Homeschool Tool Box

Your Homeschool Toolbox

Homeschool Tool Box

A Toolbox of Strategies to Balance Home Life, Home School, and Home Business

Time is our most priceless resource. It’s the one thing we can’t get any more of. No one will ever have more than twenty-four hours in a day . . . but some people use their time much more efficiently and effectively than others. Learning how to protect and prioritize your time will help you be a good steward, which will equip you to accomplish your most important goals.

In twenty-six years as an entrepreneur and fifteen as a homeschooling mom (the last eleven as a single mom), I’ve identified seven strategies for making the most of our time so that we can live balanced, peaceful lives.

FREEDOM is an acronym for these tools: Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Dream, Organize, and Multitask.time management


Figure out what only you can do, and then prioritize those things. Mom, only you can nurse your baby, but someone else can change his diapers. Only you can write your book (unless you hire a ghostwriter), but someone else can process and ship orders.

Focus requires self-discipline, which can be a challenge for entrepreneurs. Without the built-in accountability of reporting to an employer, we have to avoid the temptation to abuse our freedom. Plan your priorities, and then implement them. Meet challenges with action, not avoidance.


Zig Ziglar says there are “two sure ways to fail: think and never do, or do and never think.” Reflection forces you to be honest with yourself, so it helps you identify what you should do and evaluate how well you’re accomplishing your goals. Schedule time at the end of each week, month, and year to look back and plan ahead.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself tough questions. If this is hard for you, you may need a coach or accountability partner to help you. It’s easy to be blind to things in our own lives that someone else could readily identify. When coaching clients one on one, I sometimes realize I need to remind myself of the very advice I’m giving to them!


Nineteenth-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “The most successful people in life are generally those who have the best information.” Keep up with developments in your industry. Encounter new ideas and try new strategies. No matter what business you’re in, you need to study marketing. You can learn through reading books, blogs, and online articles; taking home study courses; working with a coach or mentor; and attending teleseminars, webinars, and conferences.

Educating yourself is part of operating your business. Don’t feel that you’re not working when you’re learning new things. Just don’t let education become an excuse for avoiding action. Implement what you learn.


Make time for what you need to focus on by eliminating activities that don’t support your goals and priorities. Evaluate your business activities and quit (or outsource) the least profitable ones. Edit your belongings as well as your activities.

If something can’t be eliminated, often someone else can do it instead of you. Delegate household tasks to children, and look for ways to involve them in your business. Participation in a homeschool co-op allows you to delegate part of your children’s education to others while you retain primary responsibility.

Delegate interruptions to the answering machine and voice mail. Many household and business tasks can be outsourced to independent contractors, including lawn care, housecleaning, piano lessons, order fulfillment for your home business, accounting, website design, and much more.

Other people will respect your time only as much as you do. Learn to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to the best. Remember that opportunity does not equal obligation.


Several years ago, a dear friend encouraged our mastermind team to answer three important questions. I include this “Big Dream” exercise in my time management course and assign it to my coaching clients: (1) What would I be doing if nothing stood in my way? (2) What stands in my way? (3) What do I need to do to achieve my goals? Pondering these questions opens our minds to possibilities we might not otherwise consider because the first question makes us ignore limitations, and the other questions help us figure out how to overcome them.

Setting big goals spurs us to accomplish more instead of slogging along through a boring smallness. Get out of your comfort zone. If your goals don’t scare you a bit, you’re probably not dreaming big enough. Of course, if you have a new baby or a serious illness in the family, that’s not the time for stretching yourself any further. But normally, you need to stretch and grow. Don’t wait for “some day” to do what matters most. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”


When your physical possessions are not organized, they cause frustration and steal your time. My main rule: A place for everything, and everything in its place.

In order to organize your time wisely, you have to know where it’s currently being invested. Just as you track expenses to plan a financial budget, track your activities to plan a time budget. Write down what you do every half-hour, and then evaluate your time log after a week or a month. See if you’re spending too much time on some things, neglecting important things, doing things you could eliminate, or overlooking opportunities to get things done.

Once you know how you’re using your time, you can plan how to use it better. I use seven planning tools: Big Dream, Yearly Goals, Monthly Priorities, Weekly Plans, Daily Tasks, Running To-Do List, and Stop-Doing List. When we build our lives around short-term tasks, we focus on the urgent to the neglect of the important. Start with a Big Dream for your life and build your yearly goals around that. Then you can plan each month, week, and day in alignment with that long-term vision.


