We all started from somewhere but not all of us were able to get advice – well, good advice that would actually help us in our situations. So I wanted to make sure that the new homeschool moms who were forced into it due to the coronavirus situation are at least with help. The following list is my absolute favorite tips for new homeschool families. I created this list based on my failures and breakthroughs and hope that it will be an encouragement during these harsh times.
Tips for New Homeschool Families
1. DO NOT TRY TO SCHOOL AT HOME- it will not work. Meaning, your children are made to sit for 8 hours (sit and be quiet), learn in a room with lots of other kids, staring at the clock and wall, review many subjects a day, etc. For us homeschooler families, most of the time this does not work. It only will frustrate you to pieces to try to mimic a school setting at home. Your kids know that they are home just this fact will make them “not” want to do school at home if forced to review subjects and follow a time-based schooling system.
Instead, try to give your children grace. After all, it is not their fault that this virus has closed the schools. It is also not the job of any school or teacher to teach our children to “sit and be quiet” for 8 hours a day. When children were historically schooled at home by their families (before the institution of public schools began), they were in constant hands-on mode. Meaning, that your children’s brain learns better when he or she is actively learning- not just sitting still and staring at the teacher all day. This is ESPECIALLY important for families with children on the autism spectrum or ADHD children. They already can not cope with trying to sit for so long and most of them if in a public school are on medicines to keep them sitting still.
I have no problem with disciplining our children so that they can learn to sit and be quiet when they are needed. Like at religious sittings or special occasions, etc. It is very respectful when children can be quiet in these types of environments and is part of teaching them about respect, good manners, etc. But please do not go into this thinking your child will sit at home like he or she would at school. It will not work and I learned this very quickly with my own children. Granted each child is different so take the clues of your children and give them space to adjust. Which brings me to the next tip.
2. Each child is different and learns differently. Do not treat them all to the same or expect them all to finish work at the same time or pace. Remember that they are in a way forced to turn in work and assignments on the same deadline as their classmates at school. This does not mean that they understand that work, but that they were taught to complete the tasks. Sometimes children are scared to show that they do not understand something and will just go with whatever their peers are doing for the sake of moving along. This is one problem the schools have now because they do not hold children back anymore, they will keep them with their peers, passing levels until graduation- even if some can not read or write. It is very sad in my opinion. So as a parent that is new to homeschool or forced into it during the COVID-19 scare, just remember to set the pace per child with their work. They may not finish the same, it is ok- let them complete the work the next day. You may have a child that is quick to finish work- and you may be happy, but if you ask them what did they learn, they may not be able to remember because they are completing the task given and not necessarily learning. You may also have a child finish work very fast and they love it so much that they are on task and can remember everything. You may feel amazed that it only too an hour or two for them to learn. This brings me to my next tip.
3. Do not time school at home like a normal school day. Most of us homeschooling families can actually finish everything (all subjects) in half the time it takes for a school to finish. Remember, the classes at school may have 20 or more students. You may only have 2 or 3… or a bit more, so you do not have to divide up time to make sure that all 20 kids are learning. School time is set up this way to make sure everyone can at least get proper learning because there are a lot of kids. You can finish your homeschool by lunchtime or early afternoon and let the kids play outside for the remainder of the day. A normal time frame for my house would be the little learners start at 9am and finish by 1pm – which also includes break times, lunch, etc. My older one starts at 10am and is finished by 2pm. And at times when my little one with autism has a bad day- guess what….we barely do work and I have learned that he will do better the next day. I do not worry about it or beat myself up, we just stop and give the kids grace.
Because public schools are not able to give as much grace or take care of the individual needs of the many students as you can at home- your day is shorter and now you have time to spend with your children to do fun things. Or for mom or dad to rest for a while.
4. Give many breaks and lots of time outside or doing sensory time. Kids love sensory activities, playing outside or even watching nature documentaries on Netflix or Youtube. You can be cooking or cleaning something and let them have a break or two, or watch something education. It is OK, they are fine. Take breaks for your mental health and so that they can get up and move around, which promotes better focus and learning. Bringing me to my next tip…
5. Make your environment one that the kids can learn in. They can not learn in a place that dirty or a table that no one can sit at…they can not learn with toys on the floor or things all cluttered. I know that we are in hard times but being home and practicing social distance also means that you have a bit more time to clean or declutter the home. Doing a little each day will help. If clutter makes an adult loose focus or go crazy, what do you think it does to a small child?
In addition to decluttering and cleaning, you can practice aromatherapy and find out what scents help us focus. You can also light scented candles or have relaxing music on in the background. My kids love to listen to classical music when learning or lo-fi beats in the background. Having a clean, relaxed place to learn will help everyone remain calm. Once you are stressed or they are, learning will no longer be fun.
