Homeschool Hopelessness

No one warned me that I would experience periods of real hopelessness in our homeschooling journey.

These feelings were not so much because of a child’s slowness in grasping phonics, or mastering multiplication tables or coping with writing and spelling (although those struggles are real and difficult to cope with at the time), but I suffered from a deeper, insidious anxiety of not measuring up to the ideals and images of what I imagined of my parenting and homeschooling.

My struggle was that my children did not reflect what I thought they would be if I “did it right”.

I had visions of my children happily homesteading, singing songs, crafting and learning like the girls in the “Little House on the Prairies“.  I thought we would all be praying, singing, being kind to others … that kind of Christian-thing. The gratitude, the persevering, the teachable, the compliant child-thing. And I thought it would all develop into young adult expressions of that image.  But our children did not embrace or demonstrate that vision.

Actually my children started out a lot like that, back in the beginning of our homeschooling journey, so it was not that we couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t carry on into my children’s teen years. That is when things changed.  They changed.  They took charge, and it was really scary for me!

My children are amazing, unique individuals, and they were way stronger than me. No matter how hard I persevered, persuaded, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, lectured, they did things their way. They made choices and insisted and persisted.  I watched my dreams fade away.  And, looking back now, it was a good thing.  My children were not supposed to turn out the way I intended, but the way the Lord purposed.

They abandoned, subjects,  ignored Charlotte Mason’s methods, made decisions for the all “wrong” reasons (in my mind).  Instead of continuing with Charlotte Mason principles, my high school children opted for textbooks. Instead of narrations, they chose tedious workbook lessons and stressful exams. Instead of a rich cultural Fine Arts, they chose dry bones “compulsory” subjects. Instead of delight-directed – they opted for minimum requirements.  One child became the master-procrastinator!  She managed to complete everything by the skin of her teeth and it was a nightmare trying to work with her.

I sat watching each of them move further and further away from my ideals, and morph into “let’s get it done the easiest and fastest way possible” and I became sadder, more and more hopeless.  As each teenager entered into this phase, I lost perspective and became really sad and depressed.

Both my graduate daughters chose not to study further.  They did not want specific careers.  They opted for part-time work and entrepreneurial experience.  From the outside, it looked like my husband and I had “lost the plot” and we came under prolonged, severe criticism from both our parents close family.  I felt judged and a failure.   I wondered If I had instead sent them to public high schools and forced them to follow the norm of ‘Matric followed by university studies’, then we would have done it the “right way” and we would have “succeeded”.

As I sat praying, I realized that I had laid an excellent foundation in their primary school years.  We established outstanding basic skills.  I had instilled a love for reading, for good literature, for Fine Arts and we had a lifestyle of both productivity and creativity.  We have a deeply spiritual home where we share the reality of the Lord’s word and work in our lives.

All was not lost.

I turned my eyes to the Lord and trusted Him to work out those promises He gave us for each of our children.

After my eldest daughter got married earlier this year, she flourished as an amazing young woman who loves her husband.  She happily creates and keeps her home beautiful, and she cooks healthy, wonderful meals on a tiny budget.  She is a deeply committed member of a small, but tightly connected community and she and her hubby practice hospitality in ways that really bless others.

My 18-year-old graduate daughter currently works as a freelance graphic artist. She is developing her skills as a photographer and amazed us all by becoming a singer and musician, performing among the emerging musicians in the Garden Route.  There was no clue that she would choose to sing publicly.  She was so shy as a child that she wept and just couldn’t give me speeches or prepared reading, not even for me, all alone in our homeschool study.  And she never took a single formal music or singing lesson!

Last week, as I sat among a crowd of over 370 people at the Live Event in the George Botanical Gardens, and I just marveled at her courage and her talent, her vulnerability.  She shares her own songs with the world.  I didn’t see that coming!

May I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to keep hoping and praying and trusting in the Lord for your children, especially when they take charge as they grow up.  He is faithful and He has a vision and purpose for each person.  He is able to “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”.

