an article on her Part One post of “Organizing Your Homeschool Day”, called “Rhythms, Routines & Rituals”. This post referred you to another previous article (written by Liz Gardner), “How Do We Create a Rhythm That Works For Everyone?”. If you would like to read even more about homeschool rhythms, Part One and Part Two of “Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm”, written by former Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland, shares some incredibly insightful ideas and invaluable suggestions on the subject. To learn more about the rhythm of the learning process, I also highly recommend reading The Heart of Learning (particularly chapter seven on “Rhythm and Learning: Expansion and Contraction”), written by Oak Meadow founder Lawrence Williams. 

Let us know:

What homeschool rhythms do you like to share with your family?

Summer Reading!

Throughout each grade level, Oak Meadow offers a wonderful supply of classics and other cherished books for you and your children to read throughout the school year. However, free reading should also be encouraged during the summer months. Do you need some summer reading ideas? Here’s a good reading list provided by Common Sense Media. This site also provides a section on Wonderful Wordless Books that offers a list of “wordless books” you might like to share with your children. They are perfect for using as story writing prompts, too.

1Summer-Reading-Image-2014The Bookworm for Younger Kids booklist for June is also available to peruse for good reading materials. However, if you would like to subscribe for each month’s group of booklists, you can sign up for free by visiting the Bookworm for Kids official website.

 

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

1summer_reading.jpg__631x0_q85

10 Ways to Include Heart in Your Homeschooling

1. Maintain your focus when giving your attention to your child.

Photo credit: The House family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The House family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

In today’s world, most of us find our attention divided, scattered in all directions. Giving your full attention to your child is one of the best ways you can support his or her learning.

2. Use humor as much as possible. “Be silly, tell jokes, let your children know you delight in their laughter and smiles!” says Michelle Menegaz, Oak Meadow teacher and homeschooling mother.

3. Understand your child’s individual learning style. What kind of learner is your

Photo credit: The Maynard family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Maynard family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

child? Does he or she process information best in a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic way? Do you have multiple children with different learning styles? Figure out how you can make learning most easily accessible to each child.

4. Establish rhythms that are comfortable for you and your child. Rhythms and routines encourage a predictable and comforting flow to life and learning.

5. Slow down. Allow time for spontaneous discoveries, whim-driven creations, and heartfelt conversations. Remind yourself and your child that life is worth taking time to savor. Homeschooling allows us the flexibility for that, so why not?

6. Practice good self-care. Expect your children to do the same. We are most ready and able to do our job (as parents) and learn new things (as students) when our fundamental needs are well met. Make sure you and your child both have enough sleep, physical activity, healthy nourishment, emotional support, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Hill family-under1mb-cropped
Photo credit: The Hill family. (Oak Meadow archives.)

7. Be gentle with your child and yourself. Ride out the challenges with grace and optimism. Understand that some days will be easier than others.

8. Stay sensitive to your child’s perspective. Even wishes that cannot be accommodated can still be validated. Your children may have insights into their own selves that can help you better understand how best to support them on the journey.

9. Do your best and let that be enough. There is no such thing as “perfect”

Photo credit: The Park family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Park family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

homeschooling! Lead by example as you accept yourself and your shortcomings. Show your child that making mistakes and rising up to try again are essential parts of learning.

10. Let love lead every interaction you have with your child. Let your love for your children be unconditional, so that they are free to explore and experiment as they learn, without fear of rejection. Let your homeschooling journey begin and end with love.

Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm – Part Two

Here is Part Two of Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm, written by k-4 Oak Meadow teacher, Amy Fredland. Read Part One here.Amy with child

Now, here comes the fun part!  There are so many ways to create a physical representation of your weekly rhythm. For the youngest children (kindergarten and grade 1), it’s wonderful to make a picture based chart that they can refer to each day. When I was teaching in the classroom, I made pictures for each subject/activity (ex: a book for reading time, numbers for math time, a jump rope for outdoor time) which I drew upon large circles that I then covered with contact paper. I kept all the circles in a folder and each day I’d help the children arrange them in the correct sequence for that particular day (based on the schedule I had written down in my planning book.) We hung them on a clothesline using clothes pins, but there are numerous other ways to display yours.

My students LOVED putting up this morning schedule; it was one of the most sought after chores of the day. Not only did it give them practice with sequencing and tracking, but it allowed them to gain connection with the rhythm of the day and of each week, thereby supporting their growing awareness of time.

chores1For older children, you may decide to have them paint or color a piece of poster board upon which they could help you write out a weekly schedule. This would then be displayed in an area of your home that allows it to be viewed and referred to easily throughout the day. If you have a chalkboard in your home, maybe you could write the schedule there. As the children learn cursive, they could be invited to do the writing on the board themselves.