6. If you are spiritual. Practice this in the morning before learning time. Better yet, before you begin- maybe during breakfast, have a devotion or affirmation time with your children. The best thing to do every day is to start the day off with your creator and teach your children the sacred art of gratitude. Read to them while they are eating, engage them into what you are saying. Ask them how do they feel. Get them involved and I guarantee your day will be off to a better start.
7. Plan ahead and wake up before your kids. If you can plan a day or two in advance for your kids’ learning and your tasks at home and work (if you are now working from home as well), you will give yourself an advantage over your day. If you do not have a planner, you can grab a notebook and plan.
8. Use what you have at home. The best way to teach is to use your resources up. There is no need to go buy lots of stuff. If you have a computer or laptop, use that. Paper and pen, colors and markers, fine. Whatever books you have at the moment, let them read. Try not to be so formal until you have a plan to be. Amazon is also a great resource during this time for workbooks in different grade levels. I also use a site called TeachersPayTeachers.com where you can go to support teachers who build their own worksheets and pdf files. Just pay for a digital download if you don’t have a workbook, print it and that is it. Be resourceful, if cooking- bring the kids in. If cleaning, bring the kids in. If playing outside, let them play. Teach them living subjects- nature, math through cooking, space through exploring, etc.
9. Use online sites such as ABCMouse or Khan Academy, Readingeggs, Homer, Teachyourmonstertoread, etc. There is nothing wrong with online learning. Let them do it. I also have used a great site called Outschool.com, where you pay for Zoom classes for your kids. You can pick any subject and most teachers will have different times or days to pick from. These classes are great because they encourage social interaction, even though it is online.
10. Establish good routines and habits while at home. I believe that it is better to use a routine than a time schedule. If you have a routine, your kids know what to expect. They know what they should be doing and by doing so teaches them good habits. They should not be running around the house during a time frame you have for school. If video games is at 3pm, then they know school is before games. I let my kids wear pjs to homeschool unless we go out. However, since we are all on social distance right now…pjs every day is the new motto lol.
In addition to establishing a good routine, I suggest beginning homeschool a bit later than what they know from school. I do not get my kids up at 7am, I wait until 8am and then I let them have free time until I am finished cooking breakfast. Breakfast in my house is a time indicator that we need to be ready for school after. This way, my kids do not fight with me to begin, they know that our routine is to eat breakfast first. Even if we start later due to oversleeping in, if they don’t see breakfast, they know they are still on morning free time.
Also guess what, sometimes I don’t feel like teaching!!! Just like teachers who grab the movie tv or projector for class at school and give the kids a movie day- you can do this too. You are sick? Guess what, free day. The kids are sick- free day. It’s ok. Grace is given. Trust me, if you use these tips and learn to be a bit more relaxed in your homeschool journey, your children will show you just how much they can learn and RETAIN better than when we force s harsh schedule on them. This is one of the reasons why homeschool kids often out-perform children of the same age in certain tasks, even test-taking. They are able to do so because they were in a loving environment that was one on one and they were encouraged to grow on their own time. When children encourage this, they are able to boost their own self-esteem and confidence. This is what I have seen in my kids and in other friend’s children who were homeschooled.
I encourage you all today to try my tips and share them. If you find yourself struggling with this new situation of having your children at home and teaching them- you are not alone. It took me a year and a half to get it and it was hard at first because one of my kiddos is on the autism spectrum. Go to Youtube and type new to homeschool and listen to all of the other moms there giving you this same advice. It works and I believe it will work for you. Be blessed. -Keturah
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Time Management Tips for Moms
Need A Few Extra Hours? Try These Time Management Tips!
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
Time management is a big concern for mothers these days. Between kids’ activities, household responsibilities and, for many, the demands of a stressful workplace, many mothers have given up on the fight to find time for themselves and are just trying to get everything done. The following time management tips can be used by busy moms everywhere to take some of the stress out of life, and create more time for fun times with children, quality time with their partner, or even that coveted and nearly forgotten alone time.
It’s been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nowhere is this adage more applicable than when discussing time management tips for moms. Simply being organized can eliminate stress from forgotten appointments, double-booking, lost homework, and many other stress traps that busy moms face. What does it mean for a mom to ‘be organized,’ and to what extent is this even possible? If you focus on a few key areas of organization, a little work can go a long way. In a nutshell, being organized with your schedule, with your house and with your discipline strategy is one of the best time management tips I can give you. See this article for more on getting organized.
