In past years when I’ve written about experiences as a homeschool student myself, or as a now homeschooling parent; the group that was largely interested in the topic was a select demographic who (in most cases) had carefully weighed out for their family if homeschooling was in fact the right course for them. They had time to peruse curriculum, and often spent months preparing for what homeschooling would look like for their family.

I’m sure it goes unsaid, but this school year is simply unlike school years before. The end of the 2019-2020 school year was chaotic and fearful. Many families suddenly were crisis schooling at home either through virtual or distance methods and were told the experience was kin to homeschooling. As a long time homeschool student and now parent myself- I can say confidently that it is nothing like homeschooling.

We have so many families joining the homeschool train for the first time this year and being told they cannot be successful, whether it’s from outside sources, or their inner voice. I’m here to say, you can do this. But first, we need to recognize a huge difference between homeschool and distance schooling. That is, that you have control over your school days, school week, and school year. This is monumental with finding confidence in what your homeschool looks like.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that “comparison is the thief of joy”, and that certainly holds true when we are speaking of caregiving and homeshooling. For every unschooler in this world, there are 4 caregivers that will let you know that their 3 year old knows all their letters, can do long division, and recite Les Mis to you in French (okay, that may be exaggeration but, nonetheless, it can feel that way.) The same goes for what a homeschool day can look like. Just a quick search on YouTube will show you homeschool days that vary from 6-7 hours of book work a day to unschooling on a remote farm in New Zealand, to a caregiver in Ohio that grows all their own herbs and they read literature in a meadow every Wednesday with freshly baked scones. What matters isn’t what anyone else is doing, it doesn’t even matter if your school day looks like theirs, honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you’re “on track” with your friend’s kids. It matters that your child’s needs are being met, and that your needs are being met. That is what matters.

If you’re coming from Public or Private school, you may be used to a hard start when it comes to the first day of school. We’ve tried that at home, and honestly- I can never make it work. The kids are frustrated, I’m ready to pull my hair out, we can’t get anyone to focus, and I feel like throwing my fresh curriculum against a wall. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite tools when it comes to starting the school year. It’s called a soft start.

One aspect of homeschooling that I’ve spoke to often on the blog is the idea of daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms. For me, they give me freedom with basic structure as a homemaker to keep life efficient yet still have the room to change with my children as needed, for my children, it gives them structure without fully understanding time or calendars yet. It eases their anxiety since they can rely on our rhythms as being concrete in a world that is ever changing. The rhythms that come into play for a school week are vastly different than the breeziness of Summer (and, let’s be truthful- for our family, the pandemic has universally changed what a normal Summer would be for us. We didn’t have the family meetups, lake swimming days, friend time, or other hallmarks of a typical Summer). So for us, we started utilizing the idea of a soft start when it comes to the shift from Summer into school.

What does this look like? Well, we have a rhythm that comes into play for the school year. It often looks like this:

  • Monday: Home Blessing Day & Soup

  • Tuesday: Painting & Outdoors

  • Wednesday: Garden Blessing Day

  • Thursday: Bread Baking

  • Friday: Market

So, as we get closer to the school year, I clean up our week to make sure our mornings are back to preparing for this rhythm. This happens about 2-3 weeks before we start school. It helps ease us into a daily rhythm that allows for school time. Our daily rhythm for Fall often looks like this

Awake & Tidy Room

Breakfast

Weekly Rhythm Task

Outdoor play

Poetry/Reading Tea Time (this is lunch)

Quiet Time (could be nap, puzzles, screens, it’s free governing)

Snack time

Schoolwork

Afternoon Tidy

Free Play

Dinner

Reading

Bedtime

So, as you can deduct, if I take a couple weeks before the school year starts and start to hone in on our rhythm, then we will naturally have a designated place where the children can expect school to take place. Often what happens with a cold start is you are trying to recreate what happens in a school classroom. Show up, be ready, start school. And that’s not how home education has historically taken place. Historically, there’s been a rhythm to a homeschool day if for no other reason than the primary caregiver who oversees the education still has a household (and even secular work) that needs tending to in their day. In a standard classroom a 6-7 hour school day makes sense, because there is a designated person with an occupation solely focused on that classroom of students. However, at home, by drawing your students into your daily tasks, they will learn so much more than just what you’ve taught during “school” time. For instance, we reinforce math concepts and mental math when we have our baking morning and they help interpret and utilize a recipe. They learn about time management when we have to time certain tasks (like how long the bread is in the oven). They learn about money through helping with the weekly market shop. They learn to interpret directions while helping in the garden or participating in housework. They learn that literature and poetry are valuable outside of a school setting when they see you listening to an Audiobook for entertainment, or during family read alouds. If you’re making the mind shift from public or private school, be aware that children are learning through the entire process. 

Now, don’t take my example rhythms as the ideal rhythm for your household. These shift and change throughout the school year and it’s been through personal amending that we’ve found something that works for us. If you have older students, perhaps they do their best heavy book work in the morning over breakfast. Perhaps they have online classes that shape your day. Or, maybe you have childcare for part of the day to allow for your own personal work. Whatever your family is in need of, you can make this work for you, and most likely, you’ll find another family that has similar challenges and they are succeeding too.

Looking for some where to start with your mornings? Enroll in my free 5 Day eCourse on Morning Baskets here!