Including the children in this process will allow them to begin taking more responsibility for the course of their days, and this goes very far in helping them know what is coming next. For many children this “knowing” allows them to relax into the activity at hand, thus offering them the chance to explore their learning deeply.

When crafting your weekly and daily rhythms, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Children tend to be supported when their activities alternate between things that require them to bring very focused intention and attention to a task, and those that are more relaxed.

AmySome describe this as a rhythm of “breathing in” and then “breathing out.” Placing an art activity or time spent outside between a math lesson and a reading lesson is an example of a rhythm that allows a student to “breathe out” between the more intellectual/cognitive experiences (math and reading.)

  • Activities that require concentration are not the same for all children.

For instance, for some children learning to knit would not be seen as relaxed at all, and can require an immense amount of concentration and focus. For this student, knitting might be an experience of “breathing in” and might need to be supported by following the knitting session with something that allows the student to literally and figuratively exhale. Perhaps reading or listening to a story would offer this chance.

  • The art of education has much to do with how we can meet our children each day both with the fruits of our preparation AND with a flexibility to let go of our plans and do what seems necessary to meet our children in each moment.

Although children thrive when surrounded by a predictable rhythm to their days, there are times when all your senses tell you that what your child needs is something other than what you have planned. In these moments, I encourage you to listen to that instinct and let the freedom of homeschooling support you and your child as you find out, together, what your day needs to look like.

  • Each child is different!

I encourage you to spend time observing your child and how is activity is received. Over time you will become much more in tune with what allows the out-breath, and what offers the chance to breath in. (Both are necessary, right!?) Using this information you can further sculpt your homeschooling rhythm, and in doing so you are creating something quite unique for your child. Enjoy!

creative_homeschooling

 

Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm – Part One

 Skills

by Paul King

The tool unused lies lost in dust,
The sword unused turns dull with rust,
The path unused grows clogged with weed,
The crop untended goes to seed.
Skills unused will soon decay,
Talents wasted, fade away.

I will work with a wish and I’ll work with a will,
And the task that life brings me I’ll gladly fulfil,
And unfolding new skills, many joys shall be mine.
Away dull rust! Let me shine!

afredlandAmy Fredland, one of Oak Meadow’s well-experienced k-4 teachers, offered her enrolled families some valuable guidelines for naturally fitting homeschooling into a family’s daily routine. The information is so well presented and seems befitting to share with all of you. Below is Part One of Amy’s advice:

During my 5 years of working with OM, I have heard many families express great concern about how to start and how to fit homeschooling into “life.” This particularly comes at the beginning of the school year, as there are so many variables to consider, plan and prepare for, and mull over. Some find this inspiring, while for others this can be intimidating.  

I hope that you and your child/ren will take this time at the beginning of the school year truly as a period of transition. Keeping in mind that transitions are not static points in time, but are dynamic processes, I encourage you to consider that many times the first few months of the school year end up focusing on getting into and/or remembering habits and strategies for school related tasks. This can be true for returning homeschoolers, as well as those completely new to homeschooling.

In order to support this transition I often recommend that you take time at the beginning of the school year to map out the activities and tasks that you need to do each week, both for your home and for your school, and that you want to do each week. In this way you are crafting a rhythm to your days and your weeks. Although this doesn’t need to be followed exactly each moment, it is a wonderfully supportive framework into which you can immerse yourself and your children. It allows you NOT to have to “recreate the wheel” each day. Phew! Much time and energy is saved this way!

This is particularly helpful when things get hectic or stressful, and you find that your creative energy is being directed towards other pressing needs. When this time comes around, you’ll find that your weekly rhythm is there waiting for you, and you can simply allow it to guide you and your child through the day.

You can begin to create your weekly/daily rhythm by first identifying important aspects of your days. You might choose to make lists, a sketch or brainstorming map, or a spreadsheet. You can really utilize any method of organization that helps you become clear about the things that are necessary for you and your child to meet the goals you have in mind for the  school year.

Examples of things you may want to include for your school activities are: a5229b2f_kid-16

Language Arts                       Social Studies

Math                                      Science

Circle Time                            Snack/Meal times

Art/Handwork                        Music

Field Trips                             Nature walks

Sports/Social activities          Rest/Quiet time

Reading time                        Free play time

Baking                                  Woodworking, etc.