Don’t allow periods of hopelessness and despair cause you to give up.  Have grace towards yourself for being out of your depth and have grace towards your children for working out who they are becoming.  It is Grace for grace.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Getting Real ~ Tantrums

I started Practical Pages with the aim of  encouraging moms,  and although I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, I admit that I often showcase the best sharable moments. Of course, I am not supermom and things are often less than perfect!

In another Getting Real post I will widen my exposure lens and share some of the real  nitty-gritty realities of our homeschooling lives ~ Tantrums

Hurt Boy

First, let’s look at a definition ~

tantrum  ~ˈtantrəm/ noun

  • an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.
  • synonyms: fit of temper, fit of rage, fit of pique, fit, outburst, flare-up, blow-up, pet, paroxysm, frenzy, bad mood, mood, huff, scene

Looking at the synonyms, I have seen my children and I found myself doing quite a few of those actions in times of frustration in our homeschooling, especially in our first year!  Children in school learn quickly how to hide their feelings, whereas at home, children feel free to express their emotions and vent their feelings.

Part of the problem was me and my idealistic expectations and perfectionist approach that I used when I first started homeschooling.  Add a high-need, or sensitive or strong-willed children to the mix and there was a guarantee of outbursts of anger, tears, sulks, flare-ups and meltdowns.

I caused tension with my demanding approach.  I could have spared us many meltdowns if I had been more sensitive, calmer, more spontaneous, more fun.  I was a pain in the neck, uber-serious, stressed-out mom trying to get everything done and to do it “right”.

Looking back, I am glad that I learnt to add more time to our schedule by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to 2 years .  This margin of time created a sense of safety and certainty that I didn’t have when I was chasing to keep up to a demanding prescribed schedule which I had allowed to be my task master instead of my guide.  Also, I had to learn what worked for us in our home and not constantly strive for perfection I saw reflected in the homeschooling books I read and the homeschool blogs I followed back then.

Some days simply started with a person in a bad mood, or with feelings anxiety or fear. Avoiding tantrums can feel like walking on egg shells.  No one person in the family should have so much power over the rest of the members, but it is not easy to figure how to manage that person’s inability to control their emotions.  That is where homeschooling is more about character formation and habit-training than about learning one’s  multiplication tables or spelling.  It was days like this that I quickly changed our routine and started with a read aloud, or a song or a fun “Simon Says” game to diffuse the tension and release the anxiety.

Sometimes a difficult subject, a challenging task or school activity was the cause of feelings of fear and anger.  It helped to switch the timetable around and do something fun and easy first before tackling a tough subject.  Sometimes, it felt better to start with the challenge and get it done and out-of-the-way.  Sometimes we simply left it out until we felt ready to face it with a more positive attitude.

A child feeling ill, family members experiencing poor sleep, bad diet choices, or overwhelming schedules or too many expectations are so draining that children just don’t have the capacity to control their feelings.  In times like this, I recommend moms stay home a few days, keep things simple, create a calm and predictable mealtime and bedtime routine and nurture relationships with their children, spend some cuddle-time together reading a good book aloud, go on nature walks, or listen to classical music, or bake, or whatever nurtures your family. Our Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays was the result of most these choices.

One of our best methods of clearing the air after a tantrum or meltdown, was an apology.  We used a “whiteboard” image and asked if we could quickly erase the horrible experience and start again.  Fresh starts are such an expression of grace.  Rather than live in the shame and guilt of a tantrum, offer yourself or your child the opportunity to try again, to start with a clean slate, to be their best in the new moment.

In sharing my imperfections, I extend grace to you in yours.  Grace to every mom.  Grace to every child.  Grace to you in the real and imperfect life you are living right now.

Please feel free to share your experiences, questions or offer any advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Too little done

Here’s another “Getting Real” post  ~ Too Little Done

These “Getting Real” posts series provide a more balanced perspective against the many successes and  “what works” posts that I showcase, but I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling was often less than perfect!

Girl Singing & Holding Chorus BookToo little or nothing done

All new homeschool parents worry about gaps and falling behind.  Please don’t panic!  Even school teachers fall behind.  Even professional tutors don’t cover everything.  More importantly — homeschool is NOT about learning information!  Facts can be learnt anywhere, any time — Google is at our fingertips!

