The most important person in your homeschool plan is not your kid

In this world, there are two kinds of people. People who buy any old planner and just use it, and people who buy multiple planning products and never really use any of them.

There’s quite possibly a need for a twelve-step program for that last group. 🙂

The people in the last group aren’t wishy-washy. Instead, they are optimists. They are always sure that a better way has to be out there.

So they keep searching.

I can fall into a similar trap in my homeschool planning.

You can read or listen to this post.

Avoid Homeschool Planning Traps

(Hello! Raise your hand if you’ve ever clicked “Buy” on a totally new math program on a cold, dark, tear-stained afternoon in mid-November. I can’t be the only one.)

I keep searching and searching for the better way, the path of least resistance, the greener patch of grass, the silver bullet — any number of cliched phrases that will allow me to rest my weary homeschool mom body and my frazzled brain.

But what if I am going about it all wrong. What if instead of looking for the easy way, I really should be looking for the way that actually works. This, of course, starts by carefully considering the needs and goals of my own children, but it’s much more than that too.

See, there is another huge factor in the “unique homeschool plan” equation. One that I think often gets completely overlooked. And it’s you.

The most important person in your homeschool plan is not your kid Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

Yep, you read that right. When you are developing the unique homeschool plan that is going to work for your family, you not only need to keep your kids, their needs, and the goals you have for them in mind. You also need to factor in Y-O-U.

In order to create a plan that works for your family you need to take into account your own strengths and limitations as a homeschooling teacher. What do you do very well? Where do you struggle? What subjects are going to trip you up? What organizational gifts do you bring to your homeschool? Do you bring any at all? 😉

Free Homeschool Planner

Here’s the deal. Self-motivated second graders (or fourth graders or seventh graders) are not the norm. For much, if not all, of your homeschooling years, you will carry the burden of providing most of the motivation for getting things done in your homeschool.

The plan must work for you or your days will be a constant struggle. Here are a few things to consider about yourself as you build your homeschool plan.

Do you struggle with any of these things?

  • Hate reading aloud? Then a literature-based curriculum may not be for you in the early years.
  • Do you struggle with managing details? Then you may want to go with a curriculum that is already laid out for you with lesson plans and every resource arriving together in a single box.
  • Do you enjoy hands-on projects or hate them? Even if your kids love them, if you do not, then outsourcing those projects might be something to consider.
  • Do you need occasional down-time to focus on your own projects or just to take a break from the schedule? Do you work better with set breaks that you can look forward to or do you do better allowing yourself enough days in the schedule to take spontaneous breaks when you want to?
  • Do you have a hard time sticking with long term plans? Instead of drawing out a plan for the entire year, would you be better served by creating one for a twelve-week term that you can change up at intervals?
  • Do you struggle with direct instruction or commanding your children’s attention? Would you do better arranging for a tutor for tougher subjects or outsourcing a few classes so the kids have another teacher to answer to?
  • Do you do better with the accountability of a small group or co-op? Do you thrive on outside activities and group learning situations? Or do you hate them and feel frustrated or constrained by having to work in a group setting?
  • Do you want every time slot of the school day planned for or do you prefer a plan of just the basics in blocks leaving a lot of room for rabbit trails and spontaneity in your studies?
  • Is it important to your vision to be true to a particular method or are you more eclectic in choosing to do those things that work most easily for you?
  • Are academics your main focus in homeschooling or do you have other priorities that rank higher?
  • Do you love a bustling, busy school atmosphere with kids clamoring for your attention, or do you prefer a more quiet, structured approach where each child’s time with you is scheduled to make sure you work with everyone equally?

You know yourself. The bigger question is will you create a plan for the real you and not a plan for the you that you hope to be. Because plans for imaginary people? They won’t do real people much good.

The most important person in your homeschool plan is not your kid Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

So do an exercise with me, please. Grab a piece of paper (go on, I’ll wait). Now write down the three biggest struggles that you experienced last homeschool year. Be honest — you don’t have to share this with anyone if you don’t want to.

Start to think differently about homeschool planning

Now, under each struggle write down one or two things you can do differently this year that could help solve that struggle. If you’re stuck for ideas, we can do a little group therapy here. I am inviting you to share some of your struggles below if you want, and we can work as a community to share ideas that might help everyone.

Now, with those things in mind, check back next week as we talk about some areas that might trip you up as you start making and implementing your plan. Be sure to grab your free planning pages and get on the email list so you don’t miss that post.

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  • Christy says:

    This year’s biggest struggles-

    1). Motivating kids to do the assignments they don’t want to do-especiallymath and writing. I used Khan academy for a worksheet break, which has helped w math whining, and do “five minute free writes” which helps w writing slumps…when I remember to do them!?Please don’t judge;). Also have a Chinese teacher come to the house and it’s so nice to have another person teaching besides me- though it’s not free time for me, because I’m still learning too! But good to outsource when possible or necessary;)

    2). Going through the whole day and not being able to fit everything in. So much we want to do- and I love the moments when the kiddos are playing some awesome Imaginitive game together, getting along, enjoying precious time together….often I’m saying to myself- we’ll make that time uo later….and those are the things that happen organically, not by time slot…..Not sure how to solve this – it’s my personality..but maybe paring down the academics on certain days to allow for these special moments, and set field trips…

    3). Trying to follow the syllabus, but trailing off after a two or three week stretch….

    Life gets in the way so easily! Family comes to visit! Husband needs help on a project at work! We have a Chinese school project due….

    Would love your feedback/ideas!

    • You sound a lot like me! 🙂 No answers here… Just grace! Lol!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      I like the idea of leaving certain days open for the enjoyable things. Maybe loop scheduling? https://pambarnhill.com/loop-scheduling/

      • Jessica says:

        After years of homeschooling we decided, for this year, to implement tutoring/accountability for the more fundamental subjects like math and LA but the rest we will do on our own (science, art and history). He whole “loop” thing is very new to me and I’m not sure I quite get it…

    • My kids love to play together and its all imaginary, or on the trampoline, or sports. I hate to break them up when they are getting along so well. I always think, “when they are done, we’ll do our book work” but usually, when they stop playing, its due to a fight and not the best time to sit them down. This is our struggle!

