5 tips for Planning for your Homeschool Challenges

homeschool challenges | homeschool planning

The reality of any plan is this: it’s going to change. I’m constantly planning, constantly changing, constantly rethinking, constantly trying to make our days run more smoothly. But I’ve learned that the key to a good plan is how well it flexes. How well does a plan hold when life hits it? Planning for your homeschool is so much more than plotting out what days you do math and when you finish the year. There are toddlers and sick days and unexpected visitors and laundry and overflowing toilets and doctor visits and — life is messy, unpredictable. Planning your homeschool well involves planning for your homeschool challenges, anticipating what can and will go wrong and allowing for the chaos in your plan.

5 tips for Planning for your Homeschool Challenges

Routine vs. Schedule

Over the years, I’ve homeschooled with a newborn, toddler, poop-throwing potty training toddler, preschooler, ADHD times 2, dyslexia, month long stomach flu, and a coast to coast move. Let me tell you, the key to a good plan is a good routine. And I don’t necessarily mean a timer that goes off at 8:30 to indicate school has begun. (I’ve done that, too.) A good routine is a rhythm of life that fits your family. Set up your day by routines rather than specific times; have a morning routine, an after-snack routine, an after-lunch routine, a before-supper routine, etc. The idea is to allow for some distractions and upsets. If your child ends up in the bathroom at 9:00 in the morning and stays there for 15 minutes, you’re not behind schedule; you simply pick up wherever your routine left off.

Realistic Expectations

I am the worst at assuming I can do more than is realistic. But the reality that reigns me in is that I do only have so many hours a day. One of the first things I do when I’m planning a new routine is to list how much homeschool time I really have. What can I personally give my children, and what will need to be done independently? When I had a newborn and was nursing, I had to realize I could not personally provide all the instruction my kids needed. I purchased website subscriptions and online learning games. When potty training, I set up a lot of our homeschool time near the bathroom and in the hallway.

The idea is that we have got to lower our expectations. We simply can’t do it all. Something does have to give. In order to have a successful plan, be realistic about what you can do. I know I can provide one hour of instruction for my daughter and one hour for my kindergartener. That means with my fourth grader, we don’t do every subject every day. I work with her in a few subjects on certain days and the rest on other days. I understand that my priority has to be quality over quantity. In other words, one good writing lesson once a week will get more accomplished than a stressful, distracted, rushed lesson everyday. A good 10 minute lesson will teach more than 45 minutes filled with disruptions. Less really can be more.

System that flexes

My motto this year has been “the next thing.” I’m learning that some days, we knock out a huge amount of work and other days we come to a screeching halt. Instead of stressing over what is or is not getting done, I’m focusing on “the next thing.” We cover our studies one lesson at a time; we move on when my kids are ready to move on. That means we take two weeks for spelling lists instead of one. That means, my son lets me know when he’s ready to take that Latin quiz; sometimes its at the end of the week, and sometimes he needs two weeks. (I do set a two week limit.) Somedays we get through three math lessons with Right Start, and some days I can’t get past the warm up. We move on to the next topic in history when we’ve read the books and finished our projects for the first topic. We take things one at a time, because I’ve seen over and over again that it all washes out in the end.

How does this work in my actual lesson plans? I have an overall plan for the year and for each term; then, I sit down each Sunday night and plot out what I think we will get to in the week. If we finish it, I put a checkmark. If we didn’t finish it, I put an arrow through the box and write it into the following week’s plan. For my kids’ assignments, I don’t write out specific lesson numbers. Instead, I assign “math for 30 minutes” or “Read a chapter in Courage and Conviction.” They move through their assignments in the same way we move through the week, doing the next thing.

Celebrating the little things

Sometimes learning takes on a mind of its own. Your kids find an interest and run with it, a free video lesson pops up in your newsfeed that you know they’ll love, you stumble upon a gem on Netflix that you’ve just got to watch together, you get caught up in your read-aloud and can’t put it down. Maybe your kid writes and illustrates his own comic book, or repairs an appliance in your garage. These are all learning opportunities, and a flexible plan allows you to embrace these moments. Often, I will record these in my planner, too. It’s learning. It happened. I want a record so that at the end of the week when I have that “what have we gotten done” moment, I can see that learning did happen even if all my boxes aren’t checked off.

Willingness to try again

Planning for your homeschool challenges, bottom line, is a willingness to keep planning, to try again. Don’t scrap the whole plan, but be honest about what isn’t working. Maybe your time with your child is awesome, but independent work just isn’t happening; try a new plan. Just try it out. The best inventors and innovators, those found the most success in life, realized that every failure brought them one step closer to success. In the end, these are the life lessons that are the most meaningful for our kids. We are educating more than just their minds. We are teaching them that it’s okay to try and fail and try again. It’s part of the process. It’s part of life.

Homeschooling is challenging and filled with ups and downs. It’s beautiful in the way that birth is beautiful—a painful, messy beautiful. It’s life, and life is unpredictable. Planning for your homeschool challenges means you have a direction, a vision, and an end in mind; but you are also embracing that homeschooling really is about the journey, not just the destination.

