If you receive my weekly newsletter, you know how much I enjoy the new school year. (And if not, you should click here to subscribe!) Much like your freshly sharpened pencils, your pristine desk, and your empty notebooks, the start of a new year is a new wonderful new opportunity.
Last years mistakes are but a mere memory. Last years struggles are in the past.
A new year is a new chance for both your and your child to move forward – to start off on the right foot.
Lessons Learned From Last Year
At the end of every school year, I like to look back. It’s a chance to see what went well, what could have gone better, and what (if anything) might need to change. Was there a curriculum that worked particularly well? Or a curriculum that used to work well, but didn’t seem quite up to snuff this year? Is there a new interest that you discovered this year? Or maybe an old interest that is not quite so interesting?
By looking back, by evaluating the materials and lesson plans I can see what did or did not pan out well. By checking in with the kids I can get their honest feedback about how the year went.
And by taking a few weeks off in the summer we can all decompress from 10-months of learning.
It’s during these summer months that I do the majority of my reflecting. During the school year, there isn’t the time to truly see the whole picture. We are too wrapped up in our day-to-day lessons and plans to really measure the overall success. But during the summer I have a unique opportunity to look over the work, from start to finish. To check out the grades, the learning, and the success.
Because to me, success is not just a number or a letter grade, although I do assign grades. Success is defined by learning and growth in a particular area. Did my children increase their knowledge of a particular subject? Were they able to not only learn a new idea but learn why the idea is important and valuable? Can they still tell me the importance of something, or did they only learn for the test?
Completing Reviews and Making Changes
Some years, after looking back, I see that things are moving along well. The kids are progressing and the materials are working well. Other years, like this one, I find that some changes need to be made.
Change, while not always easy, is not always a bad thing though. This year I found that while I loved the math program we previously used, that my older children needed something more. That as their math levels are increasing, their need for a better explanation of the new concepts was needed. I also found a great new Language Arts program for all three kids, one that had the same basic idea as our old one, but that offered more excitement and more freedom to explore.
And it was a lot of change.
Not because what we were doing was bad. Or because what we were doing was somehow inferior. It was simply that the kids’ needs are changing and if I want to continue to teach them in the way they learn best, I needed to change as well. I needed to make sure I was offering them the best options that I am able to offer.
To me, that’s one of the best things about homeschooling. The ability to change. Not just for the sake of change. But for the sake of the kids. This education is theirs, and I want them to get the most out of it they possibly can. For me, the best way to do that is to reevaluate what we are doing, why we are doing it, and if it is working. If it is, then great. But if it is not, then we find something that hopefully will.
Starting Off On The Right Foot
So this year we started with some new curriculum options. Alongside our new notebooks, and our freshly sharpened pencils we had some new programs. With all new things, there is a learning curve for all of us. I had to learn how to use the curriculum, how to be able to explain to the kids how to use them. I’ve also had to change up our routine because we now have two classes that we complete as a group.
Whenever we start something new I look to go slowly. The first few days of a new year are more about getting back into the routine than they are about learning new concepts or skills. It’s checking out the materials, talking about goals and expectations, and starting slow.
This year, the first day of school happened to fall on the solar eclipse, so after checking out all our new materials and supplies we did a short lesson on eclipses and set off to make our own viewing boxes. It was a great way to start out the new year!
I like to set the kids up for success, so rather than just diving into the lessons we take our time and ease in. We start a little later as everyone is still on the summer sleeping schedule. We play more than during other times during the school year. And we look for the extraordinary in the mundane simply because time allows for it.
Setting The Tone For The Year
I have two reasons for starting out the year a little slower.
One is that we need time to adjust. It’s not just the summer sleeping schedule that needs to be revamped, but our entire day. Bad habits that crept in over the lazy summer months need to be changed. The kids need time to adjust from having their whole day free to several hours planned out. Their brains need time to make the switch from summer to school.
The second is simply because I want to set a more relaxed tone for this year. Be a little more Miss Honey and a little less Ms. Trunchbull. I want to ease into the rigors of tests and papers with a few days that are mixed between book learning and life skills. We want to enjoy the last few days of nice weather before the cold and snow settle in. I want to make sure the kids and I are on the same page as far as goals and expectations. That they understand the materials they were just handed. And that we have time to learn to implement our new curriculum.
It truly all boils down to freedom to choose. As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to dictate how our days go, and for that I am grateful. I live in a state that counts school days rather than hours which allows for more flexibility. I’m not saying we take advantage of that – because any day that is a school day there needs to be some learning. But, we take the first few days to sort of slide into the school year, rather than jumping into a full course load on day one.
Making Each Day Count
I have found that by easing into the start of the year the kids are more relaxed. I am able to slowly increase their workload as the days wear on and for the most part, the adjustment is easy.
That’s not to say we don’t get backed up on housework while we are starting back up – because we do! It’s just par for the course. Just like a professional holding down a job, most of my daytime hours are devoted to educating my children. The difference, of course, is that we are home eating breakfast, reading lessons, and making projects while we are home.
This year I am excited. So far things are going well, and the kids are loving the new programs we are using. They seem to be a great fit to both our mission statement for our homeschool as well as our learning philosophy. Each year is an opportunity for us to grow and be better at homeschooling, and each day a new chance to learn something new.
How do you start out your school year? Comment below!