Homeschooling in the New Year - What Needs to Change

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.

Homeschooling in the New Year - What Needs to Change

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?


  1. I wish you the best of luck in your homeschooling journey. I always say that teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

  2. This is a really interesting perspective to read. I'm a teacher and it's generally difficult for me to understand why parents choose to keep their kids at home to homeschool them. I feel like I understand a little more now after reading this. Thank you for sharing <3

  3. I have been debating homeschooling, but i am not sure about it. My daughter will be 4 in March so I have some time. I have been working with her at home recently but I feel I am not a very good teacher lol

  4. I so wish I could homeschooling my children. I would love that one on one time together

  5. Your homeschooling advice is amazing. I did not home school my daughter because at that time there were no abundant resources. But I do have a few friends who homeshool their children and I would love to share your post with them!

  6. Congratulations on Emma's attempt at publishing. Don't beat yourself up. It sounds like Emma is headstrong (but that's a good thing) and she wouldn't have listened to your advice anyway. But next time, her draft will be perfect and she'll be ready. But not insisting and making her change things, you've actually taught her a great lesson, allowed her to be who she is, and helped her towards a successful future.

  7. This is such a great post filled with advice! This is very helpful for those who are homeschooling as well.

    Belle |

  8. I admire parents who are able to homeschool their kids. The amount of effort that you need to give to be able to plan a lovely semester for them is just amazing. I think it's awesome that you shared this with us, I learned a lot and got wonderful ideas too!

  9. I homeschool my kids. My 5-year-old is doing kindergarten. My 2-year-old hangs around in the school room with us. We have a nice routine down that we stick to pretty well. I have always been good at keeping routines and being organized. It's one of my strong points!

  10. Homeschooling is so wonderful but also seems so difficult! I have so much respect for the mothers that do it! Good luck to you this year- I hope it goes well for you all!

  11. My boyfriend got homeschooled and loved it! You have some great ideas in homeschooling. Good luck to you!

  12. I have always contemplated homeschooling, but I think the routine would be the toughest part for me and my son. He asks about it every now and then, but he is thriving in public school so we are choosing that for now.

  13. I applaude you, i don't think i could be organized enough to homeschool my kids, especially not 5 at a time, i'm lucky i get them to school on time! I do think a lot needs to change with education though, and i am considering other options for my kids right now...thanks for a glimpse into homeschooling!

  14. Homeschool mamas amaze me! You are already balancing so much as a mom, but then to add in all the different skill levels and activities and keep it all organized. I get exhausted just thinking about it!

  15. I homeschool my 6th grad daughter. We totally have to have a routine. Right now she's doing typing/keyboarding. :-) Anyway. We do a strict three day schedule, field trip one day, and then loose Monday.

  16. This was a great post. We don't homeschool but we have young kids and these are helpful tips for even them.

  17. I really do applaude you. I'm not sure I could homeschool. It's not for everyone. I'm not patient enough.

  18. I give you so much credit because homeschooling has got to be hard. I have always dreamt of doing it when my kids are school age but I'm a little unsure now because its a lot of work and patience that i don't know i will have. You sound like you're doing a wonderful job and you should pat yourself on the back!

  19. A routine sounds like a great idea! Most kids really thrive with structure, but I am sure there are differences among individuals. Alas, I would not be a good homeschooling mom. You have my admiration.

  20. I can't imagine how much work and how hard homeschooling can be! Good luck to you and I admire homeschooling parents.

  21. I commend anyone who homeschools. I could never do it. I just don't have the patience or really, I believe the skill.

  22. Wow. That is amazing that you are homeschooling. I'm not sure I'd be the best at it. And it is awesome that your daughter loves to write.

  23. I commemd you for being a homeschooling mom. It takes great commitment but the end result is priceless

  24. I absolutely love your perspective! We are a ways away from having to decide about homeschooling or not but this has definitely given me some things to think about!

  25. I think it is important to get the basics of reading and math down as part of the curriculum. As an educator, I know that this important to help kids navigate other subjects.

  26. A good teacher constantly evaluates and reteaches. Planning and running your homeschool is no different than being in a public classroom, only the students don't go "home". I'm in my last semester of a 17 yr career of homeschooling. I had similar struggles as you and then I realized that I needed to rethink how and what I scheduled. We had so many opportunities that derailed me, so I began to say NO to many things so that I could say yes to the most important ones.

    I suggest you maintain the reading, writing and math part of your curriculum. Use unit studies or short term projects for history, art, science, foreign language, PE, home ec,geography, etc; that all your children can do together just changing the difficulty for the older ones. Teach home skills throughout the day, i.e. stopping to make lunch together and clean up an area of the house or classroom. Have a defined stopping time to end your school day( cause everyone needs a break) Try to schedule time away from home when its convenient. Read aloud while they eat breakfast work on art etc. Visit the library. Connect with other Homeschoolers for playdates and coops. Continue to evaluate what seems to work and keep doing it.

    Being all things to your children is exhausting, so plan some breaks. To take the pressure off myself( for failing to finish a book or course), we schooled year around when my kids were in Elementary levels and took breaks at holidays. In the beginning I schooled 6 weeks and took off a week to clean my house and do doctor and dental visits , etc. Once they get to Jr. high and High school the curricula becomes more regimented and the need to stay on a strict timeline is critical , so enjoy this time. Teach them to love learning. Use games and crafts to expose them to content. Love and enjoy them because this time is short and they soak up everything.

    You are on the right track. Your children will thank you later and you will be tremendously blessed along the way. God bless and Best wishes for a great 2017.


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