Daily mom life takes up just about every available minute in the day. How are we supposed to find time to homeschool on top of it all?
This is probably one of the greatest issues I have faced as the mom of 15 energetic children. Over the years the Lord has helped me to develop a mindset and multiple strategies that have helped tremendously. I hope these same ideas will help you, too.
First, let’s look at the expectation. Most of us judge our own efforts by comparing them with public schooling. To our minds, kids start school at 8:30 am and end school at three o’clock. That must mean we have to spend six and a half hours “schooling” our children.
But have you ever tried schooling children at home for six and a half hours? Crazy, boring, and torturous are words that come to mind.
To be real, because of Covid 19 we know that even public schools have trouble stretching that many hours at home. Read this real-life account I found on social media (used with permission):
A friend reached out to me yesterday asking if her daughter could join our homeschool for the day, she’s a nurse at the hospital and she’s having to work double shifts because of Covid.
I said yes of course.
She is here today and it is super fun to have a new classmate, but HOLY COW! After helping her with her homework I will never EVER complain about homeschooling again 😳 what schools are putting kids through is pure torture! They have to do HOURS AND HOURS of mind numbing worksheets!!
I have never been more grateful for Charlotte Mason and for this beautiful education my kids are getting. She is probably rolling in her grave right now.
She had 8 pages of math to do. Four different math books.
One was her main math, the other was critical thinking, then a word problem one, and a practice sheet workbook. EIGHT PAGES!
And there was language arts. This is the breakdown:
Spelling – 4 pages
Reading – 2 pages
Vocabulary – 3 pages
A Writing assignment
Cursive Handwriting – 2 pages
Phonics – 2 pages
And that’s not including science and social studies.
She is nine years old.
At one point her eyes were glossy and I just couldn’t put her through the torture anymore, so I put rain ponchos on everyone and we went out on a nature walk, I don’t care if the weather is dreary, poor girl needs some vitamin N.
I then texted her mom asking what she really needed to get done because she was really tired. Her mom said she’s probably tired because she didn’t take her CAFFEINE DRINK this morning to help with her ADD. Yeah no kidding, I would need caffeine and Adderall by the pound if I had to do all those worksheets too.
When I read this all I could think was, “THOSE POOR KIDS!” It sounds like they are trying to give kids at home SIX ACTUAL HOURS’ WORTH of worksheets.
If my memory serves me, the typical school day includes at least two hours of shuffling around, including recess and lunch. Then time spent in actual instruction often entails discipline, waiting for questions to be asked, standing in line, etc.
So, after shaving off all of the fluff, what’s left over is maaaaybe three hours of real, concentrated learning.
Most conventional schooling is built on the idea of efficiency, as if children are “products” in a factory. This is why we segregate pupils into age groups so that the teacher can do some assembly-line type teaching. They stand up and teach the same thing to those 15 students at the same time.
It’s sort of like placing 15 widgets in a tray on an assembly line and spray-painting all of them at once. This works great for widgets, not so great for human beings. This is because people don’t sit there and allow themselves to be spray painted. They move around and step out of their places in the tray. Or, they may have come out of the mold in different sizes and shapes, so the paint does not hit all the same places when it’s sprayed.
So, some widgets must be sent through again, or time must be taken for them to be hand painted in spots. Others are simply considered discards and sent to another line where they are reworked, relabeled and sold as “seconds,” or discarded.
Since the school factory gets more money the more discards there are, they continue with the same process, even though it is obvious that it does not work and is the opposite of efficient.
This entire process takes loads more time than if they would simply take each widget and paint it by hand to begin with.
At home, thankfully, we aren’t treating our children as widgets. They are unique pieces of art and we are hand-painting one piece carefully and exquisitely.
In educational terms, we call this tutoring.
All the best people have been tutored, including most of the presidents of the United States. This focused, careful tailoring of education to the student is the best and most efficient way of education that has ever existed.
We know this because of how God tutors us. We may sit in a church and hear a lecture on Sunday, but in our every day lives we are being tutored by a God that knows us down to the number of the hairs on our heads and the thoughts we are thinking. He orchestrates situations, brings people along our path, and speaks directly to us, either through His word, in dreams and visions, or sometimes with His audible voice.
