It seems like just yesterday folks were finishing up there school years and getting ready for a break, and already, back to school posts are launching and folks are thinking about planning their new school year. Should their kids do more extra murals? Should they fit in an extra math program this year? Could they possibly add an extra reading session to their afternoon rest? The long list of the more we hope to do, in our minds quickly becomes the long list of the more we should do, and in our overwhelmed actions becomes the long terrifying list of things we just never do. This past year I tripped on a surprising truth and we got more school done that ever before… no I didn’t rename all our playing school, but I did focus on creating long stretches of free time daily.
Every year I like to focus on just one thing… all our school gets done as usual, but one year I focused on reading skills, another year I focused on math games. This past year I focused on free time. I know my kids learn best when they pursue their passions, if they don’t know their passions, they still learn best and move forward without me hovering over them. It turns out they all have things that drive them and the things they would rather be doing if they weren’t doing school… it may be building forts, it may be LEGO, it may be running as fast as they can, it maybe brandishing sticks or making petal salad… whatever it is, I wanted my guys to have enough free time to get really good at what it is they wanted to pursue. Turns out, and here is my surprising truth: by removing lingering school time and creating stretches of free time, that the time we spent doing school was much more focused and we did a whole lot more school than I expected and we did it a whole lot more efficiently.
Se7en Sanity Savers for Homeschooling Moms
- Free Up Time for Actual Rest: Don’t save time just so that you can fit more things in. We are always searching for ways to make things go faster, let the big kids make lunch because then you can do a little more with the little ones… let the little ones sleep later, because then you can get a bit more preparation done. The key is that when you do things more efficiently it isn’t so that you can put more stuff into your already busy day… it is to create a pause for breath. That isn’t laziness, it is a need for a rest. I am a firm believer in naps… preferably not nodding off while I try and read to my kids… but before that, a full on committed collapse on the bed, and in this wintry season, with a blanket. My kids don’t nap, trust me, but they do have an hour of quiet reading after lunch, and I look forward to it.
- Seize the Day not Squeeze the Day: When we are plotting and planning, and I speak for myself, homeschool moms can go a little crazy… dreaming of all the things we are going to do. A new year doesn’t actually mean that our days are now twice as long. Trust me things become a lot less exciting really quickly when we force ourselves through them. Take audible books, they are great and finally came into their own in our home last school year, but don’t use audible to try and squeeze in double the amount of read-a-louds. Sometimes our kids can just take a bath, or go for a quick drive without listening to a classic, it doesn’t all have to be educational. I started putting audible books on while I cooked dinner and everyone who joins me in the kitchen, and a few more have started joining me in the kitchen, have really enjoyed it. But it certainly isn’t school time.
- Learn What Motivates Them: I cannot make my children learn anything… I can say this is tricky lets work on it together… but essentially they have to do the work and my job is to provide the environment that is conducive to learning. There will come a time when your children leave home and they have to work… I know you think it is never, but it is way sooner than you can imagine… If your kids can’t motivate themselves through the difficult stuff then you need to teach them how to do that. In school then their teacher would have ways to motivate their students, ask a few teacher friends how they motivate their students, you might be surprised at their skills. I know we get so caught up in switching programs because they aren’t working or trying something new, sometimes our students just need to know: It isn’t so much about whether they can do the work they don’t want to do… to get where they want to be, it is more about if they can do the difficult stuff then the things they want to do will be so much easier.
- Stop Idolising ALL the other Homeschoolers: Other homeschoolers do amazing things, other homeschoolers go on fantastic outings, other homeschoolers have the most incredible naturejournals… If your kids have access to some paper and a pencil, then if nature note booking is their thing, then they will actively pursue it and you will not be able to hold them back… ever. And in essence, if your child doesn’t want to draw a beautiful sea-shell or make a water colour of a feather… chances are that that child won’t be pursing a career as a nature notebooker, they may however be very good at tying knots or carving sticks… it isn’t nature notebooking we should be pursuing so much as creativity. And I can guarantee you that a few afternoons with nothing mapped out for them, will bring out the creativity on your scholars.
- Stay Focused on Your Goals: Don’t get distracted by all the homeschooling bling. All through the year new things cross our paths, I see wonderful new things to learn about and fabulous new resources to try. I usually dive in and say: look guys I have this fantastic new thing we are going to begin… we are all excited for about two weeks and then we fizzle. This past year I saved a list of new things that popped up as we went along, and now I have a list of good things to try in our next school year… all good and ready to go.
- Good Enough is Great: Don’t steal their joy in the name of perfection. I always say school time is school time and be done… but I will often take the person that needs a little extra help and help them catch up in the afternoon… Well this year I didn’t. Free time was free time. I have one or two very slow plodders… there is no rushing them. I always try to help them get up to speed, but (I know slow learning mother person here) this is why we homeschool, they can learn at their own speed. The truth is, these children need to play just as much as their speedier schoolmates, if not more than the others… and I can’t do the work for my kids they have to do it. So I have 2 scholars that did 3/4 of a year of school and spent the rest of the year accumulating amazing building/planning/creating skills. I reckon 75% of the work done and a collection of new life skills is really a good year by any standard.
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect To Be Excellent: Why did someone ever say that if it is worth doing something then it is worth doing well, and then to make it worse, why did we interpret that to mean it has to be perfect. Yes, science club and a few friends over to do science experiments is fun, but your kids can also spend an afternoon playing with magnets, yes poetry and home baked scones is wonderful, WONDERFUL, but you can also read a poem or two while everyone eats their breakfast. Just because there are millions of learning opportunities out there doesn’t mean you have to take them all. Go back to the reason you began homeschooling and with those fresh eyes look again at the opportunities that pass you by and then choose the ones that meet your learning criteria and forget the rest… your child doesn’t need to be exposed to every learning opportunity in order to discover their passion. You may never listen to opera and your child could still be an opera singer, you may never build a deck and your child might become a carpenter. Of course expose your children to a variety of things… but neither you nor your children have to do all of those things.
The thing is when homeschool moms gather together it is usually to lament on the woes of their journey, this child isn’t learning enough and that child never finishes timeously, and they haven’t even started their science experiments for the year. They haven’t looked at a globe in forever and not even glanced at language arts in the past two years… the thing is at the beginning of your homeschool journey the stretch ahead literally looks like an insurmountable mountain. Daunting to say the least. At some stage homeschooling moms, and I speak for myself here, tend to forget they are on a journey and try to carry the entire mountain, may I suggest that you put that mountain down and start to just slowly climb it again. You may well rediscover a spring in your step when you aren’t actually weighed down buy an entire mountain.