I love January. It’s so refreshing to take a break from homeschooling, celebrate the holidays, and then revisit the things that haven’t been going so well with homeschooling. Even though this is my 6th year of homeschooling, the kids are constantly growing and changing, and so our needs as a family change. After some thought, I decided that my goal for the spring semester is structured simplicity. Here’s what I mean by that…
- Character training comes first. And that starts with my character. Our home needs a mom that honors God in speech, attitude, and action, and then who diligently teaches the boys God’s ways. Every day, a hundred character training “moments” come up, and these are of primary importance! We are currently working on an anger issue with one of our sons. After seeking the counsel of one of our pastors, Jordan and I are learning a lot about anger, and we are putting a plan into place to help our son. More to come on that later…
- We will work to do the things we do with excellence. We don’t have a major problem with people being willing to complete their schoolwork, but we do have a lot of schoolwork that is completed with sloppy handwriting, careless mistakes, and a lack of concern for the directions. Completing a task the right way is a life skill worth working on, and so I need to plan in time for re-doing work instead of being frustrated when it happens.
- I will put in the effort to make daily checklists for the boys. When I was going through morning sickness, I just couldn’t get the planning part done. By evening, I was spent! And boy did we pay for it in chaos! I am thankful to be feeling better now, aside from the normal pains of approaching the third trimester, and planning needs to be a top priority item for me. My homeschool planning consists of making each child a checklist with assignments for the day. It’s not necessarily a lot of decisions or very time consuming (just do the next lesson!), but it’s a discipline to get it done.
- On days when we have interruptions (doctor’s appointments, errands to run, someone is sick, etc.) we will focus on math, grammar/language, and reading good literature. I recently went to an event for homeschooling moms and listened to an experienced homeschool mom talk about good literature and about homeschooling in general. She said that standardized tests primarily measure math and language skills and so those are the most important subjects for elementary students. History and science are great, but don’t stress over them. Use the early years to focus on the basics, and then kids can easily learn more science and history in junior high and high school (and do much of it on their own!). We really enjoy studying science and history because it enriches our lives, but with a new baby coming in April, I’m not concerned if we don’t finish our history or science curriculum. We will finish math and grammar.
- I will eliminate the “Three Ring Circus” wherever possible. What do I mean by the three ring circus? This is when Aidan is working on a research project (and needing help every 3 minutes), Gresham is needing me to read his spelling test to him, Owen is cutting and gluing and making a mess, and Jonathan is pulling every book off the shelf. Wherever we can, we will learn together as a family. Right now, we are doing history, science, and Bible together. Aidan and Gresham do different math, but at the same time during the other boys’ nap time, so that cuts down on some of the chaos there. We still have an hour or two of “circus time” each day, but I have decided that having any more than that is just not worth the cost in my sanity!
- We will make afternoon rest time a priority, and we will leave some margin in our schedule. Everyone needs an hour of alone time, including mom! And with little kids in the house, things often take longer than I think they will. Over-scheduling is just not worth it!
I am reminding myself that structured simplicity does not mean “easy homeschooling days!” Homeschooling is challenging at times! However, having a plan and being intentional about priorities really helps. Also, I truly believe that we have more margin in our schedule simply by homeschooling than we would if the kids were in school. I have a lot of freedom to set our own schedule, and I’m not at the mercy of whatever projects are assigned at school.
So the bottom line is… A manageable to-do list for each day, but striving to complete the top priority items with excellence. I’ll let you know how it goes!
More on homeschooling:
- Planning a homeschool routine for multiple children – a look at our daily schedule
- First grade math – a comparison of four different curricula (Yes, we’ve tried that many!)