7 Stress-Free Tips for Homeschooling… like You’re Not a Newbie 😜
Hey there, you made it!
I’m Tessa. I’m an imperfect but striving servant of Jesus, a wife to a wonderfully, supportive husband, a mother to 3 peculiar and beautiful children, a devoted homeschool mom, and a passionate early education teacher. Those are a few of the most important roles in my life that have made me who I am today.
I started homeschooling 8+ years ago, but before I started homeschooling, I was a preschool teacher. My teaching career started over 10 years ago at an after school program working with elementary-aged children. It was the best first job EVER! This job led me to teach in several other preschool programs where I truly learned how to interact and respond to children in their growing adolescence, as well as create learning resources that work!
So obviously my experience with children has helped me become a better homeschooler to my own children, right? Not necessarily. Just because I had experience teaching other children didn’t mean I was totally ready and prepared to teach my own. It’s a whole different world! And you don’t have to be a good teacher to be a good homeschooler.
I promise you that the majority, if not all, of homeschoolers, have had a humble beginning. I sure did. But I have learned so many valuable things about homeschooling that I wish I knew in the beginning. What I know now has given me so much more confidence in continuing this journey with my children. And after reading, I pray you will feel the same.
So now that you know a little bit about who I am and where I’ve come from, I’m super pumped to share these 7 secrets I discovered through many trials and errors that have helped me reach homeschooling success. Grab a notebook, a pen, and a snack because we’re about to get nitty-gritty!
Disclosure: Hey! Just a quick note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase or to join, I will earn a commission. But just know that I recommend these companies and their products because of their quality and my experience with them and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. I love and appreciate you regardless! xoxo, Tessa
Tip #1: Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
As a homeschooler, you’ve gotta have your supplies in order! But don’t stress. Here’s a list of the MOST used supplies in my homeschool that you should definitely have in yours:
large whiteboard (for teaching or writing inspiring messages to your kids)
small whiteboards for each child
a mechanical pencil sharpener (we NO longer use the small manual ones… a time-consuming disaster and lots of ruined pencils)
Lots of art supplies like construction paper, markers, watercolor paints, glue, scissors, etc.
a label maker like the Brother P-Touch
lots of different sized plastic bags (sandwich, quart, gallon)
medium-large bulletin boards and pins to hang up your children’s artwork (I recommend that each child has their own board.)
small supply boxes for each child (to hold their own markers, crayons, etc)
a laminator like the Scotch brand (I use this to laminate flashcards, small posters, etc so they will last longer!)
>> The Take Away: Gathering your supplies in advance will help you avoid last minute trips in the future and will make sure you have what you need for that impromptu project your kids are interested in during free time.
Tip #2: An Organized Space is a Happy Place
As a homeschooler, it’s really easy to get disorganized and disorganization can lead to so much stress and stress can lead to being burned out. Use these quick tips to help you set your space up for an organized success.
use one main space for homeschooling and it’s best that you don’t move this place around. If you dedicate one area to homeschooling, you will save your entire house from looking like a tornado went through it.
use one large table for learning time and this table can be used for arts and crafts, independent work, and group work. One table can be placed in one part of the room, instead of having several work tables for different things, which can create this cluttered chaos in your room, which may already be tight on space to begin with (like me!)
organize your main supplies in a drawer system using Sterilite drawers or rolling carts with drawers or a combination of both. The great thing about these is that you can move them around easily and label each drawer. You can also organize your kid’s curriculum and assignments in these drawers and teach them how to retrieve their daily assignments independently each day when they’re old enough to handle.
use a separate accordion art portfolio to organize each child’s artwork samples. It’s so easy for artwork to eventually get scattered around the house. In my house, my kids love to hang up their new projects, but after a few weeks, their bulletin boards get so full so we have to clear them and all of their work samples are easily stored away in their art portfolios. It’s a very inexpensive investment to protect your child’s most precious works of art.
organize math and ELA manipulatives (e.g. counting blocks, magnetic letters, etc) in clear containers (shoebox size). These can be stored in a small closet or on a bookshelf (some place where they can be retrieved easily). It’s also great to label these boxes. You can pull them out whenever your child needs them for school work.
read-aloud or independent reading books can be organized in plastic crates or on a bookshelf where your children can retrieve them independently
student work samples can be organized in a hanging file folder container. Each file folder in the container will be labeled by grade levels starting with whatever year your child is beginning homeschooling. Each child should get their own separate container to allow for plenty of space, especially if your child is in their early years. The younger they are the more work samples they will have over time.
regular toys should be stored out of sight in a separate room to avoid distractions during school time
a desktop paper tray can be used to turn in daily completed work. Each child should have their own paper tray. I usually go through my children’s completed work at the end of the month. I only store work samples in their file folder that show new achievements mainly in math or ELA.
