Homeschoolers have gained back a lot of time with their kids by keeping them home. But it still seems like it’s never enough! So, in the spirit of not wasting any more of this precious commodity, let’s get right to the tips!
The list below includes the top ten ways I’ve learned to save time in our homeschool. It’s organized from very general to very specific – hopefully there’s an idea for everyone!
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Top 10 Time-Saving Tips for New Homeschoolers
Ask for Help
Nobody does it “all” (whatever that means)! Don’t burn yourself out trying to be everything to everyone all the time. If extended family lives nearby, ask them to watch the kids for a few hours while you get some planning or shopping (or napping) done.
Take a few minutes to think about other creative arrangements you could try. Trade babysitting with other homeschoolers, barter meals for childcare with your neighbor or see if there are any responsible, older kids in your co-op who might want a regular babysitting or cleaning job.
Join a Homeschool Group
The modern homeschooling movement is growing by leaps and bounds but it’s still a minority group. I don’t know any homeschool family who hasn’t benefited from joining a homeschool support group or co-op. It helps so much to have a community who is there for you! The group shares the load and provides opportunities that you don’t have to create all by yourself!
If you’re not sure where to start, there are quite a few groups listed on HSLDA’s website and also at The Homeschool Mom. If you don’t see anything close to you, try emailing the leaders of any group in your state and asking if they know of anything. After a little networking you should be able to find at least a few options!
Integrate Learning with Life
Kids are natural learners (unless we get in their way)! Take advantage of teachable moments and use your regular daily activities to teach as much as possible.
Traditional schools have come up with structured ways to teach subjects due to the quantity of students they have and the amount of time they need to fill. Natural learning is so much more integrated and efficient!
Teach cooking by cooking! Teach reading by reading! Watch history documentaries and talk about them over dinner! Look up the answers to their questions! Use curricula where it’s helpful but don’t ever feel tied down – you’re surrounded by natural learning opportunities!
Combine Ages Whenever Possible
You’ll burn out and quit homeschooling in about two days if you try teaching each subject to each grade-level separately. Whenever you can, teach the same subject to multiple ages together. This not only saves time but mixed-age learning is beneficial for your kids, too.
I find it easiest to do this with history, science, read-alouds, art and music. Older kids can take the work to a deeper level but the topics are the same. Using methods like notebooking, unit studies or project-based learning make this even easier since they really encourage kids to work at their own pace.
Train Your Kids to Work Independently
When looking for curricula and planning out your school year, keep an eye on how much 1-on-1 time with you is needed for each student. As your kids get older, you can increase the work they do independently and really free up your time while also teaching them to be more responsible.
This training can start very young and doesn’t need to be limited to academic work. I’ve trained my three-year-old to wrap up the vacuum cord, get her own water bottle refills and organize her preschool supplies. By the time she’s old enough for more formal schoolwork, she’ll be used to doing things for herself and independent work will come more easily.
Don’t Teach Everything Yourself
Homeschool parents don’t have to know everything or teach everything to homeschool successfully. If you like teaching and are comfortable doing it, go for it. But don’t feel like you have to be the one directly instructing your child in every subject.
Some curricula, like All About Spelling, give detailed, word-for-word guidance so you can easily just read what’s there to your kids. Open-and-go, easy peasy.
Other resources use video teachers – either online or on DVD – to do the work for you (some examples we’ve liked: CTC Math, Math-U-See, and Institute for Excellence in Writing). We’ve had very good success with video teachers. It’s much easier for me plus the kids get to learn under other teachers who love & excel in their field enough to create a curriculum about it!
Audiobooks and curricula like Story of the World that provide audiobook options can save your time and your voice while still giving your kids the benefits of the read-aloud experience.
Plan Ahead as Much as Possible (But Not Too Much)
I’ve tried planning school as I go, staying about a week ahead. The result? Constantly feeling stressed, rushed and behind.
Do yourself a favor and get as much pre-planning out of the way during the summer as you can. You’ll thank yourself during the school year when you can spend about an hour a week on school prep work instead of five or ten.
Even with subjects that are pretty teacher-intensive, I’ve found I can create an open-and-go curriculum experience for myself if I get the heavy lifting out of the way over the summer.
One caution though… Don’t pre-print a year’s worth of papers unless you’re really VERY sure you’ll use that curriculum all year long. I’ve found if I print out the first month of papers, that gives me a good start to the school year. Then, if the curriculum is working out and it looks like we’ll continue with it, I spend a chunk of time printing the remainder of pages for the school year ahead of time. It’s a good compromise to make sure I don’t waste a lot of time, paper and ink if we end up ditching a curriculum.
Do Chores WITH Your Kids
This one is a huge time saver (maybe not at first…. but eventually)! I used to wait until nap time or the end of the school day to do most of the chores myself. This just led to burnout and bitterness on my part.
Now we use moments throughout the day to work on chores together.
It’s definitely slower at first as you train your kids to do age-appropriate chores. But it’s so worth it. After the learning curve, they’ll begin really helping. It will save you time and it trains them in life skills they’ll need to learn anyway.
Use TV Time Wisely
Of course none of us wants our kids vegging out on TV all day. But it’s easy to slide into too much TV time if we “waste” it when it’s not really needed.
If your kids are engaged in an activity, schoolwork or a meal, don’t let the TV drone on in the background “just because”. Save it for the times it’s really helping you accomplish something.
For me this means saving TV time for when I really need an assist – like to keep my preschooler occupied for 25 minutes while I finish the delicate microscope experiment with the older kids. And, if I haven’t already let them watch TV in the morning, I don’t feel so bad letting them watch a show while I make dinner.
Use Your Shower Strategically
I used to try and shower in the morning, rushing through it to be ready before everyone else and get breakfast on the table. What a waste of a shower!
I’ve now found it works so much better for me to use my shower as a strategically-placed break right after the crazy dinner-hour. Once dad is home and everyone is fed (and I’m really, really desperate for a break after a long day), that’s when I take my shower. It’s no longer used-up before I’m even awake enough to enjoy it and it’s no longer rushed!
Are you rushing through your shower or Bible study or exercise time – squeezing it in and not getting to savor it? See if there’s a way you can rearrange your day to make the most of your YOU time!
I hope some of these ideas have helped you think of ways to save time in your own homeschool! It really does fly by, so try and be intentional with your time!
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