If there is one thing I learned on our long homeschool break over the holidays, it is that we needed a long homeschool break over the holidays. I really love year round homeschooling, but this fall was particularly difficult, and I knew that there would need to be changes come January.
This past fall we had a great time. My husband ended up taking several long weekends during September and October, and it was wonderful to have him home. But, because of that, we never really seemed to get back into a good weekly school routine.
We still did school, but it is difficult to do school when Dad is home from work – especially when the weather is beautiful and we all just want to play.
We ended up dropping our science curriculum after a couple of lessons in favor of being outside. I have been stretching year one of two of U.S. History for 18 months because Emma was on the younger end for the curriculum. I felt behind, even though there is no measure of what behind actually is since I am the one making the lessons plans.
It was a challenging fall school wise, and our long winter break was a respite we all needed.
Now here we are in the New Year, and just like I enjoy changing the calendar to the New Year for my personal goals, I also enjoy the change of the calendar for homeschooling. It gives me permission to revamp what it is we do all day.
First, similar to writing my New Year’s goals, I needed to look at what we have been doing with homeschooling the past several months. I need that reflection in order to make necessary changes.
Knowing that we need a reliable routine is the biggest takeaway that I had from last fall.
Our “normal” day starts at 9am and ends right around lunch time. However, this schedule didn’t seem to work last fall. We were out of the house a lot more for activities, and when that happens, the entire week gets thrown off. There was one day in particular that we would spend first thing getting ready to get out of the house, get to the activity, get home a little before lunch time, make lunch, get Lucy down for a nap, and then it was time to start thinking about dinner just to go to the evening activity as soon as Dad walks in the door.
There wasn’t much school able to happen outside of the activities the kids were involved in.
Now, I’m not saying that is a bad thing, just the opposite. I think that activities are great for kids, but it was seriously throwing off the rest of what we had to accomplish in the week (because we had activities 3 other nights as well).
As an introvert, I need that quiet in order to recharge, and unfortunately was not getting any quiet at all. And all of a sudden I noticed that the kids were a bit stressed out. I have a feeling that was attributed more to my attitude than to their own, but the busyness of it all started to have an effect on everyone.
Luckily this feeling came right around the same time we were going to start our long homeschool break – perfect timing.
Where do we go from here?
Like I said above, we have been stretching our core homeschool curriculum for quite a while, and so my plan is to back off from that this winter term.
I plan to get back to more basic elements of school – reading and math – and then I would like to start incorporating more projects into our school.
I have talked about projects and project based homeschooling before, but I have had a hard time implementing projects into our homeschool. When I last tried more projects, the kids were a couple years younger, and not so interested in staying with something for any length of time.
I wanted more elaborate projects, and they wanted construction paper and glue and glitter. And there was nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t what I was thinking about when I thought about projects!
This past fall Emma decided that she wanted to publish a book. She took it upon herself to find a book of agents at the library, found one, and had Matt e-mail her first book (all 14 pages of it) to the agent in order to get published. The agent declined, but wrote the most heartfelt reply e-mail to not give up and to continue writing so that one day she is able to publish a book.
I wanted to cry at how wonderful that was.
While I was thinking about how wonderful it had been, I realized that I had not supported her enough when she talked about publishing a book. In my head I thought, 8 year old, handwritten story, not going to work. I encouraged her in her writing, but I wasn’t as supportive about trying to find an agent to publish the book because I knew the end result would be not publishing the book. I didn’t consider that an agent would take the time to write a nice reply and be so encouraging that Emma now has two other “books” that she has written and countless other stories in her mind.
What could I have done differently in that situation?
I could have helped her more with the process. The blame doesn’t only fall on me of course. When she came out with her first draft and there were misspelled words, she was not pleased when I suggested we go through and write a second draft. That first draft was THE draft that she wanted sent to the agent.
However, I could have had her dictate the story to me. I could have typed the story out, and she could have then handwritten the final draft rather than the first draft and run out of steam. I also could have spent more time talking about the process of writing a book, and what is involved, as well as what happens when you get an agent, and then an editor, and eventually a publisher.
This is something I hope to explore further with her in the New Year.
I want to see the passion in my kids’ eyes for a project that they choose and want to run with.
Jack especially loves making movies. I have mentioned before about how he loves stop-motion. However, recently he has decided that he wants to make real live-action movies. But, he reminded me that he has ideas for costumes, and so he has been asking me to teach him to sew so that he can make costumes for his movies.
That to me is amazing! And incredibly daunting considering he is six years old, and my own sewing skills are not practiced enough to construct costumes for him and whomever else he decides will be in the movie – especially without a pattern.
But, he is convinced that he needs to learn to sew, so I plan to work sewing back into our homeschool day (Emma also wants to sew, but on a much smaller scale – making clothes for her dolls).
I feel like if we can get back to the basics of why we chose to homeschool – in order to create a lifelong love of learning – then everything else should start falling back into place.
There are times that I definitely feel like I have gotten off track, and start to revert back to a “school-at-home” model. I consider what the kids in our local public school are doing, and I want to make sure that my kids keep up. They do, but I think I often spend more time fretting about that, rather than taking advantage of the flexibility (more than the scheduling) homeschooling provides.
I used to worry when people would ask my kids how school was, and that the answer was almost always “we don’t do school.” How do you explain that the learning they are doing in the everyday is school? How do you explain that when your child picks up a book and reads for an hour that that is school, even though she doesn’t think it is school because mom didn’t pick out the book?
We only started school again on January 9th, so I will have to give it a couple more weeks to see how things are shaping up in our homeschool to give a better idea of what is to come.
For now, I need to remember my original purpose – create a love of lifelong learning in my children.
What do you do when you get off track due to outside influences taking over?