I love fall. I love the cooler days, the return to routine and all the fresh new school supplies! I also love all the new homeschoolers. Families who are just starting on this homeschool journey are so full of enthusiasm and new ideas. They’re also full of questions! One of the most common questions I hear is, “what does your day look like?” People want to know the nitty gritty details. How exactly does someone go about implementing all those great homeschool ideas? Unfortunately, that’s a hard question to answer, because homeschooling is a uniquely personal experience, but I do have a few tips and ideas.
- Be aware of the legal requirements. Each state has different homeschool laws, but they are all spelled out on HSLDA. Once the requirements are known, it’s important to realize that things aren’t always what they seem. For example, in the state of Utah, we are required to “do school” 6 hours a day, 180 days a year. That does not mean a homeschooler has to spend 6 hours a day sitting at the table doing workbooks. Any type of educational activity counts, for example: reading together, playing games, going on fieldtrips, art projects, watching documentaries, scouting, gymnastics, soccer, 4H, the list goes on and on. I’ve never yet met a homeschooler who wasn’t doing 6 hours a day of “school”.
- Be realistic. The world is full of amazing things to do and fabulous books to read. It is not all going to happen this year. As painful as it is, the summer list of inspiring subjects and projects will have to be pared down to a manageable amount. Every year I have to think carefully about what subjects and activities are most important to our family, and I have to let the rest go.
- Have fun. Homeschooling is about building families and creating a love of learning, so enjoy it! Relationships have to come first, so make the home a place where children love to be and where learning is fun! A wise friend of mine gave me some good advice this year, she said, “remember, a little goes a long ways.” And she’s right: we don’t have to spend hours every day torturing ourselves and our children with “education”. Life is full of learning opportunities—give everyone the time and the freedom to make the most of them.
- Simplify. There are several subjects that can be studied together as a family. Doing so will simplify the day and create stronger family bonds. History, science, geography and literature are great subjects to do together. (Not that all those subjects need to be done every day or even every year, remember, prioritize!)
- Guard school time. I’ve found over the years that if I don’t block out my mornings, we never seem to get any work done. It’s easy to let doctor’s appointments, visiting teaching, and errands crowd out our studies, so I have to be firm about protecting that time.
- Put the Lord first. Always start the day with devotional. Even if it’s a simple song and prayer, the day goes much smoother when we ask for His help first. When you are trying to figure out what subjects to study and how to reach each of your children, ask Him! He loves them and He knows them, He will guide you as you strive to do what’s best for your family.
And now for the nitty, gritty. Like I said before, every homeschool family is different, and everyone has to find what works best for them, but just as an example, here’s a look at my “day in the life of a homeschooler”.
7:30 Everybody up, breakfast, dishes, get dressed.
9:30 My high-schooler goes to release time seminary. My middle-schooler works independently on his math, typing, literature, and writing. I do math and language arts with my elementary kids.
11:00 My elementary kids are “done” for the day. They play while I help my middle-schooler with any questions. My high-schooler starts on his independent work; math, literature, typing, and writing.
12:00 Lunch. After lunch we work on a read aloud book together.
1:00 My middle-schooler moves on to his “elective subjects”: computer programming, building projects, reptile keeping. My high-schooler finishes his work and moves on to his “elective subjects”: art, origami, reading. I read out loud with my younger kids.
2:00 Time for lessons, sports, friends, scouts, and errands!
This is a typical day, but many days are far from typical. Sometimes we decide to blow off school for a day at the park, or if we’re all sick, we just lay around and watch movies all day. Successful homeschoolers need to plan and be flexible. So, take a deep breath and enjoy each day in this homeschool journey!