We have some huge gaps in our homeschooling! Some subjects were never actually taught or done.  My children never did any physical education lessons or joined sports clubs.  (I think that they would probably not done any sport if they were at public schools either.)  I did put my foot down regarding the basics, though. We completed all the important school subjects, and I am sure that my children received a good education.

During primary school, we covered full curriculums, completed almost every topic and activity and then some.  I created a weekly schedule that covered daily themes so that we included everything including Shakespeare, poetry, Science experiments and so on.

My eldest child pushed through on everything. She insisted She completed all her courses, did every assignment and learnt and passed all her exams.  But as my children hit high school, they vetoed most my ‘extra’ Charlotte Mason subjects such as Hymn study, Nature Study and nature walks.  Bible study lessons failed to move their hearts and my teens told me I was ‘cheesy’ when I did any devotions or Bible lessons, so I stopped those.

Despite my most diligent attempts and enthusiastic efforts, my high school children glossed over some subjects and one of my kids simply never finished or even read many of her high school set-work books.  We even abandoned some courses.  I felt as if my homeschool vision was falling apart.  But it was just different.

It was important for my husband and I to set firm boundaries and clear expectations.  We insisted on them completing a full high school course with a university exemption.  I always encouraged that my children do their very best, but when it comes to high school, children need to figure out what they want to study, what career interests they wanted to follow.  For each child, that is a unique journey,

Homeschool is about relationships, discovery, and a lifestyle of learning.   Character, life skills and good habits are  more important than learning dry facts or mastering algebra.  Essentially, once our children have learnt their 3 R’s, they can continue learning for themselves all their lives.

So when you see that you are losing ground, slow down and catch up.  It is not a race.  Focus on subjects that have fallen behind for a  few days or a week or two, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your children can catch up.

Sending you huge hugs when you feel things are falling apart.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Disappointments

Much of what I share here on Practical Pages showcases “what works”, but I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling was often less than perfect!

Here’s another “Getting Real” topic ~ Disappointments

Young Girl Sitting & ReadingUnmet expectations often lead to disappointments.  Repeated disappointments can in turn lead to depression, despair and hopelessness.

So let’s talk about unmet homeschool expectations.

Most new homeschool parents trust that the curriculum they purchased will be a “good fit”.  Many homeschool parents have an ideal of their children sitting and learning happily every day.  Many parents hope that they will have well-grounded, well-rounded and well-mannered children who will reflect the all benefits of homeschooling, but this is often not the case.

There are many failures, flops, and fears.   Expensive curriculums don’t suit a child’s learning style.  Some subjects are unpleasant. Some lessons are too difficult.

You can read my post on “Unmet Expectations”  where I shared how I found myself “floundering under the weight of my lofty ideals and unrealistic homeschooling expectations” in my first years of homeschooling.

I remember my deep disappointment when my young teenage daughters refused to do most of the Charlotte Mason subjects such as Hymn study, Composer study and Nature Study when they started high school.  Here’s an excerpt describing my  disappointment ~

“You see, I wanted that cozy picture of my girls all singing hymns, sketching birds and butterflies and sweetly reciting poems.  I hoped they would all know at least 31 scriptures and could recite quotes from living books.  Charlotte Mason is so much deeper and wider than subjects and principles, so why is it such a struggle in my home?”

I had encouraged my children regarding their choices and attitudes.  I had tried to inspire them and pushed and persuaded them, but many times I watched as they refused, or failed.  Despite my best efforts, when I tried to force a child to do something they do not want to do, it did not lead to success.  In my worst moments, I judged myself and felt judged by others for these disappointment.  I have experienced seasons of depression and even despair at these times.

Children may delay, procrastinate or refuse to do their work.  Children who struggle a lot become disillusioned  because they feel that they have not achieved what their parents expect from them.  This disillusionment creates a block to learning.  Before they even try, they feel “I can’t”.

This homeschool journey often includes failures and disappointments.  We are given moment-by-moment choices, and many times we make choices out of fear and not because we have faith.

May I encourage you to turn to the Lord in times of disappointment.  Ask Him to show you the situation through His eyes.  Trust Him to help you find another way.  Pray for grace to accept situations you cannot change.  Pray for the grace to surrender and the wisdom to learn.

