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?

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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

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