The number one thing I am always trying to create in my homeschool is some breathing room. I want simple, relaxed days, and less busyness. Over the years I have found sneaky ways to find more time in my homeschool day. And, this has allowed me to fit in everything I want without being overwhelmed. And, to enjoy my kiddos and the whole homeschooling process more fully. The main ways I find more time in my homeschool day is through combing subjects and counting some non-traditional things as learning.
Teaching subjects together is a quick way to cut things out of your homeschool day. It makes your time more efficient and stops wasted energy and time spent on redundancy.
The other very important point is that it makes learning more natural. We don’t learn any subject in a vacuum. Everything in life is interconnected and part of something else. Embracing this in our homeschools simplifies our days. And, it makes all of your child’s learning more relevant to them.
As a public school graduate, I started my homeschool journey preprogrammed to think that homeschool had to look like public school with subjects blocked off and separated. But, over the years as I’ve thought about this and practiced it, I’ve realized it doesn’t make sense. And, is actually harder to do. Now, I would find it difficult to teach history without also touching on social studies and geography. And, a lot of you would probably agree. That’s the beauty of purposefully combining subjects. Especially in subjects like math, which tend to get left out of combining.
Stuck in a corner alone, the subject of math can, unfortunately, be hated by our kids. My son, for one. But, when I started combining math with other subjects specifically ones we love, like history, it really changed things for us. Check out this post on how I combined history and math this Thanksgiving by Measuring the Mayflower with my kiddos.
Below you’ll find my top 10 sneaky ways of finding more time in my homeschool days.
Read-alouds are the number one way I simplify my homeschool. Books are an extremely easy way to introduce topics, share ideas, spark discussion, introduce your kids to new vocabulary and so many other things. We always have a book going and it is one of the easiest things I do all day as part of “school.”
I can take it in the car, I can read it in the morning or at bedtime, or often both. In the middle of lunch or outside on the beach or sitting under a tree. It is joyful, effortless and essential.
Remember to count all the hours you likely read bed-time stories at night towards your learning. My family uses our current read-aloud as our bed-time reading and you better believe I count that towards our learning. In fact, it has often been the best time for us to read and talk about literature because my children love to delay bedtime. And, one of the perks is that it’s natural and doesn’t cause me any scheduling stress.
Unit Studies are a fantastic way to simplify your days. Specifically, they help when you’re homeschooling multiple ages, different learning styles, or catering to special learning needs. I have found them to be a huge help to me for these reasons.
They don’t have to take a lot of time or encompass every area of a subject, either. In fact, I love using unit studies because I get to pick and choose what will work for each of my kiddos.
Unit studies also work well when you want to expose your child to a subject they may not have chosen themselves. It can be a great way to provide an overview of a topic you feel is important and then you can either move on or allow them to choose aspects that excite them to delve into deeper on their own.
Try the 5-free lessons in the Unit Study Sampler from Online Unit Studies.
Whether it’s combing math with art or building bridges out of popsicle sticks. STEM as its name states is a combination of subjects and so it can help you create more time in your homeschool schedule. It also allows for fantastic things like problem-solving, discovery, and independent learning. Check out some specific ways we do STEM in my post, Tinker Trays, STEM Boxes, and Purposeful Destruction.
Projects & Hands-On Learning
Projects are another way we simplify learning. A project creates a beautiful hands-on element to learning that makes connections for kids they can’t get elsewhere. But, it also encompasses many subjects, and not just the one on the outside, making it perfect for simplifying your days.
For instance, an earth science model project would not just include science. It could also include research on the topic, geography, topography, and mapping, or history. There might also be a written element that accompanies it, requiring the use of appropriate vocabulary, spelling words, and grammar. Maybe they even need to make a shopping list of materials and do the math to stay within a budget. They may have to look things up online or find appropriate books in the library. Maybe they will present their final project and create a video of it.
Through projects, we can teach our children how to learn by letting them figure out how to share ideas.
Stations & Centers
Creating spaces in your home for your child to explore independently gives you more time by doing the work of setting them up ahead of time. And, they don’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as dominos set out on the table or as in-depth as a pre-planned art project with lots of different materials laid out. Check out this post on Kindergarten Stations to see how I do this with my daughter.
Games are a perfect hidden learning option. Kids think it’s just playing, but you know how much they are actually learning. My daughter spent a lot of time learning her colors and numbers playing UNO. My son has learned problem-solving, patience, strategy, and critical thinking, from playing chess. And, the bonus is that all of this time spent playing games is face time with your kiddos. Score one for purposeful family time.
Taking school days outside has been one of the best ways to give my kids simple, but engaging learning experiences. Just a trip to the beach can be filled with scientific discoveries, from marine life to talking about the tides.
And, I count any time spent outside as nature study. Because, I can’t think of one day spent outside in the yard, on a walk, or looking up at the sky that my children haven’t discovered something new about our wonderful world.
I think all parents would agree that play is important for our children. But, how often do we actually schedule it in? Scheduling every part of the day leaves no time for imagination and independent or child-led learning.
I used to get so anxious about time that wasn’t scheduled because it didn’t always look like much. It was so hard for me to let go of the need to produce something by the end of each day. But, letting that go was a big step towards a simpler and less overwhelming day.
Gardening & Cooking
Cooking is a great skill to teach our children. And, you’re going to be doing it every day anyway, so why not try to include it as part of the school day. Through preparing food, children can learn science with things like yeast and changes in ingredients before, during and after cooking. They can learn math with measurements and conversions. They get to practice the skill of following a recipe. And, of course being able to cook from scratch is a great life skill to have.
Growing your own ingredients, even if it’s just a small herb garden is a way to extend this knowledge and help kids see where their food comes from.
Conversations are another way to sneak in some extra learning. Talking about books, movies, or events in the news with your children can spark great discussions. These conversations give kids an opportunity to hear related vocabulary and let them ponder ideas. Giving them an opportunity to express their thoughts in a clear way is a crucial skill that can only be taught through practice.
Finally realizing that I didn’t have to fit everything my children learned into the “school day” took so much pressure off me. Purposefully starting discussions, conversation, and debate has really started to simplify our schedule.
I hope that you can use some of these ideas in your own homeschools to help combine subjects and find more time in your homeschool day.
What ways do you combine subjects in your homeschool?
Let me know in the comments.