Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. – Benjamin Franklin
With many Central Iowa homeschooling families taking a break from studies to celebrate the holiday, the new year offers a chance for families to look back over the past year and make any course corrections necessary. What’s been working? What hasn’t been working? What can you do to make your homeschooling life less stressful?
It might be a good idea to sit down as a family and discuss the issues, both with your spouse and with your children. Find out what they think is working and what they would like to see changed. This is where the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions might be used to motivate everyone towards the desired changes – especially if you’re taking the time to include everyone in the process.
There are five areas that you might want to examine, depending on your family’s needs. I’ve included examples from my own family to highlight changes.
Academics – Are the materials you are using working for your family? Do you need to find something different? Does the schedule need to be tweaked in any way? My family has had a pretty chaotic fall semester with a move, surgery, and the economy altering our financial resources. With that in mind, I found myself struggling to keep up with lesson plans. When I first started homeschooling, I used a pre-planned curriculum. As my confidence grew, I moved away from that and started developing my own lesson plans. I have had to acknowledge I need some extra help right now, so we are returning to a curriculum with a more structured lesson plan.
Activities – How many extra-curricular activities is your child(ren) involved in? Are you being pulled in too many directions? Does something need to give? After having six children at home at one point and juggling all of their activities, we are down to one left living at home. He still keeps up hopping. Between Ames Children’s Choir, 4-H, Cub Scouts, Awanas, dance classes, and play practice, he tends to have most of his afternoons and evenings full. This is not a schedule we could maintain if he wasn’t the only child left at home. As it is, we’ve had to say no to a couple of activities this year, making my son choose his priorities. If you are homeschooling multiple children, and they have multiple different interests, you might want to consider limiting each child to one or two activities.
Schedules – How do you set up your day? How do each of your children learn best? Are they morning people? Late risers? Do you have a night owl? A combination? With my son, I’ve learned that he is at his best first thing in the morning. I front-load our schedule with subjects that are not his favorite and save the subjects he likes best for later in the day. One of my now graduated daughters was not a morning person; I let her sleep in (it was better for everyone), and she did a lot of her school work in the evening or before bed.
How do you divide your week/year? Have you tried block scheduling? We have always homeschooled year round. For the past couple of years, we have worked with a four-day week. With some unplanned breaks, we will be shifting our schedule to a more traditional five-day week. As my son gets older, he is showing less enthusiasm about the year-round schedule, so that may be something we revisit down the road. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is flexibility in scheduling, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your family.
Family time – What are your priorities as a family? Where do you see your family at this time next year? Making family goals is a great way to build more time together into your schedule. Find activities you can share together. In the past, we’ve all done a play at a local community theater together and set aside money for season tickets to see touring shows. This year, our family priority is getting healthier. We’ve set our goal to do more physical activities together, like hiking at nearby Ledges State Park in Boone, Ia. We are also planning and preparing healthier meals together. What does your family enjoy? Maybe it’s having a set family game night or maybe exploring antique shops or flea markets. It doesn’t matter what you choose, there are as many ideas as there are families. The important thing to remember is that you are making a resolution that will continue to make family togetherness a priority.
Time for yourself – As a homeschooling parent, it is incredibly important for there to be time for you to step away from the responsibility for awhile. A burnt-out teacher-parent isn’t good for anyone. If you are feeling like you are ready to run screaming into the night, making time for yourself should be a priority; it is probably the most effective thing you can do for your family in the coming year. What do you like to do? What is your passion? We are forturnate here in Central Iowa to have an abundance of opportunities to discover more about ourselves. Take an art class or learn a new hobby. Volunteer. teake part in your local community theater. Find a part-time job. Take a walk. Have your spouse take your children to the park and enjoy a bubble bath. It really doesn’t matter what you do, just so long as you find a way to recharge your batteries. One great thing I’ve been able to do is combine my love of movies and passion for writing and turn into a supplementary income writing for the Examiner.
Looking at these five areas is a great way for you and your family to find out what your priorities are going to be in the new year and make any needed adjustments. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to homeschool; it’s about finding what works best for your family. While New Year’s Eve and the tradition of making resolutions offers a timely opportunity to evaluate your year, son’t be afraid to examine these areas throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. – Oprah Winfrey