Start Fresh… Stay Strong… Finish Well!
As I write this, it’s the end of June. We are wrapping up another school year. Did your kids learn something? You bet they did! Did you have good days? Let’s hope so! How about bad days? Did you have any of those?
But I have great news for you…
“Tomorrow is always fresh; with no mistakes it in.” ~ Anne Shirley of Green Gables
So Let’s Start Fresh!
Isn’t it great that we can start fresh!
We get to start fresh every year. In fact, we get to start fresh every week… every day.
It’s rather easy to get started in homeschooling, wouldn’t you say? There is excitement and energy in the research for curricula, in the finding of a local co-op, in the meeting of new and like-minded friends.
Yes, there can be anxiety too, but you can’t squelch the excitement.
Somewhere in your mind, you have embraced the fact that as your children’s mother, you can be their very best teacher. You have accepted the reality that one-on-one tutoring is more effective and efficient than 1 lone teacher addressing a class of 30 students. You delight in the field trips you are going to take, the books you will read together, the freedom you will have.
So, you jump in and get started and this adrenaline gives you a pretty good ride. And then you have a difficult day. A bad day…
Your child resists instruction, she whines through math, throws a temper tantrum over a grammar assignment. Words fly between teacher and student, mother and child. Wounds happen; wounds that need time to heal. Doors slam. Tears. Silence.
Have you ever had days like that?
Have you ever had years like that?
Add insult to injury…
- Your homeschooling friends – your kids’ friends – start dropping like flies.
- Your Friday school co-op implodes for lack of leadership.
- Your friends and family start turning up the pressure for you to put your kids in traditional school (esp. as they approach the high school years.)
How are you going to Stay Strong through the day-to-day grind?
How are you going to Stay Strong when big life storms hit?
My husband and I own Knowledge Quest, publisher of history and geography materials. We send out a bi-monthly newsletter and while our unsubscribe rates are low, the main reason why readers unsubscribe from our newsletter list is because they have decided not to continue with homeschooling.
Why are home educators quitting and not finishing the race?
- Fear of inability
- Unforeseen or uncontrollable life circumstances, such as
- Loss of job
- Health problems
- Aging parents
- Marriage conflict or emotional issue
Interestingly, point #3 is not the main reason why homeschoolers quit. The majority of home educating parents who stop teaching their children at home do so because of reasons #1 or #2.
I have 6 children and I have been teaching them at home for 14 years. Since my youngest is 4, I still have a ways to go. In fact, by the math, I’m only half way through my homeschooling journey. My oldest graduated from high school last year and my 16yo will graduate next year. I also have a 7th grader, a 6th grader and a 2nd grader.
There have been times over these 14 years that I have been discouraged, when I have felt tired, burned-out, unsure of my abilities to lead and isolated in my journey.
My prayer today is that I can encourage those of you who are in the middle of this homeschooling journey and spur you on to finish the race you started and to finish well. This article is for those of you who are just getting started (like I am with my 4yo), for those of you in the middle (like me with my 7th, 6th and 2nd graders) and for those of you who have the end in sight (like I do with my high school senior).
1. I need to remember daily that it is the Lord who gives me strength (Is 40)
“Who has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and the hills on a scale?” (vs. 12)
“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” (vs. 29)
“Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength” (vs. 31)
You may not share my faith. But I hope you will bear with me on this first point. I do not have enough strength within myself to homeschool, especially on the hard days. I look to the Lord for my strength. And He says He will give it.
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Eph 6)
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1)
2. Dig Deeper! Remember why you started / Keep your goals in mind
We may start homeschooling for reasons that don’t seem quite so important anymore, such as not being ready to part with your 5yo when it is time for him to start Kindergarten or not liking his teacher. We began homeschooling because my 5yo had learned to read at 3 and was already reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. I was afraid she would be bored in kindergarten, so I decided to homeschool her until the bulk of her peers had caught up in reading, maybe until 2nd grade.
Whatever reasons we had for starting homeschooling may not be enough to sustain the decision to continue. Sometimes we have to dig deeper and find the reasons WHY we are still homeschooling and keep those at the forefront of our minds for when those bad days happen and we question what we are doing.
If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Indoctrination (the movie). It will motivate you and give you plenty of reasons to continue homeschooling. Here are some additional reasons:
Academic reasons – 1-on-1 tutoring is more effective than classroom instruction. A parent is acutely interested in her child’s academic success. You don’t need a teaching degree to effectively teach your own child, even through high school!
Kids can progress at their own speed – they are not held back or pushed ahead unnaturally.
Social reasons – Social interactions in age-integrated settings are more appropriate and effective in developing socially adept adults than peer-driven age-segregated social groups. As a parent, I can find better social situations for my child than the school playground, classroom or bathroom/locker room.