Sending you huge hugs as you face your disappointments.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Doubts

Although I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, I acknowledge that I am definitely not a supermom and our homeschooling is often less than perfect! I have shared many of these posts in my “Getting Real” series.

Here’s another “Getting Real” moments in our homeschooling ~ Terrible doubts

Girl and Mother

We all suffer from self-doubts, but as homeschooling moms, an unhappy child, a child struggling with learning or with fears within themselves, where we feel powerless to help — these thoughts and feelings fill a parent with thoughts of doubt and anxiety.  You’ve heard the sister concepts — doubts & fears.  They often go hand-in-hand.

This is a terrible ‘sickness’ which can drain all the joy from our role as teacher and mom, and can negatively impact all our relationships.

My first year of homeschooling was filled with uncertainties, anxieties and a desperate desire to make the right choices, to provide everything I felt my children needed and to “do it the right way”.  I was uncertain about my curriculum choices, fearful about how to present the lessons so that my children both loved them and learnt through them, and I was doubtful that I could teach my youngest child to read.  I won’t even describe the doubts I had about homeschooling my children through high school!

Due to these doubts and fears, our first year’s homeschool days were filled with my sense of urgency and desperation.  My striving and desire for perfection caused so much tension.  This often led to conflict with my strong-willed child.  These conflicts caused further self-doubt and damaged my self-esteem and confidence as a parent.  Oh boy, that first year was a disaster, emotionally.

Fear is often manifest in anger.  Whenever you are angry at a situation, stop to ask, “What am I most fearful of right now?” Turn that fear into a prayer and wait for the grace, strength and wisdom of the Lord to guide you through that situation.

Looking back over 22 years of homeschooling I can honestly see that GRACE is powerful!  Grace towards yourself — for not knowing, for being unsure, for being afraid.  Grace towards your child — for their struggles  and fears.  Grace for fresh beginnings.  Grace for new starts.  Grace to try new ways.  Grace to trust the Lord.  Grace to discover, explore and grow without definite expectations.

Homeschooling is a journey of discovery.  Homeschooling in grace may even look like you are “failing”.  But, I encourage you to extend grace to yourself and to others so that you can grow and develop.  It will work out.  You’ll be fine!  The Lord will not fail you!

Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in these real moments,

Nadene

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Getting Real ~ Tears

I love to share what works here on Practical Pages, and I admit that I often only seem to showcase the best sharable moments, but of course, I am not supermom and things often are less than perfect!

Here’s another in the series of “Getting Real” posts ~ TearsCrying Child

Some children cry more than others.

Some school subjects produce more tears than others.

But as a school teacher I seldom had children cry in my classroom.  As a homeschool mom, especially in those early years, my children often burst into tears or sat silently weeping during school, and I cried buckets too!

Why?

I think it is because at home, we are emotionally connected and we feel safe enough to express our fears and be more vulnerable.  There are also relationships where children operate and manipulate with tears.  But that is another story.

Tears is often an overflow frustration and fears.  Difficult work, challenges, struggles, anger, resentment, and not knowing another way often trigger tears.  As homeschool moms, we need to create an environment where children are encouraged to express these feelings in words and we need to be able to reflect these emotions back to our children and help them figure out another approach.

My youngest child would burst into tears when she was overwhelmed by too much work.  She hated to see the year plan or the “bird’s-eye-view” of the curriculum.  She could only cope with the day’s timetable and perhaps the next few days.  I learnt to shield her from seeing the full picture, and help her break down her work into manageable bite-sized pieces.  Also, I learnt not to put pressure on the pace of the work, but to provide extra time in her schedule to allow her complete her work without stress.

My sensitive child cried simply because she felt her work wasn’t perfect enough.  This was in her own head, not due to pressures from my hubby or myself.  She hated making mistakes and would weep when her answers were incorrect.  We decided to let her use a whiteboard marker or pencil instead of pen so that she could easily erase mistakes.  We also gave her more time to do her work slowly and carefully and learnt not to rush her.  We told her that we were proud of her efforts and that we did not expect her work to be perfect.

