homeschool mom and teen son

Tips to Stay Sane in Your Homeschool

Best Homeschool Tips!

Wow did summer go fast or what? Seems like just yesterday I was writing summer-themed articles; now we are already in “back to school” season!

Back-to-school time can be busy for a homeschooling family. Back-to-school is busy for any family with kids, but this is especially true for homeschooling families. You not only have to prepare your kids, but prepare your curricula and prepare yourselves! It can all be a little overwhelming.

In today’s article, I want to offer a reflection about three things to keep in mind as we kick off the fall semester. 

Create a Roadmap and Not a Blueprint

Successful homeschooling requires planning. Plans may look different; they may have varying degrees of detail or reflect different methodological approaches to homeschooling. Some parents create extremely detailed schedules that lay out every single assignment week-by-week. Others use pre-packaged lesson plans from third-party programs or curricula providers. Still others adopt a looser approach, setting only a few educational goals for the semester and leaving the details flexible. Planning looks different from family to family, but regardless of how you plan, forethought is a must.

How a homeschooling parent interacts with their plan is tremendously important in setting the tone for the year. For example, do you treat your semester plan like the blueprint to a building? A blueprint is a schematic that is replicated exactly right down to the minute details. A building is expected to be constructed “according to specs,” that is, as precisely specified in the blueprint. If the builder deviates from the blueprint, he is doing it “wrong.”

No matter how detailed your game plan is, I recommend that you do NOT treat your semester plan like a blueprint. Not even the best of us can replicate our plans exactly as written. You need to incorporate some wiggle room for the vagaries of life: people get sick, cars break down, and children go slower or quicker than you expected. And sometimes you simply have a bad day, where you throw up your hands and say, “No more school this afternoon. We’re getting pizza and you guys can watch a movie while I lay down.” You must make allowance for these days. If you don’t, you’ll break, like a rigid tree trunk snapped off in a tempest!

I suggest you approach your plans more like a roadmap. A roadmap tells you where you are going and how to get there, but it leaves the pace up to you. It allows you the liberty to pull off for your potty breaks, stop at that farmer’s stand on the roadside, or veer off on side-adventures at the local tourist trap. Applied to homeschooling, viewing your plans like roadmap allows you to maintain the general direction and important milestones of your semester while keeping things flexible for the deviations that life will inevitably throw at us. So make your plans, fill out your daily schedule, plot your course, but always keep in mind that your semester journey will never look exactly how you planned. And that’s okay!

Remember, Not All Education is Formal

At the beginning of a school year we necessarily focus on the more formalized aspects of education: “What courses do my children need?”  “What textbooks should I purchase?” “Do my kids have all their supplies?” “Do I have a workable schedule?”, etc. It is a good time to remind ourselves that not all education is formal; education is always happening, even outside of contexts of our formal plan. Having your child read and assemble the ingredients from a cookbook is education; signing your son up to lector at daily Mass is education; your child mastering Photoshop or other program is education. Education happens all the time, all around us, even when we are not looking for it.

These sorts of informal educational settings are ideal for times when you need to cultivate a more relaxed atmosphere. Recently I started having “reading time” with my two younger daughters. Every day, for about a half hour, we sit down together on the couch and I read out loud to them. Lately we have been reading the fantastic and entertaining Round About and Long Ago: Tales from the English Counties by Eileen Colwell (1972). The kids don’t realize they are being educated; they think they are being entertained. But they are learning about folklore, English history, English geography, and literature all at once—while having bonding time with Dad.

These sorts of educational opportunities are a valuable part of homeschooling. So, as you are scurrying about trying to procure books and supplies and make last-minute adjustments to your schedule, remember to allow breathing space for these informal educational experiences.

Make Time for Yourself

Finally, make time for yourself. The beginning of a new school year is a time when we are pouring everything into our children. Our energy, time, and finances are devoted to preparing for the school year. Like a squirrel storing up for winter, we are expending ourselves to “store up” for the needs of the semester.

Though it sounds cliché, it is important to make time for yourself. Make sure you have time to relax, unwind, detach, and rejuvenate. This obviously benefits you by helping to maintain your equilibrium, but it also helps your children. One thing that both myself and Maureen Wittmann have stressed repeatedly about homeschooling is that emotions are contagious; the emotional state you bring to the table when you homeschool is going to be what your children imbibe. Your children do not benefit if their homeschooling parent is cranky, stressed, and uptight. When you feel rested and refreshed, everyone benefits: you first, and then those who depend upon you to set the tone for the day.

So please, as the semester starts, make sure you leave time for yourself. If you need to, structure this time into your day. One mom I know built  “Mom time” into her daily schedule. “Mom time” was simply a half hour where she could go into her room and be alone to read, rest, pray, or whatever. I personally make time each day to sit in my bathtub with a book for 30 minutes (er…an hour if I am being honest) and unwind. Do whatever you need to in order to have some “you” time!

What about you? What do you think is important to help get your mind in the right place for beginning the Catholic homeschooling year? Visit and join us in our Catholic Homeschool Community to continue the conversation.

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Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

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