Homeschooling – Diligence in the Basics

I did what I promised myself I wouldn’t do… I started off homeschooling with too high of expectations. Too many things on our schedule.

Mackenzie loved it… for a while, but although she continued to say she loved it, I could tell her interest was flagging. She was more easily distracted, less willing to repeat something to obtain mastery, and less eager to start in the morning. In fact the precursor to school, her morning routine, even became a struggle.

The very last thing I wanted was for my little four year old who LOVES learning to get burned out on school, so I did a gut check and came to the following conclusions:

1. She needs me to initiate it

I had it in my head that I needed Mackenzie to be “self-motivated” to learn before this baby arrived so that school could continue in some fashion even in survival mode.

But, funnily enough, she was perfectly happy to just read books on her own or run around playing with her little sister all day. She does like school, but not enough to stop playing, gather all the school supplies herself and bring them to me. (Yep, I was a bit naive. 🙂 )

My expectations were not realistic and it became a source of frustration for both of us.

Solution: When I’m ready to do school and she is at a good stopping point with whatever she’s doing, I bring out the books and invite her to join me on the couch. 90% of the time she comes over eagerly and we dive in without drama.

2. Some subjects are more important than others

If we do a devotional, some math, Logic of English, and reading aloud every day that is a home run. Anything else is truly just gravy.

Before, when I had a list of things I hoped to do together for a school day, it was tough on both of us. Mackenzie hated leaving things unchecked at the end of the day but there were plenty of days where hitting every subject planned was jut not feasible or desirable.

Solution: Now the goal every day is to get the “Basics” done, and after those she can choose to do “Extras” (science, art, history, math games, etc.) or just play. I have a lineup of possible Extras for the week and she works through them in order so first up might be art and second might be animal research from her library books, and so on. That way I have some control over how often we hit certain subjects and she can look ahead and is motivated to get to her favorite activities. Some Saturdays we just delve straight into Extras, which is fun.

3. Shorter is better for teaching diligence

I was easily frustrated with how easily Mackenzie got distracted over the course of a lesson. Some days she’d be begging to do more math, other days after just a few minutes she’d be twirling around the room and veering off topic at every opportunity.

I decided that school was taking waaay too long because I had to continually rein her back in, and the sheer length of time was contributing to burnout for both of us.

I also decided that at this age character and learning habits were more important than the amount of content she absorbed.

Solution: Our new mantra became “diligence”. Instead of having a set amount of material to cover for English and Math each day, her chart says “15 diligent minutes” and we set a timer. If she stays on task and focused for those minutes, she can be done. Often she wants to finish the lesson or even go ahead, but if it’s been a frustrating day or there’s something else exciting going on, she can walk away after 15 minutes and both of us are happy. This change in focus has done wonders!

For the past month, I’ve been printing out a chart weekly and Mackenzie has been loading it up with stickers as we go:

So far? So much better!

Flexibility = one of my favorite things about homeschooling


About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
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One Response to Homeschooling – Diligence in the Basics

  1. Katie says:

    I always love reading about how you guys do home school. I don’t know why it fascinates me so much, but it does. Keep ’em coming!

    Also, this totally reminds me of how the at-home preschool routine with Olivia has changed over the past year or so. It used to be so involved and planned ahead of time. Now we focus on the basics and make sure to cover those every time. If we hit on other fun stuff along the way, so be it. It’s made preschool way less overwhelming for me and it helps Olivia know when we’re done (because she just wants to do it all day).

    Hang in there! You’re doing an awesome job!


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