In addition, it can be helpful to include regular household tasks/activities that will need tending each week. You may or may not include these on the actual schedule your children see each day, but it can be very helpful to give these activities a specific place in the overall family rhythm. You might find it useful to make a small schedule for yourself to refer to throughout the week that includes both these activities and the ones listed above.

These household activities may include such things as:Kid-Chores-by-Age

Meal preparation/Clean up

Laundry

Grocery shopping

Tidying up (dusting, mopping, vacuuming, etc.)

Specific chores your child might be responsible for

Errands

Parent work times

Once you have identified the areas that are important in your week, you may want to include your child/ren in on this conversation. What do they want to make sure there is time for each week or each day? You may be surprised to hear that they really want to have time for baking each week, or that it’s important that they have time for playing outside each morning before school begins or right after your first lesson of the day.

Learning-at-Home

Read Part Two here! 

Rhythms, Routines, Rituals

Rhythms, routines, and rituals help us stay centered and on track as homeschooling parents. They enable our children to relax and feel secure because they know what to expect each day. A thoughtful routine allows us to focus our energy in one area at a time, knowing that other essential areas will not be neglected. Establishing a rhythm removes some of the guesswork, giving us a ready answer to the question, “What comes next?”

Well-established rhythms help us manage the ebb and flow of homeschooling and free our remaining energy to deal with the unexpected. We can focus on schoolwork knowing that there is time set aside for outside play. We can make a last-minute visit to the park knowing what time frame will still allow us to get dinner on the table. We can go about our day confident that routine tasks will be remembered and taken care of.

Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran family. Oak Meadow archives.

It may take some time to uncover the rhythms, routines, and rituals that work best for your family. Keep trying until you find your way. Once you have some ideas, post them someplace visible in a form that everyone can understand (with simple words or pictures for younger children) so that the whole family knows what to expect.

Here are some ideas as you seek to find and refine the rhythm that works for you:

Morning

Roney family
Photo credit: The Roney family. Oak Meadow archives.

Observing daily rituals and following a routine helps to center and calm us as we begin the day. It can be as simple as first opening the curtains to let in the morning sun, feeding the cat, preparing a cup of something delicious, and then sitting down in a favorite chair for a contemplative moment before the day’s work begins.

Modeling a morning rhythm for our children by having one for ourselves is a powerful example. Some children wake slowly, while others greet the day with every ounce of exuberance. How can you support your child’s inner rhythm and incorporate it into your expectations for the day?

Circle time is a time-honored tradition in Waldorf-inspired education and is part of Oak Meadow’s curriculum for younger learners. Some families begin with an opening verse, read a poem, share a song, do a fingerplay or game, and end with a closing verse. Oak Meadow curriculum contains content and ideas for circle time.

For some families, this will feel just right. For others, circle time may need to feel very different — shorter and more active, or more fluid and less structured, or with completely different elements. The exact content is less important than the act of sharing a ritual to focus your attention together as you start your day. Some families incorporate stretching or yoga into their morning circle. Some find other ways of sharing and connection. With some trial and error, you will figure out what works for your family.

Daily and Weekly

What is your family’s energy like on Mondays? Some families like to jump in and start the week with a burst of fresh motivation. Others regularly need post-weekend transition time and hit their peak productivity mid-week. Does it work best for you to work intensely and then rest thoroughly, or sprinkle learning and play together in a more spontaneous way?

Daily routines are one way to ensure that everything gets done and nothing is forgotten, which can be a great help when there are many tasks and needs to keep track of. Housework can be done with the children’s help. When everyone is working together as a team, it can help motivate participants who might be reluctant.

If your family is quite busy with outside activities during the week, consider blocking off one day each week in which you all stay home. If there is a day when nobody has to go anywhere, it allows the opportunity for uninterrupted down time and relaxation. You might even declare this a “pajama day” to honor children who prefer their pajamas and would love a celebrated reason to stay in them once in awhile.

Are your weekends different from your weekdays? Do you have any recurring components to your weekend, such as a late brunch, a family activity, or the observance of faith traditions? If your week already has a predictable basic rhythm, start with that and build around it.

Homework, Housework

When are your children most focused and ready to learn? When do they seem to need rest or down time? When do they burst with physical energy and need to play outside? When are they drawn to be quietly independent?

Photo credit: The Hendrickson family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: The Hendrickson family. Oak Meadow archives.

