Getting Started & Staying on Track
- Before you begin, count the costs. (Luke 14:28-33) Remember that homeschooling is a major lifestyle change that requires a great deal of commitment. It will impact every area of your life: your home environment, your church and community involvement, your leisure time, your financial condition, your social life, your children's friendships, your home-making efforts, your relationships with your spouse and your children, and on and on. Ask yourself these questions: Are you willing to accept, along with the joys and blessings, the limitations and sacrifices inherent in the homeschooling lifestyle? Are you willing to step by faith, in submission and obedience to God, into the adventure of home education, trusting in the Lord to meet all of your needs?
- Lay a good foundation. (Matthew 7:24-27) If you want your home education efforts to stand in the face of storms of adversity that are sure to come, you must build upon the solid rock foundation of God and His Word. Be certain to have a quiet time with God - reading from His Holy Word and communing with Him in prayer - every day. This is vital! Bible study is also the first subject in our homeschooling day. We’ve tried other times, but this arrangement seems to start us off right.
- Prioritize your time - Tackle your schedule. Reevaluate your commitments outside the home. Consider that homeschooling and homemaking are two full-time jobs
- Keep your expectations of what you can accomplish realistic. Allow the Master Gardener to prune your commitments to allow for the fruit production He wills for you. Learn to say, “I’ll get back to you” or “let me talk to my husband about that,” before taking on any new commitment. The Lord has given you a protective head in your husband. Allow him to advise and direct you on any additions/changes in your commitments.
- Identify and eliminate those nasty time stealers that can wreck havoc in your schooling efforts: telephone calls (use an answering machine), drop-in visitors (put a sign on the door during school time), lack of needed supplies/materials (inventory and order supplies and materials before the school year begins and periodically throughout the year). Design a storage area near where you work with your children and stock it with all the supplies and books you regularly use. If available storage space is limited, be creative with storage boxes, stackable bins, etc. Have your supplies in order and near where you’ll need them. Unfinished tasks distract from your efforts, both physically and emotionally. Tidy up the house before you go to bed at night to avoid the “What A Mess- Where Do I Begin?” morning blahs. Plan for a period every morning before school of house preparation time in which each child has specific duties such as starting a load of laundry, doing the dishes, etc.
- Make this your motto: “Do the next thing next!” Don’t let the next thing overwhelm you - just do the next thing that needs to be done. Another great motto: “Do it now!” Make a habit, if possible, to deal with things as they come up.
- Set a weekly time for personal planning. Use school schedules, menu plans, grocery lists, job assignments, appointments, etc. Use a master calendar to plot and coordinate your planning efforts. Try to plan as many of your activities ahead as possible - errands, appointments, phone calls, devotions, teaching times, family reading times, field trips, support group activities, vacations, etc. Make sure to plan other things around your home educating efforts, and not the other way around! You don’t need to be rigid and inflexible, but try to remember that home education is a priority, not an afterthought.
- Establish routines - not as your master, but as your tools. Routines can eliminate confusion, energize your home, and teach your children to be responsible, independent individuals. Routines take time and effort to establish, but once they are in place, they can become anchors to stabilize both your day and that of your children. Any re-occurring event should be cultivated into a routine (e.g. school schedules, meal or bed times, etc.) Use trigger events or times to initiate routines: “When you are finished with breakfast, it is your responsibility to feed the pets and put a load of laundry in the washer.” Use deadlines, with advance warning, if needed, to make sure the assigned jobs are completed: “All outside toys must be put away in their proper places before supper. I’ll call you with a warning 15 minutes before supper is ready.”
- When designing routines, consider these points: Communicate what is expected and what consequences will result if assigned responsibilities are not met. Begin at an early age to include your children in family routines. Even toddlers can do simple chores - especially those right along side Mom. Your goal should be that your children become masters of their own routines.
- Watch out for this: Mom is working and everyone else is recreating. You are only cheating your children if this is occurring. Have your children work along side of you when teaching them how to do new jobs. If you have more than one child, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of training the older ones, relying too much on their proven abilities, and then neglect to pass jobs and responsibilities on to the younger ones. School routines are important to establish, too. Home educators can inadvertently foster “learned helplessness” when independent routines and learning projects are not established. Children are more confident and responsible when they have secure school routines, and there is less confusion and need for micro management. Special project days and/or field trips can be part of the school routine, and surprises and rewards can be sprinkled in if desired. Routines don’t just happen - they take time and great effort to establish. If orderliness is not one of your strong points, set your goals on a small scale. Begin with a regularly scheduled Bible study time with your children, or perhaps just a regular starting time for school (!) - whatever it takes to set some order to your day.
Reprinted from the NICHE (Iowa) Newsletter.