Homeschooling moms have several roles. Chaos Coordinator is one of them. On any given day we have kids of all ages at home, preparing three meals a day plus snacks – we must not forget the snacks! Then there’s the mountain of laundry, messes to clean, bills to pay, grocery shopping – which has recently turned more into a scavenger hunt, and this is just the beginning! Throw homeschooling in the mix, and I suppose “Chaos Coordinator” is a well earned title.
I am certainly not the queen of scheduling. Truth be told, it is one of my biggest obstacles when it comes to homeschooling. I start out well, but it doesn’t take long for my beautiful, color coded schedule to get put aside. After 10 years of trying several methods, the one constant I’ve found is that schedules are ever changing. I’ve come to no longer get frustrated, but embrace the changes with every year that goes by. Whether you’ve been homeschooling for awhile, or are new at this, there’s a few things I’ll share that have worked well for me during different seasons of life.
Before I tell you about them, I want to share a question I saw from a friend on Facebook recently. The question was “what’s your child’s favorite thing about distance learning”? The popular responses: sleeping in, shorter school time, working at their own pace, more play time, hot lunches, and even not having to be around other people – all are fantastic reasons, and are great reminders that at home, you have your own schedule! Of course, there are others who may be struggling in this area. Some kids are still up at the crack of dawn, and with “school” not taking as long, the days can seem never ending. Maybe you have several kids at varying ages who all need you at the same time. Let me assure you that if you feel like a plate spinner, you are not alone!
Five ideas that can help control the chaos.
My kids are teenagers now, and my plate spinning has gotten more manageable over the years. However, I do remember when that was not the case. With some trial and error, these are a few things that have helped.
- Drop the anchor: Jot down your anchors of the day. For most people, that would consist of waking, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bed. From there, add in things like when learning, chores/tidying, and quiet time should take place. Kids (and adults) thrive on consistency. That does not mean every minute of the day must have a time attached to it, but knowing what comes next is beneficial for all. We like to call it a “flow of the day”. This takes the stress off watching the clock like a hawk, and everyone knows “what’s next”.
- Workboxes: These worked great when my kids were younger. The idea is to organize your school day in physical “boxes”. There are several ways to use them, but the idea is to put the items that need to be accomplished daily (math workbook, spelling list, science, handwriting practice sheet, etc), in a seperate box. Add in fun, educational activities (books, a puzzle, play-doh, etc) in between the “core” activities. The result is the child gains independence as you strategically plan his day with assignments as well as fun things to be done alone or with you. They know what to do next, and also have things to look forward to. Plus, they can visually can see when the work will be done for the day, which is a big motivator. This also gives you the opportunity to work with your other children. Sue Patrick is the originator of the Workbox System, and is the best source to find all the details. There are several modifications, and Google is great for finding several ways to accomplish this.
- Lunch Crate: This is something I created for my older kids, adapted from what we used to call “morning time”, or the popular “morning basket”. Whatever container you use, or time you choose to do it, the concept is the same. It is a time of day when everyone in the family comes together to learn specific subjects. It’s mostly used for the “fun things”, or things you may not get around to otherwise. What started for us as learning the calendar, weather, and numbers has changed to current events, nature study, state studies, and logic. It can be ever changing as to what goes in the basket (or crate), and can also be another good “anchor” in your day. To see how I use ours, you can check out this blog post I wrote early in our school year. We have tweaked it slightly since then, but it still remains a constant in our days.
- Picture Chart: I don’t remember where I got the the idea, but another way to control the chaos is with a laminated picture chart. The setup is a laminated grid with little pictures of our daily tasks/schoolwork held in place with velcro. Starting from left to right, the child would look at the picture to see what to do. After the subject was complete, she would pull it off the chart, and place it into a container. I would simply reload the chart the next day. Although not exact, this is the closest thing I can find to show you. It worked very well for us for a few years.
- The Spiral Notebook: Now that my kids are big, I miss the cutesy picture charts. Of course, we no longer use them, but that doesn’t mean they just automatically know what to do. I’ve scaled back and write their assignments that they do independently for the week in a spiral notebook. Then, I want to see it at the end of the week with the list marked off. I have a boy that still doesn’t look at it as he should, so that’s where the marked off when complete requirement comes in! Lately, I’ve just been writing it on the chalkboard, but I like this idea better and need to get back to it.
A final thought on schedules, and a note to those “suddenly homeschooling”…..
Always use a schedule as a guide, not the master! Don’t let a schedule make you miss opportunities to just enjoy life with your kids. It’s ok to set it aside, it will still be there when you get back. If you are doing distance learning for a little while longer, you can use any of the above ideas to make your “new normal” run a little more smoothly. If and when, you find yourself or your children frustrated with Zoom meetings, packets, and busywork, remember that they are YOUR kids in YOUR home. Go with what works best for YOU! No one will be behind, everything will be ok, and you may just find something that works better than you ever imagined.
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