My children cried in some of their art lessons!  As an art teacher, this was very upsetting for me, but I understood that they experienced frustration in their expectations and their lack of skills to achieve the results they hope for.  It helps to break the art project into more manageable bits and assist them working through the creative block or the skills needed.  Some lessons we modified completely, changed the medium, focused on the process rather than the outcome.

For my high school teen, Maths was an evil that caused her to shut down mentally and leak emotionally.  The only way I could help was to find the very simplest Maths course and hold her hand and literally do the entire course for and eventually with her before she finally managed to do the work on her own. It took a whole year to arrive at the final stage.

I also had some seasons of tears, simply because of the stress and frustration of trying to teach all three children and try to meet everyone’s needs and expectations.  I did not always cry in front on my children, but often with my hubby at night, when I described my or a child’s struggles and frustrations.  I  often felt like a failure and I just didn’t know how to approach our schooling differently, or help a child through their issues and crisis.  It really helped to talk with him or another sympathetic parent to find some clarity and hope.  I always found prayer to be a huge help.  I would search the Word and trust the Lord for wisdom and grace.

So, here’s huge hugs to those moms struggling with weeping children or who may be sitting in tears themselves.  You are not alone and I hope that you find the grace, wisdom and strength to dry off your tears and keep going.

Please note that I do not judge myself or them or others for the pains that come with struggles and growth.  I wish to share these “real” moments so that you do not feel alone or a failure if you experience similar struggles.  Please feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments.

Blessings and grace in those real moments,

Nadene

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When your plans overwhelm

I am a planner.  I love “To Do ” lists, checklists, little boxes, and ticking things off a list.  I often place information in tables in documents.

When it comes to homeschool planning, I love creating the bird’s-eye view and then breaking it down into monthly plans.  (You can find all my free planner and organizer pages here.)

But here’s the snag … my kids don’t like my plans and they absolutely hate my checklists!

A few years ago my youngest child had a total meltdown when I showed her an overview of the work for her new school year. My high school kid freaked out when I showed her the year plan and the book lists at the beginning of her final year.

Okay – so they are not global or detailed thinkers. They are more free, creative, and spontaneous folk, and my detailed plans frustrate, frighten and freeze them.   I just need to show them the week, or even just the day ahead.

I have learnt to compromise. I need to plan for me first and then adjust the plans that I share with them. I often have to customize the day’s schedule so that they have a good idea of my expectations, and allow for their own choices and approach.  Even young children love to feel that they have some control by choosing what they prefer to do first, next or last.  Teenagers should be given this freedom of choice and learn to accept the consequences of their choices.

My children think and work at a different pace to me. When things are not essential, I have learnt to let them work at their own pace. Chores that I need to be done, should be done on time, but the rest they can do so long as it is done before I go to bed.
I am still learning not to drive my children crazy.

Right now, our daughter is getting married at the end of this month, and guess what? I started a 6-page checklist!  It even overwhelmed me and I became so stressed that I stopped. But, foolish mom that I was, I pressed on, continued, finished it and, what’s even worse, I presented it to my precious daughter-bride-to-be.  Her reaction was instant STRESS and anger.  My detailed plans did not help.  Frustration closed all communication channels and so I went into the shower to have a good cry.  You would think that I had learnt how to approach things with my children by now. I was filled with such sorrow and shame.

I came back and apologised.  I immediately resigned as the wedding planner.  We laughed at some of my ridiculous details on my checklist, and I put the file away.  Her best friend is an amazing wedding planner and is already helping her and us.  Her friend knows how to translate all the practical details into an approach that my creative, romantic, visionary daughter can visualize and process.  Weddings are stressful events to plan, people!  That’s why you have professionals who do this type of thing!

My daughter’s recent Kitchen Tea

We have celebrated her upcoming wedding hosting two kitchen teas.  The first kitchen tea (pictured above) was in the small town where she lives.  All her bridesmaids and close friends attended.  They prepared a beautiful venue and laid out a delicious spread, and we had fun with some kitchen tea activities as she unwrapped her gifts.  The other more recent kitchen tea was with family and friends in our nearest town.

