The Productive Homeschooler: Taking Back Your Time
I’ve been a crazy productive homeschooler lately. Today, my home is clean, all my children got their fair share of time and attention, we’re on track with lessons, I made dinner, and I even fit in a workout and a coffee date with friends.
It sounds impossible, right?
I would have said the same thing a year ago.
But it’s true. Every bit of it.
Except maybe for the dinner part, because while I did *make* dinner, I didn’t quite start the crockpot early enough, or defrost the food completely, so while I am counting cooking as “done” (I did cook)- we’re ordering pizza because I flubbed the timing (and we’ll eat this dinner tomorrow after I cook it another 4 hours or so). Oh well.
This week, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve been doing differently that really turned my (life, home, mood, energy level) around.
How to be a Productive Homeschooler:
Take Back Your Time
Be Early to Rise
The biggest thing to make an impact on my day is what time I get out of bed. I love to sleep in, and at this point, my kids are well trained to get out of bed together, help each other get breakfast, and turn on a movie while staying very, very quiet. No one wants to wake the beast that is Mama.
While this is very nice of my little people, it doesn’t do any of us any favors. Without an alarm, I won’t even wake up until 8:30, and then I will spend a good half hour answering emails in bed, and when the heck am I supposed to get a shower? School starts late, I feel stressed and cranky, and the day is all wonky.
These days, the alarm goes off at 5. I get my workout in before the kids are up, and I hit the ground running with them at 7:30. By 9:00, breakfast is done, I’ve had a shower (and a moment to myself!) dishes and laundry are done, and school is well underway.
Forget Multi-Tasking and FOCUS
I say this gently, but Mama, your job is to homeschool. You signed on for this. Your kids NEED you. This isn’t just something you can brush aside, this is their education. You owe it to them to give it your absolute best.
One of my lovely readers reminded me of this the hard way a couple weeks ago. On Facebook, I said something along the lines of the computer being a major distraction to me during school time. Her response, while totally true and appropriate, stung a little. She said something along the lines of “who is more important, social media, or the kids?”
Hands down, the kids win. When it comes time to do school, we are most productive when I stop multi-tasking, and focus on teaching. In the same vein, I can’t homeschool, and deep clean. I can’t homeschool and blog. I can’t homeschool, and chat with a friend. When it’s time to teach, I need to teach.
Sure, I do things like run a quick load of dishes (I timed it, it takes me about 4 minutes to load and unload a dishwasher) while a kiddo is finishing up a worksheet independently, but I am always within sight, without distraction, and clearly present as they learn.
I really thought I needed to multi-task to get things done. I don’t. I need about 4 hours of focused time with the kids to get ALL their lessons done, and then I have a whole BUNCH of time to do all the other things I feel are important. Give it a try!
(and, on a personal note, to my dear reader who reminded me, I owe you a big, fat, virtual hug. Sometimes the truth burns a little- but that doesn’t mean I didn’t need to hear it. You helped me, and gave me a wonderful gift. My hurt pride lead me to trying things and new way- and darn it, if your way doesn’t work. If I knew your address, I would send you cookies)
Set Office Hours
This applies for both working at home (bloggers- I am talking to you too!) and homeschooling.
Like I just said, I can get school done in 4 hours when I put my mind to it. The best thing for me is to have a set school time. Ideally, school is between 8 am – 12 pm each day. I try not to plan anything within that window to allow me the maximum amount of time to focus.
School time is not really negotiable, and we are most productive when I remember that!
Same thing goes for Blogging. It’s practically a full time job. I need a good 2 hours in the morning, and another hour or two at some other point during the day. And I need time on the weekends. Right now, I am struggling a bit with this, because typically, my “office hours” are between 5-7 am. Right now, I am headed to the gym with a friend from 6-7 which means I have to work later in the day…. these days, I am fitting it in from about 2-4 pm, with another hour or so in the evening when Hubby is home working on school (and helping me keep an eye on the kids!)
When I keep my “office hours” on schedule, it’s easier to avoid multitasking because I know I have time penciled in to get things DONE.
This is another lesson I learned the hard way. I cut way back in the last couple months. I am no longer very active in my local homeschooling group. I also (sadly) stopped teaching art classes in the community. I spend less time on my friendships (which is a bummer).
But- I made a choice. I chose my children, their education, my home, and my sanity. I am good at helping lead a homeschool group. I am a great art teacher. I LOVE having friends to chat with during the day, and I especially love having friends when things get rough. Last year, I loved doing these things… but I allowed myself to be over extended, and I was overwhelmed, tired, and ultimately burnt out.
Sometimes, you have to “choose the great over the good” (another Gem from a friend) in order to be a happy, productive person. Take a close look at the things on your plate, and if it is overflowing, prioritize, and downsize. It may hurt at the moment, but the relief you’ll feel when you realize what you can get done with your new free time is a beautiful thing.
Put a Timer On It
There are going to be days when things get out of hand. Dishes are over flowing, a tired child just can’t focus on their work, and bad attitudes set everything back. Don’t let a kink in the routine set you back.
A tired child who has been working on the same math problem for 45 minutes is not going to miraculously get it all done. Know how much time you want to allow for an activity, and set a timer. In our house, Bug’s math is not to last more than 45 minutes. He is 7. I don’t care that he’s working above his age level, his maturity, and his need for playtime trump how much the book thinks he should do.
When it’s time for math, the timer is set for 45 minutes, and he is expected to diligently work for that time. When the timer is done, so is he. And we move on.
The same thing goes for Mr. Man and his copywork. He needs to work diligently for 10 minutes. When the timer is done, he is also.
For me, I get 2 hours of computer time to work on my blog. When the two hours are up, I am done. This means I work ahead a little on the weekends so I can pull off (almost) daily posts. I love y’all, but I can’t let this blog eat up all my time. I put a timer on it to make sure it doesn’t.
The mostly productive homeschooler
Not all days are perfect cookie cutter days. Today, I am blogging later than I like. Today, I had a coffee playdate at 10 during school hours. The last key (believe it or not) is being flexible, and not letting one change in the plan ruin your whole day. School was interrupted, so my whole routine is pushed back. I don’t have quite two hours to blog. It’s okay- I still stayed focused, I avoided multitasking, and I got school done. It’s a win.
Be gentle on yourself, Mama. Remember your priorities, and do your best- you’ll be well on your way to being a productive homeschooler.
All this week, I will be sharing some of my favorite tools that help me get my responsibilities done quickly and efficiently so I can focus more on being the best homeschooling mother I can be. I’ll also have plenty of giveaways to share, so make sure you’re following us on Facebook, or subscribe by email below so you don’t miss a thing!
Great article on time management & priorities. Thanks.
Finding this blog was perfect! I have just finishedo our second year and not sure if I can do another. I’m in the process of clearing my plate, so that I can prioritize and not have to juggle so much. I’m hoping doing this will help with school a lot. But, I need to adopt what you spoke of, and I think I just may be able to complete another year of school.
I needed to hear this … thank you!!!
Well said! It is the old object lesson where you try to fit rocks and sand into a jar and it only fits if you put the rocks in first… Whenever I try to do what I “want” versus what I “need” to do, I never have time to get it all done. But when I’m good and put the needs first I always have time to get it all done and more.
Love! Exactly what I have been thinking lately and was trying to wrap my head around it. Thanks for your insight. 🙂