Our Favorite Homeschool Practices

homeschooling

Have you suddenly found yourself thrust into some form of homeschooling this year? Or perhaps you’re not new to homeschooling but you could use some fresh ideas? I’ve been homeschooling for the past 7 years, and while I am by no means an expert, I have learned some tips and tricks from fellow homeschooling moms over the years that have been a huge help and blessing to our family, and I hope you will find them helpful as well.  

Morning Time.

“Morning Time” is my absolute favorite routine that we’ve added to our homeschooling in recent years. It’s basically a time set aside before the busy-ness of the school day for kids to explore subjects and materials that won’t be covered in their planned school day. This could be art or music, it could be a devotional time or a hymn study, it could be a time set aside for reading or to practicing handwriting…you get the idea. Some families use this as a time to gather all together as they begin the day, while others choose to have their kids work through Morning Time activities individually while mom enjoys her coffee and Bible study in peace. It’s really flexible and can be tailored to your family’s needs and schedules. This can be a great practice for full time homeschooling families as well as those who are participating in virtual or distance learning this school year. Here are some tips and resources to help your Morning Time enhance your family’s school routine this year:

  • Have your kids eat breakfast and do at least 1 chore before you begin. I promise you this will greatly impact their attitude toward the school day! Need ideas for age appropriate chores? Check out this link to a Chore Chart by age groups. 
  • Decide how you’d like to use your Morning Time: gather together as a family before you start the day or as productive & creative individual quiet time 
  • Brainstorm activities & resources. Here are some of my favorite links to check out for ideas: 
  • Gather materials
  • Choose a designated start time and location
  • Get your kids excited and involved! They can help you choose books from your book list, help you pick out supplies, decorate your Morning Basket, etc. 
  • Stay consistent and have fun! 

Read, Read, Read.

My biggest encouragement to you, no matter your method of schooling, is to saturate your children’s lives with books. Reading is one of the most important things we can do for and with our children. And we can start as soon as they are born! Our family loves books and reading. We have (not enough) bookshelves filled with books of all different genres and interests, stacks of books on tables, kids’ bookshelves and baskets filled with books throughout the house, I even love to decorate with books! 

Get creative with how you incorporate reading into your daily and weekly routines. I’ll share some of what we do to get your creative juices flowing, but keep in mind that every family is different, so figure out what works for yours! 

We each begin our day with our own personal devotional book, our son has assigned reading for school during the school year, and when he’s done with his chores and school for the day he has a designated reading time. He loves to grab his book and read in the hammock in our backyard. During the school year I work through a separate family devotional with my son after we eat lunch, and when our 18 month old daughter is cooperative, my husband and I take turns reading from a fun family book right after dinner. Our son also often reads at bedtime, and during the school year I read to him from one of the classics instead. We love to go through picture books and board books with our toddler throughout the day, and she has a little basket of books she can grab anytime to “read.” My favorite time to read my own books is when I lay her down for naps and for bedtime. She’s so young that she doesn’t care what I read to her, so I decided to start reading what I want during those times! At 18 months she’s already been introduced to Nancy Drew, Jane Austen, Wendell Berry, and Jan Karon! She begs at bedtime for “book,” and surprisingly she’s talking about Mommy’s book. She just wants to hear my voice reading to her. Her vocabulary has skyrocketed since I began that practice, so it’s mutually beneficial! 

We began introducing both of our kids to books and reading at a very early age, and our son has developed his own love for them. We purposely have limited his access to screens for this reason – we really want him to have an affection for reading good books, working with his hands, and being outdoors. It’s much easier to just sit our kids in front of a screen – and we do have designated screen time and sometimes use screen time as a distraction or reward – but we have had to discipline ourselves to elevate these other things over entertainment with screens. It’s honestly been so beneficial for our son and for ourselves. And it’s easier to keep choosing to discipline ourselves when we see the benefits and rewards. We are so not perfect! This can be a daily struggle for us, but our goal is to strive to be intentional about what we place in front of our kids. It’s a constant struggle, but a worthy one. 

If you’re not an avid reader yourself, or if your kids are too young to read or complain about reading, think about incorporating audio books into your daily routine. You can listen as you drive to and from school or running errands, have one playing in the background as they play, listen to a chapter after dinner as a family or before bedtime. We like to reward our son when he finishes a book, and you can do this with audio books as well. Choose a reward that will really entice and encourage them. Our son loves to watch the movie adaptation of the books he’s finished with us as a family on one of our “Friday Pizza and a Movie Nights.” I’m proud to say that he’s recognized that the books are always better than the movies! It is fun to see the books of your imagination come alive on the screen and to talk about how the books and the movies differ. 

Don’t be afraid to challenge your kids, and yourself! Read the classics with them or to them! These will stretch each of you, and that’s a good thing. I remember muddling my way through the language and vocabulary of “The Wind in the Willows” a few years ago with our son. I decided to make it more engaging by using unique voices for the different characters, and we had a lot of laughs with that. I usually recommend reading the book before watching the movie, but in the case of especially challenging books it can really help your children to have the basic story and characters in their mind from the movie as you read. I know that helped me with this particular book! 

Here are some resources for finding age appropriate books for your kids and family:

Make it Easier and More Likely.

Basically, the idea is to choose what you want to feed your children mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. How do you want them to be stretched? Once you’ve decided this, it’s all about making this easier and more likely in your home and your family’s routines. Place these things before them during your Morning Time and Reading Time. These can even be bookends to your school day – whether that’s a homeschool day or a day of virtual learning through their traditional school. This will give them security in a routine and something to look forward to as they begin and end their days. The goal is to make learning easier and more likely, and or course – FUN! I hope and pray that you and your children have a fantastic school year! Expect great things!

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