As a full time laboratory scientist at night, homeschooling wasn’t something I planned to do. I have four children. My oldest is nine, Addalise just had a birthday and turned five, Aveley Kate is three, and Ashlynn Jaymes is one. I have homeschooled while breastfeeding, and while pregnant. It’s not only doable, it’s actually fun. In the midst of the craziness going on in the world right now, we are all trying to find a new normal. You may be thinking that homeschooling (or distance learning if this applies to your situation) is not something you can manage. Many parents have been forced to homeschool for at least some time period. So many mothers that I know personally have asked me homeschooling questions and I hope to answer a few of those here. Whether or not you choose to homeschool, as a full time working mom of four, I wish I had this information when I was trying to decide. You are not alone in struggling to decide what is best for your child. Education is so important. As parents, we want to give our children the resources they need. It’s a crazy time, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have options. It took me years to finally get the hang of everything and I couldn’t even imagine trying to make the decision that most parents are faced with right now on a whim.
A little backstory: I want to say first of all, that I have so much respect for teachers. Many of my friends are teachers and this is not intended to discredit their profession in any way, but to give a personal experience in hopes that my feedback with answer some questions. Alyssa went to a small private school for kindergarten and first grade. I only had two children at the time, but I remember missing Alyssa so much throughout the day. She had friends, I was a room mother for her class, and went on every field trip. I attended every party. Working night shift and still attending events is rough. Everyone assumes that since you are at home, you are available. Sometimes I was running on less than empty. From the beginning, Alyssa struggled in reading. She mentally couldn’t handle receiving a bad grade on a test because she was so hard on herself. I was like that in school too, so I get it. It broke my heart so see her so anxious when she was doing so well.
At the time, I thought about homeschooling but I was worried about how she would get social interaction and taking her away from her friends. I registered her for another year (first grade) and she was still being taken out in the hall for tests because of “testing anxiety”.
The school she attended was great, so my decision was not about disliking the school. I just felt that she needed more one on one attention and a different learning environment. I decided that we would give homeschooling a try for one semester and if she was falling behind, I would look into other options.
What would my other children do during the day?
I have multiple children, so one concern was taking too much time away from them or the littles distracting Alyssa while she did school work. Of course screen time was an option, but I wanted to limit that as much as possible. For the most part, the younger girls are in the school room with me the entire day and it’s rarely an issue. I purchased many puzzles, games, pencils, art supplies, etc. from the dollar spot at Target. Sometimes I would have Alyssa read to them out loud, or I would pick a colorful science experiment that all four would enjoy and learn from for different reasons. When Alyssa was trying to learn the 50 states, she put together her states floor puzzle while Addalise and Aveley put together their ABC puzzle. When they were done, Ashlynn made her contribution by stomping all over both puzzles. There are so many subjects that can be relatable to multiple ages. For example, the months of the year song was something all four enjoyed. As Alyssa learned abbreviations in second grade, we started with days and months. Singing songs introduced them to the younger kids and even if they didn’t have a clue what we were singing at first, after awhile my three year old (then two) knew them all.
What curriculum did I choose?
The school that Alyssa went to previously used Abeka, so that is what I chose for the first year. I purchased the parent and child kit which came with lesson plans for each day, text books, answer keys, and other resources. I tried to go strictly by their curriculum the first year and joined a group on facebook where I could ask questions when I had them. For second grade, I was alot more comfortable using multiple resources. Alyssa still struggled a little bit in reading so we no longer used Abeka readers (I still think their readers are great, we just had to do something different). When Alyssa started reading Magic Treehouse books, reading was a completely different ball game. She started to LOVE reading and now wants to read ALL the time. She just needed something that she was interested in, and honestly I get that. At first, I didn’t even think about switching it up because I was trying to go by the book. Homeschooling lesson number #1: Most days will not go as planned, ha.
I became familiar with her learning style and adjusted my teaching style to fit her needs.
I use printables from Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers, games, and we go outside alot. I used Abeka for tests. For writing, I found a list of prompts and also added my own. I printed a checklist to hang on our whiteboard, and sometimes I would answer the prompt with her to show her that I was taking part in her education. Amazon, Thriftbooks, Goodwill Bookstore, and even stores like Sams and Costco have great all in one books by grade. If I am super busy or just need another worksheet for a particular topic, I would pull from those.
What if I don’t have time to homeschool?
