Freshening the Homeschool Plan

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 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?

A few ideas to get you started:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.

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18 Responses to “Freshening the Homeschool Plan”

  1. You were reading my mind, I am sure! Entering homeschooling year 11, I am feeling less than creative and needing something to give us a boost. Thanks for writing this….;)

  2. Sandy says:

    Thank you so much. You wrote this just for me.

  3. LLMom says:

    I too needed it. We are in our 13th year, and with 7 children I need a boost.

  4. Steph says:

    Thank you for the excellent suggestions!

  5. kim says:

    Well said! Thanks so much for that post. I so knew all of that info in my heart but would probably have forgotten half of it until mid-September blues kicked in!

  6. Sandra says:

    I’m two-thirds of the way through our tenth year of homeschooling and definitely lacking the the spark I once had. I’m certainly glad that my youngest is reading because that programme I loved with child number 1 had lost its appeal by number 4! Hopefully some of these ideas will put the spring back in my homeschooling step.

  7. Jennifer Hansen says:

    So this is why, with year 12 starting in a week, there are books enroute in Clinton, OH; last year’s work glaring at me from the school crate; and this year’s lesson book blank? I was wondering why, for the first time, I was dragging my heels in preparation for the new year! Now that I’ve faced the truth, I can move past it 🙂 But, seriously, I did think of a way to “rejuventate” – be a mentor to someone who hasn’t been “at it” as long as we have. There is satisfaction in helping someone else avoid the pit-falls – in refreshing someone else’s spirit. Thanks for being a refreshment to me, Julie. I think it’s time to “engage”!

  8. Nancy says:

    Julie –
    We found out recently that #6 is on the way. We are beginning our 8th year of homeschooling and the confusing emotions that followed our “good news” were spelled so exactly in your first four paragraphs that they made me cry. The exciting adventure is beginnig to become a daunting task. I felt the momentum was going to carry me through this year but we were slowing down and I was afraid I might experience that frightening thing called “burn out” at the end of it. Thanks for the tips and for instilling hope for the future and the knowledge that there are others out there in my shoes. There must be or you wouldn’t have been able to express my thoughts so perfectly.

  9. kate says:

    But my 13 yo still can’t spell, form a sentence or do long division:-)

  10. Kristie says:

    Yes, this year , year 8, I actually feel more rejuvinated. Enjoying planning after 2 or more unschooly type years. Whether that planning will actually be executed is always up in the air….. Thanks for the great suggestions. Two years ago I took up knitting again and it put so much juice in all of our lives. Now, knitting through our long winter, we have a knitting trio!! Ultimate frisbee is my choice for getting out and just running and running- I always notice when we have a cancellation, that by Friday am I am a little more frazzled.

  11. Kristen says:

    Thank you for your encouraging, hopeful words. I need them like water.

  12. Donna says:

    What a GREAT post! And timely. We unschool and this is our 9th year, but still…we get caught in our ruts. DH and I loved the idea of taking the boys out for Friday Freewrites at our favorite, cozy, family-run coffee shop. And we used to get out alot more – now we get out, but it is almost stressful because it is running from this lesson to that activity. Hmmm…anyway, I really enjoyed reading this and it helped put some things back into perspective for me. Thanks!

  13. Ange says:

    Going into my 7th year I can so relate to this. I AM hoping this year will be “different”, but I’ve thought that every year… we’ll see. Excellent ideas. Thanks for the insight! Sounds like you should be giving a workshop at a HS conference (that’s on my mind because I just got back from one).

  14. Joan Beinetti says:

    We started home schooling in the fall of 1984 and are now entering our 24th year. We have three married children (and six grandchildren), two children in college, and four “school age” children – 7, 10, 14, and 17. I presently have a MAJOR case of home school burnout, but reading this blog is helping me pull out of it.

    As to suggestion # 2, we are in a home school “co-op” at our church, which is a mixed blessing because it is great for my senior, but way too academic for the rest of us. They run this like school, which I find very frustrating, but I may be able to teach in the afternoon when things are more flexible. I might teach two of the things I am personally excited about: Mapping the World by Heart with interested kids and moms, and an art class with my 7yod and other kids her age.

    Someone is already teaching writing in the morning. I am going to email her a link to this blog.


  15. Earlene says:

    National Annual Homeschool
    Hike/Bike Event

    The woods and trails are gorgeous in the spring of year,so.come join all homeschoolers across the US and World in a national hike/bike event. Please pass along some pictures afterward. Here is all the info, but if an event has not been set up in your area, please just go out and get involved on your own:

    National Annual Homeschool
    Hike/Bike Event

    The Homeschool Hiking/Biking annual event began in May 2005 as a
    way to gain recognition for homeschooling as well as getting some
    exercise, group involvement, and introducing other homeschooling
    families to hiking and biking in the great outdoors and meet
    others!! It is an annual event now and will be held each year the
    last full week in May. We are asking for individuals and groups
    involved in homeschooling to set up events in their areas. You may
    make your event in varying skill levels if you would like for
    homeschoolers with varying skills. Maybe one person or group in your
    area can set up a hiking event and another can set up the biking
    event. Or you may want to work with many homeschooling groups to
    have one big event. The possibilities are many, and I would love to
    hear your ideas. This years dates are the week of May 25th to May
    31st. The woods and paths and trails are beautiful in the spring so
    please join us.
    If you would like to set up a group event in your area, please send
    your name, email address, phone, City and State, newspaper name
    (phone and email also), Tv name and email, radio name and email to
    me (Earlene) at:
    or call me at 240-727-0675
    or 301-582-0716

    We can issue a press release to your local newspaper or to you to use everywhere
    and please notify the local radio stations as well. Or you may go to our
    website and copy the press release for yourself and group to use at:

    You can also access this website to view all the state by state events listed so far
    pictures of previous events.

    practice safe hiking and biking skills, take plenty of water and
    snacks, and dress appropriately. We will assume no liability for any
    accidents or injuries that may occur while participating in this event.

    Please pass this info along to all homeschoolers and homeschool groups you know!!

  16. J says:

    Hi. I just quoted your, “Nobody knows all the words.” from a personal communication from a while ago when my son was learning to read. Then, I thought I would try to locate the article presented at the science meeting on reading to also cite that. I found this site instead. It looks wonderful. Congratulations on a family full of readers.

    After visiting your home, my son said,”Having a good reading chair makes reading fun.”

    Bye for now. See you soon.

  17. J says: is the link to the post on “Reach Reading (TM) in science. Dr. J

  18. J says:

    “Your” in the previous comments referring to Joan B.