September is an exciting time when the children are eagerly looking at their new books, and moms are hopeful that this year will be the best ever. But merely wishing doesn’t necessarily get you what you hope for. You must take action. Here are some ideas to help your school year flow more smoothly.
1. Start the Same Time Every Day
Set an absolutely non-negotiable start time for your school day. Make it not one minute later than 9 o’clock in the morning; 8 o’clock is better for children past the primary grades. If the children do not start on time, evaluate what is causing the delay. If little Janie is not getting up early enough in the morning, perhaps she needs an earlier bedtime at night. If Johnny has trouble locating his books or pencils, he might need to set up his workspace at night before he goes to bed. If the children are just generally dawdling and uncooperative, have Dad get them up or talk to them before he leaves for work.
2. Make Sure the Children Can Start Without You
Often in the morning, Mom is busy with nursing and dressing babies, breakfast prep and cleanup, and throwing that first load of laundry into the machine. Make sure that the children have some schoolwork they can start on time without you. This should be easy for older students as most of them can follow their own lesson plans. Primary grade children will be able to get started as long as they have a definite idea of what Mom wants them to do. Most children, even kindergartners, can practice their handwriting or do some arithmetic without much help.
If your children are likely to play around when you are not in the room, have each one set up his or her books in a different room – Janie at the dining room table, and Johnny at the kitchen island, for example.
3. Create a Safe Space for the Little Ones
Find a place in your house or in your yard where your babies and toddlers can play with minimal supervision. Especially in the morning when they are rested and fresh, you can train your little ones to play independently for quite some time. Some moms gate the doors to the playroom, make sure the electric sockets all have child guards, and ensure there are plenty of toys with no small pieces on which a baby can choke. During the warm weather months, many younger children are happy to play in the yard, while the students work at the picnic table. Some families have a screen-in porch or a backyard deck which makes for a very pleasant place for either homeschooling or play. If your older children are self-sufficient enough for you to be away for a while, taking the younger children out of the house and to the park or the swimming pool can provide your high school students with some valuable quiet time for their studies.
4. Have Pre-planned Break, Lunch, and Quiet Times
Children who know that they can have a snack and short recess at 10 o’clock if they have finished their assignments, are less likely to daydream or whine about being hungry. During the break, keep the TV off, and while the weather is nice, insist that they get some fresh air and sunshine. A healthy snack and some exercise is the best recipe to keep the children alert until lunchtime.
Usually half an hour is enough time to eat lunch, but I would still allow a full hour’s break from the schoolwork. This gives Mom time to switch the wash, and gives the kids time to do some chores or ride their bikes. After lunch, the youngest children must take a nap. Even the primary school children, who should have finished most of their work before lunch, would profit from an hour of quiet time. (I can assure you that Mom will absolutely benefit from quiet time!)
While the little ones rest, Mom can work with older children on the more challenging assignments like English or book reports. A good practice for all the children is, when they have finished each assignment, to have them check off the work in their lesson plan book. At the end of the school day, Mom can briefly glance to see if any work remains unfinished. To prevent them from falling too far behind, high school students will benefit from an hour or two of evening “homework” or reading for their book report.
5. Keeping Junior and Senior High School Students on Schedule
Seton counselors often receive calls from the parents of junior and senior high school stu- dents who have fallen behind schedule in one or more subjects. I believe a few simple ideas can keep them on track:
- Encourage the students to work on every subject every day. A student who is devoting 45 minutes each day to each subject will not fall too far behind, even in English and history. If they skip even just a few days in math and foreign language, students will lose necessary skills, making it even more difficult to catch up.
- Highly discourage TV in the evenings. It is a better idea for your older students to catch up on reading or finish a math lesson. Even a short thirty minutes of a nightly schoolwork session will have a big payoff.
- If students are struggling with some of the more advanced work, carefully review the lesson plans in that particular subject for ideas and advice. If more help is needed, contact a Seton counselor right away. Do not wait until the student is months behind before contacting Seton for help! Teens often ignore their more difficult subjects and concentrate their efforts on the subjects they enjoy and excel in. This is a recipe for disaster.
- Remind complaining students that their contemporaries in institutional schools typically spend six hours each day in the classroom and several more hours completing homework. Very few homeschooling students are devoting eight hours a day to schoolwork.
6. Family Prayer
The whole family will benefit from some simple daily group prayer activities. Start your school day with a morning offering and the short aspiration, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Let a little one hold the flag, and recite the pledge. When you break for lunch, say the Angelus, in addition to grace before meals. Keep some of those plastic rosaries that come in the Seton boxes in the car, and say a decade, or the whole rosary, if you are driving somewhere.
If daily Mass is impossible in your situation, plan to attend at least every Friday, so the whole family completes nine First Fridays. Find a time for everyone to go to Confession every week or two. We homeschooling parents should not become so busy with the practical concerns of home education that we lose track of the spiritual helps available to us. Pray to your own guardian angel and to your children’s angels, too. Pray to Blessed Marie and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded Catholic education in Canada and the United States respectively, for their intercession in this important work. Model your family life after that of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and remind your children to do the same. God will reward your sacrifices and answer your prayers.
Header Image CC Brimley