When Homeschool Morning Time doesn’t work

homeschool morning time | homeschool routine

I keep seeing posts hailing the miracles of morning baskets and homeschool morning time, and honestly, part of me feels a little left out. The pins and Instagram posts make homeschool morning time look so idyllic. But I sigh and scroll past. It’s a “been there, tried that” moment for me.

Morning time is not an ideal homeschool time for us for a number of reasons. ADHD is a huge one that ranks top of the list. ADHD and mornings don’t mix. Throw in there that I’m not necessarily a morning person either, and I give any morning time routine a maximum of two weeks at our house. Mornings typically involve a lot of reminding and referee-ing. Lots of fighting and moodiness characterize our mornings. It always has, for years. And believe me, I’ve tried everything I can think of to derail this trait. As breakfast improves the moods of my three kids, the distractibility sets in. There is no focus. Getting dressed is hard enough, let alone trying to get school squeezed in there.

Because any kind of disciplined learning (math, for instance) is out of the question with all the distraction, I abandoned structured morning homeschool for a more relaxed morning routine. For awhile, I embraced whole family learning that involved creating and listening to a read-aloud, similar to homeschool morning time. But even then, I could barely get through a story without someone upset that someone else was sitting on their paper scraps or was too close to their personal space or happened to grab the wrong colored pencil or couldn’t figure out the craft or a thousand other possible scenarios. Now, I keep everyone separated with their own tasks, or we head out to one of our extra-curricular activities.

So what do you do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work? When the latest and greatest homeschool strategy seems to crash and burn at your place, what next? You pick yourself up from the rubble of that failed experiment, dust off, and move on. Homeschooling is meant to be as unique as you are.

  • The curriculum everyone raves about may not be the curriculum that works for you.
  • The routine that takes social media by storm may not fit your family or your lifestyle.
  • The latest “homeschool hack” may hack more than you had in mind.

We are different. We recognize those differences. That’s why many of us have chosen to homeschool. So when we don’t fit the homeschool mold, it’s okay. We homeschooled to break out of a mold. So here are some tips to navigate a failed homeschool morning time (or any other failed experiment).

What to do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work

  1. Recognize a failed routine doesn’t mean you are a failure. We jump to this conclusion so quickly. We feel failure rather than reasoning through it. A failed routine is just that, a routine that didn’t work out.
  2. Evaluate who you are, who your kids are, and what is likely to work for you. On most days, we start homeschooling after lunch. Sometimes, we’ve actually homeschooled in the evening. Occasionally, we scramble through some morning assignments so that we can head out to an afternoon activity. One thing about ADHD kids (at least mine), they love to be busy. They love variety and a change of pace. Find a structure that fits your family’s personality.
  3. Be willing to try something that may not work. Failing can tend to make us afraid of trying something new. But one of the greatest lessons you can teach your kids as you homeschool is how to fail well. There are few things I know for certain about my kids’ futures. But one of those things is that my kids will fail. It’s okay for them to see me try things and then admit it failed—and it’s no big deal. When I try something and fail, it takes the scary out of it for my kids. So give it a try.
  4. Remember that every homeschool family has their challenges, whether or not they are posting about them on social media. You are not alone. If your homeschool isn’t peaceful and beautiful and quiet, you are in good company. Mine isn’t either. And I talk with enough friends to know, there’s isn’t either. Homeschool is life, and life is messy.

Who says you have to homeschool in the morning? Who says you can’t start the day with a morning hike or a morning video? Who says you have to read out loud to your kids? Get an audio book instead. Go on field trips. Sleep in. Homeschool at night or in your pajamas. These choices are not necessarily a lack of discipline or a lack of structure; they could very well be the structure that breathes freedom back into your family life.

What if homeschool morning time doesn’t work? Then post on Instagram about your “homeschool afternoon time” instead, and rock it!

