The mailbox at the end of the driveway is filled with homeschool catalogs, and my email notifies me of homeschool conventions and offers of discounts, sales, and free shipping from a variety of online sources.
The fact that I find this exciting apparently makes me a nerd of the first water. In the spring it reminds me that it is time for a yearly evaluation of our homeschool schedule, curriculum, and methodology.
Like many homeschoolers, we don't have a specific 'end of the year'. Because we view education as a lifestyle, school continues in one form or other all year round. We take a few breaks when we need or want one. When we finish studying a concept, exploring a topic, or analyzing a book, we simply go on to the next.
But I still need to set aside time to do a survey of all things that directly affect our homeschool.
The first thing I do is consider how our schedule is working. As children grow, their needs and interests change, and it becomes important to alter your homeschool schedule to meet new demands. Kids take on more responsibility, and have an active social life. There are classes to attend, hobbies to pursue, and extracurricular activities to work around. They are learning how to cook meals and do laundry independently. Minor household repairs and regular landscaping duties are being added to their chore lists. Part-time jobs and apprenticeships are arranged when they are old enough to apply for a work permit.
I'll be the first to admit that schedules can become a burden. We can weigh ourselves down with lesson plans not allow ourselves to explore a new opportunity if it isn't written on the calendar. Schedules are a framework that offers structure and adaptability to our homeschool the same way a skeleton provides support and flexibility to your body. Your homeschool life doesn't have to be rigid in order to function and be productive. Give your homeschool schedule the time to move and change and grow with your family.
- What subject areas has each child enjoyed the most so far this year?
- Are they excited about using the curriculum you've chosen?
- How do they talk about the resources being used?
- Is there a subject they dread? Why?
Most parents are more familiar with traditional schooling and textbooks, and use what is comfortable for them for their homeschool. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but don't ignore the freedom to choose the resources excite, inspire, and engage your children.
History can be studied through original documents, biographies, and journals. Spelling can be learned by noting unfamiliar words while reading from classic and modern literature, as well as poetry. Experimentation brings science to life, and doesn't necessarily require expensive equipment. Nature and weather studies happen with the opening of a window, and there are more chemical reactions as a result of combining many household products than most parents really care to consider.
Location, location, location--where do you 'do' school? The kitchen table is often assumed to be the area where homeschooling takes place, but many families designate a different space or entire room for books, projects, charts, and other educational tools and supplies.
- How is your current situation working for you?
- Is everyone comfortable in their chairs or desks?
- Is the area well lit?
- Are books and supplies within easy reach?
- Do you have trouble staying organized and focused?
- Do you find that you and your kids gravitate to a different part of the home, or even outside?
Remember: whether or not you have a specific location for the bulk of your homeschooling, don't neglect the spontaneous learning that can take place in the kitchen while preparing meals, during dinner table conversation, playing in the backyard, walking around the neighborhood, or going to the store.
It shouldn't have to be said, but--include your children in this process. Ask them what topics they'd like to study. Ask them their opinion of the curriculum and methods you are using. Would they like to have a more relaxing morning, use a different resource, or read books at bedtime? Learning can happen while wearing pajamas!
Your children are major stakeholders in their education, so it is essential to talk to them about their goals and how they'd like to go about accomplishing them. Let them make some decisions and take ownership of their homeschooling with you as their guide. If they take more responsibility for their education, they will be more invested in the outcome.
After reviewing your homeschool year so far, you may find that some changes need to be made. This doesn't mean you've made mistakes, or wasted time and money. Wasted time and energy happens when we refuse to adapt our methods or shelve curriculum that just isn't working. Give yourself and your kids room to grow, and your homeschool will grow and change right along with you.