      I could have written your 1 and 2 myself! 🙂

      • Jessica says:

        I struggles with this too! Staying on track but letting them enjoy being little and making the most of when they are not fighting!

    • Julia C says:

      3 of my biggest struggles with last year homeschool

1. Focus with my ASD/ADHD [oldest] boy. I’m hoping that the loop schedule will work and maybe just working in small time frames. We already working in smaller batches and took lots of breaks, but I’m thinking that set times to do work is needed, but I’m not sure. Instead of struggling to finished our pages in math, maybe just do 20 mins of math and if we don’t finish we will the next time. I don’t like this totally because I feel like we will get behind. Any other ideas are encouraged.

2. My 4/5 and 3/4 year old causing trouble, ruckus, just overall disruptions from my teaching time with my oldest. This causes him to get distracted easily. We have tons of toys, busy bags, sensory bins, but they always want their mama for this or that.

      3. Getting everything done in a timely manner that I have planned. I understand that a schedule is supposed to be flexible, but I felt behind. The disruptions stressed me out. I’m hoping trying a loop schedule for this next year since my middle boy will be doing K5 and my youngest will be doing preschool can help relieve some stress in our school day. Though, with my oldests disabilities I still worry that my 2 youngest won’t get the attention they need.

      Btw, I’m loving your new podcast Pam!

      • Julia C says:

        Oops…. sorry I replied to yours with mine.

      • Ashley says:

        Julia, I swear that could have been written about us. I spent a small fortune on toys to keep the little kids busy, but they still just want me. My oldest has ADD and anxiety and it gets pretty hairy around here sometimes.

        Prayers for you this year.

      • Jennifer says:

        Julia, I have been in your shoes. What helped me during that time when I had a distractible young school kid and busy preschoolers was keeping it simple. If he’s good at math. Let him do fewer practice problems. For ADD make sure he’s reviewing past concepts a lot or he’ll forget and get frustrated later. I used a free online program, ixl math for math facts practice. I think you are on the right track with short lessons.
        Focus on getting him to read independently. This will serve him when he’s older. My guy is 13 and he disappears to the basement so he can get his work done without the distraction of his siblings.
        That’s all the book work we did. We read out loud, after lunch or in the evening is great. The preschoolers will usually snuggle in and listen and sometimes fall asleep. If that wasn’t working, he listened to audio books about history or science. Both story of the world and apologia science have audio cds or use a Charlotte Mason book list for this, a lot of Ambleside book suggestions are available for free at libravox.org. Blessings!

      • Debie says:

        Just a thought for you on finishing things like math. My son was so hyper, some days. I would have him answer the questions orally. We would go to the trampoline and I would say the question, like 2+2 and he would have to jump the answer and count. A reward he loved when a sheet was done, “Go, run around the house 3 times!” I would time him and we kept a chart to see just how fast he could do it. As he got older, it was push ups, sit ups etc. We did a lot of things orally.

      • Jessica says:

        This is basically my top three too! Following along for advice!

      • Tabitha T says:

        These may or may not help. I can’t tell when you posted this. Nap time was a very productive time for my oldest. When pregnant, I could only work for an hour because I needed a rest.

        My ADHD is very motivated when she only has to do the odd number problems. If she is very careful to get them correct, she doesn’t have to do the evens. I also let the oldest and youngest sleep in a little so I have 30-45 minutes with her before her energy kicks in. She does her best listening while she is slowly waking first thing in the morning.

        When the 5YO is ready to school, things will shift again. Reading before naptime worked well. I also found if I played with my littles or did something fun with them first, their little love tanks were full enough to give me 30-60 minutes of contented playtime before lunch. We did some of my older childs readalouds while the littles were eating.

    • Rakia K. Mason says:

      I find that I am in the same boat Christy. Lots of plans to do as much as possible in day so that my children get a wealth of knowledge for the time being and I feel good to have completed my goals. This year I must get a little more organized and less frazzled.

      • Dawn says:

        You cannot do everything. Your children will have gaps. It will be OK. Choose the most important things to your family and teach them how to learn. If they need it and want it, they’ll know how to learn it some day.

    • Katie McChesney says:

      1. The baby (currently 14 months)
      2. The early preschooler (currently 3.5 yrs)
      3. Schooling a soon to be kindergartner and 2nd grader with very different personalities and learning styles.

      Semi-joking, but I’m realizing so much of my frustration and stress comes from the constant distractions of the littles, constant need for food, diaper change, etc. Basically just meeting everyone’s needs all day long. AmIcrazy?!

      • laura gauthier says:

        Nope not crazy. I’m in that boat too!

      • Eva says:

        I feel the same way. If I’m honest I think “can’t everyone just stop being so demanding and follow my plans?”. Homeschooling has made me realize how much I try to manage chaos by being a control freak and it doesn’t work. It seems that I will get my 5 year olds attention (which is difficult) and then my 3 year old will cause a ruckus and be distracting and all day I am herding cats! Very frustrating. Add my 8 month old to the equation and it feels like I can’t accomplish anything! Then house work… then… then…. I wish so bad I could cram everyone into my tidy little box & plans but no one wants to cooperate! ? I think that most days homeschool is much more about teaching me than them.

  • Beth says:

    I was not social enough fir my children this year. I also tend to get off track if I’m not held accountable. My remedy is to joining more group activities and using them as rewards for my kiddos. We’ve joined a unit study co-op and will also try one elective class (of their choosing) at an enrichment program. I’m planning to be involved in each activity so that I’ll remain committed. When my 3rd & 6th graders complain about grammar, spelling and copy work (or just in general) now I’ll have a carrot to remind them what they are working towards.

    • Anne says:

      Me too! Total introvert.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Sounds like it is working despite you wanting to stay home (I get it! Co-op day wears me out!)