Spelling Progress for dyslexia

progress for dyslexia | homeschooling dyslexia

If you have a child who struggles, seeing progress can be a little tricky. Sometimes progress comes slowly, and most often it doesn’t look anything like we had expected it to. Other times, progress for dyslexia looks more like a complicated dance—one step forward and two steps back, with lots of zigging and zagging. But every now and then, progress surprises us, like laboring in a garden and being surprised by the first ripe fruit tucked under the lush foliage. Homeschooling my dyslexic daughter is exactly this way; our progress comes slowly and often surprises me.

About a year and a half ago, I quit teaching her traditional spelling. Nothing I tried was working, and all our efforts only created tons of anxieties for her. We stopped. I researched dyslexia, and we took a different approach. Instead of phonics and spelling, we worked through Dyslexia Games levels A and B. This year, I thought she had progressed enough to give spelling another try, but not from a purely phonics approach. What I noticed was that my dyslexic daughter was learning to make a visual print of her words in her memory. Dyslexia Games had trained my very right-brained, creative daughter to notice details and patterns.

When I saw A Reason for Spelling, I loved that it continued in this same approach, with lots of fun activity ideas. Our first week in, my daughter traced her spelling words in play dough, danced her spelling words in rhythm with jingle bells strapped to her ankles, made her spelling words with bananagrams, among other fun activities. The result? A 100% on her spelling test! She aced all 15 words. She’s had the same success with her second list, mastering every word. And we’re now working on her third list this year. We take our time and complete every activity, moving on only when she’s ready.

progress for dyslexia | homeschooling dyslexia

She also loves Writing and Rhetoric. We’ve baby-stepped writing. I scribed for her really all the way until the end of last year. We take turns sometimes now with her daily work, but she’s much more confident in writing. During writing time, we don’t worry about spelling. Her one objective is to get those creative thoughts down on paper. Spelling, punctuation, grammar—all of that comes later during revision. Writing and Rhetoric gets her started with a fable which becomes the framework for what she will write. She rewrites sentences or phrases and finally rewrites the entire fable. It’s a workbook style of learning, which I was very surprised she liked. But it has been a good fit for her. We also play some writing games that add variety and challenge her story-telling skills.

We’ve come so far in some areas, but progress for dyslexia is that complicated dance, remember. And our huge leaps forward in some areas have meant new battles elsewhere. Math is one of those battle scenes right now; reading comprehension is another. So what does progress for dyslexia look like?

Spelling Progress for Dyslexia

  1. Academics. We are in a unique homeschool situation that requires regular testing. My daughter’s testing has shown regular improvement. In some areas that improvement is small and incremental; in other areas, it surges forward and then stalls for a bit. But testing is the least of the ways I monitor progress. When she completes an assignment, when she enthusiastically initiates a project or goes the extra mile on an assignment, when she gets through a day of homeschool without a meltdown, when she makes connections and interacts with what she is learning in her own unique way—all of that is progress.
  2. Skills. Karate is an extra-curricular that I love for my kids. It teaches energy under control (something all my ADHD ninjas need), it teaches character and perseverance, but it also teaches skills. My daughter practices and performs long sequences of moves in one direction, spins and repeats the sequence in the reverse direction, crossing her midline, moving left to right and back and forth. At first, these sequences were a huge challenge, and half the time she couldn’t remember her left from her right. Once she did memorize the sequence, she had to perform that sequence in front of judges and a gym full of parents. Sometimes she gets flustered, forgets, stalls, remembers, and pushes on. Each kata she learns, each test she finishes, each belt she earns, each evaluation she receives marks progress.
  3. Character. Dyslexia has taught my daughter how to endure and how to persevere. Nothing comes easily for her, unfortunately. All of life seems to be a struggle. And yet she presses on. That’s not to say there aren’t discouraging days and moments where she gives up. But overall, she’s learning determination and endurance. And so am I!
  4. Confidence. This progress comes perhaps most slowly and quietly. Often it dawns on me gradually when I realize she’s no longer afraid, when I can’t remember the last time we had a meltdown during a particular activity, when she wants to tackle an extracurricular activity without me talking to the adult in charge about accommodations. I walk a fine line, it seems, between shielding that vulnerable spark of confidence she’s shown and giving it room and space to kindle into a flame.

