Summer is drawing to a close, and a new school year is beginning. I don’t know about you, but a sense of pressure can accompany the start of a new school year, especially if the summer wasn’t exactly the relaxing break you were planning on and you are tired going into it. (I’m raising my hand here!)
I think homeschool moms naturally feel a lot of stress. There are the demands we place on ourselves, and the demands that come from society – i.e. people asking if we have a teaching degree and how our kids are going to be socialized and if our kids know everything they are supposed to, etc.
As I write this post, I’m currently recovering from a car accident and a broken arm. Thankfully the kids are okay! God protected us in SO many ways. I’m about halfway through a 6 week (or more) recovery from surgery to put in a plate and 6 screws to repair my broken arm. That’s the reality of our situation right now!
Thankfully my kids are older than they used to be, but it’s going to cost us some educational productivity at the start of this school year.
I am thankful to have had 11 years of experience with homeschooling. We have had good years and hard years, and it has all worked out in the end. My oldest son is a junior in high school, and he is doing great despite some years being more productive than others. So in case you are also feeling the stress of the coming school year, I thought I’d share with you the reminders that I am telling myself!
Here are 5 things NOT to stress about this school year!
Interruptions are going to happen! Sick days, broken plumbing, appointments, headaches, bad attitudes, loss of productivity. But remember… public schoolers have interruptions too! Relax, take a deep breath, and take the crazy days in stride and know that it will even out.
What to do instead:
Here’s my tip… I plan a 4 day school week. Each child has a weekly chart with all assignments on it. If we miss some assignments, we have a built-in catch up time on Friday. If the whole week is lost because of something major, we just scrap the plan and start again the next week! The weeks don’t always go as planned, but the plan helps us quickly get back on track.
Keeping up with Others/Doing it All
No two home schools will look the same, and that’s okay! We have especially seen this as our kids have gotten older and entered the teen years. Some families choose to drive to a lot of extracurricular activities, or to pursue an interest in depth. Others prioritize staying home to focus on academics. But no one does it all! Still, it’s easy to feel like everyone else is doing more than we are, and they are better at it too! So discouraging and stress-inducing to compare!
What to do instead:
Looking at state requirements and college entrance requirements IS a good way to plan your school. Learning from other families who have more experience than you is a helpful thing to do! But comparison with others is not a good driving motivation.
Don’t stress about how you are not doing fill-in-the-blank the way another family does. Instead, make intentional choices about what you WILL do and then do that well. My goal is for our children to see that we can’t do it all, but we can give our best effort to the things we commit to.
Sometimes the choices to be made are difficult, especially with older kids. It’s not easy when you are choosing between a mission trip or having a summer job. Or choosing between participating in a debate competition or taking the SAT an extra time. I’m not saying it’s always clear cut what to do! It helps to set long term goals and to work to keep the big picture in focus.
If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a post I wrote on How Do I Know if We’re Covering Enough in Homeschooling? This post applies to elementary and middle school.
Making the Right Curriculum Choices
The longer I homeschool, the more I’ve seen that curriculum choices involve a lot of preference. Most options cover basically the same material, but in different ways. Some are scripted, telling the parents exactly what to say. Others just have a list of objectives to cover. Some emphasize memorization of grammar or math rules, while others explore the “why” behind the concepts. With the exception of some curriculum choices that are just really awful, most have their strong points and their weak points.
Don’t be afraid to scrap a curriculum partway through the year if it’s not working for you! But also, don’t stress about finding the perfect curriculum. Chances are, it doesn’t exist! Don’t stress when you find out that a mom you respect is using something different. You are probably doing just fine!
What to do instead:
Consistency (within reason… see point 1!) and adapting things for your child are more important than having the “best” curriculum.
So do your research and try to make good curriculum choices. But DON’T STRESS about it!
Finding the “Best” Schedule
Here’s how things usually seem to go…
Day 1 of school: Follow mom’s carefully planned schedule with a break for lunch, a science experiment time, and a lovely afternoon read aloud time.
Day 2: Follow the schedule 80%. The kitchen is a disaster by the time dinner rolls around.
Day 3: The toilet overflows, the second grader cries for an hour about math, the dog poops on the carpet, and nothing gets done!
And discouragement sets in.
But it doesn’t have to!
What to do instead:
Take a deep breath, and relax, because it WILL be okay! We (and our kids) DO need some structure and routine in our homeschooling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to a strict schedule. Sometimes a routine works better. In other words, following the same general pattern each day although the exact times for each item may change.
Sometimes it takes awhile to discover the schedule that works for you. And often, things change (because the baby gave up his morning nap, etc.) and the schedule has to be re-worked.
To sum up… a schedule or routine is GOOD. But don’t let your schedule stress you out!
Here’s a post I wrote about creating a homeschool routine with multiple children. Ours kids were age 10 and under when I wrote this, and it was definitely harder in those days!
Staying Organized/Juggling Home and Homeschooling
Before I had so many kids, I rarely forgot things, and I pretty much never found myself double booked.
Now I’m juggling kids in grades 11, 8, 5, 2, and kindergarten. We go to art class for one kid, music lessons for two kids, choir for one kid, youth group for two kids, church children’s choir for three kids, and a few co-op classes.
Then we have orthodontist appointments for three, haircuts, dog grooming, and random stuff that comes up! Like library fines. OH, THE LIBRARY FINES!
Do you find yourself feeling behind, spread too thin, and like there is no successful way to juggle it all? I KNOW THAT FEELING!
Don’t stress! Here’s what to do instead:
- Make the time to fully plan out school assignments for the coming week. We talked about this above! It will save you so much time and stress later.
- Make the time to plan out meals for the week, including lunches. When I do this, it’s so much better! You can’t feed this many people on the fly, and it adds to my stress level when the kids repeatedly ask what’s for dinner and I don’t know.
- Find a calendar system that works for you and write down EVERYTHING!
- Cut activities or commitments that are going to push you from stable to psycho. Your kids need a happy mom more than they need soccer practice!
- If possible, hire help. I’m not homeschooling because I feel like I have to be with my kids 24/7. Our babysitter can do some of the things. Hire someone to drive the kids to an activity, and use that time to get caught up. That exact scenario may not work for you, but you get the idea.
BONUS QUICK TIPS
- Reading out loud good literature is an easy way to boost vocabulary and learn about the world!
- Don’t forget educational documentaries!
- When life is hard, focus on grammar, reading, and math.
- Older kids can help younger kids, which will help them review those concepts as well!
- Get Dad’s help with grading, if possible. Or teach older kids to grade their own work. (We do this with some subjects.)
HAVE A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR!