There is an eternal law decreed that for every X number of good homeschool days, you will have to endure 1 bad homeschool day.
Calculating the frequency of bad homeschool days is an easy matter. Simply multiply the number of children you have under 5 by the number of children you have going through puberty. If you are pregnant or nursing, multiply this total by 2. (If you are morning-sick, overdue, or having nursing problems, multiply this total by 100.) Add the number of insensitive comments made by your husband since dinner last night. Divide your new total by the number of hours of sleep the students got last night, or the number of hours the teaching mother got last night, whichever is less. If students have eaten junk food within the last 8 hours, add 10. Divide by the number of days in a year and there you have it!—a completely accurate forecast of today’s chances for a blooper day.
A simpler approach is to focus on prevention. Although much of what can goof up our homeschool is totally out of our control, we can do something to help. Planning works wonders in preventing those dreadful days when nothing seems to go right, confusion reigns, and nobody really enjoys school.
I have trouble finding much spare time in which to do school planning. When I pondered this, I decided it would be better to spend that time with my child rather than alone, preparing materials for my child to use. I try to only buy programs and books that can be used with very little mother preparation time.
I do take 20 minutes, either right before we begin school (while children shower and dress) or the night before, to pull together a few ideas and books, pictures, etc. to teach a short lesson to all my children at once. We begin school together with the pledge of allegiance, song and prayer, and then we usually have a 30-minute lesson on something of interest before the children break up and go to their quiet study places. I choose the lesson topic either from our prescribed subject of the day (Monday = history, Tuesday = geography, etc.) or from something interesting in the news or weather (such as our recent record breaking windstorm), or a special holiday. If I find an unusual rock on my daily walk, I’ll bring it home and we will examine it, try to identify it and learn about it. It can be fun to flow with whatever we have been talking about as a family that they have been curious about.
I used to try to teach my children in-depth unit studies only to be disappointed as the oldest child wasn’t challenged and a younger child dissolved into tears because it was too difficult. Unit studies work best if you keep the group lesson brief and geared as a jumping-off point. The younger children enjoy the pictures or books presented, and the older children often have their appetite whetted sufficiently to look at the more in-depth books later. Best of all, it is a discussion in which we enjoy exploring a topic together, benefitting from each other’s input and relishing learning something new. Obviously, this works best if Mom is prepared.
The best teacher preparation is your lifetime of reading, listening, learning and experience. Some days you can almost ad-lib teaching school if you are well read and informed. Just consider teaching a little 5-minute spot on fire safety, for example. You could do it because no doubt you have some personal experience with a fire accident or seeing a fire. No amount of preparation can make up for your first-hand experience and maturity. So, see, you are better prepared than you think!
Preparation also means having a plan for your children to follow in their studies. Believe me, I have learned from experience that several children all asking what they are supposed to do for Language Arts at the same time does not make for smooth sailing. Devise some type of student planner so that your child can see his assignments in writing, can check them off when complete, and can have a sense of accomplishment every day. When I get too far behind to write up their assignments ahead of time, I just have all my children open their planners at the beginning of school and I dictate what they should do as they write down their assignments. (Everybody do one lesson in your math book, practice your music, write a letter to Grandma, etc.) This is not the recommended way to get a meaningful education, but it works in a pinch, and it is better than taking one more day off or waiting to start school until you are organized (which usually means around noon!).
Having just recently had a real mess of a homeschool day, I’ve had a fresh glimpse and renewed my perspective on the necessity of taking this matter of educating your children seriously enough to be prepared. There are enough dirty diapers, spills, and last minute crises to add excitement to life. You don’t need a bad homeschool day too!
May I recommend: