If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you will know where I’m coming from when I say that parenting takes a great deal of time and effort! During a typical weekday you may be shuttling your kids to and from primary or elementary school, taking them to soccer or hockey practice, bringing them to piano or violin lessons, feeding them, bathing them, making sure they complete their chores and homework, and getting them ready for bed. By the time they’ve finished all of the things they’ve got lined up for the day, there’s hardly any time left for TV, leisure reading, or relaxation.
Sometimes it leaves you wondering how you manage to pack so many different activities into a single 24-hour day!
Supplementing a child’s education
So what do you do if you want to supplement your child’s education with lessons of your own? There may be topics that you are interested in teaching your children that they might not have the opportunity to learn in school – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious topics, gardening or environmentalism, cultural history, or advanced science (our son loves LEGO Mindstorms and other robotic toys and books). As most schools do not teach these subjects, you will have to find time in your busy schedule to fit them in if you want your child to experience them.
Tips for planning your daily homeschooling
So you want to fit in some extra teaching – maybe even only a half an hour or so – into the busy schedules of yourself and your children? It may sound overwhelming, but if it’s a priority for you, it is certainly doable. I recommend a three-staged approach. Note that if you’re a stay-at-home parent who has decided to homeschool their school-aged children full-time, these tips can also help you determine a more comprehensive homeschooling regimen.
1. Record how you and your family spend your time
In order to figure out when and where you can teach your children supplementary topics, you first need to figure out where your time is currently going. Do you know how much time you spend getting ready for school, preparing meals, doing chores, exercising, or watching television? Knowing where your time is spent is the first step toward maximizing it.
Take a tally (perhaps using an Excel spreadsheet, or even on a piece of paper) of how much time you spend per day completing what activities. You might notice that you’re spending more time than you think on certain things, and not as much time as others. Once you’ve figured out where the time goes, you can then decide how you’d rather spend it.
I’m not necessarily saying that you want to take an inventory of your daily routine because you want to cut time out of it to do other things. You might find time that you can spend participating in daily teaching and learning activities that is already available on your schedule. For example, you might find out that there is a half hour of free time each morning where your children are waiting for the school bus to arrive, or a half hour just before dinner where they are watching TV, lounging around, or otherwise unoccupied. You might decide to fit your daily teaching activities into one of those time slots.
2. Plan your daily lessons
If you know what you’re planning on teaching your kids, you can maximize that small amount of time that you have to work with them. Create a daily planner of the lessons that you plan to teach, or the worksheets, activities or centers that you plan to complete. You can maximize your kids’ overall education if you look to teach things that they normally wouldn’t learn in the classroom.
Don’t over-plan your lessons… take it in easy chunks. The goal is for both you and your children to enjoy the time you’re spending together… lesson should be fun and educational activities; they should not seem like chores or punishments. Plan activities that are fun and engaging.
There are lots of places that you can find cheap or free lessons. Many web sites (including this one!) provide plenty of free worksheets and activities that you can use in your daily teaching. If you’re interested, here are links to a few Pinterest boards filled with free lesson plans, worksheets, teaching tips, and activities that you can search through depending on grade level to find things for your and your kids to do.
3. Make a habit of your daily activity
Your mind tends to learn best a little bit at a time. That is to say that if you study every day for half an hour a day for a week, your brain will tend to comprehend and remember more than if you were to study for a three and a half hour stretch on a single Saturday. That’s why it’s important to make a habit of your teaching… your mind and your children’s minds will get into a comfortable routine of teaching and learning, and you’ll be able to maximize the impact of your efforts.
Pick a time every day that works for you and your family according to the inventory of your daily routine that you’ve created according to Step 1. Realize that minds work best in the morning… if you can find a time early in the day to teach and learn, that may be the best time to schedule your daily lessons.
If your children are not motivated to complete their daily lessons, it’s up to you to find ways to motivate them. The best motivation is if the activity is fun and challenging to work on… if kids enjoy what they’re doing and are proud of their accomplishments, they will look forward to their daily homeschool class. You can also give rewards to your children for the hard work that they do for you in your homeschooling lessons. TV watching or video game time can be used as rewards, as can books, toys, or magazines. A weekly allowance should be used as a reward for completing chores, lessons, and other activities, and not taken for granted.
If you work with your children for a little bit every day – even if only for 15 minutes each day – you will find that, over time, your teaching will go a long way, and your children will learn a great many interesting things. Just make sure that your teaching time is fun for everyone, including yourself… if it’s not, you may need to work harder to find unique or creative activities that you can use to perk up your lessons.