When I began my journey, 12 years ago, of schooling my children at home while working, I felt like I was always on the job. It was exhausting! Not unlike the first year of teaching for school teachers, the first year of schooling from home tends to be the most difficult as you catch your stride.
I have taught teachers both in professional development settings and as tenure-track university faculty (see www.mapsfoundation.com/about-us). Advice that I offer to both first-year teachers and first-year homeschool parents is that your first year is about survival, not about being the best of the best. Like running a race, you must pace yourself to finish. Finishing strong is your goal this first time out. In further years, you can and should try new things and grow in your craft.
So what should be your focus? First, decide your educational priorities. What do you feel is the most important knowledge, skills, and mindsets to develop as children grow and mature? Put these things first. In my home, knowing God comes first, second comes teaching responsibility and respect, third in priority come the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Other subjects follow. In practice, this means Bible study and a song accompany breakfast, straightening the house as a family comes next, and quiet writing is third while I review my emails and work schedule for the day. A child with attention issues is sitting next to me so that reminders to keep writing can be given every few minutes until the child is finished. Recess is next, and math falls after lunch. The other subjects are taught in a more informal and playful manner. Reading snuggled on the couch is fun in the afternoon, and watching a Discovery Channel film or “How It’s Made” might cover science and social studies that particular day. Listening to audio CD’s of literature and social studies curriculum are also favorite pastimes while doing chores or playing with legos. When my older son was a teen, he took a number of online classes through the local school district which allowed him to participate in sports. As each subject and chore is completed, the child checks it off of the daily list for attendance purposes. At the end of the list, rewards cards get signed (25 cents per task if it was completed without being told to do so).
Your homeschool structure will undoubtedly vary from mine. Schools are providing guidance and structure for learning online, and it’s perfectly fine to lean on them for academics as you find your way. However, don’t beat yourself up if your child is not getting the same strict academic schedule that they are used to at school. If you are faithfully guiding children through the learning process, learning will come--even if it seems haphazard and hit-and-miss at times.
Gradually, your skill as a project-based homeschool, work-at-home parent will develop. You will find less time for social and other activities. Yet, I have found the sweet trade-off to be more time with my children, better behaved children, and in the end, more love at home. Keep your priorities up front, and enjoy the ride! At first it will feel like you are “always on”, and this is normal.
I am reminded of the age-old parenting advice, “...thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
MAPS Sample Children's Chore Checklist https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eRNzeU1p09vfowjAePKveLSipatAk6Gi1Hu-UTMFeWw/edit?usp=sharing