Fall 2020/ Laurel Solorzano

Maybe you’re about to start your new journey into homeschooling or maybe you’ve always known that it’s what you want to do, but your child is just now aging into needing more formal education. Many children in early elementary have so much energy that it seems like it might be impossible to get them to sit down and do their schoolwork. Breaking news– it probably is impossible for them to sit still. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn.

If you weren’t homeschooled yourself, you might have certain expectations about what a school day will look like. Namely, your child is sitting at a desk completing pages in a workbook while you stand in front of a whiteboard and teach them new concepts. Honestly, being homeschooled myself, it almost never looked like this through all four of us doing school. And none of my friends described that scene either.

So, what should a typical day look like when you have a child who just won’t sit down? The first thing you have to do is get rid of the picture-perfect image in your mind of a color-coded schedule and desks all in neat rows. I’ve worked in schools with all ages and various group sizes. I know the appeal of schedules and all things school. However, if you feel pressured because things aren’t going according to how you pictured it, then your child will feel the stress. You don’t want school to turn into a daily battleground, so here are three steps you can take to make your school day successful yet easygoing for your child.

Allow your child to have lots of time to explore the world. Early elementary, especially kindergarten and below, should be learning through experience. Yes, they have a lot to learn from books too, but there is nothing like watching an earthworm burrow in the ground to learn about science or counting houses on a walk to learn about math.

At this age, your child really shouldn’t be doing more than a maximum of two hours of structured schoolwork per day (less is even better). As they get older, you can slowly expand this amount of time. However, most homeschoolers I have met through my different teaching opportunities have their elementary students finish before lunch. They will have years down the road to spend hours working and studying. Let them enjoy their free time now. You should break that two hour or hour and a half time into slots, so they aren’t doing it all at once. For example, spend fifteen minutes on letters then let them play while you do something else. Later, come back and read a story to them while they listen, then another break.

Allow them freedom of movement when you are working on structured schoolwork. When I was nannying, we would sit on the floor or the bed, almost never at a table (unless we were specifically practicing handwriting). I clearly remember walking circles around the kitchen table while belting out the multiplication table in second grade. Did I learn it? You bet I did! I just got to do it in a way that got out energy. If your children want to sit upside down in a chair, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do that? This freedom of movement can actually help them pay attention more easily since they aren’t constantly fighting with you about staying in their chair.

Be flexible! If your child is having a bad day (as sometimes happens with a five-year-old), let them work out their feelings first. They are still learning how to deal with emotions, and having them work through their problems is actually more helpful in the long run than drilling the letter sounds again. If you need to take a day off from school because you or your child is feeling sick, then do it! Don’t feel guilty.

Energetic children need the opportunity to move. Homeschooling gives them that opportunity. Don’t force them into the rigors that classrooms with twenty or thirty children have to follow. Follow the three tips above, and you and your children will be on your way to happy homeschooling!

Laurel Solorzano is an entrepreneur and the owner of Your Schoolhouse. She was homeschooled for ten years and looks forward to homeschooling her own children one day. You can contact her at lsolorzano@yourschoolhouse.com.

Looking for more homeschool ideas? Find homeschool support groups in your area and your NCHE regional liaison right here. NCHE also offers a number of online support groups via Facebook. Connecting you with other homeschooling families is our mission! Support our work when you become an NCHE member.