>> The Take Away: Keeping your homeschool space organized and free of clutter helps to produce a more calming and relaxing learning space.
Tip #3: Planning the Year Right, From the Start…
…and writing everything on sticky notes just may not cut it. Here are a few tips I suggest you consider to help you plan your homeschool year right.
decide the length of your homeschool year. Many homeschoolers stick with 180 days, which is the typical school year length for most traditional school districts. I personally keep a 180-day chart and my kids love to color in a square on the chart each new day. But 180 days is also how many curriculum resources are structured based on lessons in the book so it makes it easy for me to lesson plan throughout the year.
decide which holidays you will take a break from school and mark these on your school year calendar. You can do something similar to traditional schools (spring break, winter break, summer break, Thanksgiving, etc.).
decide how many days you want to school during the week. You can school for a full week like traditional schools or you may decide to school for 4 days with a break on Wednesday or Friday. It’s up to you. Whatever you choose to do, stay consistent (at least for the most part because things do happen).
decide how many hours you will dedicate to homeschooling each day. This definitely depends on the ages of your children. The younger they are, the less “planned” school will be and the less time you will spend doing formal learning activities. The older they are, the more time you may want to spend homeschooling each day. We usually school for about 2.5 to 3 hours every day. This is plenty of time to complete all assignments AND eat a snack before we’re finished for the day. Also, you should decide what time of the day you will school. We typically start our formal schooling time by 9 am and we’re finished by or a few minutes before 12 pm.
figure out which subjects and what content you will be covering each day. We do math and ELA daily, Spanish 3 days a week, and all other subjects are done once a week (science, social studies, art, etc). We used to do the other subjects every day, but that proved to be one of the most stressful routines we have ever tried to commit to. It was unrealistic and unnecessary, to say the least. I encourage you not to do it, especially if you’re just starting out. Do a little every day. Create a schedule that your children will be able to look at and read (if they are able to) so they know what to expect.
be prepared to switch up your schedule when the other one begins to fail. It will happen because, well, life happens. When you and your kids are rushing to get done or just plain stressed about the structure of things, it may be time to reevaluate your current schedule. Make a few changes and rearrangements if need be so that you are not stressed and your kids are getting the most out of planned learning time.
>> The Take Away: If you fail to plan, you can very well anticipate planning to fail. You set everyone up for success when you plan, plan, plan!
Tip #4: Give Each Child Their Own Workspace
Because child love to take ownership of their things. But don’t we all?! This tip will save you lots of headache in the long run because everyone will have their own working area and they won’t fight over chairs!
if you’re using a large table, you could have your children choose their special workspace at the table or you could designate a place for them to sit and work every day. Keep consistent in this. Same chair. Same side of the table. Same. Same. Same.
if you decide to use separate desks for each child you can put their names on the desk. I enjoy putting separate desks next to a wall because then each child can have a bulletin board above their desk to hang all of their artwork. It’s a great way to personalize their working area, which will encourage them to appreciate their workspace more.
>> The Take Away: Just like we like our personal space to have things we call special to define the space, children like to have special things to define their spaces.
Tip #5: Create a Budget and Buy Your Curriculum in Advance
I do not wait until the summer to begin buying our new homeschooling curriculum. I start preparing for the new school year (that typically starts in September) in the spring (February-ish). This allows me to plan ahead and possibly even catch sales on items that I will need for the upcoming school year.
