Freshening the Homeschool Plan
This post is for the veteran – the homeschooler who can teach a child to read while stir frying dinner, who has more books in her bookcases than she could ever use, the mom who multi-tasks (violin lesson for one child, reading with another while waiting, picking up yet another child from soccer practice on the way home).
This post is also for the mother who is tired. Cracking open a new set of math books isn’t as exciting as it once was. Her hope that this year “will be different” for at least one of her children has dimmed. She starts to wonder if she’s got the energy to keep planning creative projects for the younger ones when high school kids are demanding intensive attention.
The long haul is a long haul. Make no mistake. Home education starts off as an exciting adventure for everyone, especially the mother. A plan and purpose to child rearing combined with the thrill of quality books and a deepening interest in history and science creates a momentum in the home that few outside the homeschooling movement really grasp. That momentum sustains many families for years, often right through junior high for the oldest child.
Usually, though, about year 8, 9 or 10, the primary homeschooling parent (usually the mom) feels the effects of being solely responsible for the education of her children. There are complaints from the peanut gallery (aka, your kids) about certain subjects and habits, there are the inevitable failures of products that were supposed to transform your child’s abilities in a specific subject area, there is the repeat duty of teaching children to read, over and over and over again (depending on how sizable your brood is).
How do you inject life back into the predictable routine so that all of you can re-up your enthusiasm and commitment to home education?
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Do what you love to do, every week. That sounds obvious, but usually the first thing to go in a family’s togetherness program is a mother’s passions. If you love knitting, keep knitting and take some classes to keep it going. If you suddenly find that learning is your favorite thing ever, find an online school or a university or a community program where you can study a specific topic or area of interest. Do one thing every week that expands who you are and what you think about. You’ll be surprised that there is a trickle-over into your home that comes from being a student yourself in another context.
- Join a homeschool co-op, a cottage school, hire a tutor, or use part time enrollment options. You can’t do it all yourself forever and your kids don’t want you to. Find other adults who are passionate about the subjects you either don’t know well enough or don’t want to teach. Kids enjoy getting out of the house and hearing feedback from other adults. You’ll like the break.
- Get out of the house and into nature every week. When our kids were little (with strollers and backpacks and diaper bags and juice cups), we tended to get out of the house often (sanity required it). But somehow, once our kids are old enough to carry their own stuff, we forget to leave. We stay home except for outings to the supermarket or piano teacher. Get back to your weekly outings. Walk in the fresh air, visit a museum, hike, bike ride, play miniature golf or go bowling.
- Do some of your schooling at Barnes and Noble or Starbucks. Seriously. Take the Friday Freewrite to the mall or the local coffee house. Finish your math for the week at the library or at a park. Do you see a pattern here? Get out of the house more, not just for music or dance lessons and errands.
- Pick one project that requires preparation and committed execution to complete. Remember the medieval feasts of your kids’ youth? The building of teepees in the backyard? As our kids get older, we stop doing things like that because we think book work is so important. And it is. But let’s not forget the benefits of being at home. Do extraordinary memorable stuff too. Join Project Feederwatch and count birds every week. Follow through on those kitchen style science experiments. Learn how to compost. Quilt blankets for leukemia patients. Take a vintage dance class every week and prepare for the ball at the end of the year. Train to run in a 10K with your teens. (Psst: the Homeschool Alliance’s One Thing Challenges will give you lots of ideas.)
- Consult your kids. Ask them what would make them happy this year. What new thing would they like to try, learn, discover, execute? If a 15 year old asks for piano lessons, it’s not too late. If your teen wants to learn to fly a plane, guess what? It’s possible. What about planning some overnights away from home? A backpacking trip, a weekend in a major city, a flight to visit out-of-state grandparents. Remember, your teens are as happy as they are busy. Social life, adventures and a feeling of independence give them the greatest sense of well-being. And if your teen is happy, you’ll be much happier too.