I work full time at night so this was my biggest concern. I wanted Alyssa to have all the resources that she needed and some days I am so exhausted that I wouldn’t want me as a teacher, ha. What I discovered is that being able to plan out and occupy my time gave me so much more energy and time with my kids. I was present much more than before. It was so hard for me to come home from work, load up all the kids, get Alyssa to school on time, and come back home before. Now, I am able to sleep for a couple hours after work and reset before starting our school day. Most days, homeschooling takes us no longer than 3-4 hours and that’s including lunch breaks. When we have days we aren’t feeling well, we have the freedom to pick up and start the next day without falling far behind. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding every single day. As a mom who loves to read and write, homeschooling also encouraged me to pick up those hobbies again. There are also several resources that give me a few minutes to breathe throughout the day and allow Alyssa to be educated by someone other than me. ABC Mouse, Homer, SouthwesternAdvantage, Khan Academy, Crayola, and many others have amazing resources for children. Homeschooling also allowed us to plan trips around when I could take off work, rather than going off of the school schedule. That being said, it is a commitment. I do have to plan our days and patience is still something I’m working on.
How do I get everything done while making sure my child receives the education he or she deserves?
I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling was overwhelming for me at first. I tried to go into depth for each subject every day and it didn’t work for me or my child. I would get excited about a science project and become frustrated when we spent too long on a new math concept. I signed Alyssa up for art classes, violin, cooking classes, and all kinds of co op activities. There were days where we just couldn’t do it all, so I had to come up with a game plan. We utilize a loop schedule. Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.
- Math Daily Work (10-15 minutes, new concepts are learned when we reach Math on the loop)
- Daily Subjects
- Creative Writing
- Daily Subjects
- Daily Subjects
- Creative Writing
- Daily Subjects
- Dance Class
- Daily Subjects
- Creative Writing
You can set up your schedule however you want. Doing this helped me from teaching science three days in a row and never getting around to a writing prompt. Obviously there are subjects that we do every day, but I just write out a list and mark where we stopped so the next day we start with the next subject. Some days we are able to go over all subjects, some days we can’t. We are now able to easily incorporate violin and dance and I have time to put the other girls in activities as well. Before quarantine, Alyssa would read during Addalise’s dance class. You find way to make it easier and fit into your life as you go.
What if my budget prevents me from providing the resources my child needs?
It won’t. Buying an all in one curriculum can get pricey but there are many options to make it less expensive. If there’s a Goodwill Bookstore, or something similar near you, I found so many readers, chapter book series and slightly used text books for $1-$5. Libraries have book sales all the time. Making your own flash cards will help your child remember a concept better and save money. Dollar Tree has so many fun posters, flash cards, coloring books, etc. I stock up on school supplies during sales and usually have enough for the next two school years. Being able to do school in your PJs also helps with four girls, ha. There are free printables, and I have paid for some on TeachersPayTeachers that were well worth it and budget friendly. I will also include some resources here as I’m planning our days/year.
Any other tips?
It’s not possible to fit everything you need to know about homeschooling into one blog post and honestly, you will have to adjust to your child but it gets easier as you go. For me, purchasing a personal planner just for home life/homeschooling plans helped so much. While Alyssa was in second grade and Addalise was in preschool, I wrote out Alyssa’s lesson plans for each day with page numbers or referencing a work sheet by each day. I used a notepad for Addalise’s days and picked a concept for each week. For example, if we were learning the letter A, we sang songs, practiced handwriting, did worksheets, etc. I wrote a list of what we were working on that week and put together a folder for her. I kept a treasure box visible so that they could see what they were working towards. I used a sticker system in a file folder and they got stickers for a great test grade, following directions, etc. Each child had a different goal, but the sticker system was effective for each of them. My two year old was potty training, Alyssa was learning multiplication facts, and Addalise was perfecting writing her name. They all shared the common goal of getting a treasure from the treasure box. Sometimes I did simple treasures like a popsicle pass. Alyssa thought it was great when she was able to tell us she had a pass when we said no, ha. Others I purchased from Dollar Tree, on clearance, or ordered in bulk from Amazon. I tried to keep something new, even if it was small, because that’s part of the fun, right?
I hope that you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have about homeschooling, distance learning, struggling readers, etc. I will help in any way that I can. I can assure you that you are not alone. Feel free to follow along and let me know topics that you would like more information on! I also have homeschooling highlights on instagram. My handle there is @ashleeleighann.
-The Zombie Mom