Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five things I've Learned It's OK to Do When Homeschooling

Ever notice that when you start something, you have plenty of ideas, and feel like you can do anything, and then as time goes on, reality sets in and hits you like a brick wall?  Yeah, that happened here.  Six years in, I don't consider myself an expert at this homeschooling gig, but we've certainly learned a few things.  I've been planning out our next year and reading other blogs, to see how other mamas are organizing their years.  There's always something so simple yet brilliant that I wonder "WHY on earth didn't I think of that."  I'm sharing a list of things that I've learned by watching other homeschooling mamas, or the hard way by making lots of mistakes.  I hope they help you!

It's smart to save re-usable things for the next kid, but it's OK to let them go, too. 

I'm currently going through all the stuff on our shelves.  (It's amazing what we homeschool moms can accumulate, isn't it?)  When I first started homeschooling, I kept so many things after the first kid used it -- I thought I was being smart. I even kept the stuff that didn't work, thinking a different kid would learn differently and maybe it would work.  Or I picked up something for "next year" because it was "too good a deal." What I've learned is you have to know what you're saving.  It's smart to keep things that you love, or that are adaptable for different learning styles.  But you don't have to keep stuff "just in case."

 Even if you're thinking "But I have another kid coming up through," consider if it's a textbook that will have a new edition in that time and be hard to find the workbook for.  Is it something you'll have to move from place to place a hundred times until you're ready for it? If you're not willing to pack it up and move it cross country (even if you don't plan ever on going any farther than your current kitchen!), consider if it can do good for someone else.

Sell it if you can, or loan it out.  Barter or trade with a friend if you can't afford to let it go for nothing.  Hand-me-down curriculum is like hand-me-down clothes -- SOMEBODY will always fit it, even if it's not your kid.  Let it go and bless the universe.  Otherwise, you run out of shelf space even faster.

It's OK to buy curriculum as you go, a little at a time. (Corollary: It's OK if your crystal ball wasn't accurate.) 

 I was recently having a conversation with another homeschool friend about curriculum ideas and said, "Some year, I'm going make up my mind in July and not change it 72 times." Her retort was "Yeah, Damien's senior year." She's probably right.  I envy the mamas who can buy a box of something in August and their kids follow the program!  I've learned the hard way that while sometimes things are a fit right from the start, sometimes a plan could be a total dud OR kiddo will zip through at double-time pace, so it's better for us to buy what we need when we need it, rather than a year's worth of books all at one time.  While I feel like every time I turn around I'm ordering something, it does help spread costs out rather than being a huge "all on one credit card statement" bill.

The caveat is you do need to keep a closer eye on "how much is left in the book" to not have two weeks of nothing to do. You don't have the calendar saying "It's May, you're almost done!"  Last year, I expected for Damien's grammar book to last well into spring, but with a bit of bravado leading to extra pages completed here and there, he finished it much sooner.  Damien wouldn't stop crying because I hadn't ordered the Level 2 grammar book back in September, and I should have known that he'd be done it in February, not after Easter.  Sorry kid, the crystal ball was out of service!

Now when the little boys get new workbooks, I go to the end of the book, count back what I think will take about three weeks to finish, and put a stripe at the top of the page.  Even if I forget it's there, a kid will say "Why is this on the top of my paper?" which serves as a reminder for me to order the next step.  (Matthew is much better at telling me when he's nearly done so I can plan whatever is next.)

It's OK to NOT do all subjects all at one time.  

For high school, this is pretty easy.  Courses tend to have a beginning, middle, and end.  As long as you're doing things in a logical order (Algebra I before Algebra II), there's no rule that says you have to do Algebra and English on the same day.  We've found success working on a "semester block" calendar helps.  Rather than focusing on everything all at once,  doing four classes at a time instead of seven or eight, Matthew can see progress and the lights at the end of the tunnel more frequently.

For the younger boys, we're slowly moving toward this.  We still do core subjects, like math and reading, daily but some subjects benefit from working on at different times.  While Jude and Damien are apt to binge on history and science in their free time, we only do "formal lessons" for them two days a week each.  (I asked them if they'd rather do those "one at a time" and alternate semesters,  and we had puzzlement that then approached mutiny.)  This works because instead of spending only 15 or 20 minutes a day on something, we can spend an hour or two really digging into a subject once or twice a week.

It's OK to re-configure your "school year." 

When we started homeschooling, I knew that taking our time with things was going to be important - one of the reasons we were homeschooling was to be able to work at their paces. We have worked year-round almost from the beginning.  We have found that homeschooling year-round lets us have more time to take breaks when they're convenient for our family, rather than dictated by the calendar.

We've also changed our "year," so that move-up day is in June, not September.  We learned the hard way after planning on a September-to-September schedule, and then Luke realized he wanted to graduate in June of his Senior Year, not after the summer. He had to really hustle to get everything done. We still work through the summer so we can take time off during the cooler months, but we don't feel like we're cramming the spring.

It's OK to not feel like you have to have it all planned out.

I know there are some mamas who have their kindergartener's high school maths mapped out.  I'm glad they're that organized! Me...if I can fill out this week's lesson plan on Monday, we're doing great.  My mom says one of my grandfather's favorite prayers was
For tomorrow, we do not pray;
keep us, Lord, just for today.  
I think on this often.  We may change plans six times in a year if we find something that isn't working or if we try something we think might work better.  (Being part of the Homeschool Review Crew means we get lots of opportunities to try new things.)  I try not to stress over tomorrow too much and just focus on them learning today's lessons. I figure as long as they're learning and progressing today, we must be doing something right. We'll deal with tomorrow when it gets here!

What have you learned "It's OK to do"?

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