  • Courtney says:

    These are great questions and have given me a lot to think about! In our 8 years as homeschoolers, I’m looking at my frustrations and weaknesses cumulatively–from 3 years in a relaxed co-op situation, to 1 year at home feeling completely lost, to 4 years in a rigorous co-op–I learned that during our year at home, I lacked confidence and understanding of the big picture and was so consumed by ambiguity of how the details fit together. At the rigorous co-op, where I also taught, I gained confidence and planning skills, but I learned that the time constraints, loaded days and inflexibility of the schedule made me feel trapped and miserable. I felt like I lost connection with my kids and saw the days (years) as checklists instead of being full of a love for learning and connection. This coming year, we are back at home. I’m thankful for the range of experiences I’ve had as a tutor. Now that I’m planning for next year, I’m thankful for new perspective, an understanding of my own personality (Meyers-Briggs–what an eye opener), and renewed focus about why I homeschool. Your blog and others have been a huge encouragement and have helped me tremendously! Thank you!

    • Ashley says:

      I also am currently in the rigorous co op, and feel the same way you expressed.

    • Flora says:

      I too have experience a similar situation. You spoke my life. Want to find the joy in homeschooling. We cancelled all co-ops and stayed home this past year. It helped with flexibility and less busyness. But, still struggling with what curriculum, routine, balance, rhythm fits us best. Hubby is away 4 days at a time for work. My daughter has special needs and the constant struggle to get school done has left me exhausted honestly. I hope I find the magical formula soon because I do believe this is what we are suppose to be doing even though the ongoing struggle makes me question it a lot.

      Sorry for the whining. ?

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Maybe a small co-op with one or two other families to help keep you motivated and accountable on the tougher to fit in subjects?

      • I wish I could find a few families that we connect with to do just that. We need to start looking for those families. Great idea!

  • Jen says:

    Due to having to go back to working outside the home, even a teeney bit. (started out as quite a lot, but we have neen able to reduce that to 4dys/mo…).
    *I have become horribly unorganized and inefficient.
    *I feel stuck with our curriculum, yet it is perfect for our logistics-minimum direct teaching from an adult beyond supervision. This means that others can facilitate and supervise my children without taking time away from their own brood just so that they can teach mine in a “special” way. Our. Curr leads to a certain amouny of independence.

  • Sarah Ochoa says:

    We haven’t officially started- kindergarten begins this year- but my biggest weakness is consistency. I seem to rebel against schedules. My kids need schedules. My housework needs a schedule. I set one up, implement it. And promptly begin ignoring it. I do the same thing if a routine gets too complicated. I’m good with simple lol.
    I am doing a lot of self-talk about this now as I plan the school year. We’re going to take it really easy, Morning Time, FIAR and short skill lessons and that’s it for home, with CC every Monday to keep me accountable and feed my completely extroverted kid’s need for other kids. I have been mentally and verbally saying no to a lot, bc I know if we get loaded up I’ll be done by October. I won’t even make it to November lol.
    I’ve been really enjoying digging into all the podcasts here, Pam. I feel like between you and Sarah Mac I’ve got two virtual mentors. Thanks for all you do!

    • Amanda Pitman says:

      Sarah, I can absolutely relate to being inconsistent with and rebelling against the schedule. Funny thing is that I am fantastic at making schedules and enjoy that process, too!
      This past year I tried out the 6 weeks on/ 1 week off idea. (I believe it’s called Sabbath schooling.) We stayed on task so much better doing this. The 6 week stint is short enough that I can convince myself to keep going until the break. We use a curriculum that is scheduled in 9 week chunks but we just stop and take our week wherever it falls.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Amanda’s idea of Sabbath Schooling is a good one six on and one off. With young kids you could even go four on and one off just to give yourself a break from the schedule so you don’t feel stifled.

      • Nancy says:

        Hi Pam!
        What do you consider as “young kids”? I felt that 4 weeks on and one week off would be naturaly best for us rather than 6/1. I have three kids, 7, 4 years and 6 months.
        Thanks

        • Serenity says:

          You’re kids are still young imo

  • I especially love the photo subjects in this post. 😉

  • Flora says:

    I’m a mess! There are few things here that are my strengths in this genre. I do like reading a load, bustling school days with other kids but don’t like the prep work and one of my kids for sure needs individual attention and struggles with focus. The other struggles with staying on task. I am unmotivated and have to push myself to get it done.

    I’m thinking of trying online curriculum in the fall. We are doing reading eggs and Mathseeds at the moment but need other subjects. I piece other things into it but Im not on top of it as I should be.

    The online seems to be the better fit so it frees my time to work with my youngest that had certain needs. However I’m a free spirit that needs time to do my own things and interests, so I’m not really a fan of having them on a computer the whole time either. I have tried planning and setting a routine of subject to cover from day to day for each week and have fallen short on consistency and discipline. Still struggling as you can see! This was a great list though and really spoke to my heart. Thank you.

    I am open to any thoughts. My kids are 7 and almost 9.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Flora – Setting aside time that is for getting school done helps me to stay focused. So nothing between the hours of 8 and 12 except school. By setting that hard and fast rule I stay away from distractions. Also spiral notebooks have been a huge help for juggling my bunch as well: http://amongstlovelythings.com/spiral-notebooks/

    • Nancy says:

      Having a 4 day school week and one day being a more free day to plan interest or fun type of stuff is an idea. I think managing expectations for school is important. Your kids are quite young yet and homeschool is really about layering each year. I think homeschool moms can get quite stressed about each year and worrying not enough is getting done, but it’s a layers process. Each year builds. I think having a set time to do school each day and give it your best and what get’s done….get’s done and what doesn’t…doesn’t is the best and most sane approach. I think learning to let go is just as important as lots of planning and being consistent. It’s a balance.

  • Anne says:

    1. Fatigue, as in chronic.
    By the time I shower and dress, nurse the baby, prod the kids along on their morning routine, make breakfast and breakup fights and ward off toddler meltdowns, I’m done. Energy zapped. Not enough me left to sit and help with school.
    2. Not enough of me to go around.
    Well that’s how it feels most days, but I know better. God blessed me with these six kiddos and called us to Homeschooling so surely there is a way. They are ages 1 to twelve.
    3. Playing catch-up and #2.
    Have a child with some learning difficulties. We have found help in diagnosing but he needs regular one on one time in math and spelling and writing. I can’t give him that and help the other kids too. He can’t sit still for very long. It’s a struggle. So I choose to relax and we all get further “behind”. Accept or troubleshoot?

