What to do when you don’t love your homeschool

when you don't love your homeschool | homeschool planning | homeschool vision

Psst. I’m going to let you in on a secret. There are times and seasons when I don’t like our homeschool. Maybe we’re getting things checked off and the kids are learning, but it’s far from satisfying—and very, very far from beautiful. We’re muddling through, surviving. But I sure don’t love our homeschool.

Honestly, that was me this last fall. We had moments: fun projects, glimmers of happy learning. But overall, I survived the fall, and hated it. So this December, during our month off, I spent a lot of time rethinking everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING!

Our fall was a perfect storm of factors. For one, my whole curriculum plan for one child seemed to crash and burn on week 2 of our homeschool year. I didn’t have the time to make those kinds of drastic changes in a thoughtful way. So, I threw together a Plan B and muddled through. Then, my homeschool app that I’ve used FOR YEARS to plan my homeschool didn’t update with the latest Apple updates. Yep, lost the whole thing at the start of the year and scrambled to find a new method. Again, I threw together a solution, but not one I loved. Lastly, our whole schedule turned on its head this year. Days we’d had off were now filled; days that I’d dedicated for one-on-one homeschooling were now video school days so that I could go to different meetings and Bible studies. We managed to get through the term, but I noticed that I’d lost a lot of things that brought enjoyment and meaning to our homeschool. I had a lot I wanted to change.

So, what do you do when you don’t love your homeschool? Where do you start? What do you change? Here’s what I’ve spent the last month doing.

What to do when you don’t love your homeschool?

Remember Your Vision

I remembered back to the last time I loved homeschooling. What was I reading? What was I thinking? What brought joy and satisfaction? I pulled out those books and tried to rethink those first thoughts again. I went back to that original vision, that original purpose. For me, a lot of that began with learning about Charlotte Mason and her approach to learning. I’m far from hard-core Charlotte Mason, but I love to blend those ideas into our classical homeschool. Charlotte reminds me of my overall goals: to educate my whole child (not just the mind), to inspire with ideas (not just cram with facts), to create an atmosphere (of love and character and discipleship).

Think back to a time when you loved your homeschool. What was it you loved? Was it more intentional and less distracted by work projects or social media? Was it more spontaneous and filled with outdoor exploration? Was it more character-focused and discipleship-driven? Get back to that happy place.

What if you have never loved your homeschool? Start with a brainstorm or vision board. Collect pins on a special “homeschool vision board” on pinterest, or get a poster board and cut out magazine pictures. Write down all the ideas that come to mind. What do you envision when you think about your homeschool? Know where you want to go before you make a plan to get there.

Find your focus

I don’t know about you, but I need more than a goal; I need a single word that helps me remember that goal. Something I can whisper under my breath in the hard moments and get the reeling chaos back in focus. That word, for me, was “discipleship.” I took a class on how to study the Bible this last fall, and one of the exercises was a form of diagramming the verse, looking at subjects and verbs and parallel structures. I remember tearing up in class thinking, “This is why I’m determined to teach reading and comprehension and some level of grammar to my dyslexic child. This is why it’s important to me.” Not so that she can ace an achievement test, but that she could be a better disciple; I want her to have all the tools she needs to study the Bible deeply. When I sat down and remembered my vision for our homeschool, this one word kept coming back to me. I wanted to educate my whole child, not just mind and academics; I wanted more discipleship.

What is that one thing for you? What is that one thing that, at the end of the year, if you only did this one thing well you would still call the year a huge success? Could you sum it up in one word? That one thing is your focus, and it will make a world of difference in the daily grind of homeschooling.

Make a Plan

Or in my case, make a planner. Seriously. I set down and created my own planner. I was tired of making things work, of adapting things to fit how I wanted to plan. So I sat down over Christmas break and made my own planner. I filled it with the Charlotte Mason quotations and beautiful graphics that inspired me. (And I’m sharing it with you for free! Scroll down for more details.)

