Guest Post by VOCST homeschool mom and blogger, Bekki Sayler

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Homeschool kids smell a day without a ‘purpose and plan’ like wild animals smell fear. 

Normally this is not an issue. I take the time to sit and think through what we are doing in our homeschool day about 4-6 weeks at a time. I have perfect calendar that I print off for each of the boys so they know that “mom has a plan for today, so I better get busy.”

I am a little stressed right now because my current calendar/plan runs out in less than 36 hours. The fact that I am not ready for the next step is like a ticking time bomb.

Come Monday morning, if I do not have a clear plan of attack for the day and week my boys will eat me alive.

They KNOW when I do not have a plan.

The run, they hide, they break out the Legos right after breakfast and look up at me with dirty faces and bed-heads and are shocked and even aghast that we have learning to do. 

If I do not have a plan, they will forget how to get up, make their beds, add and subtract, multiply and divide, and write legibly.

Sometimes I think it is a conspiracy. “Psst-Maybe if we pretend to forget how to do school mom will let us play all day and live in our pajamas.”

Can you relate?

If kids do not see that we are well prepared for our day, week, or topic they do not buy in to whatever learning experience we set before them. They see us grab our teacher’s manual and then say, “OK, let’s get going. We have a lot of school to do today.” They see us begin reading the lesson and make that certain face that says, “what am I supposed to do?”and slip out from under our radar. 

When we, the teachers, finally grasp the core of today’s lessons they have snuck away from the school area and are resentful that we try to lasso them back to school.

If I am honest with myself, I would resent attending a class where the teacher wasn’t prepared. I took the time to come to school, surely she could have prepared in advance to teach me.

Our kids are no different. They need to see that we have invested in their education by taking the time to become familiar and excited with the learning material before we declare it is time for school.

Kids smell a day without a plan and begin wiggling to get out immediately.

What can we do?

  • Plan school for 2-6 weeks at a time.
  • Become extremely familiar with the material before we try to present it to our kids. (remember the teacher from Ferris Beuller? Help us not be like him!)
  • Schedule lessons out for 2-6 weeks in advance. 
  • Write them in pencil, so that when life happens you simply erase and begin again the next day.
  • Never try to teach the school week without a plan. Even if you take a rabbit trail because your kids show a sudden interest in penguins, you will be much better prepared.
  • As homeschoolers include a dinner plan/menu into your school day.
  • Be excited about what you are learning together.

How do I plan?

I have 4-5 weeks of student calendars printed and ready to go, labelled with their names and dates.

I teach 5 core subjects: Bible, Math, English, History, and Science

  • I schedule math in first. It usually is just the next number lesson. I include activities like flash cards, videos, and games in my calendars. If I do not schedule flashcards, the kids do not do flash cards.
  • Next I schedule those easy tasks, like handwriting, phonics workbook pages, and spelling. These are similar to math in that they tend to simply be “the next page#’s”.
  • In our home we learn memory verses, so I fill in the verses the kids are working on that week.
  • History is my core, my golden thread. I try to incorporate English and Science activities that go along with what we are learning in history. I have to skim the readings, pull vocabulary and scour for student activities that will work with my boys. This year I am using Story of the World and they have a great Activity Book from which I pull reading comprehension, map, art, and cooking activities. And then of course, there is Pinterest. I have Homeschool boards for every subject and I scour for activities for my boys and pin them often. 
  • Science is my weakest subject as a teacher. I am not entirely sure why, but even superman had a weakness. Science is mine. This year I am trying to integrate our science with what we are learning about in history. For me that means that I am looking for and creating learning activities for the boys.
  • I plan English last. This year I am teaching from Shurley English and LOVE it. It is very well planned, so in all honesty it is another, “just do the next lesson” curriculum. I glance through the lessons as I am planning and try to spot potential issues. For instance, my boys need two days for the writing assignments, sometimes two so I take that into account.
  • Lastly, I double check my pencil calendars against the master calendar looking for conflicts. Are we home all of the days I planned to teach school? Are there any obvious monkey-wrench days (days that are destined to fail before they begin). I make adjustments whenever necessary.

 Sacrifice

While every homeschool family has different goals and ambitions, talents and abilities, we all sacrifice something to homeschool. 

My husband and I personally sacrifice time. Lots of time. 

It is not easy homeschooling a troop of boys of various ages, grades, interests and learning styles. After 15 years I have learned that the key to success is being prepared before the day begins.