Classroom teachers (of which I was one for many years) are familiar with the ups and downs of the school year, the way parts of the year are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, the way some drive you bonkers with excess student energy, and the way others (can we say "testing season"?) d-r-a-g out interminably. What I didn't realize when I transitioned from my school classroom to teaching my own children was that the same would be true as a homeschooler. Check out these seven seasons of the homeschool year and how to make the most of them. Maybe they will resonate in your heart as well!
For us, this season begins in late summer and lasts about six weeks. I've printed out a new homeschool planner, we have fresh books and workbooks, the homeschool corner of our living room is relatively organized, I've gotten out our new Memoria Press curriculum, the children are excited about seeing their friends again in Vita Beata and Community Bible Study - you get the idea. We are ready to take on the new school year and smile (perhaps somewhat smugly) as we hear the school bus stopping on our corner and know that we get to wake up at a reasonable hour and will finish our school work before the neighborhood kids get home. Homeschool rocks!
Making the most of it: Enjoy it! Tweak your schedule where it needs it and enjoy finding your groove with curriculum and timing. Take field trips and channel that energy into fun early fall activities that you wouldn't have time for if you weren't homeschooling. YOU ARE THE TEACHER! How awesome is that??
This hits our home in October. The energy of the new school year has worn off. Schedules have not gone as planned. Curriculum that I was excited about is boring. My children are struggling in ways that I did not anticipate. We haven't had a day when we hit all of our goals for WEEKS, and I feel like I can choose homeschooling or a clean house or warm meals, but definitely not all three. I hear the school bus on the corner and wonder what it would be like to have a whole day to myself. I feel like a homeschool failure, and I'm not the one in school! (Or am I?)
Making the most of it: If this feels like you, take a step back and take a deep breath. First, this is normal, so some of what you are feeling might just be the season and not reality. Second, if the curriculum you loved in August is not working like you thought it would, you can change it. Slow down (or speed up) the pace. Add to it. Don't do every math problem. Or find something new entirely. Talk with other homeschoolers about what is working for them and try that. Remember - YOU ARE THE TEACHER. You are allowed to make changes that will benefit your child!
Enter the holidays. For us, this starts right around Thanksgiving, as we look ahead to the temporary end of activities and online discussion groups. A break is on the horizon, but it also feels like there are a dozen holiday and church events coming up, and trying to get schoolwork done on top of those feels overwhelming.
Making the most of it: Plan ahead now for how to change things up during the holiday season, whether that means taking an extended break or just doing things differently. Our family does not take the whole month of December off, but some families do, and that may be an option for you, too. Remember - YOU ARE THE TEACHER. As long as you are meeting the legal requirements for your state, you have lots of freedom to do what is best for your students and your family.
It's like September all over again! Even if you continued homeschooling through the holidays, it's likely you got at least a little break, and now you are ready for a new year! The changes you made back in the fall are working, and you've got this!!
Make the most of it: Enjoy, part 2! Take advantage of these cozy winter days to curl up on the sofa for some extra reading time together, even with your big kids. Take time to go outside during the daylight hours to get outside in the crisp, fresh air, and breathe in the freedom that homeschooling gives you! YOU ARE THE TEACHER!
Around the middle of February, the bleak mid-winter slump hits me. Spring is still a month away. The Christmas holidays seem like forever ago. The tweaking I did to our curriculum back in the fall has worn off, and that yellow school bus is looking mighty good again. I am tired. I hate math as much as my son does. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe homeschooling wasn't a good idea after all.
Make the most of it: Just like in the fall, take a step back and breathe. There are several factors here - less sunshine during the winter months, the weariness that comes with doing the same thing for months, the cabin fever that may be hitting your little ones. Find some ways to get a break, for you as well as for your kids. Maybe you can trade playdates with another homeschool mom and take a couple of hours for yourself? Also, keep getting outside in the sunshine, even for a short time every day. And just like in the fall, don't be afraid to make curriculum changes even now. DON'T be a slave to whatever text book you chose back in the summer. Remember, YOU ARE THE TEACHER!
It's late March. Spring is here. We're on Day 160 of our homeschool calendar and if everything goes well, we'll be officially done by the end of April, at which point the homeschooling we do will be because we want to and not to satisfy the government. We made it!
Make the most of it: Enjoy the new burst of energy in yourself and your kids. As the spring weather warms up, take days off here and there to enjoy the outdoors and, once again, to enjoy the freedom of homeschooling. Begin the process of taking stock of the past year. What worked? What didn't? What skills do your children still need to work on? What can you do differently next year?
At the same time, don't be discouraged if you are not where you wanted to be by this time. Is your child not where she "should" be in math? Is it because she has the skills but hasn't finished the book? Maybe you don't need to. Maybe you can do fewer problems per chapter in the weeks to come. Is it because this math has just been hard? Remember, you don't have to finish the book right now. Maybe you can carry it into the summer or even into the new school year. Remember, YOU ARE THE TEACHER and one of the beauties of homeschooling is that our children can learn at their own paces, whether that means working "ahead" or slowing things down a bit.
I made it! On our schedule, we tend to finish our official days in late April or early May and have the next month, while public school is still going on, to rest up before our summer schedule begins and enjoy the knowledge that we have run the race and finished well. I can look back on the last year, with all of its high and low points, and look ahead to the new year with a sense of anticipation and the knowledge that it is still a couple of months away.
Make the most of it: Rejoice! You did it, too! A whole year of homeschooling is done! Even if you homeschool year-round, make sure you take some time to rest and do anything EXCEPT school. Remember you are the teacher, but first and foremost, you are your child's parent, and you need time to make memories in that role, too. Start looking ahead to the new year, and look back on the old, but make sure to enjoy what is going on right in front of you, too!
What seasons of homeschooling do you experience? What would you add to this list?