Most teachers and students, no matter where they school, will agree that the second semester can be difficult. The excitement of a new school year and new curriculum has long since passed. Instead, we’re faced with days that are often long, cold, dark and dreary.
Finish the second half of the school year strong and stave off cabin fever with these tips!
1. Have a plan. The best way to ensure a strong second semester is to have a plan. Sit down with each of your children at the beginning of the semester and discuss what you and they hope to accomplish over the next few month. Then, help your kids create a plan to reach those goals. Having a plan in place, along with deadlines for completing each step, will provide the structure you’ll need to stay focused during the long winter months that dominate the second semester.
2. Reassess your routine. The start of the second semester is a great time to reassess your homeschool routine. Are there areas that need to be improved? Are there specific subjects or tasks that consistently get your family off track? Are you battling over something that could be negotiable, such as start times or the order in which subjects are completed? If so, consider what adjustments you can make to ensure smoother, more peaceful school days during the second half of the year.
3. Get organized. I find a disorganized workspace stressful, but even if it doesn’t stress you, clutter and disorganization slows you down and can derail your homeschool day. If your kids are constantly looking for pencils and paper or have completely misplaced the books they need for school, the whole day can get off track in a hurry.
Even if you don’t have a lot of space for school, there are some simple steps you can take to organize your supplies. Binders with zippered pencil pouches for papers and pencils and magazine holders or baskets for books are two simple, space-saving solutions.
4. Shake things up! Try a fun new class (art, music, baking, PE). Plan regular field trips. Go to a museum (art, children’s, history) or aquarium. Sometimes a short break from your regular routine is enough to rejuvenate everyone so you can finish the week (or day) strong.
5. Include a February break. Because the weeks between Christmas break and spring break can be long and monotonous, they’re a common time for burnout to occur. I’ve read that those feelings are common among traditionally-schooled children and their teachers, as well, which is why most schools include at least a long weekend in their February calendar.
For the last several years, I’ve scheduled a full week off in mid-February and have discovered that it does wonders for the attitudes (mine and the kids’) in my house. If you don’t want to take an entire week off, consider a Friday and the following Monday. You may be surprised by how refreshed a long weekend makes you feel.
6. Plan a project. For many years, our homeschool group held a spring fair each March or April. It gave everyone a fun, but educational break from their regular schoolwork and a chance to get together with friends. Your spring fair topics can be almost anything, though one of our favorites was A Night at the Museum. If you don’t want to do a big homeschool group project, a simple version with your immediate family or a few friends can serve the same purpose.
7. Get outside! Cold weather doesn’t mean you have to put nature study on hold until spring. There are hundreds of creative ways to study nature in the winter. Bundle up, get outside, and let the fresh air energize your family.
8. Do a class with friends. Our family has never been part of a large, organized co-op, but on several occasions we’ve discovered that a small co-op with friends is a fantastic accountability tool with the added benefit of a regular social opportunity. You can plan a fun enrichment class or one that’s more difficult to accomplish alone, such as a weekly science lab.
9. Have a weekly meeting. If you have older kids who work independently on some or all of their subject, schedule regular meetings (daily or weekly) with them to ensure that they’re staying on track, completing (and comprehending) all of their assignments, and meeting the deadlines for their semester goals. The meeting doesn’t have to be formal. In our homeschool, I typically look over my teens’ assignment sheets on Thursday morning, pointing out any incomplete assignments, since we use Friday as catch-up or enrichment day.
10. Be flexible. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we all have an off day (or week). If it’s clear that you and your kids need a break, take one. One day – or even one week – is not going to derail your entire semester. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that your break is filled with learning opportunities that weren’t in the lesson plans. Even if it’s not, being flexible often pays huge dividends in the form of better attitudes and a renewed commitment.
What are some of your best tips for a strong second homeschool semester?
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