Five Ways to Keep Your Homeschool Fresh and ExcitingLeah Courtney
It never fails. We start back to a regular homeschool schedule in August, and everyone feels the excitement of a new school year. Even the kids who weren’t necessarily ready for school to start back can’t help but feel anticipation at the thought of new books and new classes.
It’s the time of year when kids have the thrill of a notebook with blank pages, the excitement of a new co-op class with friends, and the intoxicating smell of new books to read. I have a fresh lesson plan in front of me. It’s never been written over or crossed out or had lines drawn here and there. It’s a fresh start.
But something changes after the first few weeks. By the end of September, the kids are complaining about the new literature books they’re reading because they’re too hard. And co-op isn’t as fun as they thought, not to mention we have to get up early to get there! And I’m fretting because my lesson plan has too many things crossed out and too many lines drawn through it because I’ve had to change it so many times. And the new history course isn’t going over as well as I thought. And we’re all just tired.
In twelve years of homeschooling, I’ve seen this happen many times. But over the years I’ve learned a few ways to keep things fresh and exciting. Are we all always zippy and happy and thrilled about our schoolwork? To be honest, no, we aren’t. But by incorporating some of these ideas we can definitely enjoy our homschool and our relationships much more. Here are five ways that I try to keep our homeschool fresh and exciting.
Incorporate unit studies
I love to use unit studies because they are so great for including multiple ages in the same lessons. Another great thing about unit studies is that we have a change in what we’re studying every so often. Most unit studies are developed to cover a few weeks or so at the most. When we finish one unit and move on to another, we have new material and new books to read. I like to have a broad topic that we’re covering for the year— like ancient history— and then have multiple unit studies that fit that topic that we’ll cover throughout the year.
Plan for rest weeks
Many homeschool families use a six weeks on, one week off schedule. This gives a week for rest and planning. We’ve never had a set schedule for the number of weeks, but I do like to take a week off every so often. Because I don’t like to have really long breaks, I prefer to take more frequent weeks off than to take one long break in the summer. Somehow that week is plenty to refresh us.
Evaluate what works
I easily fall into the trap of adding new curricula or dropping curricula on a whim, based on someone else’s recommendation or a perceived need I see in the kids. Too much constant change of curricula isn’t a good thing and can lead to stress and an overwhelmed feeling. But I do think that it’s important to regularly take a realistic look at what’s working and what isn’t. Sometimes that curriculum that looked great when I was choosing it doesn’t work out so well for the family. In that case, changing the curriculum can be a good thing and can keep us excited about what we’re learning and not stressed because something isn’t a good fit.
Cut out some activities
One sure way to become quickly overwhelmed and tired of our homeschooling is to overload our schedule. All too often we start the new homeschool year with excitement and anticipation of so many great new activities— a new co-op, music lessons, sports, dance, art— and we quickly burn out because we have too many activities. When this happens, cutting out some activities can give us a fresh start with a more relaxed schedule.
Homeschooling is about relationships. When we are all miserable and not enjoying our homeschooling, it’s probably because we’ve forgotten that. Taking a break and making time to have fun together is a great way to restore our joy. Bake. Do a hands-on project. Go on a fun field trip. Read a new book aloud. Have a family movie night. When we are making time for fun and relationships, our homeschooling is much more likely to stay fresh and interesting.
Homeschool isn’t always going to be riveting and exciting. But doing these five things can help to keep it interesting and fresh. And all of us will learn more when we’re stimulated and thinking instead of bored and counting the hours we need to put in and call “school.”