Because I need to see things on paper, I will continue to work with the wedding plans to keep tab of things and I will act as my hubby’s PA and his admin help, keeping track of the budget and emails.  But I confess that I feel completely overwhelmed at times … especially sometimes when I lie awake at night …

We are in a slight lull right now, with most things booked, arranged and made, but in just 2 weeks, things will be revved up like crazy!  So, please excuse me from this little space while we are all busy, preparing, travelling and celebrating this incredible occasion!

Dear precious mom, learn from me and don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids with too many detailed plans.  Give yourself and your children the time and space to work in a way that allows them to use their best energy and focus.  Balance this grace with suitable, sensible training.   Teach them to prioritize,  set alarm clocks, be on time, and meet daily goals.  Allow for choices, alternatives, and options you may not have planned.  It will all work out fine in the end!

With every blessing, Nadene

 

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Homeschool interesting for mom too?

Moms, you are a very important part of your homeschooling vision and you should love your homeschooling days just as much as your children.  We are all equal parts of the learning, and often plan our children’s education without considering your own part in the process. You have so much to contribute to an interest-led approach.

Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things writes a refreshingly different perspective on her homeschool planning in her post How my homeschool planning has changed this year and she writes how she includes herself in the plan.

Think about your curriculum, the schedule, the priorities, and the interests.  Instead of only considering what your child needs, why don’t you consider the following?  She asks, ~

  • What curriculums look interesting to me?
  • What would I like to learn this year?
  • What would bring me joy in our regular schedule and routines?
  • I know my son/ daughters’ special interests. What are mine? How can I incorporate them into our learning?

“What better way for my children to engage in our days’ homeschooling, than seeing their mom just as engaged, excited and involved in the learning?”

Most moms avoid a teaching style that drains them and often opt for safe, secure, predictable curriculums.  Many struggle against their natural energy rhythms, battling with boring approaches, tedious schedules or stressful expectations.  I hear from many moms who feel drained, guilty and stressed about their homeschooling.

Several years ago my youngest daughter and I experimented with silk painting! Here we are painting my scarf together

Take the time to consider your interests, the focus and style of lessons that you enjoy, and the grouping or individual time with your children. When are your energy levels low?  When do you need a little moment of peace and quiet?  Plan in a session of quiet reading or play so that you can regroup after more energized.

I very soon learnt that I loved literature-based education, loved reading aloud, enjoyed working with all my children together, loved hands-on activities, art and crafts … and guess what?  …that is exactly the kind of homeschooling we had.  I was energized after these activities.  My own creativity and joy bubbled over into my planning and lessons, and homeschool was a joy for many years.  Only when my daughters became teens did this change in favour of the curriculums, lessons presentation style and schedules they chose and needed to complete their final 3 years.  Still, all the 8 or 9 years before were a joy and a blessing!

Many years ago when we were all together in our schoolroom ~ one sewing, the others doing art and crafts. Some of our happiest homeschool days!

So, go ahead and plan in the subjects such as nature study, classical music, YouTube videos, outings, the extra subjects you want to include … just for you!  Plan your homeschool to intentionally include yourself as an active participant, and enjoy your homeschooling right alongside your children!

Blessings as you grow and learn on your homeschool journey!

Blessings, Nadene

5 Things to do when you start homeschooling after a break

The start of a new homeschool year is just weeks away for many of my readers.  Here’s What Worked for us when we started homeschooling after a long break ~

1.Prepare

Start with a basic overall year plan for each child.    I like to plan my year with a page for each month, listing each subject and I break down the themes or topics for each month.  This plan also serves as my record of work.  

Print out your notebook pages, copywork pages, and/or lapbooks.  Store your topics and pages  for your work in files ready for each child.  Copy or create an index page for each subject or topic or lapbook activity to go with your overall year plan.

2. Practice sleep and wake up routine

A good morning starts the night before.  Re-establish simple bedtime routines a few days before schooling starts.

3. Pace

Gently ease into your schedule.  Start with the most exciting aspect of the course to ignite everyone’s enthusiasm.  Usually this is the Core reader or spine of your curriculum.  But don’t overdo it.  It is far better to start with short, sweet lessons and stop, leaving your children begging for more!  Short, sweet lessons serve as a wonderful motivation.   Kids love to feel that they can master their work and eagerly look forward to the next day.  Include quick, fun games in your school day.  The Amazing Arrow game is fantastic!

