Need to come out of the homeschooling doldrums? Here are some thoughts!
As I was growing up, my dad owned a hardware store where I worked doing everything from filling shelves and mixing paint to waiting on customers. Several weeks each January were spent taking inventory, filling out endless paperwork that reflected everything important to know about the store: how many of each item we had in stock, what products sold well during the past year, and which ones did not. When we were finished, my dad, with a renewed sense of purpose and vision, evaluated everything and made choices for the future that reflected the results of our inventory labors.
Mid-winter always seems to be a time when homeschooling families find themselves in the doldrums, often second-guessing their curriculum choices, if not their homeschooling decision, and thumbing through the pages of their fresh new calendars, wishing for summer! If this is you, maybe its time to take inventory and do some pre-spring cleaning in your lesson planner! Here are a few thoughts to jump-start the process:
Are the children enjoying the subjects and curriculum choices? Are you? Perhaps your curriculum is stale and needs a boost with supplemental materials or activities. Maybe you discovered your dislike for it months ago but felt that you had to use it because you bought it. Could it be that it no longer reflects your own worldview or convictions? Maybe your children are understandably bored with it. Set it aside for a few weeks and use something else. If you miss it, bring it back. If not, resell and move on!
Are each of your children spending at least part of their time learning in ways most suited to their individual learning styles? This approach will guarantee interest and result in success, especially if a child is struggling in some area. Have each child research a favorite subject from the material and prepare a presentation for the rest of the family, giving each one an opportunity to shine in his own way!
Are your personal goals for each child being met? Are they too ambitious or not ambitious enough? Taking inventory means being objective and realistic. Motivate them with a fun reward system. One year I made a large cardboard house and behind each shuttered and sealed window there was a secret prize they could “purchase” with points they had earned for various accomplishments. Every Friday they had the opportunity to “buy” a window of lesser value, (like an extra half hour of TV time), or to wait until they had earned more points for bigger prizes (breakfast out alone with dad). The competition and anticipation are still whispered about during family reunions!
Is there really an aversion to the curriculum or is it something else? Winter blues? Family issues that distract everyone? Events like a move, job change, or even the birth of a new baby can color everyone’s outlook on life. Try switching around the order of subjects or covering different ones on different days to see if that helps. Elicit ideas from everyone and be a good listener. Your mom radar will soon detect the problem.
Have you scheduled enough field trips or fun days? We can become so zealous to get through a certain amount of bookwork we often forget to include in our schedules real life experiences that enhance those subjects. What about planning a day to simply have fun? Invite a couple other families to your home for board games and puzzles, a “picnic” lunch on the floor of the family room, a spelling bee with words appropriate for each age level, or a movie double feature? Even something as simple as adding a walk around the block after lunch can give everyone a spark of energy.
Begin projects that can be completed outside once spring arrives. Planting seeds to nurture under grow lights now that can become a bounteous garden in a few months teaches patience as well as botany. Purchase inexpensive model rocket kits for everyone, including pre-schoolers, to assemble, paint, decorate, and launch in the spring.
Do something bigger than your own family. Winter is the perfect time to write letters to missionaries, bake goodies for shut-ins, or piece baby blankets for the crisis pregnancy center. Contact your deacons or church secretary for suggestions.
Maybe it’s you, mom! What are you doing for personal and spiritual refreshment? Make sure these are in your weekly planner as well! Plan lunch with another homeschooling mom or two and have your own “teacher’s institute day.” Head to the bookstore for a couple of hours; just the change of scenery for lesson planning will inspire you.
Homeschooling should never be static! Be a mom who is willing to change and enjoy the results!
Model rockets are always fun! Clay spent a week or so working with each West Coast grandchild building rockets and these pictures are from launch day during our Thanksgiving trip to California!
(article written by me and originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine, 2014, Issue One)