by Kathy Kuhl

As the holidays wind down, as we put away the Christmas stockings, and get ready to resume teaching our kids, take a few minutes to think about the big picture for your homeschool.

Maybe your first thought will be that you’re too tired to get back to homeschooling!

Take a day away

Why not take a day to enjoy some unstructured rich educational experiences—curl up with those new books you bought or found over the holidays, get out those paints and modeling clay. Visit a nursing facility—almost everyone else went last month, so now the residents would love your company. Maybe you’ll find someone your child or teen can interview about World War II or the good old days or what your town was like fifty years ago.

Been to too many malls and too many crowds? Get outdoors. Take strolls. Most parks are less busy now.

For you, teaching parent, it is an especially good to take time to think about your homeschool broadly. Even if you’ve had no time off, being so busy with holiday activities can help you get some distance on and perspective of your routine.

Look back and ask yourself

  • What am I most thankful for about the last year of homeschooling?
  • What little milestones should we stop and note?
  • Where has my child or teen shown perseverance? Kindness? Patience? Other virtues I want him or her to develop?
  • Looking over my goals for the last year, or for the last few months, what did we achieve? Do any goals now seem unrealistic? Now might be a great time to revise them.
  • Do I want our family to try new ways to exercise or to explore the arts as this new term begins?
  • What do I wish I could add to our homeschool? More read-aloud time? More music?
  • Is there time for these new things? If not, what will I drop? (As Elisabeth Elliott once wryly observed, “God apparently thought the twenty-four hour day was sufficient.”)

You may also want to try some of these tips. I’ve been reading about time management from business experts for several years. I’ve gleaned a few ideas that apply to us as we homeschool. Here are two:

Weekly reviews

I sit down, usually Sunday afternoons to review the past week and preview the coming week. My husband and I compared calendars. I make sure the doctors appointments are on the calendar with the homeschool extracurriculars. (If we’re going to miss a beloved activity, our kids would appreciate advance notice. It’s the same courtesy we would extend anyone.)

SMART goals

Are my goals for my homeschool SMART? –Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic,  and Time-bound. Here’s what those mean:

Specific: not “Jon will be nice,” but “Jon will say good morning to the tutor when she arrives.”

Measurable: not “Caitlyn will learn to add fractions with common denominators,” but “Caitlyn will add fractions with common denominators correctly on six out of six problems.”

Action-oriented: not “Halley will understand the themes of the novel” we are reading, but “Halley will write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences on one of the themes, with at least two pieces of supporting evidence from the book.”

Realistic: Does your experience with your child give you reason to think he or she has a reasonable chance of achieving this goal?

Time-bound: By March 1, Caitlyn will add fractions with common denominators correctly on six out of six problems.”

Got breaks in your homeschool calendar?

Finally, readers, are you getting breaks? This stretch between January first and whenever you’re having your spring break is often a long stretch. Visit a farm, a museum, a craftsman at work. Try new crafts. Plan some fun.

(I’m convinced that’s partly why kindergarten teachers have 100th Day parties. It’s also a fun way to show a kindergartener how many a hundred is: start counting your school days next year and see when your 100th Day party will be.)

Plan breaks for yourself

And plan some fun or relaxation for yourself. Make a deal with a friend to take each other’s kids every other week for a couple hours. Don’t spend that time grading papers! Do something you enjoy. Take a walk. My niece makes lovely stationery during short breaks from her children. My sister-in-law sews beautiful shirts, quilts, and doll clothes. Perhaps you’d enjoy a little gardening, or planning a garden. Creating is satisfying.

Read something you enjoy, something that has no relation to your homeschooling. Phone a good friend, or get together for a quick lunch—without your children. (Resolve not to spend more than half the time talking about them, dear as they are!)

If none of those ideas are feasible, can you get someone to watch the children so you can run some errands alone–or with one child who needs a treat? I remember years when going grocery shopping alone was a treat.

Little breaks like these equip us for the months ahead.

Happy New Year!