Hit the Refresh
Welcome to summer!
I tend to live my life by certain routines, or rhythms; don’t you? In our culture, following the school year/summer schedule is common, even for homeschoolers. That’s what most of us grew up with, and it seems so natural.
School begins with the excitement of new activities each fall, then the holidays provide distraction and refreshment. Winter is long; a good time to buckle down and study, even if routines become dull. Spring brings brighter days and a longing to be finished with the old school year. Then, finally, summer!
Here in the midwest, the long-awaited, but all-too-brief, “lazy-hazy-crazy” days at the pool, at the fair, at the park, at the beach have finally come! Schedules and bedtimes are thrown out the open windows until, in August, we’re longing for a return to the order and discipline of school schedules and studies.
This is the rhythm of life so many of us are accustomed to: revved up with high expectations in the fall, running through the holidays and into winter studies, slowly burning out until May finds us tired of it all at best, or at worst, a smoking heap of worn-out, burnt-out homeschool mama. Now, there are many wise homeschool mamas out there who’ve figured out how to organize life in such a way that the school year isn’t so exhausting, and I hope you are one of them! They make the patterns and rhythms of homeschooling fit in with their families’ needs and seasons of life. But take heart, even if you are totally spent at the end of May: refreshment and rejuvenation are what summer’s all about.
How to start summer
At the co-op meetings, in the quiet conversations behind the field trip or park day, moms are talking about when and how they can finish the school year. “Do I have to finish the whole book?” “How many days to I need to log?” “What if my child hasn’t achieved the goals I set for this year?” “How can I end the school year if I haven’t done those things?”
The answer to those questions is this: Just STOP.
Most of us feel that we need to go further and do more than we or our kids can handle, but the more exhausted, distracted, or frustrated you and your children are,
the more and the sooner you need to just stop. I know you had plans to finish all the chapters and there are still more left. I know your children need to learn how to persevere, and you want to model that for them. But if all the joy has gone out of your homeschool, and you are exhausted and “done like dinner” nobody is gaining anything by struggling through more days. Perhaps if you and your children can agree on “finishing one more spelling list and just this chapter in math” then you can all see the prize and press on together, but if it’s just tears and frustration all around, then Just. Walk. Away. for now.
Remember that the best learning takes place spontaneously when we have the time and energy to pursue our true interests. Remember that playing kickball with the neighbors, swimming, building sand castles, reading for pleasure, and outdoor play are important learning experiences!
Instead of focusing on what you didn’t accomplish, make a list of what you have:
-How much of a textbook in math, science, or spelling?
-How many books read?
-How many projects or experiments completed?
-How many co-op classes, days at the library, good field trips?
-How much development in maturity and character?
-How many really positive relationship-building experiences in the family?
There are different kinds of homeschool strategies, philosophies, and homeschool mamas. Some follow the traditional school-year calendar, some use traditional methods, some less so, but we all work hard to help our children learn, to guide them into maturity, and we all get tired from doing that. So sometimes we need to step away from the demands of homeschooling, relax, get a perspective, refresh and replenish our own resources. Summer is a great time to do just that.
Self-care right there
How do you take care of yourself, especially during a time when you need to refresh?
I use my summers to focus on self-care, resetting good habits in
-Getting enough sleep
-Enjoying healthy, delicious foods while avoiding junk
-Taking time for favorite activities (like vacationing with my husband or friends, reading, painting or redecorating a room, crafting)
-Making (and keeping) doctor and dentist appointments (for me!)
Plan for better days
Next school year is coming, of course, so carve out some time to plan it well. Get away, somewhere, somehow, by yourself or with a friend or mentor, to plan for a great next year.
During your planning session:
-What went well or not-so-well
-Strengths and weaknesses (your students and your own)
-Based on objective measurements (a test score or a materials review)
-What was the best thing and the worst thing about the school year?
2. Make a plan for the year
-Review and hone your philosophy of education and THEN
-Choose subjects (if we only accomplish ONE thing, it will be…)
3. Organize your schedule
-Put your plan on a time schedule to be sure it all fits. I like this one https://www.vertex42.com/calendars/pdfs/printable-weekly-calendar-monday-first.pdf
-Make sure there is margin, time between activities and free, unscheduled time for kids and for mom
-Refer to your schedule before committing to anything to be sure it fits.
4. Choose materials that work for you and your kids
-Child-centered, according to how they learn and what interests them
-Mom-realistic, according to what you can afford in time, skill, and money
Here is one practice that saves so much frustration: whenever you are offered a new opportunity, say “Let me check my schedule first, then I’ll get back to you.” Practice saying no to anything that doesn’t fit, or you have a gut feeling won’t go well. Just practice saying no, every day; there are a multitude of great activities and good opportunities, but we cannot do the vast majority of them. Guard your time for the things you’ve decided are the best and most important. If you’ve left some good margin in your schedule, then there will still be time for spontaneous great opportunities when they arise.
By the way, don’t let planning for next year dominate your summer. Schedule some days, a week, or maybe two to get it done, and don’t obsess over it at other times.
What are you doing for self-care this summer? How will you get away for planning? What relationship building times will you have over the vacation? I hope you’ll comment and add in your email address, because this summer I’ll be adding to this conversation weekly. As I seek refreshment in self-care, and energize by planning a great next year, I hope you’ll walk with me and join the conversation, because I really want to help you love your homeschool life!
Susan Daniels is the owner and lead teacher of Lighthouse Teacher Services, dedicated to helping families achieve their homeschooling goals. She offers group classes in Spanish Language, and in English composition and literature, and she writes and offers presentations on topics of interest to homeschool families. Like on Facebook and find out more at www.lighthouseteacher.com