Yes, when they come to us, they are so sweet and helpless, we end up doing everything for them, and these habits are difficult to break. But then we have their children, and realize that it’s impossible for one person to do it all.
While it’s tempting to cover all household responsibilities yourself (to ensure that everything is done quickly and correctly), putting some effort into getting men and children to pitch in can really pay off in the long run. The trick is to break chores into simple tasks and reward people for doing them. See this article on learning how to delegate tasks for more.
Multitask, But Only When Appropriate
Multitasking was once praised as the time management tip to top all time management tips. (Imagine: Getting twice as much done in a day.) Then people started seeing that multitasked projects weren’t completed as accurately, and suddenly ‘staying focused on one thing’ became the new time management fad. I suggest a compromise: Pair mindless tasks with focus-dependent ones when it’s appropriate. For example, you can make business calls while taking your daily walk (don’t forget exercise as an important stress reliever), or quiz your kids on test questions while you clean the kitchen. But if you feel more harried than helped, it’s time to shelve the multitasking for a bit.
Learn When To Say No
Learning to say ‘no’ to people’s requests may be an obvious time management tip for moms, but that doesn’t make it an easy one. Mothers encounter many different worthy requests for their time and attention, that saying no will often disappoint someone. However, what we don’t always realize is that when we say ‘yes’ too much, people also get disappointed because we can’t do our best when we’re spread too thin. That’s why it’s important to look at your priorities and learn to say no to time demands that aren’t absolutely necessary.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’m a big advocate of doing a good-enough job, especially if you’re a busy mom. If you can get pre-cut vegetables or canned sauce for dinner, do it. If you can afford one of those dishwashers that can handle un-rinsed dishes, even better. The time management tip to remember here is to find the shortest route to where you need to be (getting to the office, getting homework done, getting the house clean), and take it. (Here are some more ideas for household shortcuts).
Have a Routine
Routine are a time management tip that can save you mental energy and stress. I’m not talking about merely getting up and going to sleep at the same time, but even having things like the dinner menu, chore rotation and even sex with your partner on a rotation (you have your needs, too.) This may sound a little ‘too automated,’ but hear me out. When you don’t have to worry about reinventing the wheel each week (“What haven’t we eaten in a while?” “When was this floor last mopped?” “When is the last time we…?”), your mind is free to focus on the rest of your day, and the time it takes to plan these things each week is freed as well.
While it’s important to have an idea of how you’d like your schedule to look, it’s important to keep things flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected things that moms encounter — sick kids, spilled milk and the occasional meltdown. Having a rhythm for your day but a time cushion and some backup plans can take the stress out of the unexpected, and keep one schedule hiccup from throwing off your whole day (or week).
Take Care of Yourself, Too!
While taking care of parental, relationship, household and workplace responsibilities, it’s easy for mothers put taking care of themselves last on the list. However, not only is self-care a good idea of physical and emotional health, it’s a good time management tip for moms as well. When we’re tired or haven’t had enough healthy food to function at our best, we’re often less productive and organized, and this lack of clarity can translate into more time wasted throughout the day and less time available to get everything done that needs doing. So get quality sleep, eat a healthy diet, and follow other self care strategies for mothers, and you’ll be operating at your best -— and less stressed.
Original article By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com
This is my personal blog space to talk about life as a mom of 4 kids (ages 12- and below), with one of them being on the autism spectrum. We are relaxed homeschoolers (near the unschooling “sort” of homeschoolers type) and we “year-round” homeschool. This means that we do not typically start and finish at the same time as public schools and that we take our breaks as needed and whenever our religious Holy Days come around.
We live a more traditional and culturally Jewish lifestyle, although we are so hippie that this can also range a bit in all of our spiritual natures. We travel a lot….a lot and are used to doing our own thing. So welcome to our world.
Six Habits of Happily Married Couples
by Rabbi Dov Heller, M.A.
Success in marriage hinges on consistent performance of six key habits.
HABIT #1 – GIVE EACH OTHER PLEASURE
Happily married couples are committed to the goal of giving each other pleasure. You must stay focused on the ultimate goal — which is to give each other pleasure and not cause pain. It sounds simple enough, but can be very hard in practice.
For just one day, try to maintain a consciousness with everything you do, by asking yourself, “Is what I’m about to do or say going to cause my spouse pain or pleasure?”
To monitor how you’re doing, each of you should make two lists: One for all the things your spouse does to cause you pain, and another which identifies what you would like your spouse to do to give you pleasure. Swap lists, and now you know exactly what to do and what not to do. No more mind reading!