Keep a thoughtful eye on the emotional state of the household and be willing to be flexible. You might find that the order of activities matters most, rather than the exact start time of a recurring activity. The best routines are the ones that can sway and stretch as needed to accommodate the shifting needs of the family.

Oak Meadow’s curriculum is designed with flexibility in mind. One lesson can be completed in a week if desired, but there are other approaches that also work well. Some families spread lessons in all subjects evenly through the week. Others choose to do “block scheduling,” which might mean focusing on one subject per day or one subject per term. One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is its inherent adaptability to the needs of those involved.

Photo credit: The McDowell-McWhorter family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: The McDowell-McWhorter family. Oak Meadow archives.

If you have multiple children, you may need to arrange your day so that they get your one-on-one attention at different times. You may be able to arrange for older children (or another helper) to engage with one child while you work with another. If that is not an option, a mother’s helper (perhaps an older homeschooler or a retired friend) can be a boon.

Can weekly chores be scheduled for a predictable day? It may work best to start (or end) your week with a family effort to tidy up the house. It can be helpful to pin a weekly activity to a particular day (such as Tidy-Up Tuesday). Another example of a chore that can be simplified with a recurring weekly theme is meal planning. The less time you have to spend thinking about what comes next, the more easily you can dive in and accomplish it.

Evening

Do you have a ritual for gathering the family for dinner? This might mean having children take turns setting the table, lighting a candle once everyone is present, and observing a quiet moment of gratitude before beginning the meal. Some families enjoy a tradition of word or number games over dinner, and others take turns telling what they learned or enjoyed about their day. Even young children can take pride in helping to clear the table after the meal.

In the evening, do you foster a sense of calm as the day winds down? What would that look like in your home? In some families, evening can be somewhat chaotic, with a parent arriving home from work, older children going to and from evening activities, a kitchen flurry that hopefully results in a good dinner, and everyone’s energy in fragments after the long day. As parents, we steer the family ship. Ending the day on a calm shore is a gift we give our children and ourselves.

Making It Happen

Experiment with what you imagine might work for your family, observe the results, and make adjustments through trial and error. Ask your children for their ideas and suggestions. If you get stuck, consider a support consultation with Oak Meadow’s experienced staff.

There are no right or wrong ways to do this. Continue to embrace the things that work, and gently let go of the things that don’t. By incorporating routines and rhythm into our homeschooling lives, we help ourselves and our families remain centered and keep our homeschool plans running smoothly throughout the year.

How Do You Do It All? – Part II

“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”

Do it all?!!

In Part I, we explored the academic side of “doing it all” — finding support, planning carefully, and keeping expectations realistic. In Part II, we take a look the equally

Photo credit: Lugo Family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Lugo Family. Oak Meadow archives.

important non-academic side of things: running the home, the importance of routine, getting your own needs met, and staying connected as a family.

Housework

Homeschooling families are particularly sensitive to housework and other issues because we tend to spend more time in our homes than families who spend their days out at work and school. Do all you can to simplify housework or make it more efficient. Finding ways for each family member to help out as part of the daily routine can help to ease the load.

Make chores a regular part of each child’s day and learning. Plan meals in advance to simplify grocery shopping and meal preparation. Foster independence. Older children can help younger ones accomplish routine tasks. Limiting each member to one cup, one bowl, one plate, and teaching everyone to wash their own after meals can simplify dishes. Even small children can help sort laundry if clothing tags are marker-coded for each family member (one spot for the oldest child, two spots for the next-oldest, etc.) Does all the underwear really need folding? Choose your challenges wisely and let go of the rest.

Routines and Rhythms

Are you worried about feeling overwhelmed? Predictable rhythms help families stay on track and thrive. Routines help ensure that the important things get done automatically without being bogged down in deliberation or negotiation. Establish set times for academics, rest, housework, and play (but always keep your expectations flexible). Take the time to post a plan for your day and week that all family members can reference. Use pictures instead of words so non-readers will know what to expect. Revisit and adjust your plan as you get a sense of what works best for your family.

Predictable rhythms can help family members feel a sense of pride and ownership in the home. In our family, we light a candle at the dinner table; the child whose turn it is to set and clear the table also enjoys the privilege of lighting and blowing out the candle. Weave together work and play, rest and responsibility, throughout the day to keep everyone feeling refreshed.

Down Time

In many households, time feels tight and everyone always seems to be on the go. Many families fill all or most of their children’s available time with academics, enrichment, and social activities. These things are important, but unstructured time is also very important in a child’s development and deserves a fair share of each day.

