Off to a Rough Start? Advice for Parents of Young Learners (pre-K-grade 3)
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011
Note: This is a classic re-post that orginally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back. Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!
Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.
It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another. We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.
Not enough school has been completed! I already feel “behind”. My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true.
What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with.
Another important thing to remember is that there is nothing as hard to deal with as unrealized expectations. They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.
So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start? Here are some ideas:
-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool.
-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling.
-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. The goal should be steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to formal academics.
-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children.
-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate? Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.
-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do?
-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans. After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school; we want to keep them begging for more.
-Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays in exchange for schooling part of the summer (when it’s too hot to do much in central California, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week, and only three days include an academic emphasis; one day is used for park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, etc.
-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed. You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)
-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work instead. Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burnt out. Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children. Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children. Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.
-Start over: If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over. Count the days you have done as “practice”, or time to break into your school routine, and then start over. That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments.
-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He will give us the strengths and the abilities we need to complete it. Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up. Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there. It does get easier.
Live the 4R’s!
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.