By the time you read this post, we will just be starting our second week of school. Yes, our summer has flown by, and it’s time to get back into the swing of things! As we all gear up for the year ahead, I thought I would share a bit about what worked for us last year, what didn’t work, and what I plan to do differently.
Overall, I was quite happy with most of the curriculum we used last year, so that is one choice that (blessedly) did not have to be reconsidered for the most part. Our schedule for the year also worked pretty well overall, but I’m glad I took a few extra minutes to number the weeks and days we planned to do school. I knew we would end up taking some days (and even a week or two) off on a whim, and this made it simpler to ensure we got back on track (e.g., if I saw we should be on Day 102 of the year, I knew we needed to catch up to that lesson number).
I was also pretty happy with the level at which we made our school “fun,” as discussed in this post. We continued what my girls began calling “The Chocolate Chip Challenge” with our history tests throughout the year (each correct answer earning them a chocolate chip). We took a fun nature walk or two and regularly pulled out our telescope to look at planets in the night sky.
What Didn’t Work
Along those lines, however, I didn’t do nearly as many fun crafts, projects, and outings as I’d hoped, even those specifically associated with school subjects. We took one field trip, did baking projects together a handful of times, and made 3-4 organized crafts the whole year. We also abandoned most of the extra activities that were supposed to go with our history and science curriculum. So yeah…my plan to try to do these things more regularly than in past years didn’t pan out too well. But we got through the important stuff and still found it enjoyable – I think that’s what counts!
I had also planned to do some American history to supplement our Story of the World studies. That worked okay…for the first half of the year. The problem was that I had to gather the resources and make up the lesson entirely myself. Not that I minded the work – I actually enjoyed it quite a bit – but it simply took too much time! I spent many mornings planning instead of teaching, which then had to be put off until the afternoon. As I’ll explain more later, this does not tend to work well for us.
After abandoning this pursuit for the most part, I then got the brilliant idea to create a detailed Bible study for the second half of the year, with similar results. It was very interesting and informative, but so labor-intensive that I can’t justify doing it that way again. What this year taught me about myself is that I truly enjoy digging deeper into subjects such as these, but I must NOT attempt to do it the same morning I need to teach it! Of course I told myself I would do the leg work ahead of time, but truthfully, that just doesn’t happen. Thus, my big ideas of creating curriculum on the fly are being set aside this year for a pre-made materials that will hopefully make our school days quicker and more peaceful.
What I Plan to Do Differently
At the beginning of the school year, I made an hour-by-hour schedule to use as an overview for our day. I think I followed it for a total of three weeks (not consecutive). This was often due to the above issue of trying to lesson plan in the mornings, but it was also due to my habit of doing other things on my phone and computer in the morning: checking Facebook, answering email, working on a blog post, etc.
The kids are often more relaxed and quiet in the mornings, so I often allow myself to take advantage of that. But while it sometimes helps me get certain things accomplished, our school day is the priority, and putting other things first means school gets a late start. This tends to be counter-productive for the kids as well as me. After a morning of “chilling,” it can be difficult to get into the swing of work, and we all feel like we’re playing catch-up all day. When we actually stick to the plan of getting our work completed first, we get through it more quickly, while our minds are freshest. Then we can move on to other things, feeling satisfied that we’ve already completed what is most important.
Hopefully most of you are smarter than I am and don’t allow yourselves to fall into this trap in the first place! This habit may be difficult to break, but I hope to stick more closely to my daily schedule as planned… not following each time slot religiously, but getting a better start in the morning and trying to be finished with school closer to lunch than to dinner!
Speaking of getting an earlier start, I am doing the same with the year as a whole. Last year I found myself feeling desperate for more time off, especially in the winter months. I struggle to keep up with household projects during schooling, but one week off can really help with catching up! A speaker at my local homeschool conference mentioned that she does a system of six weeks on, one week off, and that sounded awesome to me (plus, starting during the summer means you can use the pool as a motivational tool to get work done earlier!). So, I have arranged our schedule to include a more leisurely pace, with regular breaks every 5-6 weeks. I’m looking forward to trying it out!
Beyond these scheduling changes and resolutions, I have several more things I want to do differently this year, mostly having to do with my mindset. But those will have to wait for my next post! Stay tuned!
Photo Credit: First image courtesy of author with design by Anna Soltis; all other images courtesy of author.