Starting the School Year With a Bang or a Fizzle

back to school

Summer’s almost over and many are about to begin (or have already begun) yet another school year.  Parents and students are excited to begin using new curriculum with the optimistic plan that this year will go more smoothly than ever before.  Unfortunately, for more than a few, within just a few days frustrations, caused by one or more of the following situations, may arise:

  1. Your student’s attention span is maxed out at five minutes.
  2. The curriculum that looked to be so user friendly is actually requiring much more preparation time than ever imagined.
  3. You realize you purchased far more curriculum than you could ever cover.
  4. The curriculum that looked perfect turns out to be not-so-wonderful.
  5. Teaching children of multiple ages is not as easy as veteran parents promised.
  6. Life happens.  Whether it’s illness, job transition, moving, extended family needs, or something else, disruption seems to be the norm.
  7. Laundry and dishes are piling up.  Meal planning is exhausting.
  8. Outside activities begin to rule the day, leaving little time for school or rest.
  9. Comparing your life with the lives of others who, via Facebook or by observing in person, appear to have it all together only adds to your feelings of inadequacy.

Calgon, take me away! (If you are not familiar with these vintage commercials, take a look. Go ahead.  This one is very short.  You will appreciate it!)

What’s a mom to do? The temptation is to throw up your hands, give up, and muddle through each day the best you can, knowing that you can endure yet another not-so-perfect year of homeschooling.  Do not give into that temptation.  With a few changes, homeschooling can be a blessing to both you and your children.

The first thing to do is to prioritize.  What is the most important objective to accomplish? Make a list of what you want to see completed by the end of the year.  Be realistic.  If your children are unkind and disobedient, then it may be more important to prioritize character training over academics (although it does not have to be an “either/or”).  If your house is in total disarray than perhaps getting the house in order can become the priority and you can train your children to be proficient housekeepers!  If your children have very short attention spans, then be pro-active in training them to lengthen their attention spans.  If your children have short attention spans, then you may want to do what my friend, Debbie (mother of 11), did with her children.  She created a sit time chart that she used with her children to increase the time they could be still. This was a huge help in getting them ready to sit while they waited for her to get her hair done, or at an appointment or the drivers license place – even sometimes when she checked out at the grocery store. There was a bench across from her favorite line at Publix and she would ask them to go sit on it while she paid. They would sit still with their hands folded. They thought it was fun and were just doing what they had done at home all those years. She started with 1 minute sitting sessions and the chart went up in increments of 1 minute – up to 15. If they can sit still 15 minutes, then they can do it for much longer if there is ever a need. Debbie shares, “Attentiveness is the first thing a child needs to be taught – even before first-time obedience, etc.  If one is not paying attention, how do they know what they are being asked to do?”

If the curriculum you purchased is not working then tweak it, set it aside or sell it. Curriculum is a tool we use and not something that should enslave us to a miserable life-style!  And, if there are illnesses, moves, or accidents, adjusting to change is a great lesson in-and-of itself!  Your children will learn a lot by watching how you react to the disruptions of life.  It is okay to stop what you are doing in order to minister to the needs of others. That is a far more important lesson than any lesson a book will ever provide.

Homeschooling can be a joy-filled experience.  If that is not the case in your situation, then make the changes that need to be made in order to restore joy and relieve stress.  If, on the other hand, your year has begun with a bang then, by all means, keep it up!

Mary Hood, the Relaxed Homeschooler, says that for younger children should work on values, attitudes and habits. For older children you should work on skills, knowledge, and talents and interests. Great advice. When your littles have great attitudes, habits, and values, it makes life much more pleasant!

If you need a little more inspiration, take a look at what they have done in Finland to improve their education system or watch this Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson on How Schools have Killed Creativity.

Two recommended books for encouragement: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins and Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie.

Here are a few quotes and links to keep around as reminders:

How about making a sign that says “School.” Place the sign over the backdoor. You know, the door leading outside. –  Chris Davis

There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent. – Mahatma Gandhi

[Homeschooling]…recipe for genius: More of family and less of school, more of parents and less of peers, more creative freedom and less formal lessons. – Raymond S. Moore, School Can Wait

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. – Roger Lewin

Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent. – Plato

Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind. – Charlotte Mason

The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men. – James Beattie

What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all. – John Holt

Unless education promotes character making, unless it helps men to be more moral, more just to their fellows, more law abiding, more discriminatingly patriotic and public spirited, it is not worth the trouble taken to furnish it. – William Howard Taft

Here’s to hoping you have a fantastic homeschooling year!





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