What to do when you don’t love your homeschool

when you don't love your homeschool | homeschool planning | homeschool vision

Psst. I’m going to let you in on a secret. There are times and seasons when I don’t like our homeschool. Maybe we’re getting things checked off and the kids are learning, but it’s far from satisfying—and very, very far from beautiful. We’re muddling through, surviving. But I sure don’t love our homeschool.

Honestly, that was me this last fall. We had moments: fun projects, glimmers of happy learning. But overall, I survived the fall, and hated it. So this December, during our month off, I spent a lot of time rethinking everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING!

Our fall was a perfect storm of factors. For one, my whole curriculum plan for one child seemed to crash and burn on week 2 of our homeschool year. I didn’t have the time to make those kinds of drastic changes in a thoughtful way. So, I threw together a Plan B and muddled through. Then, my homeschool app that I’ve used FOR YEARS to plan my homeschool didn’t update with the latest Apple updates. Yep, lost the whole thing at the start of the year and scrambled to find a new method. Again, I threw together a solution, but not one I loved. Lastly, our whole schedule turned on its head this year. Days we’d had off were now filled; days that I’d dedicated for one-on-one homeschooling were now video school days so that I could go to different meetings and Bible studies. We managed to get through the term, but I noticed that I’d lost a lot of things that brought enjoyment and meaning to our homeschool. I had a lot I wanted to change.

So, what do you do when you don’t love your homeschool? Where do you start? What do you change? Here’s what I’ve spent the last month doing.

What to do when you don’t love your homeschool?

Remember Your Vision

I remembered back to the last time I loved homeschooling. What was I reading? What was I thinking? What brought joy and satisfaction? I pulled out those books and tried to rethink those first thoughts again. I went back to that original vision, that original purpose. For me, a lot of that began with learning about Charlotte Mason and her approach to learning. I’m far from hard-core Charlotte Mason, but I love to blend those ideas into our classical homeschool. Charlotte reminds me of my overall goals: to educate my whole child (not just the mind), to inspire with ideas (not just cram with facts), to create an atmosphere (of love and character and discipleship).

Think back to a time when you loved your homeschool. What was it you loved? Was it more intentional and less distracted by work projects or social media? Was it more spontaneous and filled with outdoor exploration? Was it more character-focused and discipleship-driven? Get back to that happy place.

What if you have never loved your homeschool? Start with a brainstorm or vision board. Collect pins on a special “homeschool vision board” on pinterest, or get a poster board and cut out magazine pictures. Write down all the ideas that come to mind. What do you envision when you think about your homeschool? Know where you want to go before you make a plan to get there.

Find your focus

I don’t know about you, but I need more than a goal; I need a single word that helps me remember that goal. Something I can whisper under my breath in the hard moments and get the reeling chaos back in focus. That word, for me, was “discipleship.” I took a class on how to study the Bible this last fall, and one of the exercises was a form of diagramming the verse, looking at subjects and verbs and parallel structures. I remember tearing up in class thinking, “This is why I’m determined to teach reading and comprehension and some level of grammar to my dyslexic child. This is why it’s important to me.” Not so that she can ace an achievement test, but that she could be a better disciple; I want her to have all the tools she needs to study the Bible deeply. When I sat down and remembered my vision for our homeschool, this one word kept coming back to me. I wanted to educate my whole child, not just mind and academics; I wanted more discipleship.

What is that one thing for you? What is that one thing that, at the end of the year, if you only did this one thing well you would still call the year a huge success? Could you sum it up in one word? That one thing is your focus, and it will make a world of difference in the daily grind of homeschooling.

Make a Plan

Or in my case, make a planner. Seriously. I set down and created my own planner. I was tired of making things work, of adapting things to fit how I wanted to plan. So I sat down over Christmas break and made my own planner. I filled it with the Charlotte Mason quotations and beautiful graphics that inspired me. (And I’m sharing it with you for free! Scroll down for more details.)

I plan with a weekly overview. I don’t like to see my week split up by days because I need the flexibility to move things around. I plan the things I hope to get done with in the week. If we get it done, I check it off. If we didn’t get it done, I put an arrow through the box and move it to the following week. If I decide to skip it entirely, I put an x through the box. For certain, subjects that I do want done on certain days (specifically when I’m working with my child), I write an initial for the day of the week I hope to do it (M for Monday, W for Wednesday, R for Thursday, etc.) When it’s done, I circle the initial.

free homeschool planner download

 

free A5 homeschool planner

I also found a new app that I’ve been trying out with my kids’ assignments: Homeschool Teacher app. I put their chores and their school assignments into the app, but I keep most of the assignments generic and schedule them to repeat each week. For instance, I put “do a math lesson,” or “read for 30 min.” instead of “Do lesson 65.” If I need to go in and specify what book they are reading in, I can always go back in and make changes to that particular day, but I don’t have to plan their whole week out all the time. It’s “once and done.” Then, my kids have the companion app Homeschool Student on their tablets and ipads; they can login and check off their assignments. Then, I’m notified in my app and approve that the work was done. So far, so good.