I plan with a weekly overview. I don’t like to see my week split up by days because I need the flexibility to move things around. I plan the things I hope to get done with in the week. If we get it done, I check it off. If we didn’t get it done, I put an arrow through the box and move it to the following week. If I decide to skip it entirely, I put an x through the box. For certain, subjects that I do want done on certain days (specifically when I’m working with my child), I write an initial for the day of the week I hope to do it (M for Monday, W for Wednesday, R for Thursday, etc.) When it’s done, I circle the initial.

free homeschool planner download

 

free A5 homeschool planner

I also found a new app that I’ve been trying out with my kids’ assignments: Homeschool Teacher app. I put their chores and their school assignments into the app, but I keep most of the assignments generic and schedule them to repeat each week. For instance, I put “do a math lesson,” or “read for 30 min.” instead of “Do lesson 65.” If I need to go in and specify what book they are reading in, I can always go back in and make changes to that particular day, but I don’t have to plan their whole week out all the time. It’s “once and done.” Then, my kids have the companion app Homeschool Student on their tablets and ipads; they can login and check off their assignments. Then, I’m notified in my app and approve that the work was done. So far, so good.

 

I’m not expecting perfection. I know we are still going to have chaos and bad days and failed plans. But even with the imperfection, there can still be satisfaction. You can still love your homeschool, when it’s loud and messy and chaotic. You can still love your homeschool, even when it’s far less than perfect.

Download my Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool planner

84 pages of homeschool planning downloads for an A5 sized planner, includes:

weekly overview, daily agenda, grading log, reading log, field trip log, nature study log and journal page, and notes

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Printable A5 Homeschool Planner | Charlotte Mason

When Homeschool Morning Time doesn’t work

homeschool morning time | homeschool routine

I keep seeing posts hailing the miracles of morning baskets and homeschool morning time, and honestly, part of me feels a little left out. The pins and Instagram posts make homeschool morning time look so idyllic. But I sigh and scroll past. It’s a “been there, tried that” moment for me.

Morning time is not an ideal homeschool time for us for a number of reasons. ADHD is a huge one that ranks top of the list. ADHD and mornings don’t mix. Throw in there that I’m not necessarily a morning person either, and I give any morning time routine a maximum of two weeks at our house. Mornings typically involve a lot of reminding and referee-ing. Lots of fighting and moodiness characterize our mornings. It always has, for years. And believe me, I’ve tried everything I can think of to derail this trait. As breakfast improves the moods of my three kids, the distractibility sets in. There is no focus. Getting dressed is hard enough, let alone trying to get school squeezed in there.

Because any kind of disciplined learning (math, for instance) is out of the question with all the distraction, I abandoned structured morning homeschool for a more relaxed morning routine. For awhile, I embraced whole family learning that involved creating and listening to a read-aloud, similar to homeschool morning time. But even then, I could barely get through a story without someone upset that someone else was sitting on their paper scraps or was too close to their personal space or happened to grab the wrong colored pencil or couldn’t figure out the craft or a thousand other possible scenarios. Now, I keep everyone separated with their own tasks, or we head out to one of our extra-curricular activities.

So what do you do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work? When the latest and greatest homeschool strategy seems to crash and burn at your place, what next? You pick yourself up from the rubble of that failed experiment, dust off, and move on. Homeschooling is meant to be as unique as you are.

  • The curriculum everyone raves about may not be the curriculum that works for you.
  • The routine that takes social media by storm may not fit your family or your lifestyle.
  • The latest “homeschool hack” may hack more than you had in mind.

We are different. We recognize those differences. That’s why many of us have chosen to homeschool. So when we don’t fit the homeschool mold, it’s okay. We homeschooled to break out of a mold. So here are some tips to navigate a failed homeschool morning time (or any other failed experiment).

What to do when homeschool morning time doesn’t work

  1. Recognize a failed routine doesn’t mean you are a failure. We jump to this conclusion so quickly. We feel failure rather than reasoning through it. A failed routine is just that, a routine that didn’t work out.
  2. Evaluate who you are, who your kids are, and what is likely to work for you. On most days, we start homeschooling after lunch. Sometimes, we’ve actually homeschooled in the evening. Occasionally, we scramble through some morning assignments so that we can head out to an afternoon activity. One thing about ADHD kids (at least mine), they love to be busy. They love variety and a change of pace. Find a structure that fits your family’s personality.
  3. Be willing to try something that may not work. Failing can tend to make us afraid of trying something new. But one of the greatest lessons you can teach your kids as you homeschool is how to fail well. There are few things I know for certain about my kids’ futures. But one of those things is that my kids will fail. It’s okay for them to see me try things and then admit it failed—and it’s no big deal. When I try something and fail, it takes the scary out of it for my kids. So give it a try.
  4. Remember that every homeschool family has their challenges, whether or not they are posting about them on social media. You are not alone. If your homeschool isn’t peaceful and beautiful and quiet, you are in good company. Mine isn’t either. And I talk with enough friends to know, there’s isn’t either. Homeschool is life, and life is messy.