    And here’s the good:
    We are in a co-op that we love, it takes some of the pressure off, gives the kids art, science, and more plus a day out with friends. It’s an energy zapper for this introvert but so worth it and I enjoy tutoring.
    I enjoy living books and reading aloud. So do the kids. As long as the 1 year old is napping, this works for us.

    Ideas anyone?

    Love your blog, thanks!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Anne – Have you seen this series? http://afterthoughtsblog.net/2016/04/low-energy-moms-guide-homeschooling.html Maybe some ideas there.

    • Sarah says:

      No suggestions at the moment – just wanted to say that I can relate! Currently in the process of getting some long-needed sleep studies done (pregnancies and nursing put them off for way too long!), and hoping that I will soon not be constantly exhausted to the point of tears!

    • Mrs. G says:

      Hi! My eyes welled up with your number 1. My medical condition comes with chronic fatigue and weight gain
      so I completely relate. My advice would be to simplify, simplify and simplify again.

      My oldest daughter gets a weekly lesson plan to check off as she goes. I make a list of activities that I would like to hit for the week in a document I call my “activity bank”. I always include several ideas that are automated or low energy for my worst days. That way I can use the energy I have instead of the energy I wish I had to meet our learning objectives. Hth!

    • Nancy says:

      Dear Anne, my heart goes out to you! Getting some to be independent with some subjects would help. I am a big fan of Teaching Textbooks and they offer a family subscription now. It starts for 3rd graders. Essentials in Writing offers video with their writing curriculum and that is helpful to take a load off mom. Also not worrying about school with kids 0-5. I know there are tons and tons of awesome pre school stuff that is so tempting and all sorts of talk about giving kids a great start with reading and math early, but there is also an old homeschool thought about Better Late than Early. So don’t feel a need to be in a hurry to get your youngers going on school. Give time to your child that needs the extra help and get your olders doing things independently and than you can circle back to your youngers in time. You can provide a good environment of art supplies, books, fun learning games and stuff. Timberdoodle is a good inspiration for that sort of stuff. Thinks like Mystery of History work well for all ages to do.

  • Adriana says:

    Great article. I’ll be reading through this again and writing down my struggles at that point.

  • Sandy says:

    Yes! This is a wonderful post. Thanks, Pam.

    This was our most relaxed year yet. I’ve been mulling over “why?” for weeks. I think it’s because I finally gave up a years’ long struggle to make myself schedule-centric. I just am not. that. structured. I allowed the days to flow. When one of the pieces didn’t fit, I let it go, knowing we would get to it soon (maybe). This was the first time I’d tried “block scheduling”, and I think it was a huge part of why I could loosen up my hold on the schedule and not have school fall all to pieces.

    There were other pieces to the puzzle, too. Older readers. “One-room school house” thinking that inspired me to let my older students read to the first grader. My failing eyes forcing me to spend less time on the computer (a win for everyone). The Charlotte Mason approach that has lots of little overlapping pieces – so there aren’t any gaping holes, even on tough days (months).

    I stepped back. I stepped down. And it was a beautiful, productive, fluid year. With enough, but not too much, structure.

  • Patty says:

    I.NEEDED.THIS!!!!

  • Tiffin says:

    I feel so good and normal after reading everyone’s struggles. I kept reading and thinking ohh I totally feel that way! I am introverted and struggle with needing to plan, but not wanting to be too tied down so there is time for those moments you can’t plan for. I have a struggling learner and that is a challenge. I want to get better at planning our year, housework and balancing working from home. By Gods grace I am being molded and I love homeschooling no matter what challenges come with that. Thank you Pam for your encouraging posts and podcasts!!

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for the post, Pam. It was nice reading through others’ struggles. Nice in that, I’m not alone. One of my biggest struggles is everyone staying up too late and then the next day is slow to start. Why is it that in my former life I had to get up and be somewhere by 8am, worked someone else’s goals and projects and I did it with less challenges. Although my stay at home reward is much greater. My kiddos are soon to be 9, soon to be 6 and a 2 year old. We have always homeschooled and I’ve been at home for nearly 9 years now and I still struggle with time management (learning time, house chores, etc.). This nearly 45 yr. old Mama is loving life though, and looking for my old time management skills!

    I’ve also learned that true co-ops are not for us at this time. With those nagging illnesses during the colder seasons, being and “working” at the co-op was too much pressure. Perhaps when the kids are older. But, we have a wonderful option of taking individual classes at a local co-op which is fitting the enrichment need and being with friends.

    Thanks again for the post and blessings to all for finding the right groove. I keep reminding myself – less is more.

  • Becky says:

    Wow! Doing this was eye opening for me. I have come to really really dislike school time. I love my kiddos but school ugh! Thinking about why is so helpful now I can make a plan to make it better. Thank you for making me think.
    My struggles 1. Dealing with bad attitudes. I am going to start with my own. 2. Keeping littles safe and occupied during school. I have 8 kids. 14yr- 9m. 3. No science or history. We need to do them. 4. Messy house/ meals very late. Going to make a new schedule for kids to help more. 5. NO down time. We have been year round schooling with no breaks. I need a break.

  • Lori says:

    Love, love, love to plan….it’s the follow through that gets me every time 🙁

  • Holly says:

    This was our first year homeschooling. Our kids are 7 and 8 yrs old. My struggles:
    1) I never seem to have any time for myself, or time to dig in to little projects I want to get to in my home. I have 2 desktop computers I’ve been wanting to pull the pictures off of & put on an external hard drive for over 6 months now. I have 4 closets I want to dig into and weed out, and so on. Every day I barely tread water to just keep our house lived-in clean. This bothers me quite a bit. We have NO family or friends to help.

    2) I worry that I’m not covering everything as well as I should (many times because one of the kids becomes interested in something and we get library books, do a lapbook, or something of the sort and yes they’re learning, but we get off track from any kind of schedule). I steered away from any set schedule because I feel I’d be a bear to be around in trying to adhere to a schedule & I’d beat myself up any day we didn’t accomplish things on the schedule. We do math every day. Other than that we do a mix of geography, spelling, grammar, handwriting and phonics as far as “bookwork” at home — with no set schedule. We have 2 science classes a month outside the home, and many trips to the library with lots of reading going on with topics the kids become interested in. While trying to set a schedule and adhering to it brings knots in my stomach, I on the other hand don’t want to leave gaps in their learning either.

