For many of you, next week begins a mid-winter "break" in your education schedule. I have to laugh about both "mid-winter" as the season does not officially come in until the 21st no matter how much cold and snow have come your way, and "break" because we all know better. This is one of the busier times of year for most people and having the kids set loose from daily studies only adds to the mix.
If you are like me, this "break" is also a time to take a look at the fist half of the school year, measure it's successes, adjust accordingly for the remainder of this grade level, make sure that you are on track for end-of-the-year testing requirements, and spare a glance toward curriculum needs for next school year. Hopefully most of you will find that you are right on track or even ahead of the game. Your chosen curriculum is working great. Your child is having a wonderful time expanding their knowledge base. A quick check of the curriculum for the next grade level has confirmed that you don't require any changes to your plans. You can kick your feet up and relax with a nice mug of hot cocoa.
For the rest of you: Welcome to my boat. Here is an oar. This subject makes me wonder why I even blog about homeschooling, to be honest. The only thing I can come up with at the moment is that I'm an excellent bad example. I have spent more time altering schedules and swapping curriculum than I even want to admit. We have changed curriculum that promised much and delivered little at this point some years creating a frantic need to build new calendars and plug in all new information. We have skipped the break to try to catch up many times. I am there once again this year. I beat the "break" by handling the rescheduling nightmare early, but trust me, if you are not where you should be according to your plan, you are not alone. Those of you who need to compare details and vent a bit can feel free to ask, but I'm sure not volunteering how completely I have failed to keep control over this year. Hint to those of you dealing with work-at-your-own-pace high school: No matter how intelligent your kid is, their pace may not be what is needed. Our home stretch has an emphasis on "stretch".
So, what do you do when your best laid educational plans go awry? Well, first you take a big calming breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Try a couple. Cry if you need to first, I've been there and I've done that. After you breathe, recognize that this is NOT the end of the world. It is a bump in the road, and it may be a necessary part of both you and your child's education. Being flexible is a necessary skill. So is picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and taking the next step after you fall. Then take a step back and look at the problem for what it is: a problem. Not your failure; not your child's failure; whatever happened is simply the product of a plan with a glitch. Look at it as an opportunity to exercise your skills in creative problem solving. Identify the nature of the beast. You can't fix something that you aren't able to see clearly. If it is the curriculum (either too easy or too hard) find new curriculum. Don't just ride it out and hope for the best. If you child can't learn from their lessons, continuing those lessons is a waste of time, and worse can cause problems down the road. If it is a scheduling issue, adjust the time allotments so that assignments can be completed correctly. If there is too much down time and your child is bored, add an extra curricular activity that they enjoy. If you need a tutor, find one. If you have to admit that your child is going to be a kid without a summer break, or a kid who finishes two grades this year, just admit it and plan accordingly. Don't cling to what does't work. You homeschool because you want to teach your child to learn, not because you want to do school at home. Understand the difference. You may need to remind yourself of this from time to time. I know I have.
Whether you are having a phenomenal year or one that is a little clunky, know that this homeschooling parent is cheering for you. I hope you send some good thoughts my way as well. I need them. We are all in this together even though we are each doing our own thing in very different ways. In the end, no matter how the schooling goes, the goal is to release amazing adults into the world. That, at least, I can say I'm exactly on track to achieve.
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!