Well, we have begun another school year. You would think that with one child who is closer to the end than the beginning, and the number of years that we have homeschooled, another school year would be breezy. But this year has its own unique challenges. She is now a working woman, teaching others to dance. She is doubling down on her college classes. And this year is just tough: Chemistry? Economics? Geometry/ Algebra II? Forget about it.
In the midst of her changes, I, too, am making moves toward my post-homeschooling life. So, as these things go, I had to attend an all-day seminar only three days into our homeschool year. It had been a very long time since I voluntarily attended any course that was designed with only my personal/ professional needs in mind. Yet, with my teacher/ trainer hat on, I could not help but think of how this training could teach us as home educators a few things about making our “training” ( Proverbs 22:6) more effective.
Manage your time. When I was a younger homeschooling mom, a number of my compadres followed a home management system called the Fly Lady. Each of them had binders listing every single household task and a general idea of how many minutes each task took. There was also a listing of tasks that could be accomplished in 15 minutes. I am not here to judge the merits of the system, but instead to point out that this was one way–one of many ways–to manage time. Currently, there are other systems to replace the Fly Lady, including the all-too-cliche “being intentional,” but the idea is the same. We will talk about being organized later, but for now, be sure you understand how you use time, including how you waste it, or use it for purposes (read social media) that undermine the best for you and your family.
Change it up. I read a quote not too long ago that, even after all these years, hit me like a ton of bricks as to why my teen likes to get out and enjoy her friends during the day (thank heaven for dual enrollment). As educators, we can easily fall guilty of expecting our children to do what we struggle to achieve: sitting in one place for hours, reading book after book, answering question after question, and retaining most, if not all of the information read or written. Take full advantage of being at home–move around, even outside, and engage the body along with the mind. Sometimes a change of pace can be the perfect solution to school days that become lackluster. And speaking of which…
Take breaks. I detailed in a different post our need for breaks, both to coordinate with seasons and holidays, but also to help us all be our best selves when we are learning together. Breaks are especially important for littles, who are still developing habits of attention, or kinesthetic learners, who may need movement to help with retention.
Give kids opportunity to discover for themselves. If you are anything like me, you might find yourself becoming the “answer man” more often than you planned. Perhaps you have done enough prep work that answers come easier for you. Perhaps you are hoping that, through your words, osmosis will somehow transfer your passion. Perhaps fifty questions simply gets exhausting. But I challenge you to allow children to connect dots for themselves. Consider developing a habit of saying, “Look that up so we can learn together” rather than answering all the questions.
Be organized. I have friends whose homes are immaculate, with everything in its place and a place for everything. I totally admire that; it’s just not me, and it’s not us. With two parents who work from home, and a notebook-heavy, resource-heavy, minimal-online-course homeschool (did that make sense?) we do our best to make a potentially cluttered home a pleasant space for us to dwell. ‘Organization’ also encompasses alot of ground that can be easily be segmented, and any of these categories can jumpstart a homeschool day, to include:
- cleaning the sink and wiping kitchen counters/ table
- Skimming lesson plans and books/ worksheets before the kids arrive in order to anticipate problem areas
- Making beds and light cleaning before and/or during the homeschool day
- Weekly/ monthly meal prep and planning
- Mom’s planning days (reading/ podcast / discovery days for the kids)
The simplest way to think about organization might be to ponder what activities are most stressful in your day/ week, and then determine what can be done in advance to make that activity run smoothly.
Look for connections. As much as I preach children’s self discovery, I am also a believer in painting the big picture for them as a way of helping concepts stick. There are times when subjects unintentionally (or intentionally) cross over one another, building onto one another in such a way as to drive the point home. It is why some parents regularly use unit studies. I call it the “honey hole,” a fisherman’s term for that moment when the fish are almost jumping in the boat–little work required. So, if there is a honey hole moment in your studies, take advantage of it.
If there is an overall message to this post, I would leave you with the idea that you don’t have to have a picture-perfect environment to be effective. Small changes completed habitually will make a significant difference. Be blessed, dear friends.