  • Kim says:

    Found you and Sarah MacKenzie (Amongst lovely things) around the middle of February when is usually my least favorite time of the school year. Both of you inspired me to keep going. Morning time is now our favorite and loving using the spiral notebooks so I can really see what I’m having my kids work on versus just typing up a plan with more than they can really do in a day. My struggle now is just coming up with a plan for this coming school year as far as how to divide up the school year so we can get things done. I also love my husband for encouraging me as the teacher to take time to learn myself. School teachers go to workshops to gain new ideas and different perspectives and all the podcasts you offer along with Sarah from Amongstlovelythings.com are like my “workshops”. Homeschool moms don’t do this enough and I think it’s why we get burnt out. Take time to listen to these podcasts maybe while you’re nursing a baby or out for a walk or whatever that looks like for you. I thank the Lord for you ladies and your efforts to encourage the homeschool mom.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Kim – Be sure to click the planning tab above for resources on scheduling and watch this space for the next few weeks for more planning help.

  • Shonda says:

    My biggest problem is that I have everything all planned and prepared, but my kids have their own agenda. They are 7 and 5. They get up and play in their rooms until I tell them to get dressed and come eat breakfast and even then they don’t want to comply. I have a hard time getting them to go with my flow. The problem is that I like to get all of our work done before lunch because after lunch is for reading, quiet time and my SANE hour before my husband gets home (way too early) at 3pm. Once he’s home the day is very different. Also, I do plenty of fun things and we took a lot of days “off” just to play or go places. I want my homeschool to be so much different than it is. I’m really working on changing things, but I think the hardest thing is getting them downstairs in the morning. They think that if they come down Mommy is going to make them “work.” We do simple chores and I spend time with each one and their lessons. My question is How do I get my kids on my schedule? It seems like we have more free time than school time and I can’t flip the school to the afternoon because that’s a lost cause. Any suggestions? Hopefully with them being a year older this year I can work with them better.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Could you find two things that they LOVE to do. Start the morning with one of those things. Then schedule the second for when their work is done?

  • Christina says:

    1. Keeping my early readers’ interest, they are bored with phonics and so am I!

    2. Mom feeling fried, tired and overworked.

    3. Busyness – we’re very social and like to be out, but it got in the way of being consistent and our school year dragged out longer than we wanted to get through the curriculum.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Christina,

      Can they read? Or do they still need phonics? If they can read, then drop the phonics. You can always use a phonics based spelling program like AAS to fill the gaps without having to do phonics everyday. If they can’t read then sorry. Got to keep up the phonics.

      Pam

  • Robyn says:

    We made the decision to homeschool both kids (daughter 9, son 5) next year for the first time due to a poor school system in our rural area. I’m excited to take on the responsibility, but I’m not sure where or how to begin! It’s a pretty daunting task. And my biggest concern is that I might have trouble balancing a kindergartener who will probably require a lot of my attention, and a fourth grader who feels left out a lot because of that. Any advice is welcomed! Thanks.

  • Lindsay Ronning says:

    I love this and shared it with my local homeschool facebook group. Thanks!

  • Rebecca Collins says:

    1. Being Consistent – this was a real struggle. Last year was our first year homeschooling and we made the decision in August so it was like playing catch up from the beginning. I made a plan – we would do it for a FEW DAYS (so embarrassing but sadly true) then I would figure out it didn’t work, or maybe it even did..I don’t know at this point…but we would stop. Then we would do pretty much nothing while I felt like a failure. Finally I’d come up with another plan and process would repeat. I think I did that four times. Now we are on summer break which is a joke to me because the entire year was a summer break and I know the kids and my husband are nervous that I’m not going to be able to make this work. I pulled my kids out of school because they were behind and now…well…AHHH

    2. Trying to do too much which resulted in not doing much of anything. I want to do it all (and Pam your loop schedule did seem to help for a bit…it was one of my restarts). I want to do art and music and reading and writing and bible and worship and prayer and on and on and on. In this last year I have come to the conclusion this is not possible, to do it all. But now I don’t know where to go from here!

    3. Math – I was naturally good at math. My kids are not. None of them have the basics. I do feel like I have a direction for math next year…just going through one skill at a time until they master it. Starting with math facts. But because it was a struggle for them and because the curriculum I bought was pretty teaching intensive…it just kind of never happened. Which really worries me because they really need help in these areas.

    I would also like to thank you Pam for offering for us to share and help us with these…because every time I start to feel a little confident in what I’m doing I somehow end up feeling confused and lost.

  • Sarah H says:

    Im on year 2 of homeschooling. My biggest struggle is how to do it with littles/multiple ages/levels….I have a gifted almost 7 year old, a 3.5 year old who begs to do “school” , a delayed/recently adopted very active 19m old and soon to be newborn. Orchesrating all 3 in a way that works has been our biggest obstacle.

  • Jennifer says:

    Pam, thanks so much for all your helpful insights and wisdom! I’m so blessed by your blog and podcasts! I’m not sure if it’s feasible for you to keep replying to older posts, but just in case, I’m looking for advice (and if anyone else wants to chime in that would be great too!)…

    Our biggest struggle over the past three years has been my 8-yr-old daughter. She’s a mover and a shaker (my opposite, God has a sense of humor), very artsy, impulsive, and is currently in OT for sensory seeking and overly emotional behavior. She is a joy but a puzzle, and drains my energy SO fast. She lights up with big art projects and that’s pretty much it. History, math, spelling, writing, anything with rules (even piano lessons)… All drudgery for her. How can I get her from barely tolerating all academics to that true love of learning we all want for our kids??

    I might add, I’m a former public school teacher, pretty type A, and an introvert. 😉 To make matters more interesting, daughter #2 (who I also homeschool) is pretty much my clone. Any thoughts on curriculum choices or other insights would be so appreciated!!

  • Amanda says:

    i have a 7 year old and a 3 year old. My 7 year old needs quiet in the house while he is doing school (and so do I) BUT with a 3 year old running around its hard to focus and help him. Even if I let her color in her chair that doesn’t seem to last long…. Well because she is 3. Any tips? We will be doing school in the morning and she really doesn’t take naps anymore.