Multitasking has gotten a bad rap lately. Some say that if you can multitask while you are doing something, it’s not worth your time; in business, this might indicate tasks you can outsource. Others claim that multitasking undermines focus and is inefficient; in some circumstances, that can be true.

Used judiciously, however, multitasking can buy you time to focus on your priorities. It helps you do more with your twenty-four hours and trains you to use small blocks of time efficiently. Introducing new math concepts requires focus, but you can quiz your child on spelling or multiplication facts while preparing dinner. Fold a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher while talking on the phone. Listen to educational CDs in the car or while going for a walk.

Use Your Tools Wisely

These tools are not listed sequentially, but they all work together. Dreaming helps you identify your focus, and eliminating helps you maintain it. Organizing helps you eliminate, and multitasking frees up time to reflect, educate, and dream.

When you use these tools wisely, you won’t be paralyzed by what you can’t do. You’ll begin to find peace in the space between the ideal and reality, and you’ll enjoy a more productive and balanced life.

Mary Jo Tate has been educating her four sons at home since 1997. A book coach and international editor, she helps entrepreneurs and speakers author books . . . whether or not they can write ( ). She is the author of How Do You Do It All? Balancing Family Life and Home Business in the Real World ( ), Get Started as a Freelance Editor ( ), and Critical Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald. She blogs about books at .

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Annual Print 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Ways to Socialize Homeschooled Children

Ways to Socialize Homeschooled Children

Ways to Socialize Homeschooled Children

As a homeschool family, you may find that it is sometimes challenging to provide social experiences for your child that is important for their development. Here are a few ways to socialize your homeschooled children.

Local Recreation Department

Check your local recreation department to find out what sports teams, dance groups, etc. they offer that your child may be interested in. Often the sign up fees are fairly minimal and not only will your child get some much needed socialization, they will also have weekly activities that are often physical and may find a sport that they excel at.

A lot of areas have town sponsored sports, dance classes, karate, art classes, and more through their community center or recreation department. These can offer great opportunities for socialization for your child.

School Sports and Extracurricular Groups

It isn’t commonly known, but most states allow homeschooled children to participate in the public school sports teams, band, choir, and other of their extracurricular groups. Check with your local school administration to find out if that is the case in your state. You may have to prove that your child is up to par on their education for their grade, but this is one way to have your child interact with other students on a school level without having to be full time public school students.

Church Groups

If you are a religious family, seek out socializing experience through your church. Most churches have youth and children’s Sunday School classes that your children can attend. Also, make sure you are signed up to receive the church bulletin or newsletter. There may be activities outside of regular Sunday services such as socials, Bible studies or Vacation Bible Schools that your child will enjoy.

Local Homeschool Groups

Ask around to find out if there is a local homeschool group in your area. Locals on Facebook, the local newspaper office, or the library are just a few places where you could possibly get information. Many areas have local homeschool groups that meet together frequently for the children to have group interaction. You may even find a group that swaps teaching times so that your child can experience being taught by an adult outside of your home.

Neighborhood Play Groups

Ask around to see if your neighborhood or town has a play group. If not, create one yourself! You can post on your social media accounts or just let your social circles know that you are forming a group. Set a specific weekday and time to meet each week. If you create a Facebook group page you can easily communicate with everyone about where you’ll meet each week and other upcoming outings you would like to do.

Child Care Swapping

Find other families in your area that you trust that have like-minded parenting skills and similar aged children to yours. Offer to swap out child care occasionally. For example, they could drop their children off at your home every other Friday for their date night and you could do the same on the alternate Fridays. Or just swap child care with a trustworthy stay-at-home mom friend during the day so you each can run errands without children coming along.

Not only will this help you to have more child-free time to date your spouse or have a couple hours of productivity, but your child will also be able to form friendships with other children their age and learn important social skills.

Stay Busy

As a homeschooling parent, one responsibility that you take on is making sure your child learns how to interact in group and public settings. It would be easy to stay home all day everyday as a homeschooler, but it deprives children of important learning opportunities.

Look for local museums, parks and other places to regularly take your child to. Plan once a month field trips that are part of your teaching lessons for that month. Whether you are meeting with a group of other parents and children or not, just the exposure to the public and situations outside of your home will provide teaching tools for your child to learn how to interact with the outside world.


