Finding yourself at home with the kids and their school books right now?
Wondering how to get all the school work done without losing your mind?
As a twelve-year home school mom, we have a simple schedule we think you’ll love!
And your kids will love it too, because there’s a timer involved. lol
First of all dear friends,
I remember deciding to home school because of food allergies…
and being completely overwhelmed at the thought.
Could I do a good job?
Would my kids learn a thing?
And would we still love each other after it was all said and done? HA!
So I know in this unusual time of kids being kept at home due to quarantine…
for an indefinite amount of time…
with school books in hand…
you are probably wondering the same things.
Rest easy, I’m here to help!
Because after twelve years of doing this thing called “home school”,
I’ve lived to tell about it. Ha ha!
And honestly, it’s been one of the biggest blessings.
It’s given us the flexibility to do food allergy treatment.
It’s allowed me to help food allergy families all over the world.
It’s made traveling and vacation so lax and enjoyable.
And even though, for most of you, your home school will be a much shorter season,
I think you will find that you can actually embrace it…
and learn a lot about yourself and your kids and your family through it.
So how in the heck do we get school done when we are:
working from home
managing multiple kids’ work
making most of our food at home
barely leaving the house under quarantine right now
Let’s dive in with my SUPER SIMPLE STRATEGIES.
Hey, that’s an alliteration.
Grammar lesson, check!
HERE’S WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO
Before we talk about simple things we can do for school at home.
Let’s first talk about what we don’t have to do.
Trust me, I share these “don’t” tips straight from the trenches.
I went to college to be a teacher.
I have a teaching degree.
I know what it’s like to set up a classroom,
to use desks, to hang posters, and to buy all the fancy supplies.
But you guys,
it only took me a couple years into doing preschool at home to realize…
home school doesn’t have to be “school at home”.
It can be a whole different, enriching, real life experience.
And 14 years on the other side,
I can confidently say we’ve done a lot of things right.
Right for what MY family needed, and I could not be happier with the results.
That said, there is no one right way to do this, my friend.
Don’t feel like you need to buy desks.
Don’t feel like you need to hang posters.
Don’t feel like you need a rigid schedule hung on the wall.
Don’t feel like you need a classroom.
In fact, you and your kids will enjoy these next weeks together if you actually don’t make this just like a school building.
Here, instead, is what we’ve fallen into and I think you will be encouraged!
WHERE TO DO SCHOOL AT HOME
As a trained teacher,
my first idea of setting up home school was putting little wooden desks in the basement…
along with lots of colorful posters and organizers.
And let’s just say, that didn’t even last one year of wannabe preschool.
Before I knew it, my busy boys had moved the activities up to their favorite place in the house.
I’m still convinced it’s because snacks were closer that way.
But anywho, I couldn’t blame them.
Their little bodies didn’t want to be sitting at school in the basement.
They wanted to learn in the comfort of their home.
And truth be told, I kinda liked the couch better than the wooden chair downstairs, too.
So rest knowing this, parents.
You do not need to recreate a classroom at home.
The kitchen table is suffice.
And if your kids are older, their bedrooms are suffice, too.
My boys love to do their reading in their beds.
We do math at the kitchen island.
The table is full of art supplies until we clean it up for dinner.
Books are read on the couch together at night before bed.
PS: Home school doesn’t have to end at 3pm!
Just work school into your home life.
And don’t feel like you have to work your home life around your new home school.
HAVING MATERIALS HELPS
Seven years ago,
we actually joined a national home school program.
Because after a few years going at it alone,
even with my teaching degree,
I felt the need for some accountability and more direction.
My littles were starting to need more than just reading and math.
And I knew science, history, art, and foreign language would soon need to be added to our curriculum.
I found a classical Christian program that we joined and have loved it since my kids were in about first grade.
Having the material presented to my kids each week was a welcome new addition to our home school.
Knowing what books to use and materials to study were invaluable for this busy mom trying to also run a business, help thousands of families around the world, and manage life-threatening food allergies.
So here is where I’m also excited for you.
It sounds like schools are providing the materials and work for your kiddos to keep doing at home.
This is great news as you embark on school at home for now.
You won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Yay!
But hey, feel free to add in a little something extra if you want…
like Bible, archery, or piano lessons. 😉
PARENTS MAKE GREAT TEACHERS
With the schedule we are going to talk about in a moment,
you’ll have plenty of time to do the work school has sent, practice your extracurricular activities, and more!
What I would not do is feel like you have to add even more school work to fill up a home school day.
The truth of the matter, especially if your kids aren’t yet in junior high…
is that school at home without all the distractions goes a lot faster in general.
Time teaching and modeling with your kid(s) is going to be one-on-one,
and super focused.
Even if you think you’re not efficient or well prepared,
you know your kid(s) better than anyone else!
You are going to be a wonderful teacher.
Your school time is going to be rich.
And you are probably going to be done quicker each day than you expect.
No getting in lines, no group bathroom breaks, no disciplining in classes of 25…
this is going to be some good focused learning time together. WOOHOO!
A SIMPLE HOME SCHOOL SCHEDULE
Now here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.
How the heck do you schedule school into your day,
day after day,
in a way that kids will do the work…
and parents won’t lose their mind.
Because let’s face it,
there’s still work-from-home to be done,
meals to cook,
and energy to be run off.
I’m with you!!!
Again, I’ve been juggling boss, teacher, cook, and manager of fun everyday since 2008.
I got you.
Here’s how we do it.
This amazing idea came from the founder of our national home school program, Leigh Bortin.
She shared about setting a timer during the day to stay on track.
And let me tell you, kids love timers! Ha, ha, ha!
I never expected my kids to get so on board with this strategy.
But it makes sense.
To them, a timer is fair and objective.