  • JULIA CANTLEY says:

    3 of my biggest struggles with last year homeschool

…

    1. Focus with my ASD/ADHD [oldest] boy. I’m hoping that the loop schedule will work and maybe just working in small time frames. We already working in smaller batches and took lots of breaks, but I’m thinking that set times to do work is needed, but I’m not sure. Instead of struggling to finished our pages in math, maybe just do 20 mins of math and if we don’t finish we will the next time. I don’t like this totally because I feel like we will get behind. Any other ideas are encouraged.



    2. My 4/5 and 3/4 year old causing trouble, ruckus, just overall disruptions from my teaching time with my oldest. This causes him to get distracted easily. We have tons of toys, busy bags, sensory bins, but they always want their mama for this or that.

    3. Getting everything done in a timely manner that I have planned. I understand that a schedule is supposed to be flexible, but I felt behind. The disruptions stressed me out. I’m hoping trying a loop schedule for this next year since my middle boy will be doing K5 and my youngest will be doing preschool can help relieve some stress in our school day. Though, with my oldests disabilities I still worry that my 2 youngest won’t get the attention they need.
    Btw, I’m loving your new podcast Pam!

  • 1. not sticking to a schedule- I bought an amazing schedule planning book, that is exactly set up how I need it. I’m scheduling a month ahead and giving myself one day a week to prepare for the next. That means we work 4 days and one day off so I can get what I need done. My goal is to keep giving myself time, stop over-bearing myself with too much stuff.

    2. not making any time to have fun- I can be very lazy. I am trying to incorporate more fun time, like going outside and walking and finding stuff, and Going on more ‘field trips’. I’m looking into becoming a member of our museum and we are already members of our zoo. My now 1st grade daughter loves animals and science. Easy Peasy.

    3. I’m not creative enough – this is my 2nd year of homeschooling and last year I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. This year, I am looking more into a creative outlook to get my daughter to express herself, as well as myself. We are unique and we don’t focus on that as much because I was so focus on what other people were telling me what I “should” be doing. Not this year!!!

    Pam, I have to say, I am enjoying your blog and I just bought your book “The confident Homeschooler”. I’m looking forward to reading it. You have helped me so much already. I look forward to anything you have to say on here. Thank you.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Thank you Crystal. I am so glad you are going to focus on your uniqueness and what works for you!ENJOY your homeschooling.

  • Elissa Tompkins says:

    I have been struggling with our schedule…This past year, I have been requiring the kids to more or less complete a Saxon math assignment each day. The problem is, many times (especially with the 1st and 2nd graders), they take too long to complete. If my goal is that they complete the lesson, then our time for other subjects/activities gets eaten into. It has a domino effect on the rest of the school day. Should my goal be that they do a math lesson for a set amount of time? What do other homeschooling moms do? I fear they’ll fall behind if they’re not progressing through the lessons.

    Also, I struggle with discerning which subjects are an every-day-necessity and which are subjects that only need to be visited a few times or once a week. How do others do it?…what are the daily subjects and which subjects can be put into a loop schedule?

    AND, I have also been struggling with balancing the time I spend teaching reading/writing/math to my first grader (which is time intensive at this stage)…balancing that with needing to have time to spend with my 2nd grader who is really struggling in math….balancing that with being available to help my 5th and 6th grader as needed. I’ve listened to Sarah MacKenzie talk about morning rotations (1-on-1 momma time), which sounds fabulous, but is that possible to do with the younger students who require so much attention as they learn to read, etc.? I don’t think I can give all that teaching-intensive support to the 1st/2nd grader in a span of 45min-1hour. Between using Saxon and IEW Primary Arts of Language for these two, it takes a long time! How do others do it?

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Elissa — Definitely schedule time instead of content. Kids should work on subjects for a certain amount of time (actually when I set a timer my kids often finish within the time set — without the timer they can take 40 minutes on a math lesson). Do some googling around to see good time recommendations for little kids “Charlotte Mason short lessons” should get you some good info.

  • Georgia says:

    I do a lot of planning for my granddaughter for preschool and then I get lax and don’t stay on a schedule and then I get frustrated. I then want to do the teaching another way and then I stop and then I am back to the beginning again, Its a revolving door. There are so many ways or curriculum out there to teach a preschooler that it is over whelming that i just want to make sure she is ready for kindergarten.

  • Megan Kerr says:

    This is my first year homeschooling but I wrote my 3 as what I am having difficulty with now.
    1. Not knowing what to Teach.
    2. Not knowing how to breakup what she has to know for the year into a curriculum/schedule.
    3. What to use to teach her what she needs to learn.

  • Stacey says:

    I love this post. I have been homeschooling for five years – and the interesting thing I’ve noticed is that I need to be reminded of this at every turn. Every year brings new dynamics to our homeschool; each child at a different age, needing to learn different things; my husband’s work shifts; we’ve moved a bunch; etc. No year has ever been anything remotely like the previous year. So what may have worked for my sanity and the child’s needs when the oldest was an 8 year old, with a 6 year old and a 2 year old in the mix, won’t necessarily work for the season of life our family finds itself in when the next one turns 8 with a 10 year old and a 4 year old in the mix.

    Now I’ll share one of my struggles from last year, and how the Lord brought me to peace with an answer for this year:

    This past year, I did not have time to get to all of the teacher-intensive subjects that I wanted to do. In planning for this coming year, I researched and researched about composition curricula, knowing that I had already been struggling to manage our days without that subject. My oldest has dyslexia, and we have intentionally kept composition light while we focused on remediating reading, spelling, and math. Now that it’s time to add in some more formal instruction, I spent a good while feeling completely overwhelmed. I’m the intuitive English major type. I love beauty and emotion. I love words. I struggled in my required grammar and linguistics classes. So of course, I’m drawn to all of the beautiful, rich, natural-language based curricula that are borne out of the classics. They promise to teach grammar in a way that connects, to help children connect with that intuitive sense of beautiful language, and they look like a delightful way to spend time.

