by Kathy Kuhl You’ve got your new notebooks, new planner, pencils, books, and new curriculum. The homeschool year is about to begin. It’s an exciting time, isn’t it? I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the promise of new books, notebooks, and planners. It’s a new beginning!
So, think you’re ready? No? (It’s okay—I never felt quite ready, either.) Because there’s so much to consider, we sometimes overlook the following essentials for the new school year. Here are my five top tips to help you start strong. (And if you’ve started already, these will help you keep going.)
1. Encourage Yourself
You need your homeschool “teacher’s lounge,” just like any other teacher. You need the support and perspective of other home educators. So join a support group—in person on online. Or meet with a friend every couple weeks to compare notes on your homeschool.
2. Get Your Exercise
Exercise. You need it. Your kids need it. It’ll help keep you all healthy, and it’ll help keep you sane. If you’re having trouble, check out this post.
3. Get Your Rest
You also need rest. I think the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition of keeping a Sabbath, one day off in seven, is vital and refreshing.
But I’m not pharisaical about it: if milk is spilled, I mop on Sundays. I do the essentials—but I try to do what I can a day ahead. I plan simple meals, or make-ahead meals.
If I keep work at a minimum one day a week, it will strengthens me for the week ahead. A day to worship reminds me what’s important. A day off says I know it doesn’t all depend on my effort.
Sometimes, the time off results in unexpected insights. The solution to a problem will come to me while I’m not working on it. Probably my subconscious is still working, but I’ve got distance from those thorny issues. Whatever the reason, the insights and solutions are gifts.
I started this practice of taking Sundays off during my student-teaching in college. It was a very hard semester, but taking Sundays off kept me going all week.
4. Plan Your Kickoff
Consider how you’ll start your homeschool year. With a picnic or a field trip, or will you just dive in? (Getting straight into a routine may be best for some students.) Consider doing something fun, but not major or expensive, necessarily. Maybe you could take a trip someplace the public school kids can’t go—like a museum on a weekday. Or visit the park on a weekday morning, fishing nets in hand, collecting pond specimens and working on nature journals with those new pencils.
Tell your kids about your wishes and goals for the coming year. Keep it short. Think tweet, not sermon. Remind them of these goals occasionally, but not too often.
That leads us to…
5. Consider Your Goals
Here’s another area of preparation sometimes overlooked: what are you educating your kids for? We homeschool for all kinds of reasons:
- Help our children learn to work and hold jobs.
- Train them to serve others.
- Raise followers of Christ, for some families.
- Teach him to read, says the desperate mom of a dyslexic son.
- Save her life, says the father of a discouraged student.
Many reasons are valid. Your reasons may be several of these, or something else entirely.
But sometimes we focus on what we are saving our kids from: failure, discouragement, or a bad school environment. That’s important. But we should focus on what we are educating them toward. We should teach our children how to learn. They need to cultivate a sense of wonder, of curiosity, of pleasure in the beautiful, complex world we live in. For them to succeed and serve in the world, we must nurture their talents—even when we can’t tell what those are yet.
When my son was eleven, I wasn’t sure what he was good at. If pressed, I’d have said he was good at Legos and talking to strangers. Neither seemed to promise a bright future! Now the list of his talents is long, clear, and specific. He’s got talents no one else in the family has. I just couldn’t see them then.
If you’re a Christian, as I am, then you’ll want to begin each school day in prayer. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
If you’re not a Christian, I’d encourage you to consider it, anyway. “God, if you’re there, I know I need help. Please help my kids thrive. Please give me wisdom.” Believers or not, all parents know that our efforts alone don’t guarantee success.
Is prayer on your schedule? Pray with your kids and for your kids. Pray about your planning and for your patience and wisdom. You can download a larger version of the infographic at left, 31 Biblical virtues to pray for your kids, here from Bob Hostetler and Keeping It Personal.
What helps you get ready for the new year? Please comment below. Thank you.