So . . . I have never personally felt called to a homeschooling lifestyle, but here I am getting ready to do just that.  Our journey of online schooling begins this Monday, and I have to figure out how to be Mommy and Teacher at the same time.

If your kids are schooling from home this year, whether it was in your original plan or not, one of your biggest concerns is probably . . . 

How will I get my kids to focus on their lessons?

How do I get my kids to come to their “desk,” get started working, and stay focused until they are finished?

I do not pretend to have all the answers, nor will I presume to tell you exactly what you should do.  After all, what works perfectly for my family might be a disaster for yours, and vice versa.

Instead, this article will offer a framework to help you structure a routine that sets your children up for a successful school day.

There are four main factors to consider.

Simply consider these four factors, make your best guess at what might work for your kids, and most importantly, give yourself grace!  If the first routine attempt doesn’t quite pan out as you had hoped, change things up and try again.

Factor #1: Consider the Previous Activity

When you call your kids to come start lessons, you are asking them to stop what they are doing and switch to school-mode.

For most of us, the hardest activity to pull kids away from is play-time.  Playing is definitely more fun than schooling, and there will never be a good moment to put the Legos down.  

What kind of activity would make for an easy transition?

For my kids, it’s actually eating.  The words “snack time!” send them running to the kitchen.  The kitchen table is also our classroom.  Eating is a calm activity.  And eating is an activity with a distinct end.  For all these reasons, I have decided we will always start lessons immediately after either a snack or a meal.

How about you?  What previous activity will make for the easiest transition for your kids?

Factor #2: Consider the Energy Level

If kids are bouncing off the wall or if they are falling asleep, focusing on lessons is difficult.  We need to arrange the daily activities so that schooling happens when our kids have a “medium” energy level.

My kids typically have a lot of energy when they first wake up, so schooling right after breakfast would be a mistake for us.  They need a chance to get some wiggles out first.  At the same time, if I let them delve into never-ending-play, it will be hard to pull them out of that world and into schooling.

My solution is to get out of the house before the first lesson. 

We might go for a bike-ride, walk to the playground, take our puppy to the dog-park, or even just head to the grocery store.  By getting them out of the house and giving them a chance to stretch their legs, they release some of the morning energy, but they’re not completely tired out.

When we get home, what will they naturally want?  A snack!  Perfect!  My morning routine is shaping up nicely.

How about you?  What sort of energy level is best for your kids?

Factor #3: Consider the Motivation

Just like adults, kids need to feel the joy of accomplishment.  They need to mark their progress and receive some positive reinforcement at regular intervals.  Otherwise, they will begin to feel as if they are walking along a flat, straight, boring path with no end in sight.

Look for ways to celebrate milestone accomplishments as they go.

Here is what I have chosen to do given the structure of our online curriculum.  If both of my kids complete all of their weekly lessons before bedtime on Thursday, then we can celebrate with a FRIDAY FUN DAY!  

We might plan something as elaborate as a horse-back riding lesson, or as simple as a play date.  Whatever the even that week, the desire to earn a day of fun gives them a long-term source of positive motivation.

There should also be more immediate ways to mark progress.

I made little sticker charts to track their progress each week.  When my daughter completes all the lessons in one of the core subjects, such as math, she places a sticker on her chart.  This gives her a chance to celebrate that mini-victory on the road to FRIDAY FUN DAY.

How about you?  What positive sources of motivation would your children get excited about?

Factor #4: Consider the Distractions

No matter how motivated your kids are, and how well you’ve structured the daily routine, a distracting environment can kill a classroom.

Sit where the kids will be working and look at the surroundings through their eyes. 

What might draw their attention away from their lessons?  Are there toys in plain sight?  Will the TV be a tease?  Is there always something more interesting happening outside the window?  Will the dog constantly bark at them?  Decide how you will remove the distractions to make it easier for everyone to focus.

I have heard from many moms that this last puzzle is the most difficult to solve.

So many of our homes are scattered with so many toys and other clutter, that getting everything in its proper place and out of sight feels impossible.  How can you remove the distraction of toys if there are too many toys?

Instead of being overwhelmed by the prospect of creating a distraction-free learning environment, use it as motivation to finally take control of your stuff once and for all.

Think of how much easier schooling from home would be if your home was decluttered, organized, and easy to manage!

It’s not as difficult as you might think!  A Home On Purpose lesson series takes an intimidating project (like downsizing the toys, or keeping the house tidy) and breaks it down into bite-sized pieces that are completely doable, even for busy moms.  Yes, it takes a little extra effort up front, but the return on that investment will pay off for years to come.  It’s worth it!

If you would like to learn more, here are the FREE introduction videos to just a few of our most popular lesson series.  Click on the topic most relevant to you, and take your next step today.

I hope this article has given you some useful tools to help you build a successful classroom at home!