    But, what does our family actually need in this season? Well, I’m still remediating spelling, reading, and math with one child, I have another child who struggles to do independent work (because everything leads to a Star Wars daydream), and I have a 4 year old delight whose energy can either be used for good or for harm, depending on how closely he feels Mom is connected. In other words, I have a lot of Mom-intensive stuff that cannot really be removed from my plate. So, should I sign myself up for another curriculum piece that I will struggle to find that 15 minutes per child per day to add? No matter how beautiful and good and rich it is, the answer became clear.

    So, I bought Essentials in Writing, the closest thing to an in-home composition tutor that I could afford. I decided that I would rather guard my time to allow for great read-aloud books and walks outside. I can let the actual writing instruction be straight-forward, structured, and hired-out. I also had to remind myself that children have been home-educated successfully with all of the curricula available. It is ok for me to just pick one, enjoy its benefits, and not worry about what we are missing in the others. I have to let go of the romantic visions of homeschool that I believe xx curriculum is going to provide. Instead, I’ll embrace the gift of a relaxed load and room to breathe so that I can enjoy these beautiful children!

    • Emily says:

      Loved reading what you shared, thank you! These are exactly some of the same reasons I also decided to try Essentials in Writing – in fact when I got to that part of your post, I had to chuckle a bit but also felt relieved that I was not the only one! I will try some other approaches with writing but it will be no pressure knowing I have something structured to use regularly. Letting go is so hard and when multiplied by all the subjects…..ahhhh! Blessings to you!

  • Debie says:

    I am going into my 26th year of Homeschooling. Yes that is a lot. Our oldest daughter is 30 & married, second oldest is 28 & married with 2 beautiful grandsons. Our son is 19 and just graduated, our next daughter is 17 going into grade 12, online schooling. And our very precious surprise package is Jessica, she is 6 and we are in between grades 1 & 2.

    I have no motivation. Though it seems to be picking up a little. I want to be selfish and do my own thing. With aging parents, a handicap brother, a very sick Mother in Law, there is a lot on my plate. I have plans and goals that I would like to do. I know very selfish. At times I really don’t want to be bothered to school Jessica. We had actually signed her up for a Christian school, but the Lord closed those doors by shutting down the school!!! So, I got my answer to continue to school. There are no neighbours who home school and it is hard to find others to get together with. We live in a huge city and to get any where close to visiting people, you normally have to drive miles.

    She is basically being raised with 4 adults and she is lonely for friendship. I want to be lazy and turn on the tv. I do plan to sign her up for swimming lessons. Maybe I should find a type of gym class or something to keep her moving physically. Any suggestions. Is there any one out there raising an only child and struggling with keeping them happy and busy?

    • Nancy says:

      I have a daughter and her older brother will soon be off the college. So it will be her and I. So I am not in the middle of homeschooling an only child. But it’s something I am thinking of. She is quite social. I plan to really embrace this time as special between me and her. I think a Charlotte Mason approach works very well with girls and with an only child. The key is to focus on time together not worrying so much about outside friendships. American Heritage Girls or now Scouts allows girls would be the best option. It offers alot of various activities and lots of promotion for independence. I think the focus on these years being special with just you and your daughter and what sort of interests can you do together, study together. Have her do as much independent curriculum as she can to help, but be careful not to be too independent so you can still focus on that together time. I love the website Simply Charlotte Mason or Karen Andreolas new book called Mother Culture. It’s a very inspiring book in my opinion.

  • Linette Hernandez says:

    This is my 1st year homeschooling and honestly I feel unorganized and lost. My daughter and I both have ADHD with other things but we are so different when it comes to structure. I rather have a schedule but because of her ADHD it’s easier for her to go with the flow. This means when she’s most focused she will work on the harder subjects that require more attention. Keep in mind this is only our second day homeschooling. So we are still trying to get into the swing of it period. But because both of our styles are different it is a struggle for me. Then to top it off I still have to work full-time so she is doing a good amount on her own. Then I have an 8 year old whom attends a charter school and also has ADHD so based on my schedule and then when he gets home we try to fit everything in. This method seems a little crazy for me but she seems to be happy with it. I told her we would try this for about 2 weeks and tweet to benefit both of our styles. I’m still not 100% sure of the curriculum we are using for some subjects but because money is a problem right now we are going with free with allinonehighschool.com. She seems to like it. I feel like my issue right now is I’m stressing over failing her or doing it wrong especially since she already missed her whole freshman year because the board of education didn’t provide her with her home tutoring. I just hope to get it together sooner than later. Any ideas or suggestions are very welcomed.

  • Jess says:

    1. Consistency
    2. Motivation
    3. Time Management

    There’s a company, I think it was Menlo, that figured out that their employees work better when working in pairs. Individually, people tend to burn out or hit obstacles they can’t seem to overcome. However, when working in pairs one or the other is always there to help push through the tough spots or bolster motivation. I’d really LOVE to try this in homeschooling. For our family that would probably mean using Facetime to check in with an accountability partner online to share goals, victories, challenges, and solutions. Anyone interested in trying this idea?

  • Tammy says:

    I have been homeschooling for 20 years. For the most part we have worked through our struggles with different learning styles with different children. Until my daughter who is 12 and is really stuggling with reading and spelling. She just hates it period. I’ve tried making the lessons around what her interest are, like Little House in the Prairie, early American life styles. She only wants to watch videos , they are education ones but videos none the same. I really want her to try and read more, but as soon as I mention it, total break down. I’m at a loss as how to go about reading. Any Ideas ? Thank you !

    • Joanna Rammell says:

      Sounds like dyslexia about which are many misconceptions. Knowing what it was really made profound sense. We finally figured it out when my eldest was 9. She’s 14 now. http://Www.homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com has a ton of information.

  • Kim says:

    We just finished our 7th year homeschooling. We started homeschool when son #3 was 13/8th grade and son #4 was 7/2nd grade. I am down to the one child at home; he’ll be 9th grade this fall.

    I really like the curriculum we landed on a few years ago (My Father’s World). I need everything laid out, but I have found I don’t like the grid schedule. However, I find it daunting to somehow take all that information and transfer it somewhere else. I’m hoping the auto pilot will help?