It’s not mom just yelling every hour…”KIDS, yada, yada, yada!”
Oh my gosh, yes…please not one more thing to yell up the stairs.
The stove timer, my phone timer, my kids’ stop watches…
use whatever you and the kids think is fun for a timer.
Just make sure it’s good and loud so you don’t end up yelling and screaming, too.
That’s another tip from experience, lol.
So “this is how we do-oo it” (insert popular song there).
SET THE TIMER HOME SCHOOL SCHEDULE
We set a timer for one-hour increments.
Every hour, we have a “mission”.
If the mission is complete before the hour is up,
each person in the family has free time.
And then we set the one-hour timer again for the next mission at hand.
Here is what that looks like.
Do I drag my kids out of bed at 7:00 am each morning?
I do not.
Hey, if we are fighting viruses right now…
why not let everyone sleep in and build those immune systems extra strong.
My kids naturally wake up about 8:00 am on average.
We do breakfast and Bible and get our timer going about 9:00 am.
Maybe your family would start earlier or an hour later. That’s ok!
At 9:00 am, we set the timer for an hour. And the kids get to work on their first subject.
For us, that’s gotta be math. Mom wants the math done and over for the day.
If the kids have questions, I’m there to help.
If they finish early, they can play in their room, hop on a game, etc.
Also if we finish math early,
I can walk on the elliptical, wash dishes, write a blog post, check in with my Milk Allergy Mom members, etc.
Then at 10:00 am, it’s time to regroup.
We set the timer again for another hour.
Usually second hour is reading and writing.
What these hourly slots do is naturally work in breaks for both me and the kids.
When we tried to do half hour schedules…
we were jumping from one thing to the next,
with no flexibility to do our own thing or space to re-energize,
and we all became exhausted, weary, and overwhelmed quickly.
And there’s nothing worse than having 25 time slots to manage in a day.
With an hourly timer…
there is flexibility,
there is room to breathe,
and there’s only about 6-7 time slots to really work through a day.
Simplicity is key.
There really is such thing as too much.
And a seasoned home school mom,
I can assure you that simplicity is what sustains you for the long haul.
Even if it’s just two weeks.
I know the general public won’t be doing this as long as I have,
but I’m hopeful that this encouragement and these tips from the trenches will help you have your best days ever as a family.
Who doesn’t want that?
DIFFERENT AGES, DIFFERENT TIMES
While my middle school boys pretty much use up the whole hour now for each subject,
of course a kindergartner probably won’t.
This is where the beauty of “free time” is built in for the younger kids.
A kindergartner may take 15 minutes for a subject.
A third grader may work 30 minutes per subject.
By junior high, we are doing 45 minutes a subject.
And high school may take the whole hour with extra time in the evenings and weekends.
But no matter what, we love keeping the hourly timer going.
It keeps our days simple and focused.
We love that…we know what to expect.
And the work gets done.
HOME SCHOOL HOURLY SCHEDULE SHEET
To help you more,
I have a Set the Timer sheet for your new home school.
I’ve actually had this available for home school families for years.
And it’s been very popular on Pinterest and in our national home school community.
So I think it’s working for families in addition to mine.
I think it would work for yours, too!
Know that your hours don’t have to be set up like mine.
Know that each day can look different if it needs to.
And know that you will get off track.
In that case, don’t give up. Just acknowledge it and start again!
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve fallen off our “set the timer schedule” at our house.
It’s a lesson to our children that nothing works perfectly, but we don’t throw in the towel.
HOW TO USE THE SCHEDULE SHEET
You could go as far as printing one sheet a day for each child.
But I found very quickly that was too much work.
You can also make one sheet per kiddo that’s general and works for every day.
Or you can get as basic as I have…
and make a family master schedule with kids working the same subject at the same time.
We have the schedule in a page protector, on a clip board…
and we check things off with a dry erase marker.
Then we wipe it clean, and start again the next day.
PS: Kids also LOVE checking things off…and dry erase markers are fun, too.
Just get your home school started and if the flexible schedule doesn’t work well,
change it and try again.
The beauty of home school is that it’s flexible,
and you can always adjust as needed.
I’ve shown a sample of our family schedule below.
Notice, there are no set times on it.
It’s more about the one hour chunks than certain times…
that’s what makes it work well.
Extracurricular in Home School
Right now, many activities have also been cancelled in addition to school.
For us, that’s club soccer, gymnastics, band contests, and more.
But that doesn’t mean my kids can’t still hone those skills and practice at home.
Plus, physical activity is good for us.
And one of the best ways to make sure you’re working this into your day,
is to schedule it for an hour slot, of course!
Maybe one hour can be physical like running, taking a walk together, kicking the soccer ball, taking some practice swings, playing catch, practicing round off’s.
Maybe another hour can be practicing instruments, listening to music, or drawing with a little help from YouTube.
You’re the teacher now so you can decide. 🙂
Again, try one thing and if it needs adjustment, just change it for the next day and see how it goes.
Just because activities are cancelled, it doesn’t mean we can’t practice at home.
Your teachers will be extra happy you did when the kids return.
FINAL HOME SCHOOL THOUGHTS
No doubt, this is a unique time.
I never thought I’d see the day I was writing a home school post for the general public.
But alas, here we are.
And while I know the idea of carrying on your kids’ schooling at home is a bit daunting at the moment,
know that time spent at home together is invaluable.
No matter how much math and reading you accomplish,
there’s nothing else like it.
So embrace this opportunity, parents.
Limit screen time as usual.
Pull out board games.
Put together puzzles.
Bake a cake together.
Kids learn at every turn…
even if we don’t master teaching math and reading…
we can have some awesome family time together right now.
And that’s what our kids will remember twenty years from now.
Best wishes, stay healthy, and God speed!
Be sure to get your “Set the Timer” sheet below.