As the start of the school year approached, I took some time to reflect on how last year went. It was our first year of homeschooling our first son in Kindergarten. It was a much-needed time for me to see just how much we had learned in the year.
When I finally decided to homeschool our children, I knew Kindergarten would be a good way to assess and evaluate how I wanted things to go. Since Kindergarten is not mandatory, I didn’t feel too worried if I messed up, missed some things, or didn’t quite stick to the schedule. Our year started well, as most new things do, but shortly into the school year, we went on vacation to visit family back home, then we had Christmas break, followed by moving to a new town, welcoming baby #4 into our family and grandparents visiting for a couple months. All in all, it was a very busy year with lots of hiccups that made sticking to the homeschool schedule quite difficult. As the end of our first year approached, I felt like we had wasted our whole Kindergarten year. What could we possibly have learned?
Let me tell you how shocked I was when I took the time to reflect on all that we did learn and managed to get through in that busy year. We went from non-reading to reading, printing very large letters to fitting within the lines, math workbooks completed, journal entries written. Overall it was a very successful year and it made me realize a few important things that I hope to take with me as we embark in the new school year.
- Set Realistic Expectations- Sit down and write out what you would like your child(ren) to accomplish in the school year. Figure out when you think certain outcomes should be met, but be open minded to deviations in the plan. Sometimes you’ll meet your outcomes ahead of schedule and sometimes you may need to extend the deadline. This is all a part of learning and one of the many benefits to homeschooling. You have the opportunity to move at your child’s pace which sets them up for success.
- Don’t Compare- Every homeschool blog I read has a post about not comparing your homeschool to others. Even though, I read it over and over again, I still find myself comparing my homeschool to that of my friends or another mom in the homeschool circle. It’s so hard not to compare what we are doing to others. Often times, we get so down on ourselves and worry we are doing everything wrong, that we forget to look at all the things we are doing right. We must remember no two families are alike. Each family will run and operate differently and only you know your family best. Next time you are about to compare your homeschool to someone else, stop and remember that you’ve got this. Now there may be things that another family is doing that you think may be really great for your family. I do encourage you to try new things but don’t be hard on yourself if it just doesn’t work. Adapt or discard what need be and carry on with what you feel is best. Learning is all about trying new things until you find what works best for you.
- Think Big Picture- Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day progress. Things always seem imperfect when you closely examine them. Take a step back and give you and your child space to grow and learn. Learning happens over the long term. It is at the end that we can fully see the growth and progress that took place in each of those small moments. We often get so caught up in determining success or failure based on whether or not our children meet the required expectations and we forget to praise and acknowledge the progress and success that they have made thus far. If we choose to focus on the success, then the journey becomes a much more positive experience.
- Create a Daily Schedule- I had intended to schedule our days last year but it didn’t end up happening. I didn’t love the agenda I was using and I didn’t quite have a curriculum or program that I was set on. This year, I spent some time choosing materials that I knew would be a good fit for my child’s learning style and help us achieve our expectations. I determined what we needed to do each day to be successful at the end of the year. This has made a huge difference because when my child is done his task, we simply move on to the next. If we finish with extra time to spare that doesn’t mean we need to do more school work. School is done when we get through what was outlined for the day. This has made my child a much happier learner because he’s not frustrated by never being done.
- Focus on the Basics- This year, we are focusing on the basic academics and leaving plenty of time for life. Our mornings consist of Bible, reading, writing, phonics and math. Our afternoons are free for either science, social studies, art, phys. Ed, field trips, playdates or anything else that we decide to do. It allows lots of family time to do life together, which is one of the main reasons we wanted to homeschool. If my child shows interest in something we dig further into it and learn as much as we can about it. He learns so much more from it because it’s relevant and interesting to him and he’s directing his learning. Currently, our family is big into animals. We love watching nature documentaries and shows together in the evenings. This past summer we went to the zoo and wildlife center, as well as, the local bird farm and were able to see some of the animals we watched on TV. We have read many books on all sorts of animals from our local library too. Even our own backyard offers plenty of learning opportunities to examine and discover all the different animals and bugs around us. This is were authentic and real learning happens.
- Don’t Fret- I know many people worry about their children falling behind their peers who attend regular school. I decided to let go of that worry and focus on what is best for my child now. I was not homeschooled as a child, and even though I attended regular school, there is a lot of stuff I do not even remember. I was a keener in school and excelled at it, yet if you asked me to recall many of the subjects I learned throughout the school years, I would not be able too. The things I remember were those that were interesting and important to me at the time. I came out of school able to read, write and do math. Math was never a subject I was good at. I continuously struggled through it, but I passed the basics. There are things I enjoy doing now as an adult that require math that I should have learned in school, but never grasped. Now that I have a real-life application for it and a desire to use it, I’m taking the time to learn it and apply it. The best thing we can teach our children to be are independent and motivated life long learners. If we can instill this in our children then they will be able to learn whatever they need to when they are older. Let’s prioritize what is truly important and worry less about things that aren’t all that important.
SHARE: What are some things you are doing different in your homeschool this year?