    I am the queen of procrastinating… great intentions, but don’t always follow through. I also struggle with trying to get things done around home and at the same time stay focused on my son and homeschooling. I am not a self-disciplined person; rather scatter brained at times, and I’ve had ongoing health problems since March.

    My son is on the local swim team (which he really likes and is good at) but it’s 25 miles away, so daily practices take up a lot of our time. We are gone at least three hours a day, and that’s with no errands before or after. We also participate in an enrichment-type co-op that runs once a week for six weeks, twice a year, 8-noon. I also deliver lunches to my husband and two other men every week day on the farm April through November.

    Besides the procrastinating issue is time management. Sometimes things get so helter-skelter. A lot of distractions and interruptions.

    Thanks for any advice and/or encouragement. 🙂

  • Joanna Rammell says:

    1) Consistency-Actually having a plan that works even when I’m physically down health wise, and actually doing it. My health has improved dramatically in the last 3 months. So that’s good.
    2) Being completely derailed when my children have bad attitudes or breakdowns over little (to me) stuff.
    3) My own perfectionism- feeling like I need to do everything and just so. At this point I have at least 16 hrs a day of stuff I am trying to do. Obviously impossible. Paralyzing.

    I have four dyslexic, ADD/ADHD, executive function, sensory, auditory, and visual processing challenged children. I was homeschooled myself, am a mathematician, and reason #5 on the autopilot page nailed me. I can’t remember being so perfectly nailed.

    I have been getting a ton of insight and help recently from HomeschoolingwithDyslexia.com. We are having breakthroughs and making progress. But I still stare
    at all the schooling and therapies I need to do…and freak.

  • RTaylor says:

    Lack of accountability
    Loss of focus–enter drudgery
    Late starts=no work
    Failure to plan=plan failed

  • Emily says:

    Picking only 3 is hard! But first I wanted to say how much of a relief to read Pam’s comment “you will carry the burden of providing most of the motivation for getting things done in your homeschool.” I found this freeing because I often feel like I’ve failed when my kids aren’t as motivated as me about school! So my top 3 struggles are:

    1. Everything feels teacher intensive even with curriculum that supposedly can be done somewhat independently (grades 1 and 5), and just not enough time to devote to each child/subject – I do try to let them work independently whenever possible, but sometimes it backfires (child gets distracted, does not truly understand the material, etc.) and we end up spending more time

    2. Getting kids to really pay attention, focus, and maintain positive attitudes! Often, the bickering, whining, and daydreaming can really wear me down no matter how enthusiastic I am about school.

    3. Knowing when to prioritize certain subjects/skills over others – hence I often feel an urgent need to fit as many in the day as possible (e.g. my oldest is generally weak on language arts, but I’m not sure if I should focus on reading first, or spelling, vocabulary, grammar……)

    If I could add a 4th struggle 🙂 – when choosing curriculum, I like to balance teacher-intensive materials with some that are more hands off, but knowing which ones are suitable for particular subjects is hard!

  • Shelise says:

    I struggle with a lot of things. Ha ha!
    1. 11 year old gets super frustrated when he comes upon something that is hard or he got the answer wrong. He then wants to bail on the assignment. He doesn’t like being corrected. He takes it as criticism. It is exhausting to motivate and sometimes want to just forget the whole dang assignment too because I’m afraid of a melt down.
    2. I set a schedule and have high expectations and we do good but At times I feel burnt out. I become not excited about the curriculum anymore as does my so. Feel tied to my plans. Feel like if we don’t do everything I paced out for the year I failed and my son won’t get what he needs.

    3. What does my child really need? What subjects can I put aside and pick up maybe another time and he will be okay. It’s like this huge list-grammar, spelling, writing, vocab, math, science, history, and then there is the extra little things like typing, world language, reading for fun, logic, nature, music, art etc etc. I feel like I give up all the super fun cool stuff because we barely have the energy to do our core subjects. Homeschool has become public school at home! Bleh!!

  • Valerie says:

    I feel like we do nothing but struggle. I have 6 kids ages 9 mo to 13 yo, 4 of them school-age. The school-age ones are all dyslexic and 3 would likely qualify for an ADHD diagnosis. We’ve been homeschooling for 5 years. It’s so hard. I guess the biggest struggles are trying to manage the 2 yo and baby during school time (especially the 2 yo), and needing to have some time to work individually with each of the others because I can’t handle everyone at once and they can’t focus like that anyway. I do have two of my olders spend some time individually playing with the 2 yo but that still leaves the baby and still isn’t enough time. We already use a reading tutor, Teaching Textbooks math for the ones that are old enough for it, and I choose non-teacher-intensive subjects as much as possible. Idk what else I can do.

    • Tana says:

      I can totally relate. I have 6 kids too (2-9). I’d love to hear any advice as well.

  • Nancy says:

    Pam, I would love for you to address expectations. Reading through these comments makes me think that we homeschool moms have alot of expectations for ourselves and kids. I have been homeschooling for 17 years and I have seen such an increase in stress with homeschoolers worrying they are not doing enough or doing it right. I seen an increase in outsourcing not because of need but because of doubt that being home is enough. The world is racing 200 mph and homeschoolers are starting to feel like they need to be in that race as well. But the point of homeschooling is to get out of that race, do things differently. Don’t try to keep up with the same crazy.

  • Marika says:

    Running back and forth between 2 very different kiddos! My eldest, 9, likes to study in his room. Quiet, alone. He only wants to do what he wants to do (reads voraciously, independent math stuff) and I have to push hard to get him to let me give him a lesson! Haha! Meanwhile, my younger, 7, is VERY attached and wants to do everything WITH MOM! Both complain and howl when it comes to writing time, though they’re both great writers. Lol! I’ve noticed that overall, less is more. But how to balance getting in the “practice” subjects while letting the days take a natural rhythm… (this seems to be a common question!)

  • Tana says:

    I love you Pam. I bought your Plan Your Year book last year and it truly helped me feel better about and more prepared for the year ahead. After going thru the book, I thought I had all the answers, and I was good to plan this year. But then I started planning only to have a road block. I get your article here and breathe a sigh of relief to have steps to analyze things I didn’t like about last year and help to change it up. I’m so thankful for you!

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