Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ten Tips for a Terrific Home School Year, part 3

I really can't believe it's time for another school year to start!  The summer flew by way too fast, and we didn't get our fill of the sand and the surf before it was time to hit the books again!  And yet, there is always something exciting about starting a brand new school year!  One that is fresh and new, with no mistakes in it!  Do you feel that way too? 

One thing's for sure, as we approach this new year, we want it to be successful.  That's why I've been thinking about the things that make a difference in how our year goes.  I don't have it all figured out, but I have learned a few things after 22 years of homeschooling!  So, I decided to share some tips for having a great school year.  If you missed the first two posts, you can click on the links below to read them before you read tip #3.  

Tip #1:  Know why you are homeschooling.

Tip #2:  Set your priorities.

Tip #3: Start slowly and finish strong.

If you are like me, this is exactly the opposite of your natural inclinations!  Having strong perfectionist tendencies, I've usually approached the first day of school something like this:

Start school on a Monday (and it would be perfect if that Monday also happened to fall on the first day of the month!). Get up at 5 am to begin implementing my new daily schedule (which is intricately designed with color-coded blocks for every thirty minutes of the day), dive into school with high expectations for excellence in every subject and perfection from every student, while also starting a new diet and exercise routine and planning a delicious dinner!  (And I might add that most of those years I also had a nursing baby or was pregnant!)

You're probably laughing, maybe even rolling your eyes, but that is how I've started many a school year!  (And I bet many of you have too!)  And then I wondered why I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to resign by the end of the first day!  ;)

The problem with this approach is that we start off with unrealistically high expectations, leaving the station with our engines in overdrive, but then we run out of steam before we get very far down the track.  Soon, our derailed plans leave us feeling discouraged and defeated.  Unable to finish what we start, we feel like a failure, and may even give up on homeschooling and send the kids to school.

A wiser approach is to start slowly and finish strong.

Have you ever considered a gradual approach to starting school?  It is a pretty challenging concept for a perfectionist, I must admit, but it may actually produce better results in the end!

I ran across this interesting quote on a blog for long-distance runners:

Endurance athletes hear it all the time.  Start slow.  Don't go out too fast.  You can't bank time.  I once read in a Runners' World article that for every second you run too fast in the first half of a marathon, you lose two seconds in the second half. It's a simple principle, but for some reason it's really easy to mess it up.

Since homeschooling is a lot like running a marathon (!), I think that quote has a direct application to our discussion here.  If we don't want to do the death crawl at the end, we must start out slow and pace ourselves!

Here are some ideas for starting slow:

  • A week or two before you plan to start school, start getting everyone (yourself included)  to bed earlier and set the alarm a few minutes earlier each morning, so you gradually make the adjustment to the school year schedule.

  • Have an Orientation Day on a Friday before you plan to start school (which is how the public school system does it here) to go over expectations for the new school year, set up student desks and notebooks, find DVDs and math manipulatives, get organized, and have a "dry run" of the new school schedule.

  • Ease into the school year by gradually implementing your schedule. Start off implementing the first couple hours of your day -- maybe up through breakfast, and when you have the kinks out of your morning routine, add in the next couple hours of your day, and if that seems to be working well, add in the next segment of your day, until you have the entire schedule operational.  This gradual approach is hard for a perfectionist to swallow, but you may find that it yields amazing results with much less stress and far fewer "first-day resignations!"

  • Gradually ease into your school subjects by starting with just one subject and adding another subject each day until you are up to full speed.

  • Don't start right in with a full school schedule plus all of your extra-curriculars, too.  If within your control, wait a couple weeks before starting lessons and practices.  If your children can't get their schoolwork and chores done, they need to work on diligence at home before earning the privilege of outside activities. 

Homework Time:

Have you tried the "tortoise" approach to starting school?  Or are you the proverbial "hare?"  List some ways that you can ease into your school year for better results.  If you've had success with a slower start in the past, please share what worked for you!!


Keisha said...

I just wanted to say thank you for this! I sat down the other night with a veteran homeschool mom and showed her everything and asked her advice on a good approach. This is much how she said it and I can already tell a difference in myself and our son! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!!

busymomof10 said...

Thank you Keisha for your encouraging feedback!

Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans said...

We start off slowly, doing two or three subjects for the first couple of days (typically Bible, math, and language arts). We loosely follow the local school calendar and usually start when they start; this year, the PS started on a Friday and we started a day earlier to help make up for the fact that we must have 180 school days and the PS calendar has 178. Go figure...

This year, after the first two days, I added one subject a day until we were doing a full schedule. However, there have been previous years when I added subjects more slowly due to what was going on in our lives at the time (new baby, etc.). My oldest is now in the 10th grade, and I still feel like I'm trying to get the hang of this. ;)

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