If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know that the last couple years (oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s been years) haven’t been easy on me. Long story short, within the last two years we moved to the States from Germany, I had a difficult pregnancy, I had a difficult baby, I had emergency surgery, I started working full time, I started grad school, I got sick, and I had another surgery and a terrible recovery.
Looking at the last two years, I am not sure how we are still standing, let alone still homeschooling.
But I love homeschooling. I love it. I love the freedom I have to spend time with my kids, and I love the freedom they have to learn about anything they want (current obsessions: inventions, motors, chemistry, cooking, animals, Pokemon and Minecraft). I love sleeping in with them on Thursdays, and baking cookies with them, and dancing in the kitchen. I love what we do… but I am not going to lie.
It’s been hard. I need programs and systems in place to ease some of the weight on my shoulders. After all, there is only so much time in the day.
So how can you ease your load?
Ask for help
First things first, if you are reading this and thinking that you are also terribly overwhelmed, I need you to just stop right there and take a step back. Look around you. There are people in your home. Most of them may be little, but those little people can HELP. Create chore lists, set up a buddy system, “hire” the oldest to tutor the youngest, and designate quiet time for Mom. If you have the funds to hire a mother’s helper or a cleaning service, do it. Tell your mother, your husband, your friends and your neighbors that you need help. ASK for help. Do it now, and don’t look back.
Pick programs that save you time
I am a huge fan of anything that saves me time. Sometimes, that means buying programs that have all the items you need in the package or teachers manuals with scripts. Other times that means online classes and programs that are completely self-paced and independent.
Enter Time4Learning. I’ve been using this program since I was pregnant with Peanut. I can’t tell you enough good about it. It is an online program that covers language arts, math, science and social studies for K-12. Personally, I have used the Pre-K through 2nd-grade levels.
In the early grades, the curriculum is fully animated and interactive. The lessons include cute videos, interesting characters, songs, and games to teach everything from phonics to addition. The subscription includes access to Science4Us for the early grades, another personal favorite of mine.
When they log in, they can choose to do lessons in Language Arts, Science, Math or Social Science. As they go in order through the lessons, the skills build. I love that the program reads the content aloud to the little ones, so even though Little Miss is still learning to read, she is able to use this program. Doodle, who is easily frustrated, loves watching the videos and especially loves the science section.
Time4Learning does include evaluations, and they can even turn in work by saving it to their file. I am able to log in and check the work they have done- from the parent section I can see when they logged in, what scores they got on their work, and what activities they tried.
Doodle using Time4Learning while I check with work- hanging out at Panera between his therapies and my appointments has become a tradition for us.
How is it working?
The kids are supposed to do an hour of Time4Learning each day that I am in the office. I head into the city three days a week, and it’s been hard for me to feel like I am being a successful homeschooler on those days. Granted, I know that we do work in the evenings and the weekends (so, yes, we are doing everything we need to!) but it’s hard. My older son knows that he needs to do some activities from Language Arts, Math and Science each day. This really eases my anxiety about whether or not I am doing a good job with the kids- I know that even if I am exhausted when I get home from work, they have done SOMETHING that day.
And the something they have done is nothing to turn your nose up at either. This program is solid. I want to know that the programs I am using are not just filling time- I want the kids to be really learning. I come home, and the kids can tell me they learned the difference between synonyms and antonyms, or the difference between liquids and gasses. They’re excited about their lessons. They log in happily, and they complete the work without complaint.
Many people use Time4Learning as a full curriculum, and I can totally see how they make it work for them. When we use it, it’s an hour or so a day, but as a full program, you’ll probably need to dedicate a couple more hours to complete all the lessons required. It is a complete program, and if you pair it with journal writing, plenty of reading and spelling practice (spelling lists are available in the parents section) you’re set. You can use the planner tools to lay out a complete year plan with this program.
I need to explore it more at the older levels, but I absolutely can recommend it for the Pre-K-Second crowd, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, I hope you try it for the summer! One lucky reader will get a free six-month subscription for their kiddo- use the form below to enter to win!