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Are you looking for ways to take some of the stress out of your homeschool co-op days?
Whether you’ve been participating in a group for a while, or you’re just diving in, we have 6 ways to help you reduce stressful mornings and homeschool co-op days in general!
Please note: I understand that homeschool co-ops vary a lot in the way that they are set up, but I have often found some common ground when talking with other moms. These tips are designed to help you regardless of your situation!
Have Realistic Expectations
If you are like me, you were probably working on this one somewhat before you started. Maybe you tried to imagine what your life would look like if you joined a homeschool co-op in the first place. You most likely tried to process how you would make up for the scheduled time in curriculum, caring for your home or running errands. Maybe you even rearranged your entire schedule to fit co-op into your school year.
All of those things are necessary and they can help you create more realistic expectations, but what happens once you wrangle your kiddos into the building and begin classes? Are you – even unintentionally – setting unrealistic expectations and then left feeling angry, frustrated and overwhelmed?
If you are like me, I would often start the day expecting great behavior, smooth transitions and mountain top experiences of learning, fun and fellowship. After all, didn’t my kids realize what all it took just to get us there that day?!??
More realistically, I sometimes turned into “that” parent 🙂
The one spending half of a period in the hallway with a crying, screaming child or the one practically peeling another kiddo off of my leg just so I can go on to the next hour. Not all of the time, but it does happen.
So how can we prepare our hearts for the unexpected?
Maybe you have little ones that don’t nap well away from home – or like mine not-at-all if not at home. We need to acknowledge that. We can be prepared for tired kiddos and meltdowns and pray in advance as well as minute by minute for the grace needed to handle them.
Perhaps you have a child who is more “attached” or just going through an attachment phase. How can you help head that off? It might mean having to arrive 20 mins early like I have had to before in order to allow time for your little one to settle in more easily.
Processing through obstacles and preparing your heart for them in advance can help you set more realistic expectations.
Prepare The Night Before
Yes, I said it. We all know it, but I’ll be the first to say that when I don’t, it’s all kinds of crazy around here. So please just do it. I mean prepare everything you possibly can.
- Kids clothes, shoes, socks, jewelry, hair bows etc all laid out.
- Projects, materials, backpacks ( I had each one carry their own backpacks with anything they needed – even from 2 yrs and up ) all loaded in the car.
- I prepare my smoothie except for the frozen fruit, prepare the coffee and have already made muffins earlier in the week as mine eat cereal/oatmeal then take a muffin/cereal bar on the way – yes… imagine my car and why I need to clean it more often than not.
- Have lunches and water bottles prepared before.
- Diaper bag, with all supplies, loaded in the car.
The more we prepare the night before. The less stress there is in the morning and the faster we get out the door!
Know Your Layout
As good as our co-op was at making us feel welcome, it was still overwhelming at first. If you are new, take advantage of any new family orientations, tours etc to familiarize yourself with the building and the classes. And yes, give yourself grace about getting into the routine of things.
If you are not new, most classes will change every semester so you still need to be able to keep track. At our co-op, we have name tags with class schedules and cleaning duties for each, but I also like to have a copy of the master schedule in case I need to find anyone. I always keep a copy in iBooks on my phone. I also keep a master copy of just my kid’s daily schedules in Evernote. Super easy and accessible. Of course good ‘ol paper and pen works too!
Keep Lunches Simple
So this is what works best for us. I do know some families who say it works well-bringing leftovers and do lunch that way. That just doesn’t work for us. I really have to keep it simple. We are blessed to have microwaves at our co-op but we most often don’t use them. Even though there are a couple of them, that still means waiting our turn and dishes. Our lunch period goes by fast enough as it is!
Instead, we pack a lunch ahead of time for each one of us. Each child also has a water bottle that they keep track of. Most often we brown bag it, or if it’s been a crazy week they will get a Lunchable – love the convenience, do not love the food – but hey, it’s a special day! Most often for us, anything that can be refrigerated and eaten without plates or microwaves saves us time while we are there and serves its purpose.
Connect With A Few Moms
Unless your homeschool co-op is relatively small, you possibly feel a bit of overwhelm when you think of trying to connect with all or most of the Moms there. In our co-op, it is really not possible unless you are teaching and assisting together or can connect over lunch. Instead of letting it overwhelm you, be intentional and focus on making a few good connections.
If your group has a leadership team, DO try to connect with one or all of them. That’s what they are there for. Leadership can pray for your family and handle any problems that arise through the day. They also can accurately answer any questions or find out the correct answer for you!
Try to make a few solid connections with other Moms. When I first joined our co-op, I joined for the kid’s benefit. I quickly realized that I was being blessed just as much or even more than the kids. It’s still amazing to me now that I have the privilege of serving on our Homeschool Co-op Leadership Team! Your connections give you (and you them) spiritual and mental support, prayer support and possibly some of the sweetest friendships you can imagine!
End Your Day Well
This last one kind of sums up a few of the ways listed above. First set realistic expectations for the end of the day and evening. The kids and you will likely be, at best, tired and hungry. Bring snacks. Always. Unless your kids don’t eat 🙂 By the end of the day mine are always “starving” and if I can have them fill their water and offer them a snack on the way home, life suddenly becomes much better!
Our Homeschool Co-op meets on Fridays. Fridays have become our Pizza and Movie night. Every Week. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, I don’t have to cook – other than a take and bake pizza. The kids watch a movie and decompress and I enjoy a little bit of downtime..theoretically 🙂
These are some of the things that I have learned through our Homeschool co-op journey so far. I wish I would have implemented them from the start, but I am thankful that we are able to experience the benefits from it now!
Following these basic tips will help you reduce stress and be able to enjoy your co-op days even more!
What tips do you have for a stress-free co-op day or morning? Please share in the comments below!
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O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.