How I Homeschool and Work From Home


Over the past few weeks, I have had a few friends ask me how I homeschool my children all the while earning an income from home.  I thought I would share my tips here with you in case you are considering this option to be home with your kids.

I started homeschooling my girls when my oldest was in third grade.  She will be in 7th grade this fall. It’s hard to believe we are going on our 5th year.  It literally seems like I just started.  Time does fly by quickly.

During that time frame, I have been blogging and doing social media work for a variety of companies.  On top of that, I started monetizing my personal blog and it brought forth a variety of opportunities.

To this day I still blog, run social networks, and do office work right here from home.  I created business cards, etc., to help spread the word of what I do.  As a wife and mom with a degree in child development and teaching outside the home all these years, this was a huge change of pace for me, but I absolutely love it.  I guess you can say I am hooked.

From time to time I still use my education with blogging so it all goes hand-in-hand for me which is great.

How do I manage it all?  With set times to keep it all organized, but being open-minded and flexible at the same time.  For someone who was a stickler for staying on schedule, this is huge for me.  It takes time.

Our homeschool schedule hours run from 8:00 am-12:00 pm.  During this time, lessons are introduced and independent learning is completed.  If the work isn’t completed, I created a work bin for each student and they finish it on their own time throughout the week.  Of course with homeschooling comes flexibility so these times can easily be changed, especially if we have homeschool classes elsewhere during the week.

At 12:00 pm is lunch.

From 12:30 pm-3:00 pm the kids do their chores.  During this time frame I get my work done whether it’s publishing blog posts, scheduling social media platforms, etc.  On Sunday night, I put together a calendar of tasks that have to be done that week from high priority to low priority.  That way by 3:00 pm if the low priority tasks are completed, they will be put on high priority the next day and so forth and so forth.  I make it a point to be done with all work at 3:00 pm.  It has worked wonderfully this last year and I am determined to stay organized so that I may continue working from home and homeschooling my kids.  After 3:00 pm is open for extra-curricular activities, etc.

What about major chores?  I follow a nice chart that covers just one major chore a week like Mondays: clean the bathroom, etc.  And of course there is the daily upkeep like tidying a room, making beds,  menu planning, etc.

If you have a passion, you can take it and turn it into a work from home job as well.  Whether it’s crafting, sewing, etc., it can be done.   Consistency and patience is key.   While I was still teaching outside the home I started the “blogging and making money from home adventure”, but not a whole lot of money just yet.  It pays to build credibility and spread the word about what you can do.  Never give up on your dreams.  It’s a great life lesson for the kiddies too to watch their mom and/or dad work hard towards their goals in life.

This schedule is of course how I run my homeschool and work from home tasks.  Every family is different and that is encouraged.  You basically have to do what works best for you and your family.

If you also work from home and homeschool your children, feel free to share your experience with us to help parents who are looking to do the same.




Monogrammed Thankful List 3

Monogrammed Thankful List

Monogrammed Thankful List 3Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on what you appreciate in life. This monogrammed thankful list is the perfect way for you and your family to keep track of what you are thankful for, for easy reflection all season long. Take a look below at how to craft your own in just minutes using a few common crafting supplies.

Supplies needed:

Monogrammed Thankful List 2

  • Small wood plaque (under $2 at Hobby Lobby)
  • Holiday themed ribbon ($1 at Dollar Tree)
  • Chipboard letters (Around $2 per package at your local craft store)
  • Clothespins
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Hot glue, glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaner


Monogrammed Thankful List1. Begin by applying the letter to the front of your plaque. You can simply attach the first initial of the child’s name who will be using the thankful list. Just add glue and press until secure.

2. Now, attach the ribbon that you will clip your notes to. Just add a dab of glue to the ends and press it to the back of the plaque. Hold in place until secure. Snip to the length you desire.

Monogrammed Thankful List 1
3. On small pieces of paper, write a note each day about what you are thankful for. Younger children may choose to draw a sketch instead. Using the clothespins, clip the notes to the ribbon.
4. Display your thankful list by gluing a small loop of pipe cleaner to the back of the plaque. This will act as a loop for hanging.

Throughout the Thanksgiving season, you can add daily notes to the thankful list. Just write and clip in place. It is so simple!

Hang your thankful lists where others can see them and see all that you are thankful for. This is a fun, frugal, and easy way to get into the Thanksgiving season and reflect on the true meaning of it. Give it a try!

Share your homeschooling journey with people like you.