January. New year, new resolutions, new opportunities...
And then there are your children whining, "We have to do school?!"
If your kids are like mine, the holidays are a crazy, whirlwind "break" from the regular school routine -- and starting back up again when it’s all over is, shall we say, a bit less like blowing horns and toasting champagne at midnight and a bit more like cleaning up the confetti-laden, food-smushed mess the next morning.
And if your homeschool is like mine, the new year ends up being a bit less about rah-rah-rah-ing the new opportunities before us and a bit more about trying to keep new what we’ve already got going.
The reality is that when you homeschool, it can easily seem like an endless treadmill. Often there aren’t the same demarcations in the school year that public school students experience, as many homeschoolers follow non-traditional schedules and do academics year-round. Moving from one "grade" to another becomes an issue of "in which subject?" and summer "break" can simply be a matter of shifting academics from traditional book work to more experiential learning. Homeschooling, like parenting, never ends while the kids are still at home.
So, this new year of homeschooling – how do we keep it new?
Homeschool mamas have got to do something to bring fresh life into homeschool, and the dreary, indoor months of the new year are some of the best times to do it. Here are a few suggestions of things to kick off the new year in your homeschool and keep things interesting:
- Use a video or audio supplement. If you’ve been studying something all year – some period in history, perhaps – invest in a video or audio series on the subject to bring in additional interest. Many series can be borrowed from the library, and there are plenty of free options online as well. Even YouTube has some wonderful and creative video supplements for just about every subject. Videos and audios expand students’ knowledge while bringing to the subject matter to life, and can make the topic seem completely new and exciting. Consider options such as Jim Weiss stories, Animated Hero Classic Series, or Under Drake’s Flag Audio Adventure.
- Add a new curriculum. You know that Spanish program you’ve been wanting to try, but just haven’t had the time to fit in? Start it. That cool Science kit you bought at the homeschool convention but haven’t used? Pull it out. Find a new resource or homeschool curriculum that your child would be interested in and give it a try during the dull days of winter. It’s always exciting to use a new resource, regardless of the subject, and mid-year is the perfect time to do something fresh!
- Call in fresh eyes. Have a homeschooling friend, parent, teacher or other knowledgeable individual come to your homeschool and “hang out” for a couple of days. Have them give you ideas on things they see going well as well as things you could improve, and get their suggestions on how you might incorporate some new and more effective ideas. A fresh perspective can do wonders for bringing new life to your studies.
- Do a unit study. Even if unit studies aren’t normally a method you use, give one a try! You don’t have to change anything else you’re doing, curriculum-wise – just choose a subject that your child is interested in and do a short-term unit study on it. Amanda Bennett, for example, offers one-week and four-week unit studies on more than 50 topics! Whether your student loves horses, football, tornados, digital photography, chocolate, or simply wants to explore other cultures – there is a unit study that will pique his or her interest! If free is better, check out TheHomeSchoolMom's free unit study downloads.
- Include a project. Now don’t panic on me – you don’t have to do a semester’s worth… just do one! Whether it’s a special experiment to reinforce science learning, some artistic creation to exemplify a period studied in history, or something else, do something hands on. Break out the paints and doo dads and household odds and ends, and make that trip to Hobby Lobby to add in a dose of fun and creativity to the new homeschool year. Yes, it will make a mess. And it will be so worth it for the jolt of joy it brings to your homeschool.
- Go on a field trip. I know, you just got back from spending 7 very long days with your in-laws over the holidays. But this trip doesn’t even have to be overnight, and no extended relatives have to be involved at all! Historical monuments, museums, state parks, battlefields, art galleries, cultural centers, caverns, railways, zoos, gardens, farms, and even local plants and businesses make fun and educational outings that can reinforce academic learning. A field trip to see how local Mennonite families farmed in traditional ways was one of the most educational, delightful and enlightening trips our homeschool has ever experienced, and we could never have imagined a visit to a local apple cider plant would have been so exciting until we did it! Check out field trip options within an hour of your home that can add some spice to your new year educational plan. Check your state homeschool association for homeschool field trips near you, or TheHomeSchoolMom offers a “click on your state” option for finding great homeschool field trip opportunities.
- Sign up for an online class. If your students haven’t ever tried an online class – give it a whirl! Online opportunities can give students independence and autonomy (skills that can be challenging for homeschool students to learn when Mom is always readily available) while also providing them the expertise of teachers who specialize in a certain area. Even better – students get quality education in a subject, but Mom doesn’t have to teach it! Consider options such as live online classes or self-paced courses by Veritas Press. Courses cover every topic imaginable from Architectural drafting to Organic Chemistry to Storytelling to Biblical worldview. Jazz up your home education with a little distance education!
Make all the new year’s resolutions you want, and hats off to those of you who are able to keep them. But sometimes, at least for us, it’s just about getting a fresh perspective on the old. Jazzing up our routine with a bit of newness can make it a happy new year, indeed.