4. Perfect one area before moving on

Focus on one skill/ habit/ subject until it is mastered.   Break down each subject into manageable skills and encourage your child through each step.  If your child feels anxious or overwhelmed with the full schedule, work on just one new subject for about a week before adding another subject.  Sometimes, we focused on just one subject for a whole week to get to grips with the subject matter, the new skill or the lapbook or hands-on project.  Don’t worry about “falling behind”.  Simply focus on the lagging subject for a few days, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can catch up and flow into a new routine.

5.Read Aloud

Read alouds are the superglue of homeschooling and build a sense of unity and a focus.  Read alouds are relaxing, yet, with a child listening attentively, provides enormous learning experiences.  When in doubt, when if your kid has a melt-down or when mom feels burnt-out, stop, snuggle together and read aloud.  All will be fine.  They will learn.  Trust the learning journey through living books.

I hope these tips help you work through your transition days when you start your new school year.

Blessings, Nadene
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Mix Structure with Freedom

What Works! 

Homeschooling, like all things in family life, requires balance.

Some folks love the carefree and loosey-goosey approach to homeschooling, while others perfect a strict routine and discipline with a school-at-home approach. Some folk wake and start school early, while others flow lazily into a relaxed, informal day.  Some families work in a classroom environment, while others love to learn everywhere, anytime.

Whatever your homeschooling approach is right now, it should fit your family lifestyle. I encourage you to find the way that works for you and your children in this season of your life.

If you’re a mom with lots of young children, then I encourage you to create a simple  predictable routine for their day.  Mix in free time for unstructured play and exploration.

Here are some of the main family events that should follow some form of predictable routine ~

  • Morning wake up, washing & dressing
  • Making beds
  • Breakfast
  • Start homeschool time – circle time or Bible story, songs & prayer
  • Short, sweet seat work lessons
  • Tea time and short outdoors play time
  • Core and read alouds and other schooling or learning
  • Lunch time
  • After lunch nap or quiet play
  • Free afternoons
  • Clean up & pack away toys from the day’s play
  • Bath time
  • Supper
  • Bedtime

Habit-training is a vital part of creating an easy, stress-free day.  Work on your routine, focusing on one aspect at a time for several weeks until this is established. (Start with the routine that causes you the most stress and frustration in your family.)  Once your children can cope with that routine, move on to focus on the next area that causes you the most stress.

Many new homeschool moms have very high ideals and expectations.  Most new homeschool moms struggle to maintain a formal, strict regimen every day, and they can easily burnout.  May I suggest that your homeschooling plays a minor role in your day when you are teaching young toddlers, pre-schoolers.  If you are working with multiple ages, focus on the most needy first and then focus on the rest.

Truth be told, you can’t do everything with every child every day!

Especially when children seem bored, frustrated or aimless, look to switching the rhythm and approach of your homeschooling.

  • Change the routine and start with subjects that you normally do later in the day.
  • Change your homeschool room or learn somewhere new/ outside/ at a library
  • Change your approach and make things fun
  • Switch to a new activity such as a lapbook or project instead of reading a read aloud that just doesn’t “fit” you or your kids.
  • Do drills or physical movements instead of seat work.  This works really well if a child is struggling with a subject like maths or spelling!  Rather do jumping or skipping or ball tossing or jump on a rebounder while doing skip-counting or times tables, spelling,  etc.
  • Leave the workbooks and find hands-on activities instead.

Charlotte Mason perfected this switch of rhythm with her principles ~

Structure and discipline (Seat work lessons)

  • Short, sweet lessons
  • Perfect / excellent quality work
  • Attentiveness and discipline
  • Memory work and copywork

Informal and unstructured approach (while still requiring focus and attention)

  • Narrations
  • Fine Arts
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

I found that having one FREE DAY worked for our family.  Although I say “Free” it was rather an INFORMAL day where we focused on Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays.  These days made the rest of the week feel better and help prevent burnout and stress.

What works for your family?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings as you find what works for your family, Nadene

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