Almost all new homeschool parents begin their teaching journey with dreams that their children will LOVE and enjoy their homeschooling. Many new homeschoolers opt for boxed curriculums with the idea that they won’t have any gaps, but end up totally tied to their purchased curriculum and schedules. These educational programs often leads to stressed parents pressing, pushing, rushing and forcing their kids to stay on track. Many homeschooling parents find their days exhausting, their children frustrated and their motivation failing.
I remember the stress that I felt when I started to “fall behind” in all 3 Sonlight curriculums in my first year. Instead of using my Sonlight’s schedule as a guide, I worked harder, read faster and ended up utterly drained. After some good advice, prayer and rethinking, I simply moved the “deadline” further back 6 months, took a deep breath, and started over with a different attitude. We have used and re-used all our curriculums and every time I planned an eighteen-month to 2-year period instead of 1-year as the schedule planned. And it was a joy to have a wide margin of time to follow the rabbit trails.
My golden rule for homeschooling is ~
PLAN EXTRA TIME FOR WHEN THERE IS A SPARK OF INTEREST!
Stretch out your curriculum and add a wide margin for any other activities! Follow the scenic routes, take picnic stops, rest under a tree and savour the fine stuff like poetry and some lovely classical music and don’t make it feel like school. Provide plenty of free time for your children to be creative. Encourage them to dress up, act out and explore. Expose your children to a variety of art and craft supplies, play musical instruments & sing together.
Enjoy your children’s spark of excitement and enthusiasm. Let your children lead you in these interests and view your role as the one who offers options and facilitates their interests. Allow your children the opportunities to discover and unleash their creative streaks and personalities.
Tips for your planning —
- Use your year plan as the outline and plan for topics in each subject. You don’t need to find extras for everything or every subject. I often only focussed on our History and Social Studies and Science.
- Now look for and add additional lapbooks, any relevant, fun hands-on activities, recipes, arts and crafts and YouTube videos to go with the topic of interest.
- Use a smaller file and file only the week’s schedule, pages, outlines and plans. Place all the extras for the topics for that week in this small file. This will help you not to feel overwhelmed.
- Add one extra week to your schedule after every suggested topic for any additional activity or finishing off or focusing on any subject that they didn’t cover in the time allocated.
- View the extras as just that — extras. If you don’t need or use them, that’s fine. You do not actually plan to do everything! You plan to have options that you can offer at a moment’s notice. Nothing quenches a child’s enthusiasm faster than a parent wasting time searching online or scrambling through papers.
- Remember your children’s learning styles and passions and find activities that they would thoroughly enjoy. Some kids hate messy or noisy projects, others love to get stuck in. Some children feel stimulated, but others feel overwhelmed with extra activities. You may need to look for different varieties of activities for each topic to suit your children. My eldest loved to paint or draw quietly, my middle child loved to make things with her hands and my youngest loved anything active or outdoors. Having several different options really helped!
- Young kids love to move, make things, get noisy, get messy, do things differently. Adjust your expectations and let your kids have fun and make a mess — and train them to clean up afterwards.
- Plan for projects. Projects often need more space, take several days and will need to be moved for other activities or school subjects. Use trays or plastic sheets to slide things easily off the table.
- Pinterest is an incredible resource! Teachers and parents have already pinned and linked references to millions of ideas!
Here’s a lovely story about a “silly” little rabbit trail — My youngest daughter, at 17 years, fondly recalled one of her favourite homeschool memories when she was 5 was learning to count in Japanese! We had found on a little counting video while following a rabbit trail while we were studying Japan. Sonlight allocated one week, but we spent more than a month of extra time learning all about Japan, dressing up in kimonos, eating Japanese food, doing origami and learning some Japanese words and the kids loved it. My daughters’ love for origami was born at this time. They still create beautiful tiny, folded paper creations for gifts and décor.
Don’t be afraid of taking your time and following your children down rabbit holes. These experiences enrich, enlarge and wonderfully widen your children’s learning experience and bring rich rewards for you all!