Are you excited (or at least content) to return to homeschooling after the Christmas break, or are you screaming on the inside, “Please, no!” There’s no denying that homeschooling can be hard, and the winter doldrums can make it even harder. This time of year is perfect for taking a hard look at your school year so far and determining what can you do to make your homeschool work better in the coming months.
Celebrate What’s Working Well
Your list of what’s not working in your homeschool may be first and foremost in your mind, but it is always a good idea to start with the positive.
What is working in your homeschool? Think about what you and your children have accomplished in the past few months. Is there a curriculum choice that working out really well? Is there an outside activity that you child(ren) is flourishing in? Is part of your daily routine running smoothly? Wonderful! These are all things worth celebrating and keeping as part of your homeschool as you move forward.
Evaluate What Needs Improvement
This list is probably easier to make. Is there a particular subject that is making both you and your children want to pull your hair out? While learning isn’t always fun, it shouldn’t be torture. Would a change in approach help? Sometimes a different curriculum can make all the difference. Do you know your child’s learning style? Maybe he or she needs a more hands-on approach. Maybe they need to move while learning. For example, some people learn math facts better if they can recite them while jumping on a trampoline or throwing a ball.
Is there any way to use a child’s natural interests to facilitate learning? Perhaps consider doing a unit study centered on their favorite topic or activity.
Sometimes we homeschoolers can get overly attached to a particular way of presenting material. Perhaps what you are doing worked wonderfully with your first three children, but you seem to be making little progress with child number four. God made each one of our children different. Sometimes homeschool life requires us to scrap our plans and take a different approach.
Take a Look at Your Schedule
Homeschooling life can be full of change and interruptions (also known as opportunities to practice patience and grow in virtue!) New babies join the family, people get sick, something goes wrong in the house, new work opportunities present themselves, your children want to take part in new activities, children grow and their sleep cycles change, and the list goes on. The schedule that worked well for your life yesterday may not be working today.
Some people are more geared to planning than others. Depending on where you fall on that spectrum, your schedule may be more or less structured, but at a minimum, a general plan is important. What needs to be accomplished in both your homeschool and your life? Is there adequate time for prayer, schoolwork, paid or volunteer work, household chores, and downtime with your family? Are your expectations reasonable given the ages and needs of your children? Are you spending too much time out of the house? Perhaps the reverse is true – you spend too much time inside the house and everyone is on each other’s last nerve. Sometimes a weekly activity or two is just what your homeschool needs.
Try to look at everything on your schedule with fresh eyes. Invite your spouse and older children to help with the planning. What are the non-negotiables of your family’s life? Put those down first and then work around them. Find a rhythm and routine that works for your family.
While not every day will go according to plan, and flexibility is always important, it is good to have a general routine so that everyone knows what to expect and what is expected of them
All of this review will be worthless of you don’t take the concrete steps to make changes. As tempting as it can be to do a complete overhaul all at once, implementing one or two changes at a time can be more manageable (especially if you have children who don’t like change). Pick the one or two things that are causing you the most trouble and focus on that. Once those areas are working more smoothly, focus on something else.
Embrace the Changes
Homeschooling life is always about adjusting. Our children keep growing and changing. What works one year won’t necessarily work the next. The middle of the school year is a great time to take stock and make changes so that they rest of the school year can be a more positive experience.