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A New Year…Reflection of my Homeschool
Written by Amber Marie | January 1, 2018
It’s the time of year when we make New Year’s resolutions. With determination and discipline, we may follow through with our promises, but many will quickly fizzle. Rather, I propose a New Year’s reflection! We reflect on past experiences to learn and gain an honest perspective, similar to looking into a mirror. Reflection allows us to identify areas where we can improve. This past fall I began homeschooling my five-year-old son. As I reflect back to the creation of my homeschool, I aim to share some advice and learning points.
Too Much, Too Fast!
I’ve read it repeatedly, but for whatever reason, the advice, “Don’t do too much too fast” didn’t register. I was excited to begin homeschooling, and I became consumed with researching various curriculums and homeschool techniques. With all my new-found knowledge came an obsessive drive to apply everything. The following are two self-induced hurdles I dealt with (as if new homeschoolers don’t have enough to deal with already):
I was trying to keep up with the Joneses of the homeschool world (umm…maybe the new cliche is Kardashians?). I was trying to get all the best curriculums; trying to include every subject in every part of my son’s day; trying to be the perfect homeschool mom. Can I save you the stress that I experienced? There is no such thing as the perfect homeschool, curriculum, or schedule.
There is, however, a homeschool schedule that works with your life, a homeschool curriculum that works with your child, and a homeschool day that is the best you can provide. Homeschooling provides awesome flexibility. It’s unique to your family and your life. So, cut yourself some slack and start slow. Focus on one or two subjects, and slowly…and I mean slowly…introduce others. As you become more comfortable, you will become more efficient at tailoring your curriculum and schedule. When you become more comfortable and confident, you add more subjects.
Learning Wasn’t Fun
I took the fun out of learning! At some point, I allowed the excitement of starting a homeschool negatively affect the experience. I aimed for perfection in all things. I made sure to incorporate art supplies and manipulatives whenever possible. I would only use or create beautiful worksheets (as if my son was impressed or even cared). I ensured every piece of my lesson plan flowed and transitioned flawlessly.
You don’t have to be a homeschool parent to know, sometimes things go awry. When my lessons didn’t go to plan, I would become frustrated; if I planned too much material, my son would become overwhelmed and lose interest. After some reflection, I reset my homeschool style and became less consumed with perfection and more interested in creating an engaging and fun environment. My son responded affirmatively and learning became easier. My son became more engaged mentally and was better equipped to retain the material. As I mentioned, homeschooling provides flexibility, so roll with it, and don’t abstain from having fun during homeschool.
Socialization ≠ Packed Busy Weeks
Socialization…it’s a word that plagues homeschoolers. We are often asked by relatives, friends, and pediatricians how we socialize our kids, and this can cause unneeded pressure. This pressure can deceive us into thinking that if we don’t have our kids involved in several extracurriculars, our children are missing out on the socialization that traditional school allows for. These outside pressures can get out of hand.
I endured the same socialization pressures when I began homeschooling too. Intentions were pure; I wanted to ensure my son was getting quality interactions with other children so that he could learn the importance of collaboration, friendly play, and problem-solving. However, as many new homeschoolers do, I overbooked our schedule with social activities.
In four months, we joined a Classical Conversations community, where I provided weekly classroom instruction to other homeschoolers, twice-weekly soccer, and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) that met twice per month. These events did not account for play dates, which occurred regularly. During some weeks, we had something scheduled every single day. Burnout is real, so learn from my mistakes and don’t overbook your schedule. All these extracurriculars added various stressors, to include, combatting DC traffic to arrive on-time with a gaggle of children in tow, planning and scheduling conflicts, preparing and fitting homeschool into the daily routine, and managing the home front.
Cut and Recalibrate!
This upcoming year, I plan to make some cuts and recalibrations to focus on the most important things for my homeschool.
Although MOPS has been great for meeting other moms, I have found that it hasn’t added to my homeschool. I love the women I’ve met, but most were not homeschoolers, or they had kids in school, which made it difficult to build deep friendships. In addition, planning play dates around their school day, between my children and theirs, was usually inconvenient for either us or them.
Classical Conversations (CC) is something I will be continuing but will make some changes to different aspects of our CC educational approach. This includes but is not limited to planning my instruction as a tutor and how we implement reviewing our CC memory work in our homeschool (posts coming soon).
I will also be recalibrating my relationships. Don’t misunderstand my intentions, I love relationships, especially with other homeschool moms. However, I feel there is a limit to the number of deep, meaningful relationships you can maintain. As a teacher, I would stress about getting to know other faculty members and building relationships with other teachers. My intentions were unrealistic and the people I came to know best were those on my team. It’s no different in the homeschool world within co-ops or communities. Rather than stressing about truly knowing everyone, I plan to focus on building close friendships with other homeschool moms I’ve connected with so far.
Having a support system in the homeschooling realm is invaluable. It provides a sounding board to bounce ideas, discuss challenges, and explore other best practices. If you aren’t connected with other homeschoolers, I would highly recommend seeking them out. As adults, we celebrate our differences; children share similar differences. Children have different personalities and learning styles that may promote or prevent learning. Your homeschool support system may offer insight/experience into reaching children with learning behaviors similar to yours.
Have a plan…but a flexible one!
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season ensures time will be of the essence. As the year concludes, I find myself slacking in terms of homeschool, and I remember the same tendencies while a public teacher. The excitement of Christmas and the endless seasonal festivities left children and teachers mentally drained. The holiday season always moves fast, so be flexible and understanding.
I found this past year that after Halloween, we followed a week on and a week off schedule for our homeschool. I feel this was mostly due to travel, holidays, and disruptions within our homeschool week (hello overscheduling…like mentioned above). Do I suggest following this same pattern…NO! Here’s why:
It breaks routine!
I found that this sporadic and sometimes unpredictable schedule would interrupt not only my routine but my son’s as well. When we would have a week of school after skipping a week, he had a hard time focusing, and so did I. I also felt anxiety and stress about the time wasted and how it put us behind in his progress. So how do you remedy this? Plan breaks, but after several weeks of work. I like the way Classical Conversations is broken up into 6 weeks increments. As begin school this new year, I plan to follow a similar routine in my homeschool.
It prolongs our goals!
I have goals and so does my son (although he may not know it at this age). When I had this sporadic schedule in the late fall/early winter, it pushed back the date of completion for some of these goals. Some of the things I wanted to have done by the spring will now be pushed into summer because of the interruptions in our homeschool routine. Looking back, I wish I had pushed myself to be more consistent while building in the breaks that made sense (Thanksgiving and Christmas especially). As this new year begins, we will look at where we are on our goals and adjust our expectations. All while making sure we stick to a consistent, non-sporadic schedule.
Whether this is your first year homeschooling or your last…I challenge you! Take a look at your fall/winter semester. What went well…what didn’t? How can you make your homeschool better while not adding extra stressors? What goals do you have for your child’s progress and how can you implement small steps to reach those goals? As you ring in the new year…I challenge you to think about your homeschool and how you can make it better for you and your children!
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Take some time and reflect on your past year. What are some things you did well? What areas can you improve on? Share below in the comments!