Many of us in the homeschool world are transitioning back into school mode from either a summer break or, for year-round schoolers, a mini-break. Our family falls into the latter camp. We took July off intending to use the time to reorganize our school room (or rather, where our school books and other materials are primarily stored) and to begin lesson plans for the new books we will be starting. Now, we are at the end of August, and I have not made much progress on either front. Sometimes it can be tough getting back into the swing of things!
We have this same problem after Christmas or upon returning from an out-of-town trip. Transitioning from vacation mode to school mode can be a challenge for anyone. Our style of homeschooling blurs the lines to some degree since we approach all areas of life as potential learning opportunities. For example, when we visit an area on vacation, we look for places of historical significance or interesting museums to check out. This style of learning is so much fun and definitely more memorable. Knuckling down and getting back to the books upon our return, though, requires the application of much self-discipline.
Pros Can Become Cons
One reason it can be hard to get back into school mode has to do with all of the wonderful reasons we homeschool to begin with. If we do not take care, the pros of homeschooling can become cons. The many bonuses tip the scales in favor of home education. But, as with all things in life, moderation in all things is needed to keep them in check.
The freedom we have in homeschooling to schedule schoolwork around the rest of our daily schedule can wreak havoc on our school time if we do not find a good balance. It is nice to be able to take advantage of appointment openings earlier in the day instead of waiting for after-school slots. Park visits and other outings during school hours are a favorite for homeschoolers. The restrictions of typical school hours do not apply to us. I have found, however, that I need to impose restrictions on our school hours in order to control the reins on what can easily turn into a runaway horse.
As a mom to a large family, I feel pulled in many directions. Although educating my children is one of the strongest pulls on my heart, the busyness of our household tends to have a greater pull on our schedule. I fight a constant battle between enjoying our flexibility and the flexibility becoming our enemy.
Another great aspect of homeschooling is that the schooling can follow the child’s lead. However, that too, can go in the wrong direction if we get complacent. Sometimes children don’t want to do their schoolwork. After we’ve had a break, some of my children are eager to return to our school days. Others have a hard time getting back on track. They need to learn that being responsible means doing things they don’t feel like doing at times. We have to tackle subjects that aren’t our strong points. We must pull out the books when we would rather play or do crafts. This builds character and teaches diligence, time management skills, and good stewardship practices.
Our family takes a fairly freestyle approach to education. I make use of a variety of resources, curriculum materials, and hands-on activities. We are not tied to a boxed curriculum or a strict school calendar. If a child brings up questions about a subject that I think might be a good path to go down, we will adapt our plans for that day to follow that line of interest. The beauty of this learning style is marred, however, if I am not careful to maintain a balance of order and structure. My weak point is consistency and following through with the lesson plans that I created. I am striving to find a better balance of freestyle and planned lessons this year.
My most compelling reason for choosing to homeschool is the opportunity to spend each day with my children. I love being an integral part of their education and walking through the learning process with them each day. When we homeschool, we often spend twenty-four hours a day with our children, most days of the week. This is truly a blessing and is part of my goal in mothering. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need some space for myself occasionally. There are days that I get really “mommed out,” as I call it.
When I had a baby, a toddler, and school-age children all at once, it was a rare opportunity to get some quiet time alone. Now that my children are a little older, I make a habit of being intentional about doing this several times a week. It may be reading a book in my hammock chair in the cool of the evening while the kids are getting ready for bed. I might read my Bible early in the morning before anyone else rises for the day or announce that, “Mama is having a short rest time, so please do not knock on my door unless there’s an emergency.” I find that I am much more equipped to handle all the stresses that life brings around when I have had these short sessions of alone time to rejuvenate.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this idiom as, “fully involved and comfortable with (a regular activity, process, etc.).” As we approach the end of the summer season, it is time for us to get back in the swing of our studies. That familiar feeling of mixed emotions has hit both me and my children as we feel excitement over becoming “fully involved and comfortable with” our school days and yet half-heartedly reluctant to jump back into a more disciplined regimen. How about you? Have you already begun a new school year? Does your homeschool operate on an entirely different schedule? Don’t feel you are alone in excited reluctancy. I imagine most of the homeschooling community is in the same boat!
Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE blog.