A new school year is upon us, a fresh beginning with clean notebooks waiting to be filled, field trips to be taken, and discussions to be had. Each time this occasion rolls around, it carries with it change. Some of it is so subtle, and we are so busy, that we fail to notice it. Our fourth grader becomes a fifth grader, the baby is nursing at longer intervals, or we don’t have to spend quite as much time explaining the math lesson. Other changes leave us floundering to adjust, like the transition from middle school to high school, or having a whole new dynamic with the remaining children after one leaves the nest.
This year, for the first time, I will be homeschooling only one child. I graduated my second son last spring, and he joins his older brother as a college student this fall. That leaves me and my sweet little daughter to try to fill the couch with just the two of us, and to generate the same quality of discussion between us that we had with three kids, and then two. I plan to embrace this new phase in my journey as a homeschool mom, and maximize every advantage that it offers.
Here are four ways to a have a great start this year—no matter what kind of metamorphosis your family is currently experiencing!
Start the year with a positive attitude. Don’t spend time grieving for the past, enjoy the present. See the good in the changes. For example, I am thankful that my daughter and I can have “girl time” every day. With just one child, it will be easy to do some fun things like decide to do literature discussion over a milkshake at a nearby restaurant. School can be entirely geared toward her needs and interests. It is a blessing to have this time alone with her to hear her thoughts and guide her heart during these sometimes difficult teen years. Remember that these years are fleeting, and whatever you may be facing this year is temporary, good or bad. I want to make fun memories with my girl.
Read God’s Word and pray about how your year should look according to His plans for your family. Idealizing the year leads to perceived failure when you can’t measure up. Notice “perceived” failure. When we set the bar too high for reality, we set ourselves up to feel less than adequate. We give fodder to the enemy to whisper lies in our ears about our shortcomings. Work within the parameters of real life by making a schedule that you can live with. Scheduling every minute of your day can be stressful since it doesn’t allow for life to happen! When we schedule every second, we are holding control over our day too tightly in our own fists. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”
However, God is a God of order. We should strive to have some order in our days, rather than flying by the seat of our pants and not getting things done. I prefer to have a general schedule that looks something like this:
- Morning chores
- Bible/History discussion together
- Separate rooms for math/grammar/science
- Lunch (sometimes while we watch a movie related to our studies or history documentary)
- Reading for history/literature
Get organized! This doesn’t mean making your house look like a magazine, although if you are able to and enjoy that, go for it! Instead, have a basic plan for where to put necessary books and supplies in a central location so that you don’t add stress to your life by having to go on a quest when you need them. I have a small bookshelf in our living room where we can easily access our books, and a supply cabinet in the basement with craft and office supplies. Cut clutter and part with the things you are finished with. Don’t hoard old curriculum, books, and games you aren’t likely to need again. Bless someone else with them and maybe make a little money in the process. Give your children responsibility for their own spaces and simplify that for them by having bins for toys and baskets for dirty clothes.
Finally, listen to your children! If a child doesn’t like a subject, don’t overreact or take it personally. We are all individuals with our own interests. A negative reaction on your part seldom imparts enthusiasm to the child, and may even make the child feel that they are disappointing you by not conforming to your idea of fun. Try to involve the child in planning for the year, and gear learning to that child when possible. Some things are non-negotiable, like learning history, but the approach can be adjusted to make it more enjoyable.
Much to my dismay, my daughter has never liked history. My two boys and I LOVE it. We have spent the last twelve years watching lunchtime documentaries as a treat, visiting museum exhibits related to our studies, reading books, making projects and maps, cooking recipes, and discussing topics well past the point that we should have ended our time on the couch and started math lessons. My daughter has done all of these same activities, but she has reluctantly endured the documentaries, enjoyed some of the field trips, and mostly listened to discussions.
I tried to figure out what I did wrong with her. Finally, I got it. She is just not a history person. So, I will be abandoning my yearly history rotation this year in favor of geography. (Gasp! But it was supposed to be Ancients again—my favorite!) She and I made this choice together, and she is looking forward to going around the world and through time to visit the different cultures. (Shhh … You can’t study cultures without dipping into their history!)
Regardless of what stage your family is in this year, one thing is certain—you will never be here again. The key to a successful year is to embrace where you are on the journey, and take the time to really experience it with your children.
Sharon Duncan lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Tony, and her three awesome children. She is a homeschool veteran of twelve years as well as a Registered Nurse who works weekends and loves to read, write, sew, and travel. Visit her at elephantsfordinner.wordpress.com.