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Homeschool has several sides. Like the old Clint Eastwood Western, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” homeschool has good days, bad days, and ugly days that no one really wants to talk about! I’d like to address them all, with some honesty, but since the year is just starting for most of you, I’ll focus only on the good today and work my way up to the bad and the ugly. I’ll do so by describing a good day (to give you vision) and by sharing a few simple homeschool tips (to be practical.) Just remember as you read, most of our days were a mix of good, bad, and ugly! I’m just setting the scene here.

Part I – The Good

A good homeschool day starts with the fact that I actually wake up – without hitting the snooze. That’s a big deal if you’re not a morning person, which I’m not! From there, I’m on a roll when I get my teeth brushed, my face washed, and put real clothes on –  including that one undergarment that deems me “decent” should someone come to my door unexpectedly or I suddenly find myself in the emergency room with a 4-year-old.

Once I touchdown in the kitchen, on a good day I can start the coffee, unload the dishwasher, and scrub last’s night pan that was left to soak (because, you-know-who does the “dishes” but not the pots and pans.)

On a good homeschool day there’s a hot breakfast that lures the children to the kitchen. Go ahead, smell it with me. Take a whiff of blueberry muffins creeping up the stairs to wake up the precious sleepyheads.

Of course, on a good homeschool day these children – bounding downstairs for those muffins – are clean & bright-eyed, their clothes fit (and match), and their beds are made. I love “these” children. They look good and I can’t help but smother them with morning hugs and kisses.

Obviously, after a good start like this, homeschool is dreamy. We have devotions first, then on to our morning regiment of language arts and math as we gather round the dining room table. There’s peace and calm because our “date-free” lesson plans were filled in ahead of time and my children have direction and a sense of self-worth. They know the routine. Thrilled or not to be doing school (because they are children), they work it. If it’s a cold morning, they migrate to a comfy chair with a velvety smooth blanket or they sprawl on the floor next to the heating vent. (We homeschooled in Ohio – so we had a lot of cold mornings!)

At noon, we break for lunch and relax.  I join the bundled up children outdoors for a quick game of whiffleball (because I’m a cool mom like that) and with all this contentment, the kids are cooperative enough to resume their afternoon studies without grumbling as we move into history or science. We alternate between the two, usually with history on MWF and science on TTH. That’s the fun part of school because it’s very experiential with hands-on science experiments and history-related games and activities.

Wouldn’t you say, we’re one happy family? We are. Then when night time hits, there is a home cooked dinner (because this mama likes to cook); kitchen clean up is a team event; and then there’s romping with dad – which is a spectacle in and of itself. (He’s a nut, thank goodness, and we laugh.)

And just when this could not get more rewarding, there is that last blissful closing time of day, when my husband and I tuck the kids into bed. We cherish these times to rehash the day with some conversation and prayers. It’s a storybook with the little ones and a talk about puberty, again, on the top bunk with the oldest one who worries that she’ll never survive the pre-teen years. I assure her she will. It’s lights out – and we smile for feeling safe and blessed in a world that otherwise aches and groans for redemption.

You may be wondering, did this woman ever really live like that? I did! Rarely all in the same day, but all stories contained here are true. There were many good days in my 17 years of homeschooling our three kids. I loved those good days! But please know – this is only Part I of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!” (There’s more to come.) For now, I want to leave you with a few simple homeschool tips that I believe helped our good days be good. I hope they’ll be useful to you.

Simple Homeschool Tips

1. Homeschool at home. I firmly believe that homeschooling works best from home! So, one simple homeschool tip is to carve out 4-6 hours a day to be home (instead of in the car) at least four days a week. And while you’re home, screen all calls and texts during school hours. Train your friends and loved ones to recognize that you’re “at work” and not available to visit until after school. (This is harder than it sounds – but keep working on it as politely as you can.)

2. School name and motto. If you haven’t already, choose a school name and a school motto to give your homeschool a sense of value, worth, and legitimacy. Our school name was Wimberly Hills Homeschool, named for a little town in Texas where my husband and I honeymooned. Our school motto was Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

3. Undated lesson plans. After much trial and error with lesson plans, I highly recommend you leave your lesson plans undated. This one simple homeschool tip allows room for illness, spontaneous field trips, service to others, and breathing room for stressful seasons of life. You have 365 days to get 180 days done. Pace yourself! (I’ve got an entire workshop on this concept if you’d like to hear more about it. Click here.)

4. Role reversal. Once in a while, play role reversal with students old enough to read but young enough to still pretend. Assign these students something like a chapter in a science book or a language arts lesson. Ask them to be the teacher and present the lesson to you and their siblings. The best part is that they’re learning without knowing it, especially if they make a quiz designed to stump you. Of course, while they teach, you are allowed to act up the same way they do! Hopefully, they’ll appreciate you more.

5. Love songs. Another simple tip is to find a favorite love song for each of your children and make sure they know this is your special song. Here are mine (outdated I’m sure because my kids are grown):

  • Heather: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack)
  • Kyle: “I’ll Always Love You” (Taylor Dane). And yes, we danced to this song at his wedding! (Sniff sniff.)
  • Ashley: “From This Moment On” (Shania Twain). I attempted to sing this one time at a karaoke event. A friend had to join in to rescue me.

6. Favorite chair rotation. If you’re like us, our family had favorite chairs and sofas – to the point that we squabbled over them. So, we made a “Who Gets the Favorite Chair” contract that assigned our seating through the week. Silly? A bit. But it reduced our bickering over the blue recliner!

7. Read-alouds. Last, incorporate special read-alouds into your family life, like The Indian in the Cupboard, Charlotte’s Web, or The Bronze Bow. Read-alouds of classic literature and historical fiction build incredible family memories – especially when you add sound effects, which my highly animated husband did. (If you need tips on historical read-alouds for ancient times, we’ recently posted the first four weeks of our Supplemental Books and Resources for The Mystery of History, Volume I, Third Edition. Look for the new section titled, “Read-Aloud Favorites.” Click here.)

Now, with this vision of bluebirds and rainbows – don’t forget, there are bad days of homeschool too, when nothing goes as planned and you’re ready to quit. I had more of those days than I care to admit, but I’ll save my analysis of the bad for another day. I hope you enjoy these simple homeschool tips and cherish the good days!

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