HABIT #2 – CREATE MUTUALLY SATISFYING LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP RITUALS
Rituals are habits that build and strengthen a relationship. One couple had the following “greeting ritual” at night when the husband came home:
He would first greet the dog and hug the kids. Then he would go into his bedroom, change his clothes, and watch the news, followed by a visit to the bathroom. Finally he would wander into the kitchen and mutter something to his wife, for example, “Let’s eat fast so we can get to the PTA meeting!”
One might say that such a ritual was not exactly increasing their love for each other.
How are your greeting and goodbye rituals?
So after watching how their dog greeted them every time they came home, this couple decided to come up with a new ritual. Elated dogs jump all over their masters and lick them. So they decided to greet each other like dogs. They started jumping up and down and hugging each other. They really got into it. They had fun and the kids got a kick out it, too.
Our actions affect the way we feel. How are your greeting and good-bye rituals?
Here are some rituals you and your spouse should consider working on:
* Daily e-mailing each other with a compliment.
* Daily phone call. (especially important for husbands to do)
* Anniversaries deserve special attention. Plan to do something both of you really enjoy, rather than feeling stuck two days before your anniversary arrives and then running out to get some flowers.
* Before you turn in for the night, try saying two compliments to each other. This means coming up with something new each night!
* It is essential to have a “date night” at least every other week.
HABIT #3 – CREATE A SAFE PLACE TO DISCUSS ISSUES OPENLY AND HONESTLY
Abusive relationships are ones in which you are afraid to express feelings and opinions. Happily married couples create a sense of safety that allows each person to feel comfortable expressing his/her feelings, problems, and dissatisfactions. This sense of safety is the foundation upon which a couple negotiates things that are bothering them.
It’s common for each person to come into a relationship with certain expectations about how things will be. But without the ability to communicate and negotiate, these issues become sources for power struggles that almost always damage the relationship.
HABIT #4 – USE GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS TO RESOLVE HOT ISSUES
The technique that every couple must learn is called the “listener-speaker technique.” The problem with the way most couples argue is that they try to find solutions before fully giving each other the chance to say what they need to say. The speaker-listener technique ensures that before you can engage in solution talk, each person feels they have been fully heard.
Only after each person has been fully heard, do you proceed to problem solving.
Here’s how it works: One person holds an object in their hand which symbolizes that he or she has the floor. While one person has the floor, the other person can only listen by repeating back or paraphrasing what the other person said. The listener can stop the speaker if s/he is saying too much for the listener to repeat back.
When couples use this technique, it automatically ensures that each person will be able to say everything s/he needs to say without interruption, rebuttals, criticism or attack. Only after each person has been fully “heard,” do you then proceed to problem solving.
HABIT #5 – CONSTANTLY TURN TOWARD EACH OTHER, RATHER THAN AWAY
When you pass your spouse sitting at her desk doing some work, do you stop and rub her shoulders, give her a kiss on the cheek, and whisper something nice in her ear — or do you just walk on by? This is the meaning of “turning toward” as opposed to “turning away.”
Happily married couples have ways to constantly be emotionally close to each other.
Marriage research shows that happily married couples do a lot of turning toward each other whenever they get the chance. They look for ways to be physically and emotionally close to each other. Turning toward each other means making each other your number one priority.
Another important aspect of turning toward each other is doing things together that you both enjoy. Taking walks together, drinking coffee together after dinner, learning Torah together, and listening to music together, are all examples of how couples turn toward each other.
A powerful way to turn toward each other is to show the ultimate respect — by standing when your spouse enters the room. Sounds old-fashioned? It is. But it’s a powerful way to turn toward your spouse, make him/her feel very special.
Couples who “turn away” from each other don’t develop closeness. It’s a basic principle stated in the Talmud, “A good deed begets another good deed. A bad deed begets another bad deed.”
HABIT #6 – INFUSE YOUR LIVES WITH SHARED MEANING
I often ask singles the following question: “After you’re married, what do you plan to do for the next 40 years?” And I usually follow-up by saying, “And besides having fun, what else will you do with each other?”
The ultimate in meaning is to share a common philosophy of life purpose.
Human beings need meaning like we need water. Happily married couples enrich their relationship by sharing meaningful experiences with each other. The ultimate in meaning is to share a common philosophy of life and life purpose. This is why couples who observe Shabbat together, and learn Torah together, have great sources of meaning built into their lives.
Some other specific ways of infusing your relationship with meaning are visiting the sick together, making a shiva call together, or preparing a meal together for a mother who just gave birth.
When couples share truly meaningful experiences, they bond on a deeper level.
These six habits may seem small, but when practiced intentionally and consistently, they will form the backbone of a deeply fulfilling marriage.