Photo credit: Brenda Callahan. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Brenda Callahan. Oak Meadow archives.

Let your child have regular periods of time without structure or expectations. Set up indoor and outdoor spaces for safe open-ended creative play and investigation, and let children follow their whim, however “aimless” it might seem. Boredom is to be embraced; spin it as an opportunity, not a burden. Children who are not accustomed to unstructured playtime may need compassionate adult encouragement, but they will figure it out.

Self Care

Homeschooling depends on strong, healthy parental involvement. What do you need? Be sure you get what you need to recharge regularly, even if that happens piecemeal. Fit in little forms of self care throughout the day — fresh air, exercise, rest, healthy eating, a change in scenery, social support, and some time devoted to relationships and/or hobbies. Many of these needs are possible to meet with children, and your children will learn self care from your example.

Many homeschooling parents also find it essential to have some time completely alone or in the company of adult friends. If you have multiple children, even going out with “just the baby” can be a nice break. Also give your spousal relationship the nurturing it deserves. It is very important to nourish ourselves so that we are able to meet the needs of our children.

Parenting and Staying Connected

Parenting is an integral part of homeschooling, in contrast to the division between parenting and education that occurs in conventional schooling. Take the time to address parenting issues promptly as they come up. Dovetail life skills and interpersonal skills with academic skills. Reassess daily where your child is most in need of support, and let that guide your approach for the day. Persistence, consistency, patience, and gentle repetition are valuable parenting investments that will pay off over time.

Homeschooling allows for constant physical presence, but emotional connectedness is an additional layer that deserves thoughtful care. Make it a point to regularly to connect with your child (and your partner) in ways that matter to both of you — without dividing your attention or multitasking. A little one-on-one attention can go a long way. If that is not possible, the book The Five Love Languages of Children can help you identify the kind of attention that will go the furthest with your child.

Express appreciation to your children, your partner, and the adults who help support your children, for their roles in your homeschooling endeavors. A set the expectation that you deserve appreciation for your own efforts. Successful homeschooling is a collaborative effort in which every family member plays a part. Make opportunities to celebrate yourselves and your accomplishments as a family whenever you can.

Working and Homeschooling

If you are balancing working and homeschooling, staying connected can feel like a super-sized challenge. (Many families do succeed at this, even with both parents working regularly.) Oak Meadow’s curriculum is designed to offer many opportunities to be flexible with schooling around other scheduling demands.

If you are splitting your time between work and homeschooling, use any flexibility you might have to keep things flowing as smoothly as possible for you and your family. Consider enlisting the help of a loving friend or family member, another homeschooling family, or a homeschooled teen to help nurture your child’s learning while you are working. Or get outside help with housework and other tasks so you can focus your attention directly on your child when you are available.

Aligning Your Expectations

Photo credit: Wolf-Frazier Family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Wolf-Frazier Family. Oak Meadow archives.

Successful homeschooling families discuss and list their priorities, and focus on the top ones while letting the lesser ones go. Focus on your family’s highest priorities and make peace with the rest. Take care of yourself and nurture the connections within your family to avoid burnout. Make sure everyone in the family gets sufficient down time.

There is no one right way to live a homeschooling life, and (thankfully) there are many right ways to “do it all.” What elements and outcomes are most important to your family? Do not be afraid to align your expectations to your family’s capabilities. By tuning into your own family’s needs and crafting a personal definition of what “doing it all” means, you will succeed.

How Do You Do It All? – Part I

“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”

Do it all?!!

What does that mean? What exactly do homeschooling families do all day, and how do parents manage the needs of their children along with their other responsibilities?

Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.

Every family is different, so there is a wide range of possible responses to those questions. Here are a few insights into some possibilities.

Incorrect Assumptions

How do you find the time? Those who have not navigated homeschooling firsthand may have some incorrect assumptions about what homeschooling requires. They might think that, like a classroom teacher, the homeschooling parent must teach on their feet while their children sit at desks for five or more hours a day. It’s understandable that some would think this; Western culture doesn’t give much support for other models of learning. But homeschooling brings a great deal of flexibility.

Get Out and Socialize!

How do you meet your child’s social needs? Some people make the assumption that homeschooling happens entirely between parent and child at home. But this approach would exhaust many parents and bore many children!

Spending time with one’s parents is not equivalent to spending time with one’s peers. Institutional (public or private) school allows students to interact conveniently with numerous other students over the course of the school day, making school seem like a sort of one-stop-social-shop for same-aged children.