What spells progress for my child with dyslexia may look nothing like your journey. That’s okay. When you have a child who struggles, you have to decide what progress looks like. You have to sit down and determine what your mile-markers are.  But I do encourage you to know what you are looking for. The day to day of homeschooling a child with learning difficulties can be grueling, for both of you. Take a moment and take stock of your progress. It’s there; you just have to know where to look and what to look for. No matter what it looks like, embrace it. It’s progress, no matter how it’s spelled.

5 hands-on ways to homeschool Geography

homeschool geography | hands-on ideas for busy learners

It’s sometimes hard to engage our busy learners in the study of facts. So many of the traditional methods of teaching a subject are just not a good fit for our movers and shakers. Thankfully, geography is one of those subject areas that lends itself to a lot of variety and hands-on fun. There are so many ways to teach geography in your homeschool, but here are five of my favorite ways to teach geography to my busy learners.

5 hands-on ways to homeschool geography

 

Create Clay, Salt Dough, or Cookie maps. We homeschool geography in a variety of ways, but getting our hands dirty with clay or dough is always a sure winner for my active, creative ADHD kiddos. When we studied Egypt, we took sugar cookie dough and sculpted the country of Egypt, complete with a frosted Nile and colored sugar sprinkle dessert. (This was pre-ADHD diet, but something that could be easily modified for food sensitivities.)

Eating Egypt | teaching geography in homeschool | hands-on geography

Six years later, we still love to create maps this way. This year, we began our geography by sculpting imaginary lands and geographic features in clay. I handed them my Geography from A to Z picture glossary, let them choose their favorites and include them in a map of an imaginary world, and then create that world out of clay.

homeschool first day | hands-on geography

 

homeschool geography to hands-on learners

Read Living Books. Reading about places around the world and connecting a story to a place is a powerful way to homeschool geography. Read about children, animals, or fairy tales from around the world. For instance, for one unit study early on in our adventure, we read the children’s adapted version of Around the World in 80 Days and followed our read-aloud on our map. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is another fun book that teaches geography with ingredients and a recipe!

Another of our favorites are the Legends and Leagues series. I usually start my kids in the original series in first grade, when they are old enough to read fairly well independently. The other Legends and Leagues books (North, South, East, and West) I usually assign a couple each year. These geography living books are silly, funny, and engaging. If your child likes Life of Fred math, he will enjoy Legends and Leagues.

Sharpen Map Skills by Drawing.  Instead of the facts of where a country is located, have your child learn the skills of map reading and map making by drawing his own— of his bedroom, of your neighborhood, of a trip to the park. Depending on your child’s age and ability, have him complete the activity with map keys, compass rose, or grid locations. 

Get hands-on with maps (literally). Rather than a map on the wall, I’ve opted for some more hands-on map variations through the years. One year, I printed an enlarged map that we’d been studying and glued it to a poster board, allowing my son to both color the map and then enact the story of Hannibal with his toy soldiers on our enlarged map.

hands-on geography

We’ve done the beach-ball globe for quite awhile, which my kids have loved to toss around as well as look up countries we are reading about. And just last year, we added our new favorite, the scrunch map. This map is such an unusual texture. The kids love to spread it out on the floor, laying all over it to find what they are looking for. And equally as much fun is wadding the map back up and scrunching it back into it’s little bag. My kids are literally all over a map, and this close up sensory exploration fuels their love for learning geography.

Pray around the World. A simple way to homeschool geography is through praying for the world. Unreached people groups, current events, persecuted Christians—there are so many opportunities for our children to learn about the world around them through prayer. One of my favorite activities with my kids is to get out our scrunch map and have them pray for a country with their fingers on the location. Adding that little bit of extra sensory input really helps to engage my busy kiddos. We read about the country, about the people, about their struggles, and then all together touch the country on our map and pray for it. 

Geography is a fantastic way for your hands-on learner to explore all of their world with all of their senses. Let them read, imagine, and create. Let them use their imagination to better understand the real world, every feature of it. And as they gain a love and appreciation for their world, they will also be fueled by a desire to discover more about that world.