I marvel that I can say this, and we are only three weeks in so I well know that things may change, but this year homeschooling has really been a joy. We made a few changes that I think are contributing mightily to this happy fact.
We are protecting our mornings.
In previous years we have done co-ops and activities at least one morning a week. I have also previously been willing to let my outside work take morning time–pushing school to afternoons or evenings or weekends as needed. That worked in some ways, but I’ve come to realize–at least for my children–that we need a reliable structure. Every morning we do our school routine. The kids know what’s coming next. I am not stressed about compressing work into times that aren’t optimal for attention spans. On two occasions this fall I’ve had either the babysitter or a friend over for a morning, and while that might be ok as an every now and then thing, it really is not ideal. I’m feeling confirmed in my conviction that we need to protect our mornings.
We are not on anyone else’s timetable.
This is also the first year we have not used a co-op or outside group for any academic subjects. I stopped doing Classical Conversations because the group’s focus is not similar enough to my convictions about education and I resented the push to learn material that wasn’t tied to our main studies. Last year we were in a co-op with other families using Tapestry of Grace, and while it was awesome in many respects, in the end I felt harried by needing to stick to the week by week schedule. I realized that I value the ability to take two weeks to cover a time period we like, or the freedom to compress two weeks together when there isn’t a lot of material on a topic or we read ahead. I am no longer stressed out by being on a long wait list for books, and I feel better about the flexibility to dig deeper into topics of particular interest to the kids.
We moved to a term calendar.
This summer was too long (even the kids agree!), at least in part because I was SO burnt out from schooling without breaks last year. We never took a fall break or a spring break,or a long weekend and our Christmas break was less than two weeks long. This was really just my lack of planning, and my own inability to spot the burnout looming. This year, I’ve scheduled our year in terms. For the most part, we’ll do school for six weeks and then take one week off (with a slight exception in the fall to allow a break week over Thanksgiving). We will be having school into June, and then taking the month of July off for our summer break. I’m interested to see how it works, but so far it’s helping me feel restful and energetic about the year.
We are prioritizing truth and beauty.
I feel pretty strongly about academic rigor and expecting a lot out of my children. At points this has led to my priorities getting out of whack. Certainly I am not scaling back academics, but rather this year I’m committed to viewing them through the lens of truth and beauty. My goal for their education is that academics help the kids to interact with ideas and see the truth and beauty in every subject. We’re making time for artist study and composer study and copying excellent poetry for handwriting. We’re working on habits and reading together even more than usual (which is saying something since we use literature-based curriculum!).
But mostly I think the change is in my attitude. I’ve always loved homeschooling but, as with many worthwhile things, I haven’t always found joy in it moment by moment. This year I’m determined to focus on the joyful moments, and I find that it’s giving our entire school day a more calm, relaxed, joyful atmosphere.
How do you promote calm, joyful days at your house?