Part of the beauty and challenge of homeschooling is that learning and parenting really don’t take a break no matter what the calendar might say. Still, for those of us who incorporate some elements of traditional schooling into our homeschool lives, this Christmas season break provides a chance to catch our breath a bit. It also provides the opportunity to adjust what is not currently working in our homeschools.
How do you figure out what is not working? Think about what causes you or your child(ren) the most stress in your normal homeschool day. Is getting everyone settled in the morning a problem? Is there a particular subject that is certain to end in tears? Is there an area that your child just does not seem to grasp no matter what you do? Is your schedule too busy with outside activities (this probably isn’t a problem this particular year)? Is everyone vying for mom’s help at the same time? If your children are old enough to offer constructive feedback, you can ask them what they feel is not working in your homeschool lives.
Once you have identified the challenges, you can work toward a solution. This is not always (or even often) a one and done process. Homeschooling often involves a great deal of trial and error. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of years I started the school year with curriculum choices I was very excited about only to have scrapped at least one of them by mid-September. Our children also grow and change. What works one year may cause a complete breakdown the next. Homeschooling is a gentle balance between structure and flexibility. In general, I have found that when the children themselves have a say in what, when, and how they learn, homeschooling life goes better.
If you are having a scheduling problem (a certain time of day creates problems), brainstorm how you can adjust how time is used. Do you need to get up earlier so that you can take care of your needs and be ready to parent as soon as your children are up? Do you have a child who needs more sleep in the morning? Can you adjust school to start later for that child? Can you read to your children while they are eating breakfast to create a positive start to the day? Can you prepare snacks or lunches in advance (or having something easy to put together) so that the day isn’t disrupted by frequent requests for food?
As far as subjects go, if a particular subject is causing a child problems, consider what can be adjusted. Is it a curriculum issue or is it a presentation issue? Some children thrive with workbooks. Other want hands-on experiences. Sometimes videos are the key to having learning take place. Be willing to go with whatever works. It can be easier for us as homeschool parents to go the traditional textbook and workbook route because we feel like our children have accomplished something and we can check off the educational boxes, but we need to remember that our goal is actual learning.
The other day, my daughter said to me, “Mom, I hate history. It is so boring.” Truly, this was not news to me. I knew what we were doing for history was not working, but I wanted to check off the box and be able to say, “Look, we did this!” In response to her complaint, I took a deep breath and asked her what she would like to do for history. She said she wants more hands-on projects and fewer books (she is not a book person). I told her I would see what I could do. I’ve been researching ideas. I have no idea if this will be the key to making history interesting and relevant for her, but I’m willing to try.
Sometimes, children have learning challenges that require extra help. Time and patience can help with many challenges. Brains develop at different rates. However, it can be necessary to seek extra help. If you have reached a point where you feel your child needs more help than you can give, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.
If you are having difficulty managing the learning of multiple children, see if there is a way to reconfigure your day so that you are helping different children at different times. If you have older children, perhaps you can recruit them to help play with babies, toddlers, or preschoolers so that you can work with a child who needs your help. You can also combine subjects to work with a few children at one time or take turns where one child plays or works independently while you work with one child and then switch places.
Sometimes a minor tweak in your homeschool life can make a big difference. Taking the time to honestly evaluate what is not working and attempting to make meaningful changes can lead to a much more positive homeschool day.