Each December, I see the families around me enjoying the hustle and bustle, baking cookies, and trimming their home for Christmas. I get an extra dose of excitement, as I take the opportunity to see if my homeschool year is working for my family. Is there something I should change going into the new year?
Homeschooling seven children, including those with special needs, experience tells me that it’s OK to take an honest look at schedules, activities, and curriculum. It’s also OK to cut back on activities, to drop the co-op, and to shelve (or even ditch) curriculum.
One year I completely changed curriculum in March–yes March– and it was the best decision. When most families are wrapping up their school year, we started over.
Changing curriculum that late in the school year was drastic, and it’s the only time I’ve switched in the spring. But the point is that I took an honest look at what was happening in my home, in my school, and with my children and realized that what met their needs before no longer fit the bill. Providing a unique, customized education is the reason why many families choose to homeschool in the first place.
How do you go about evaluating your homeschool year? Where do you begin?
How do you know if your homeschool year is working?
- Pray for wisdom.
- Talk with your husband.
- Ask your children.
- Visit with your homeschooling friends.
- Be honest with yourself.
Pray for Wisdom:
Always begin with praying for wisdom, because we’re human and humans tend to be emotional creatures. I can’t tell you how many decisions I’ve made based on the fact that I didn’t want to feel I’d let someone down or that if I didn’t say yes, then no one else would. The bottom line is that I’m capable of getting myself into a panicked mess, feeling overwhelmed, and unable to fulfill what it is that I’m here to fulfill. So, pray for wisdom. Pray for the ability to set aside your pride and have discernment, knowing what needs to go and what needs to stay.
Ask Your Husband:
My husband is excellent at giving me a reality check and reminding me that our children won’t shrivel up if they’re not participating in a field trip every week. From talking with other women, their husbands are usually good at this, too. Recognizing my limits, he isn’t afraid to tell me if something sounds like it’s going to be a drain on my resources, and he’s usually right. Sadly, I’ve ignored his words in the past, only to wish I’d listened, but I was too late in the game.
Ask Your Children:
Asking your kids what they think may seem trivial, but neglecting to get their feedback is an easy mistake. Do they miss seeing their friends? Are they tired? Do they love having mealtimes at home and the schedule has become so full that they’re growing tired of take-out and the drive-thru?
Are they learning so many new and exciting things through their co-op that you may want to consider investing more time in it? Or are those days away from home draining them and not giving them the return of investment that you hoped?
Ask Your Fellow Homeschooling Friends:
While your friends probably aren’t in your home full-time, the chances are good that they’re also evaluating the next semester. Having another homeschool mom who understands what you’re going through can make a valuable sounding board. It’s one thing to tell someone who you’re considering your next move; it’s another to talk to a mom who knows the unique needs and challenges you need to accommodate as a homeschool mom.
Be Honest With Yourself:
While this may seem redundant, it’s often the hardest. When my children aren’t involved in many activities, I can fall into the trap of thinking they’ll miss out on important milestones. Homeschoolers have so many options these days, and if I’m not careful, we could easily participate in so many field trips, electives, and play dates that we’re away from home every single day of the week. While that sounds fun, at some point, we need to make sure that we’ve met our educational goals.
An eclectic homeschooler, I enjoy using a variety of curriculum, from living books to traditional math to hands-on delight-directed lessons. I also have children, ranging from infant through high school, and special needs children who require therapies.
Finding the balance of making sure I meet the needs of my typical children, as well as the needs of my special needs children, is essential. I also need to find the balance in tending to my home, my family and meeting educational goals.
That’s my reality. Yours may be different.
At times I was guilty of focusing so much on the needs of my special needs children, that my typical children felt they missed out on opportunities. On the other hand, I’ve enrolled my typical children into fun activities that left my special needs children feeling overwhelmed. No two families are alike, and what works for one may not work for another. As I wrote earlier, pray for wisdom.
My Personal Evaluation:
As for my upcoming semester? We’re cutting back on co-op activities since therapies will increase; however, I’ve blocked off one or two days a month for a field trip with friends. We’re also tweaking some curriculum selections. My children who require extra help can have more one-on-one while the stronger students begin independent work. My changes will also free up time so that I can manage my home more efficiently. The extra time enables me to work on some hobbies with my children, too. I love this because I’m building relationships outside of school lessons.
The excitement of fall may lead to over-planning and over-commitment, but I love the fresh start I have each January.
What about you? How do you evaluate your school year?