We homeschoolers have so many inspired ideas when we first begin! Who doesn't love a new adventure, with a shiny new schedule to go along with it?
Consider this fictitious day:
* History The lesson begins at 10:00 followed by a snack and a short free-play session until 10:45, which leaves just enough time to fit in some handwriting practice before it's time to involve the kids in preparing the lunch.
* 11:30 Lunch We want to take advantage of all the teachable moments that we can, so involve the kids in every aspect of daily life. The children will take on the lunch prep, and we may have an opportunity to incorporate some math and reading into it! Sometimes we plan to cook special ethnic dishes if they correlate to the learning of the week.
* 1:00 Team-work clean up. After lunch everyone pitches in to help clean up. Household work for a homeschooling family is a family affair. Mom does not do it all.
2:30 Read Aloud Time. The kitchen is now well-cleaned and the laundry sorted, folded and put away, so the family snuggles together on the sofa to read aloud from a current favorite. Vocabulary is discussed, and the kids each do a retelling, so that mom can assess comprehension.
3:15 Art. We homeschool moms are smart enough to know that one way to help our kids internalize the learning that has thus far taken place, is to have the kids work on a painting, sculpting, or other art activity.
4:00 Math. By this time the clock is ticking ever-closer to dinner prep time, and our shiny new schedule tells us that math must be done. Math lessons take place exactly from 4-4:45. Mom works with each child individually for 15 minutes, and then the children continue with practice.
4:45-5:15 Mom does grading and planning for the next day for mom while the kids have play time. Mom needs to check journals, handwriting, history and math so she sends the kids outside to play. Mom is not finished with her grading done, no less have time to plan for tomorrow, before 5:15 asking when dinner will be ready. Mom doesn't know, because she hasn't planned for dinner and her dinner-prep partners are now growing restless and ornery.
Mom has also forgotten that she forgot to involve the kids in the laundry, and has to run to the grocery store before dinner because their is nothing in the fridge or the pantry.
Mom sighs, feeling defeated. How is this going to work? That evening she starts drafting a new plan.
Can anyone relate? Personally, I have planned, and re-planned, typed up and handwritten, discussed, and prayed over, plans just like this until one day I realized: We probably won't stick to the plan. And that's okay. Your kids, too, will be okay.
2. Having a Daily Rhythm Is More Important Than a Daily Schedule
It is fine (and good!) to have a road map for your homeschool. Knowing your destination is important and necessary, and you can reach this destination even if you do miss a day, or weeks' worth of math lessons for example. Sit down and think about what types of things you want to accomplish for that particular month, quarter, or even year. Write them down in broad ideas.
My second grader will be able to read short chapter books and retell the story through writing. He will have mastered double digit addition and subtraction.
A rhythm is like a schedule, in that following it helps everyone know what will come next. It's important for both the homeschool teachers and the students to know what comes next, however, you don't have to be tied down to an exact schedule. Remember, you decided to homeschool for a reason, and one of those reasons may have been that you wanted a different environment for your kids; including a different schedule.
Having a rhythm helps you remember that as long as you have a broad sense of what you want to accomplish that day, week, month, or even year; but happen get off-course because someone got strep throat, or a sprained ankle at soccer practice, or you had company down from up North, you will be more likely to be able to go with the flow of whatever life throws at you. And remember, on days when you feel like you can't get it all done (or none of it done), simply sit down with your kids and read aloud.
3. Homeschooling Is a Lifestyle
I'm just going to be blunt. If you try to duplicate the public school system in your home, you (and your children), will burn out quickly and you will probably change your mind about homeschooling. I have seen it happen many times. Remember: you chose to homeschool for a reason. You might want to write these reasons down and keep them where you can see them and be reminded regularly. So often we lose sight of the reasons why we are educating our own children. If you are not sure anymore of the reasons why you chose this lifestyle, perhaps a homeschooling mission statement would help you clarify?
Homeschooling is a lifestyle, because homeschooling families do not live like other families whose kids go to either public or private brick and mortar schools. Generally, some of these differences include:
1. Homeschooled kids are exposed to "real life" situations earlier and more often than their non-homeschooled peers. This is what homeschooling families call "real world learning" and isn't this what our schools are trying to prepare kids for?
2. Homeschooled kids are often more mature in social situations and have a larger vocabulary than their peers who are not exposed to these real world situations.
3. Homeschooled kids spend more time with their families, and are exposed to, and participate more in the household activities.
All these things and more, help prepare our children for the "real world"; a world that is made up of more than a group of same-age, often same-sex peers.
4. You Will Doubt What You Are Doing
You will. And then you won't. And then you will. And then you won't. It is part of what a friend of mine coined "the bi-polar homeschooler." (No offense to anyone who suffers from bi-polar disorder, as my friend's child does, which somehow makes it okay for her to crack that joke.) But let's not get fumbled up in semantics or apologies. It's all in good fun and you, dear reader, know it.
I don't think there is a homeschooling parent among us who has not doubted their decision at least once. I mean, there is so much to consider, so much to feel responsible for! It can be overwhelming.
When you doubt yourself, please go back in time and remember all the reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place. Write them down. Go back to your mission statement and remember what your homeschool goals are. If necessary, change them. Hold a family meeting and revise and revamp. Talk with your core support group, or sign up for our low-cost mentoring program. Get it out of your head, and move on with revitalized purpose, or with a new plan, but above all, talk about it! You are not alone.
5. You Will Celebrate Successes (and Failures Too)
You will also look back on each year and marvel at how much your kids have grown. You will see the importance of not only academic growth, but social-emotional growth as well. You will bear witness to your kids becoming amazing, empathic, self-assured people. Each success, whether it be mastering the division of fractions, or providing a listening ear for a friend in need, will be a celebration of the success of the lifestyle you are living. Don't discount these seemingly small successes!
On the other hand, your kids will fail too. Failures are also reasons to celebrate. That sounds counter intuitive, right? What I mean is, each time your child fails at something, it is a learning opportunity. We must let our kids fail at certain things, and not rescue them. For example, your high schooler has an important assessment coming up. This student has procrastinated and has not done his best work and now the time is running out. Do you run to his aid? Or do you allow them to suffer the consequences of poor time management? Each lesson learned this way, is a success and a good prep for not only future college work, but for life in general. Don't discount your failures! They are successes in disguise.