 

I’m not expecting perfection. I know we are still going to have chaos and bad days and failed plans. But even with the imperfection, there can still be satisfaction. You can still love your homeschool, when it’s loud and messy and chaotic. You can still love your homeschool, even when it’s far less than perfect.

Download my Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool planner

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Printable A5 Homeschool Planner | Charlotte Mason

15 Reasons Why I Love Homeschooling ADHD

15 reasons why I love homeschooling ADHD

Homeschooling ADHD is no walk in the park. There are challenges, road blocks, and bad days. I have a house full of ADHD, and there are days when I think I may lose my mind. But that’s only a part of our story, only one side of ADHD. Unfortunately, it’s often the side of ADHD that gets the most attention—the struggle. But there is also delight, creativity, and lots and lots of laughter. They are curious, loud, distracted, innovative, messy, and intense. I love homeschooling ADHD!

Whether you are considering homeschooling your ADHD child, in the midst of the struggle, or just curious what it might be like, here are my top 15 reasons why I love homeschooling ADHD.

15 Reasons Why I Love Homeschooling ADHD

  1. Time for breaks. We can arrange our routine around their best times for learning and allow for plenty of movement breaks. (Check out our favorite movement breaks here.)
  2. Customized Learning Plan. Each of my children is very different. Creating a custom learning plan that fits their personality, learning style, interests, and strengths is a highlight of homeschooling.
  3. Whole Family Learning. I love that we can learn together and that my kids can share and help each other in the process.
  4. Ability to Pursue Passions and Interests. My kids have plenty of time to pursue the things that interest them. Our homeschool lessons are short, their busy minds learn quickly, and we move along, allowing for a lot of variety.
  5. Opportunity to Move. In addition to movement breaks, learning at home allows my kids to move and fidget and bounce while they are learning.
  6. Freedom to be Unique. My kids can be just as unique and awesome as they were created to be. They can enjoy what they love, and no one tells them otherwise.
  7. No Bullying. Obviously, I can’t protect my kids from all the bullying that may take place in different social settings, but at home in our learning environment, I can create a safe place for them to pursue their interests, overcome their struggles, and love learning without bullying or shaming.
  8. No Labels or Stereotypes. We talk about ADHD and dyslexia. My kids are aware of the terms and what those particular struggles mean. It helps them to understand what is happening in them and to them in those hard moments. But it’s a well-rounded discussion. They are also aware of the awesome strengths of creativity and innovation that come with this particular way their minds work.
  9. Controlled Distractions. Sometimes, ironically, my kids need more stimulation to focus; they actually need stuff going on around them to help them concentrate. In other subject areas or assignments, they need absolute silence. I can help them navigate this and learn solutions that help them. I’m not coddling or manipulating the environment, but I am helping them to identify what they need to succeed and how to think through a solution.
  10. Creative Learning Approaches. This is my favorite. I love seeing their ideas for how to learn. I determine the “what,” but the “how” is often an area I allow them to have in-put. The result, lots of creative ideas for hands-on learning!
  11. Emphasis on Strengths. The best way to learn is through a strength. My son loves to learn through drawing, building, and technology. My daughter loves to learn through art. My littlest loves to learn through drama and pretend. By tackling their areas of weakness through an area of strength, my kids are able to work through the areas where they struggle or have some anxieties via an area where they are confident and capable.
  12. Room to Improve. My kids’ ADHD and dyslexia forces me to be a better teacher and parent. They force me to do things and find solutions I wouldn’t have attempted on my own. Homeschooling ADHD stretches me and provides a space for me to grow and improve. My kids teach me! And I’m a better person because of them.
  13. Freedom to Be Different. We get to embrace the family that we are. “Your kids are all so very different,” someone recently told me. “I love it. It means you let them be who they are; they are comfortable being different.” Yes, yes, they are. Lol!
  14. Flexible Routine/Scheduling. Mornings with ADHD are tough. It’s our worst learning time. Their energy and creativity are at their peak, their moods are most intense, and morning learning has always been a struggle. So most of the week, we explore and participate in extra-curriculars in the morning and homeschool in the afternoon. We take off the days my pastor-husband has off and homeschool when he works. We create a learning routine that fits our family.
  15. A Place to Thrive. There is no greater joy than knowing my kids love learning and excel at it, in spite of what others may consider a disability or a disorder. That’s not to say that we don’t have our struggles and our bad days. This year, in particular, I’ve had to go back to the drawing board and redo nearly every subject because of struggles I didn’t foresee. But I have the freedom and the blessing to go back to that drawing board any time.

Homeschooling ADHD isn’t easy. Roses have thorns, and rainbows need rain. There’s an undeniable struggle that comes in this journey. But there are roses and rainbows. The daily might be a struggle, but the big picture is that they are thriving and learning and bringing to life all of that creative energy and enthusiasm that makes them uniquely them. And this, my friend, is the real reason I love homeschooling ADHD.