And He didn’t give children to collectives or “the village.” He gave each child to be reared and instructed by parents, and under their care to have select individuals give further instruction.
It is this focused familiarity that we rely on when we homeschool. We are not dealing with raw material that must be molded and shaped, but eternal beings created in the image of God. We help them look upward and outward as we discover together the immense treasure and purpose He has destined for each.
That is why we don’t need six hours a day to give our children a type of education that is so well-rounded and impressive that it embarrasses and indicts a system that spends an average of $13000 per student per year.
(Did you know that, at that rate of $13000 per year, it costs us $205,400 per classroom of 15.8 students? If we say teacher salary and benefits are about $45,000, where does the rest go? Why don’t we ask these questions? Why aren’t we allowed to know the answers? Why isn’t there any accountability?)
So, the first thing we need to know when we’re trying to find time to homeschool is:
It doesn’t take as long as we think.
The second thing we need to know is:
Home is the perfect environment for osmosis learning.
This reduces the time needed for one-on-one instruction. This means real life gives children are able to experience and apply academics so they “stick.” For instance, a test for fractions may mean taking a recipe and doubling it.
Watching Mom and Dad paying bills, saving money, gardening, and fixing things are all learning experiences that no amount of workbook pages will ever be able to replace.
The third thing we need to know is:
We can streamline our lives to make more room for learning.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Simplify meals. For a number of years we had three choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I simply rotated these. Included in this list were easy-fixing things such as PBJ’s. Also, loading the Instapot in the morning so that dinner cooks itself is such a blessing! Fix-ahead freezer items have been such a blessing. I also recommend make-ahead lunchboxes to eliminate mid-day lunch interruptions.
- Go minimal. A lot of our time is taken up with shuffling our belongings from one place to another. Keep what adds to us, discard the rest, and see how much less time it takes to clean house and do the laundry!
- Do errands one day a week. Everyone needs to go to the bank, wash the car, and see the dentist, but these things can really eat into the day. If we can corral all of these into one day we can be more effective the other days.
- Reduce extra curricular activities. I have this sneaking suspicion that sports, etc. are emphasized to keep us from developing close family ties. When we are hopping from one thing to another all week long, so much is being tossed to the way-side. This includes family meals and the long conversations that happen within our home and with extended family that are more instructive than most textbooks. Pick one or two things you think are important and keep them within that one day you have picked for errands.
We can also choose materials and methods that keep teaching time to a minimum.
Literature-based learning is one of the best ways to go about this (a la Robinson Curriculum).
Here are the basic ideas:
- Teach the child to read.
- Give him a list of books to read in all the different areas, such as literature, science, history, etc.
- Use the basic ideas of Charlotte Mason such as copywork, dictation, narration and essay writing daily.
- Throw in a math curriculum that he can go through with little help.
- Gather together and have a time of sharing and discussing daily.
- Give him multiple opportunities to participate in real life activities such as developing a small business enterprise, volunteering at church, or helping elderly relatives.
So how would this work?
- Children awaken and choose breakfast from a list of simple choices such as bagels and cream cheese, granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, waffles and pancakes made ahead and stored in the freezer, and huevos rancheros made ahead and frozen.
- While everyone is eating, a devotion is done with some lively discussion and directions for the day.
- Personal hygiene time.
- Everyone cleans up the kitchen and straightens the living areas, the bedrooms, and the bathrooms. Mom is prepping dinner.
- Study time begins. Mom does one-one-one for 15 minutes a piece with the ones who are learning to read and do basic math. The older children are reading and working through their assignments independently. Mom helps when needed, or works on household projects, chores, and/or business development.
- Everyone grabs a lunch choice and sits at the table. Mom reads out loud from the current book or novel. More discussion.
- A quick lunch clean up, and more studying, or nap/play time for younger children (and even Mom!). Everyone should spend some time outdoors. Mom has time to take care of her responsibilities.
- As soon as everyone is done, a quick straightening, then setting the table and dinner. As Dad is home, more lively discussion and catching up on the day.
- Family time, play time, etc.
- Getting ready for bed. Tucking in.
- Time for Mom and Dad, “mother culture,” etc.