At the start of each new homeschool year, our hopes are high. We have so many things that we want to cover with our kids in the coming year. We have fresh, new school supplies on hand. Our lesson planning is well underway. Even our kids are excited – whether they will admit it or not.
However, there are some insidious things which can sneak in and cause us to stumble. These pitfalls can not only tarnish our homeschooling experience but they can hurt our families as well. We need to avoid these traps at all costs! Fortunately, there are some simple principles we can implement which will help to keep us on track for an amazing year.
Here are 7 Simple Principles for an Amazing Homeschool Year:
1 – Pray, pray, pray
The first trap we can fall into is thinking that we can homeschool using our own wisdom and strength. It seems natural to sit down and think up a plan. To barge ahead with what we feel we need to cover during the coming year. But before we make any decisions, we need to make sure we have been in prayer about them. Are you letting God direct your homeschool journey or are you trying to come up with the plan on your own?
Ask God for the wisdom, the strength, and the direction that you need to make good choices for your homeschool. God created life and He knows best the way to live that life to the fullest. He will ensure that you cover everything He wants you to this coming year.
2 – Your Marriage Needs to Come Before Homeschooling
Homeschooling is such a wonderful blessing. But, it can also become an all-consuming obsession. Moms who are home educating their kids have a lot on their plates. They have to add choosing curriculum, making lesson plans, teaching lessons, and grading papers onto the never-ending tasks of running their households and taking care of their families.
Homeschool moms are often tired and when their husbands get home at the end of the day, it can be easy to ignore him in lieu of some much-needed relaxation. Thing is, our marital relationship needs to be a higher priority than our children. Someday, the kids will be gone and we will be left alone with our spouses. Will you still have a close relationship when that time comes?
It’s important to be intentional about spending time with our spouses now. Have occasional date nights. Get away for your anniversary. Put the kids to bed early enough that you can spend time alone together in the evenings. It isn’t always easy to add in this time with your spouse – but it’s vitally important. A strong marriage leads to a strong family. And a strong family will have a much better homeschooling year than one which is having relationship difficulties.
3 – You Can’t Do it All
We are all human and we all have limited time and resources with which we can work. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can work a full-time job, volunteer at church, have multiple hobbies, spend lots of time with friends, cultivate a strong marriage, coordinate tons of outings for your extended family, and homeschool your kids all at the same time. We all have a breaking point and if you don’t learn how to say no you will find yours sooner rather than later.
Know your limitations. Speak with your husband to come up with priorities for your family. By all means, feel free to volunteer and to help out where you can. But remember that you can’t do it all. Be realistic. If you are in balance your entire family will be much happier. No one wants to be stuck with a wife or a mom who is ranting and raving because she is overwhelmed. Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” Ouch!
4 – Don’t Try to Tackle Too Much at Once
This is a similar concept to the previous one. Don’t try to take on more than you can comfortably handle. There are a finite number of hours in each day. No matter how awesome a learning opportunity sounds, you shouldn’t take it on if you already have 8+ hours of learning lined up for your kiddos. This goes for subjects studied, extracurricular activities, field trips, hands-on projects, science experiments, etc.
Also, don’t feel that your homeschooling day needs to be as long as a day in a public school. There is a lot of time wasted in public school. Just because students are there for 7+ hours a day doesn’t mean that learning is happening during that entire time. Don’t feel that you need to try to teach your kids from 8-4 every day!
One benefit of homeschooling is that teaching takes as long as it takes and then you can be done. Some days it will take 15 minutes to complete a math lesson. Some days it will be closer to 2 hours. It isn’t necessary to give our kids busy work so that they have something to do until their next class period starts – unlike in schools. Once they grasp the material, let them do their assignment and be done.
5 – Meet Your Child Where He’s At
All of our kids are unique. Just because your son is 10 years old doesn’t mean he will be able to complete all of his subjects at a 5th-grade level. He may be reading at college level, doing math at a 7th-grade level, and doing science at a 3rd-grade level.
Some of our kids are great at all of their academic pursuits but they need extra help with character issues. Some of them need extra motivation to learn responsibility or various life skills. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. You will have much more success if you meet a child where he’s at and let him advance at his own speed rather than pushing him to do everything at an arbitrary level due to his age. Imagine getting upset with a baby because he didn’t start speaking or walking when most kids his age are doing so. It isn’t realistic and it isn’t fair. You’ll have a much more successful year ahead if you keep this in mind.
6 – Don’t Let Technology Take Over
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about how we need to be setting limits on electronics and TV time for our kids. However, I don’t want to talk about that in this post. My tip actually puts the shoe on the other foot. We need to be willing to set technology limits for ourselves as well.
How much time are you spending each day checking your phone? How about on social media?
I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one but I have to share something I just observed. I was getting groceries a few days ago and the lane I checked out in was right next to a horsey ride which is available for young shoppers. This is a very popular activity for kids because each ride only costs 1 cent. In fact, I have fond memories of when my boys were little and I would let them get a horsey ride if they were good while we bought our groceries.
My recent experience was very different, however. I glanced over to watch the sweet kids on the horse and was shocked to see the mom talking on her phone the entire time. She had one child sitting in the cart staring vacantly at the wall. The other child was hanging onto the horse staring straight ahead. She never looked at the kids or engaged with them at all. She switched kids and fed the machine another penny – all while continuing her conversation.
I’m not trying to throw stones. Maybe this mom is extremely engaged with her children most of the time. But it seems like more and more often, people are staring at screens of some kind and life is passing them by. This coming year, try to limit the amount of time you spend on your phone or on your computer. When your kids are around, try very hard to really engage with them. Give them good eye contact. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Get to know them. It’s hard to have a great year of homeschooling if our eyes are always glued to a screen.
7 – Take Time for Yourself
It’s also super important for you to take some time for yourself this coming year. Are you taking care of yourself? Do you ever have any time to do what you would like to do? Do you ever get a break? It’s impossible to take great care of your husband or your children if you are completely exhausted. Be intentional about recharging. Find ways to decrease stress in your life. Remember to breathe!
Trying to implement all 7 of these techniques into your year would be really stressful. Instead, if several of these tips rang true for you, try praying and asking God what He would like you to try to incorporate first. And once you have that one down, consider trying another. This will help to keep you from feeling overwhelmed from too much change at once. I hope these techniques help you to have your best homeschool year yet.
Do you have any other tips you’ve discovered that have helped to transform your homeschool experience? I’d love to hear what they are. Please leave a comment below!