Spiritual reasons – Teachers and students have to check their faith at the door of the public school. Their hands are tied to pursue or discuss their faith in school, particularly if they are Christians. I can teach my kids about our faith all throughout the day. We CAN pray in school. (Deut 6)
Life preparedness – The majority of kids today spend 8 hours in school and 7 hours in front of a screen. There must be some overlap! We can finish up our schoolwork before noon and use the rest of the day for baking, gardening, hiking, etc. We can volunteer at ministries, apprentice or shadow a professional; we can learn new skills, start businesses, take field trips and so much more with our extra time. Classroom time doesn’t prepare a child for “real life”, but experiences do.
3. Strength in numbers – find support!
We need each other. It’s harder to work alone; it’s harder to exercise alone; it’s harder to diet alone; it’s harder to homeschool alone. It can be done, but it is harder. Find support. You may not have many friends in your local area that homeschool. Reach out and find some. Maybe they don’t go to your church or live in your neighborhood… maybe they aren’t part of your scouts club or theater group… but they are out there. Look for a local support group or co-op. See if there is a First Class in your area or other local grass roots support group. Maybe you have to drive to the next town over. You may only be able to connect with homeschoolers online for a season. It’s not ideal, but it is better than having no one in your life who shares your educational choice.
4. Rhythm in routine – schedule
Having a daily routine and schedule will help you get through tough days. Routines allow children to do the next thing without having to ask you. Schedules help you stay on task and are a great reminder of what must get done each day. Routines and schedules take the “thinking” out of what comes next. This is homeschooling on auto-pilot! (a day doesn’t have to be scheduled out to the nth degree, but even an order of events make your days much easier to tackle.)
5. Power in personal boundaries
Sometimes you need to say “no”. You can’t do it all. This is a season of life – even if it is a very long one. Sometimes you can say yes, but not always. Understand your limits and don’t over commit.
6. Variety is the spice of life!
When the day-to-day gets mundane and boring; when your child hits a mental brick wall in math; when writing another “LY” word is about to send your student to the padded room – CHANGE IT UP!
You are NOT married to your curriculum. You can try something new. You can take a break – yes, even a day off. You can go to the zoo and call it a field trip. You can go to the science museum and check off a day of learning.
When we get bogged down in the routine, we mix it up by taking a week off regular school and doing a unit study. There are lots of them out there, covering every topic you can imagine, and it’s nice to have a few on the shelf or in your ebooks folder on the computer when you need a change of pace.
We offer a free unit study here, which you are welcome to use when you need a break from the ordinary. Don’t let the mundane or the struggle lead you down the path to burn-out. See the signs of weariness and head them off with a welcome break or change of pace.
7. Take out the emotion!!! (oops, forget those exclamation points, this is supposed to be an unemotional point – smile).
When your child starts getting worked up, maybe even throwing a fit that is downright troubling, take a deep breath, let them know that this is not acceptable behavior. Take a break if necessary, retire to your rooms to calm down (parent or child, whoever is upset), and then try again. Remember, we can start fresh even in the middle of a day. Don’t let your child escalate your emotions. Stay calm. The situation gets worse as more people get upset. Don’t get sucked into the emotion. Rationally begin again when emotions have cooled.
Just do it! Keep on going because you see the end in sight (especially as you reach high school).
The concept of “start fresh, stay strong, finish well” can happen at the micro and macro levels:
If your child is in high school, make a transcript and keep good records – do NOT rely on your memory. You WILL forget!
Remember that you can outsource, dual-credit and CLEP.
You are the manager of your child’s education. That does NOT mean that you have to do it all. Outsource the subjects that you feel the least confident about. Outsource the subjects that your student gives you the greatest grief over. This becomes especially important as your child gets older. Trade subjects with another mom. (Example: you teach literature and she teaches government)
We have outsourced foreign language, science and higher math.
Use the summer to finish difficult/undesirable subjects
Throw a party – each year AND for graduation
We like to throw historical feasts 2-3 times a year, with one to finish up the school year. We dress in costume, cook period appropriate dishes and follow the social customs of the day. On our final day of school, we will also give out evaluations for our students up through 8thgrade and updated transcripts with grades for our high school students. It is a fun night of recognition and makes for very fond memories. These memories last throughout the summer so that the idea of starting back to school is pleasant and not groan-worthy.
Remember to have fun!
You can do this!
Start fresh… Stay strong… Finish well…
Copyright 2012 Terri Johnson
Terri Johnson is a homeschool mom of six children. She and her husband love educating Their children at home and have been doing so for nearly 12 years. They created their business – Knowledge Quest, Inc. – in 2001 with the desire to produce simple black and white maps that children could label and color while studying both world and American history. Their efforts eventually expanded into producing 10 foot wall timelines, a hardcover timeline book, a historical biography series along with some additional geography resources that would delight the whole family.