But before you hit the store, create a list of the subjects you will be teaching and what materials you need to buy to supplement these subjects. It may be tough to set a reasonable budget if you’ve never actually shopped for curriculum before. But set a budget that works for your family.
research free curriculum options out there before you go and buy something. You may just find something that is comparable to what you need but at a fraction of the cost… or better yet, FREE!
whatever your budget is, it is better to buy a little bit at a time throughout the year instead of making a huge purchase all at one time. That can get pretty expensive, plus, if you wait, you may miss out on seasonal sales that many curriculum publishers and suppliers have throughout the year.
make sure to keep a list of what curriculum you buy, its cost, and where you got it from. You can use this information for future purchases and budgets if need be. Plus it’s great to keep a track record of everything your kids are using each year, and you can see your spending patterns from year to year.
before deciding which curriculum you will purchase, consider: what your vision is and align your curriculum choices to that vision. You can also take a moment to consider your overall philosophy of education (just like formal teachers have to!). Having this in mind will help you find curriculum that best aligns to what you envision for your children’s education.
you should also identify your family’s current and future circumstances as best you can. Do you expect any major life changes to happen during the new school year? Planning in this way, as best as you can, with as much information that you know, will help you determine whether or not that hefty science or social studies curriculum will really be a good fit.
then, if you’ve already completed your first year homeschooling, think about the curriculum you used. Did your curriculum lack anything? Were you all able to get to that awesome art curriculum you purchased? Was it a success or an utter failure? Did your kids do well in it? Did it leave you stressed at the end of each day? Asking yourself these questions will help stir you in the right direction when choosing new curriculum. Don’t continue using the same curriculum if you find it doesn’t work for your children.
Finally, it’s important to identify what you know you can commit to. If you’re like me, I also work from home so any curriculum I choose has to align with not just my kids, but with my working schedule. If a curriculum takes a lot of teacher prep throughout the year and you know you don’t have a lot of time during to commit to prepping it, then maybe you should find something that doesn’t require as much prep.
>> The Take Away: Creating a budget will help you stay on track when making purchases. It’s so easy to go overboard when shopping for curriculum supplies. So make sure to plan with your budget in mind before you go shopping. And don’t forget to research free homeschooling resources that are already out there.
Tip #6: Use a Timer for Each Child to Motivate them to Stay on Task
a small kitchen timer like this one is a great way to motivate your children to get their work done.
as an added bonus, these timers helped my children develop a keener sense of how long 1 minute is compared to 5 minutes or 20 minutes.
it’s easy for your child to control these timers. My children have logbooks that they use to check off their daily assignments. I also put how long they have to complete specific assignments. Adopting this method has been AMAZING in our homeschool because it encourages them to be responsible and independent.
the timers help our day run more smoothly and my children know what to expect and what is expected of them.
if you have little ones who are not able to do independent book work just yet, you can still use these timers to motivate your little one during activities like clean up time – an important life skill.
>> The Take Away: We, as adults, use timers to help us wake up in the morning to get ready for work. Children can thrive on these same habits. It teaches them how to be responsible with their time and how long a certain amount of time really is.
Tip #7: Take Learning Outdoors Every Now and Then
there’s nothing like a fresh wind blowing across your face on a cool, pleasant day. Kids love nature. They feel free, and there’s the whole world to explore. Instead of doing that art project indoors, you can take a table outside to do it there instead. A change of scenery has a way to motivate your children to tune in more attentively.
play games and do some physical activity outdoors for at least 30 minutes every day, if the weather permits. This break away from the indoor routine can really help your children rejuvenate and loosen up after a day of homeschool.
eat lunch or a snack outdoors every once in a while. You can even set it up picnic-style and make it a traditional thing to do on Fridays.
go to the park or on a nature walk and watch your children become scientists and explorers. You can give older children a nature journal or a sheet of paper attached to a clipboard and have them search for specific things. Then, when you get back inside, you can research more about the items they found.
the whole world is your homeschool! So use it to help you plan the most simple yet memorable learning experiences for your children.
>> The Take Away: Children love to play outside. They love to explore. Make sure to include these intentional outdoor times in your daily schedule to continue to nurture their love for being out in nature and to help relieve some stress by getting fresh air.
These tips may seem really simple, and that’s because they really are! Homeschooling doesn’t have to be hard and there is definitely no “one size fits all”.
Your approach to homeschooling is built from your experiences with homeschooling. And with these 7 tips, I pray you well on your journey to cultivating positive learning experiences for you and your children.
If you would like to learn more about homeschooling or if you want to work with me as your personal homeschooling guide or your child’s private homeschooling teacher, please send me an email to email@example.com.
Here’s to your homeschooling success.