homeschoolingThis week, I talk about the lessons I learned from homeschooling my kids in January 2016. How’s that for lack of a rambling introduction? Don’t get used to it, people. I just happen to be tired and lazy today.

1) Rearranging a room makes a HUGE difference! Both to productivity as well as usage of things!

I changed the configuration of our front room so that the focal point became the work space. Then I moved the art supplies into easy reach (as well as a bunch of other stuff). This allowed the space and supplies to be used a LOT more (almost every day!!) and made the room far more useful.

I would show you better before and after shots but you all know I hate taking and editing and posting photos. So, you’ll just have to make do with these. Mediocrity has its perks.

Before 1

Homeschool Room Before 1

Before 2

Homeschool Room Before 2

Before 3

Homeschool Room Before 3

Homeschool Room After

Homeschool Room After

2) Learn from preschools and set up activity centers.

My house is crammed full of stuff – both educational and otherwise. However, my kids tend to play with the same things over and over again. Not because they don’t enjoy playing with other stuff. It’s just not top of mind for them.

So, if I want my kids to play with their Magnatiles or stickers or sensory bins or logic games, I cannot wait for them to tell me. If I do that, I will be waiting until I die.

I have to bring the stuff out. I know this. And yet, it seems I have to constantly re-learn this lesson.

3) Just like with the previous point, sheets and sheets of stickers (or mounds of dress up clothes and shoes in a bin) is incredibly overwhelming.

img_6599I kept getting frustrated that I had so many awesome stickers that we bought at the Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory tour, but my kids didn’t really enjoy playing with the stickers even though I know they LOVE stickers. I recalled having the same frustration with those huge Melissa & Doug Sticker sheets.

Then, one day while at the kids’ swim class, I noticed how the stickers they kids get to use for their passports (they earn achievements and get stickers for each level or skill they accomplish) were cut up – and often in whatever odd shape to accommodate the actual sticker itself. But the kids LOVED to riffle through them and carefully chose their stickers.

img_6598So, I decided to go home and cut up all our sheets and sheets of stickers into either individual stickers (which I stuck in a used take-out container), or cut up the sticker strips into quarters so the sticker sheets were now a lot more manageable. Then, I put them all in the center of the table, gave the kids a bunch of construction paper, and told them to play.

They went to town.

The corpses of sticker liners were EVERYWHERE. I was so pleased. FINALLY!

Likewise, the dress up clothes and shoes were easier for the kids to play with when I put items on hooks, shoes in a shoe holder, had separate bins for scarves and accessories, etc. So, I AGAIN, rearranged the dress up closet (aka: the Harry Potter closet since it’s under my stairs).

Dress up closet 1

Dress up closet 1

Dress up closet 2

Dress up closet 2

Dress up closet 3

Dress up closet 3

This also worked with crayons and markers. Instead of having a huge overwhelming assortment of crayons and markers, I would only bring out a few at a time. Then the children were no longer bombarded with choices and had a much easier time using crayons and markers.

4) What’s the point of having stuff if I don’t use it?

This is a constant problem I have. Although I am much better than I was before, I still have to physically squash my horror when I see my kids (and my friends’ kids) careless blow through those expensive Rainbow Colors Scratch Paper thingies (affiliate link). I have to remind myself that if the kids don’t use them, then that’s really when my money is wasted.

Also, I have tons of art supplies, but I never remember to use them. And when I do remember, I consider them too “precious.” I cannot tell you how long I had those Scratch Papers. I want to say I had them at least two years before I finally brought them out this month.

All these supplies are worthless if they aren’t used.

5) Boundaries are important. So is mindfulness.

It took talking to my therapist to figure it out, but she finally told me to be mindful of when I was getting frustrated or angry at Cookie Monster and Gamera.

Often, it was because Cookie Monster would want to do math workbooks while I was making dinner, and then because Cookie Monster was doing it, Gamera would want to do her math workbooks, too. And then, because neither of them can read English, I would be answering all their questions – sometimes simultaneously – while I was busy trying to make dinner. Did I mention that Glow Worm would often be cranky because he was hungry or wanted me to pay attention or wanted to see what I was making for dinner and he would also be bothering me?

Gah. Just thinking about it makes me wince.

Anyhow, I started to tell the kids, “No.” Or, “Later.” Or I would tell them that I was starting to feel annoyed or crazy and that I didn’t want to yell at them. Did they want me to yell at them? Of course not. So let’s wait until after dinner or tomorrow to finish these pages. Or I would ask them to take turns asking me questions and wait. Or to do something else.

Once I was aware of this dynamic, it was much easier for me to gauge my mood before even suggesting they do an activity.

I also knew I would get super mad at Cookie Monster when he was practicing piano. And I knew that I didn’t want to be that way because I didn’t want him to associate anger and screaming with piano lessons. So, I stopped sitting next to him unless he specifically requested me to. And often, even when he wanted me to, I would ask him if he was sure.

Usually, I would only play his pieces for him or sit with him on the first day he practiced. After that, I would no longer even be in the same room or make suggestions. He did things much faster and was much happier. So was I.

Boundaries are awesome.

Alright. Those are the main things I learned for January. (Most of them were things I already knew about education, child-rearing, and life. But hey, I never said I was a quick study.)

Thanks for reading – and I hope they proved useful and transferable even outside of homeschooling. I have found that most of the lessons I am learning while homeschooling are actually just life and character lessons that I should have learned when I was a kid.

I guess it’s a good thing I have three kids to practice on. Too bad for them, though!

Have a great Monday!