In contrast, most homeschoolers spend a good deal of time socializing out in the world, interacting with their community in various ways and learning from myriad interpersonal interactions. It often doesn’t take much effort to find a social niche through activities, hobbies, or interests shared between your child and other community members. Sometimes it takes persistence and creativity to make these connections.

If parents were the only source of social engagement, homeschooling would be a dull (and exhausting) proposition, indeed. And many parents would find it to be completely unsustainable. It’s a good thing there are other options!

Community Support

How do you teach everything? Many parents find support and relief in local homeschool groups that meet formally or informally to share teaching, learning, resources, planning tools, and ideas. This can help the load feel lighter. Some groups have parents take turns leading or organizing cooperative classes that shift with the needs of the students. If you have hard time finding a homeschooling group in your area, check with your local library (historically a great connecting hub for homeschoolers) or ask the state Department of Education if they can provide a list of contacts.

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith. Oak Meadow archives.

If there is no group near you, reach out and start your own! Your librarian, faith community, or local school officials (if they are supportive of homeschooling) may be able to connect you with other homeschooling families with similar needs. You might hang some posters, publish a blurb or ad in the local paper, or see if your town hosts an Internet bulletin board where you can post an inquiry. You can also reach out to find local families through Oak Meadow’s Facebook page.

Some parents also engage tutors, enroll their child in select classes, or cultivate mentor relationships to help with subjects they are less comfortable teaching.

Yearly Planning

How do you ensure your child meets long-term goals? One important aspect of the homeschooling version of “doing it all” is academics. Planning is key, especially if you have an eclectic approach that draws from a variety of sources to round out your curriculum. Your town or state may have an outline available that reflects grade-appropriate expectations. Oak Meadow offers a complete curriculum package for each grade level, making it easy to ensure that your child is getting all of the essentials each year. Our grade overviews also provide a great scope and sequence to follow for those who are designing their own curriculum.

Setting and reaching yearly educational goals may sound like a tall order, but there is support available. Talk with other parents to find out what they have done, or connect with them via social media channels. Oak Meadow’s distance learning school gives parents professional planning support throughout the year, and support is also available for unenrolled families.

If your state requires end-of-year documentation, it’s important to have a good system in place for collecting that documentation so that you or someone else can make sense of it at the end of the year. The first year of documentation is usually the hardest; once you have gotten through the first year’s submissions, subsequent years will be routine. If you are in the U.S. and unsure what your state requires from homeschoolers, check the HSLDA website.

If you expect your child will experience a stretch of homeschooling followed by a stretch of public schooling and you want your child to be on target for smooth academic entry into the public school, you may want to take the public school’s academic pace into account when planning your year.

Weekly and Daily Planning

How do you stay on top of all of the details? How can you manage the day-to-day and still meet your goals by year’s end? Careful planning is important to maximize your time. Your plan will depend on your expectations, your style (relaxed or structured), your child’s personality and preferences, your ability or willingness to be flexible, and the pace expected by your state or local authorities.

Here is where the concept of “rhythm” comes in. A short burst of quality academic engagement with your child will have more benefit than hours of detached disorganization. Take some time to observe your family’s natural patterns. When is each family member’s energy the highest, attention span the longest, interest in learning the most engaged? What non-academic tasks are essential in each day and need to be planned around? Allow these insights to inform a general daily rhythm that will help you get through each day and accomplish the year’s goals in day-sized bits.

Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.

Think also about your weekly and yearly commitments. Consider pockets of time in your week that can be used for academics. Craft a weekly rhythm that honors this ebb and flow. Some families enjoy diving right into academics first thing Monday morning and taking it easy on Fridays. Others find it works best to go slow on Mondays and hit their stride midweek.

Some families homeschool six or seven days a week; others four or five. Some homeschool year-round, while others focus on academics only through the traditional school year and take summers off. Some families take a break from academics for the entire month of December. You have the freedom to make your homeschooling schedule fit your family’s lifestyle.

Aligning Expectations with Reality

What does “doing it all” mean to you? Homeschooling is a process of constant revisiting and adjustment. Don’t be afraid to do some trial-and-error to find what works best for you and your child. If you try a particular approach and it feels overwhelming, adjust your expectations and try again. Ask other parents what works for them. Ask your children for their input. You may be surprised at their thoughtful responses! Phone counseling is available from Oak Meadow for those who would like experienced guided help creating a homeschooling rhythm. Keep your expectations realistic and trust that you can do this!

In Part II, we will explore the non-academic side of what “doing it all” means for homeschoolers.