Who says you have to homeschool in the morning? Who says you can’t start the day with a morning hike or a morning video? Who says you have to read out loud to your kids? Get an audio book instead. Go on field trips. Sleep in. Homeschool at night or in your pajamas. These choices are not necessarily a lack of discipline or a lack of structure; they could very well be the structure that breathes freedom back into your family life.

What if homeschool morning time doesn’t work? Then post on Instagram about your “homeschool afternoon time” instead, and rock it!

Homeschooling through a Rough Start

rough start to homeschool | homeschooling rough starts and failures

In spite of well-laid plans and brand new supplies, the beginning of each new homeschool year seems to bring it’s own unique challenges. Ours is no exception. Our first year of homeschooling, I shut the whole thing down after our first month to revamp everything that wasn’t working. One year, everyone caught the flu on “start week.” Another year, we moved across country, arriving in our new home in September. With all of these challenges and changes, both good and bad, I’ve learned that there is something to say for “soft starts” to a new year and easing in. There’s also nothing wrong with homeschooling through a rough start.

Because we have a few of those unique challenges this year as well, I started a couple of weeks earlier than normal to allow ourselves the opportunity to ease in and break for life’s surprises. Our first day was beautiful! The picture-perfect day of happy kids elbow-deep in clay and learning.

homeschool first day

The next day, I went head-to-head with one of my kiddos, repeating for the millionth time that conversation of “it’s against the law for you to not do school, so you better work with me here.” Day three was somewhat better, and the week slowly improved. Our second week has been up and down as well, and I’ve already decided our math curriculum might not be working out. We’re off and running to our usual rough start.

But experience has shown me, we will get through it, and the year will run its course of smooth turns and rough patches. My friend, that’s life! That’s parenting! That’s definitely homeschooling. We always have visions of the ideal, but we have to remember that rough starts aren’t failures— they are simply rough starts.

3 things to remember if you are homeschooling through a rough start:

  1. A rough start does not characterize your year. Every good book opens with a conflict. Every good story involves overcoming challenges. The fact that your year may be off to a rough start does not mean you are going to have a terrible year. But it may help you to understand the challenges, the conflict, that will be part of your homeschool story this year. And just like a good book has twists and turns, ups and downs, your homeschool year will, too. The greatest stories are about those who overcome the challenges. Your rough start is merely chapter 1 of a great adventure.
  2. A rough start does not define you (or your child). It’s easy to let those difficult moments define us, to think a failed attempt means that we are failures. But that isn’t the case. Often, we can see that in everyone’s life but our own. Your rough start doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for this. Your child’s rough start doesn’t mean she will be impossible for you to teach or even that she will always be this challenging (though it sometimes feels like it). Accept God’s grace each day, for yourself and for your child. I’ve had some rough patches with my kids, but we love this journey together. And each year, we make great memories. The challenges are often part of those good memories, as we learn to overcome together. 
  3. A rough start is sometimes part of gaining momentum. Remember when you were first learning to ride a bike how difficult the first few pedals were? You wobble along trying to keep your balance until that momentum picks up, and then you are off! Sometimes, a homeschool year has that wobble at the start. You push and push and push. Then, the momentum of learning picks up and things get a little easier. Each time we stop for a break, there is that wobble of beginning again. But just like learning to ride the bike, you hang in there, knowing that if you push past those first few ungraceful moments, you’ll make it.

Are there exceptions? Are there rough starts that just aren’t meant to be? Of course, everyone’s story is different. But as a friend who’s been there a few times, let me say that if you are homeschooling through a rough start, take heart. Chances are, it’s only the beginning.