Homeschool Helpline

How do you have the patience for that?

This is probably the #1 thing I am asked when others learn that I homeschool my kids. And now, due to COVID-19, everyone is homeschooling in one way or another! As a result, you may be asking yourself “How will I have the patience for this?”

Recently, I was asked to be on a panel for a Homeschool Helpline Zoom call put together by my church group. For my portion of the Zoom call, I shared 5 problems I face and some solutions that have helped me. Maybe you have felt some of these same feelings.

List of Problems:

  1. No “me” time
  2. Messy house (and the stress it causes)
  3. Balancing alllll the things
  4. Going stir crazy
  5. Kids behavior (or lack thereof!)

List of Solutions

  1. Get creative!
  2. Toy rotation and junk baskets!
  3. Schedule: Specific planning and flexible execution
  4. Daily “Adventures”
  5. Token system, Friday prize box and daily “big surprise”

Now that you have a brief overview of my problems and solutions, let’s dive into some details!

Problem #1: No “Me Time”

An obvious challenge with homeschool is the fact that I am with my kids almost all the time. I am teaching, cleaning, cooking, and trying to pursue my own interests all at the same time! I also tend to get crabby if I don’t have time to breathe, recharge and have “me time.” And NOBODY wants to have a crabby teacher or mom so we better be fixing that problem!

Solution #1: Get Creative!

One of the best solutions I have found is to figure out how to feel like I’m having a break even when I’m not. For example, I often find myself feeling at the end of my rope around 4pm. The kids are wired, I’m exhausted and low on patience. My husband isn’t home yet and I still need to cook dinner! I need a break, but I’m still on duty! So…I pull my kids aside, tell them I need a break. I tell them that I’m tired and running short on patience. I ask the older 3 kids to go down to the basement and play for 15 minutes while I cook dinner. Then I might hold the baby while I cook, or maybe I’ll get her some food and put her in her high chair. None of this is a break. I still am caring for children and cooking dinner, BUT it helps me feel slightly more refreshed until I have the chance to really have a break.

Taking a bath, going shopping, going for a run by myself, or hanging out with friends are all ways I recharge but things like that aren’t possible when I’m with my kids all the time. So that is where I challenge myself to be creative and to figure out how to feel like I’m having a break even when I’m not.

Some other ways I recharge even with my kids around include: going for a walk or a bike ride with the kids, playing a song on the piano, sending the kids outside to play, going to the library, or reading books with kids on the couch. Get creative, experiment and figure out what works best for you! You might be surprised at how many times in a day you can sneak in a break and feel slightly refreshed.

Problem #2 Messy House (and the stress it causes)

Having 4 little kids at home comes with a certain amount of clutter and mess. But…when the clutter and messes pile up, it can tend to stress me out.

Solution #2: Toy Rotation and Junk Baskets!

Many times I can’t keep up with my kids and their messes! I clean one room and they are destroying another one! So…to combat the mess, I take away the amo (aka toys)! I store most of the toys in our storage room. If they want new toys, they have to clean up the toys that are currently out, put some away in the storage room, and then pull new toys out of the storage room. This doesn’t keep all messes away, but it does help minimize the disasters!

Also…junk baskets! Sometimes the house is full of clutter and I don’t have time to put everything away. So…I sweep the mess into a pile, dump the pile in to an empty laundry basket and tuck it away. I still have to tackle the junk basket another day or time, but it helps my current stress levels go down so I can handle the tasks at hand.

Problem #3: Balancing allll the things

Mom life, homeschool, cleaning, running a photography business, being involved at church, keeping up with the yard work, spending time with my hubby, making time for myself and making time for friends…there are SO many things to balance in life and it can be overwhelming at times!

Solution #3: Schedule

Instead of having a strict schedule (9:00-9:15 Calendar, 9:15-9:45 Math, 9:45-10:00 Snack, 10:00-10:45 English, etc.), I have chunks of the day where the kids know what to expect. For example, every day English time looks the same. I take the kids one at a time to the guest room and have a one on one English lesson with them. Some days we may get English done first thing, other days it doesn’t happen until the afternoon. The planning is there (the kids know we will have English time) but the execution is slightly different every day.

Bonus: Figure out what your kids can do independently. Train them on what the expectation is, do it with them for a few days or maybe even a few weeks. After a while, some things can be done independently and this frees up your load immensely. My kids can mostly do math time independently. They are required to do a certain amount of pages every day. Once the pages are done, they bring the work to me and I check it. I do need to remind them at times and sometimes they need help with a problem or two, but for the most part they do it independently.

Problem #4: Going Stir Crazy

I’m an extrovert and I love trying new things and going on adventures! Being at home all the time can make me go stir crazy!

Solution #4: Daily “Adventures”

To aid in this, I make sure to have daily adventures. This could be leaving the house and going to the library or a park. Or it could be something inside the house like playing a board game together, doing a fun craft project, or having a dance party! The important thing for me is that it breaks the mundane and creates some excitement in our lives.

Problem #5: Kid’s Behavior (or lack thereof)

Enough said.

Solution #5: Token System

I have been using what I call a “token system” for many years. I used to use it when I was a preschool teacher and now I use it with my own kids. I cut out pieces of paper with my round paper cutter (they are about the size of a 50 cent piece) and I reward my kids with these “tokens.” For every task they complete, they get a token. If they complete things with a good attitude, I might give them an extra token. When they make poor choices, I take away a token. Each child has a little bin that stores the tokens they earn.

Every Friday the kid’s have prize box day and they use their tokens to buy things. The prize box is full of things like pencils, stamps, bookmarks, little toys and tickets. The tickets include things like: watching a movie, sleeping in the guest room, taking a bath in mom and dad’s tub, boxed mac and cheese, and playing with the couch cushions.

How do you have the patience for that?

So…back to the initial question: How do I have the patience to homeschool? The short answer is: I don’t! Life is about learning and growing and patience is an area I try to practice and improve upon every day. The list mentioned above includes ways that have helped me gain more patience, but believe me when I say I’m a work in progress! What a blessing it is to learn and grow! And how neat is it that we can start each day fresh and strive to become stronger and better than we were yesterday.

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