The beginning of a new school year is often an exciting time of renewed commitments and enthusiasm. As you work out your schedule for the new year, consider incorporating one or two of these tips from the Mother of Divine Grace consultants. Our consultants have years of homeschooling experience and have found these routines to be helpful for their own family and other families.
- If you are not in the habit of praying together every day, start every morning with a simple prayer. Don’t make it complicated! “Thank you, God, for this day and all the blessings that come along with it. Glory be to the Father…”
- For accountability, schedule a meeting with each child one-on-one at least once a week for each high school student, twice a week for each middle school student, and daily for each elementary school student. This is an opportunity to calmly discuss problems or concerns, look at (not just talk about) where the student is in each subject, and briefly look at completed assignments and upcoming ones. This includes Learning Support and Teacher Services courses, as well as the basic program courses.
- Try to go to a daily Mass; even once a week will strengthen your family and in turn, the Body of Christ. Many people have chosen homeschooling to run away from our deteriorating culture and oppressive government. Let's be sure we take the next step to run towards Christ, His Church, and Sacraments. Only there will we find peace, security, healing and truth.
- Be protective of family meal time. Try to eat the main meal of the day as a family, and don't allow extracurricular activities to get in the way. We truly enjoy family meals and frequently sit at the table together talking and laughing long after the meal is done. Of course, this is much easier to accomplish when one's children are older.
- Try to get to Mass daily or once a week. Stop at the noon hour for the Angelus. And depending on the age of your children, build up to praying a daily rosary.
- Try incorporating some intellectual activities for yourself. Sign up for Laura Berquist’s Church Fathers class (for enrolled parents), read a classic a month with your husband or friends and discuss it, or pick poems to memorize alongside your kids. It helps to have accountability with this!
- Spend the time to plan out what your weekly schedule will look like on paper. Ask yourself questions like, when will we go to Mass? When are the older kids’ Learning Support classes? How long of a break will we take for lunch? Who will practice piano first? When baby is napping, we can have quiet story time! Who will be responsible for what chores? I use Google Calendar and color code each child. Print your schedule and post it on the fridge. Of course, most weeks may not stay exactly on schedule - no worries! But at least there’s a theoretical structure to the day so that when mom is busy, kids know where they should be.
- I eat breakfast with my kids and read these books of the Bible for 5-10 minutes each day while they are eating: Proverbs, Wisdom, Sirach, and Psalms.
- Use family meal time for follow-up conversations. We have had some of our best school conversations around the kitchen table, especially following-up with what my kids were learning in the Learning Support Advanced American Government class and the Learning Support Doctrine class.
- For families with grammar school aged children, I suggest having a "first period" where you are all gathered round the table together. I used to start with a prayer and saint of the day, and then do memory work from all subjects for everybody. Students would go through flashcards on their own or quiz each other for things like math facts and history dates, but I always tried to make time to listen to catechism and poetry myself. Each student's memory work would be on flash cards placed in a "memory bag" the size of the Baltimore Catechism (everyone's Baltimore Catechism just lived in the bag. The bags could also be brought to the doctor's office or on the road if we had a busy day.
- To stay organized, give each child a medium to large sized plastic box with a lid. All of the child’s books and supplies for the year are put into this box. At the end of the school day, all books and supplies go back into this box with the lid put on top. The next morning there’s no: “Where’s my…?!”
- Have a set time to start school each day and a set pattern of how to start. This helps to build a habit of focus. Also, as much as possible, treat homeschooling like your main job for the designated hours. Turn off the phone, refrain from doing laundry, etc.
Thank you to our Mother of Divine Grace consultants for sharing these tips! We hope they are helpful for you as you prepare for the start of a new school year. You and your families are in our prayers!