children homeschooling at a table
Family Homeschooling Kids Reading/Books Top Tens

Helpful Habits for Homeschooling

(All photos in this post are by my friend Amy, on Instagram as @amy.law.)

three children doing schoolwork at a table

Before you start the homeschool year, it’s always a good idea to establish some habits.–helpful homeschool habits that will help you keep your sanity throughout the year. So when the baby is crying, the dog is barking, the third grader is not “getting” multiplication, and the preschooler just wants to go outside (again!) , you can lean into an established routine and process to keep everything running smoothly– or at least at survival level.

My list is by no means exhaustive, and I didn’t always do each and every one of these things daily in my former homeschool life. I have learned a lot since then, re-evaluated how I did things, and made a list of what I would do differently. So that if any mom asked me for homeschool help, I would better be able to come to her aid, now that I’m looking back. Here is a mixture of things I did everyday and things I would do everyday if I went back and homeschooled all over again:

List of helpful homeschool habits:

I would get up before the children when possible. I get it… newborns do not always go with the program and may be up at 5:00. But if you are able to, I recommend getting up an hour earlier just for your own peace and quiet. Get dressed and put on some makeup, read, pray, have a cup of coffee by yourself while looking out the window. This will set a tone of peace for the rest of the day. Jennifer L. Scott, author of the Madame Chic books, swears by this tip. She should know– she is a work-from-home mom, has four kids, and homeschools.

I would take the time to put on something I enjoyed wearing, apply a light makeup look and do something with my hair. I learned a long time ago that if I feel that I look decent, I feel better overall and my day goes well. I’m only talking about any casual outfit you actually like, a 5- minute “no makeup” look, and a cute ponytail or bun. So you feel like you didn’t just roll out of bed. If you’re not in that habit because it’s just you and the children, I challenge you to try it for a week. Feeling good about your appearance can make all the difference in your attitude.

I would make one breakfast for everyone. It was so tempting for me to have the children get their own breakfasts when they were old enough, but this has the potential to devolve into chaos. What do you do when one wants cereal, one wants scrambled eggs, and one would really love oatmeal and toast? (I have given the children that freedom, and ended up with a messy kitchen!) The answer was to make one of those meals for everyone each day, varying the meals so that we had had everyone’s preference by the end of the week. The children came to a breakfast that was already on the table, saving time and clean-up.

I would have a morning checklist for each child. Depending on their ages, each list will look different. Here are some examples:

Nine year old:

  • Make bed
  • Brush teeth
  • Pick up dirty clothes and place in hamper
  • Help two year old with same tasks

Five year old:

  • Make bed
  • Brush teeth
  • Pick up dirty clothes and place in hamper

Two year old

  • Pick up dirty clothes and place in hamper
  • Make bed and brush teeth with help of nine year old

With a little training before the school year starts, these habits can become routine and save a lot of time and work for Mom. Something I wish I’d done more often is play music while we did morning chores, and use charts and stickers as incentives.

children doing schoolwork at a table

I would have set hours every day that we did school. These of course can be flexible…. what if someone has a dentist appointment or there’s a thunderstorm during the night, and you have frightened children who can’t go back to sleep? For the most part, though, if you start and finish around the same time everyday, everyone knows what to expect and children (and Mom) feel calmer and are able to accomplish their daily work.

I would do subjects in a certain order. If you have multiple children, you may do some subjects all together and some individually, helping one child while another works independently. It is a good idea to do the subjects in a certain order. For one thing, knowing what to expect helps children stay calm and focused (the #1 reason I stress helpful homeschool habits). It also helps lessen any confusion or disorganization, resulting in a smoother school day.

I would incorporate some time for each child to work independently. We called this “seatwork.” If there were worksheets to fill in, and the concept had already been learned, I used this time to clean up the kitchen from breakfast, throw a load of laundry in the washer, or nurse the baby. I checked the work when it was finished, and went over it with each child. As children get older, more of their work will be independent, but in the early years, this is a small part of the day.

I would have afternoon rest time every day. For the kids. And me! My friend Tricia, author of Help! I’m Homeschooling and the queen of helpful homeschool habits, explains the necessity and the process for rest time. I did this when the kids were little, but not as much when they were older. However, I should have! Rest is important for both one’s physical AND emotional health.

child playing with shapes at table

I would incorporate more fun into our day. Sometimes, we added music to our morning. We had dress up days– dress like your favorite super hero, book or tv character, historical figure. Show and tell and pizza Mondays and art time became favorites. We acted out events from history. Anything that enhances either the subject being studied or just makes the day better in general. Here are some ideas from my “Things to do when you’re stuck at home” list. Many of these can be adapted to a subject your children are studying. Make a collage of nouns, for example, using old magazines. Or draw the outline of your state on the pavement with sidewalk chalk. Label the capital and the major cities. There are so many possibilities!

I would take myself way less seriously. This depends on the person– I know some people are the opposite and need to take things MORE seriously! 😉 But if you tend towards perfectionism, just throw it out right now. Children are not miniature adults– they are little human beings who make mistakes and need nurturing as they grow. It’s ok if they don’t get a concept for awhile, or they spill juice all over their math test, or you have to change up the lesson because a younger child just can’t sit still today. This too shall pass, but a child’s memories last a lifetime.