Part I – A Fresh Start
Are you tired after teaching for 9 months?
Do you long for a fresh start, to make next year better than this one coming to a close?
Would you rather just put your head in the sand and not think about it until August?
I hear ya! I have felt all of those emotions and then some. Yet today, our first day of summer break, I found myself thinking about next year, strategizing on areas I can improve, considering the ways to help one child excel in a certain subject and another child in a different subject.
How about you? Have you started thinking about how you can make next year better yet? Or are you still thinking about this possibility:
Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!
How can we find the joy in the midst of the battle of wills? How can we continue to create lesson plans and teach subjects day in and day out when we are getting tired? Or when we are getting bored? Or when we are plain old fed up?
Over the years, I have received many interesting comments, such as…
- “Why are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?” Um, duh!
- “What about you? Don’t you need some time away from your kids?” Yes, but not all day. J
- “You must be some kind of superwoman because I think that I might go loony if I had to be around my kids all day.” I understand.
- “Parents make the worst teachers.” Really?
- “Your kids are going to turn out to be unsocialized misfits.” I thought that geekiness was “in” these days?
- “What if your kids can’t get into college?” Well, that’s a reasonable, if misguided, fear.
Getting bombarded with these kinds of comments can really make you second-guess yourself, can’t it? How many of you have second-guessed your decision to homeschool at some point along your journey? I have.
But the lowest point that I have reached in my homeschooling wasn’t because of these types of comments. My moment of true doubt and fear came when I found myself alone with no one to turn to or talk to when I reached my maximum capacity.
It happened like this…
I had been teaching my kids at home for 11 years (this was about 5 years ago). My oldest child had just finished her sophomore year of high school. At that time, I also had an 8th grader, a 4th grader, a 3rd grader and a kindergartener. I also had a 3 yo.
I should have felt well established, confident and secure in my decision to continue, right? But I didn’t.
I looked around and realized that I was the only one left of my peer group still homeschooling. We had quite a crowd of friends homeschooling while the kids were younger. We swapped subjects and children with each other. We formed a co-op together. We took our kids to the same extra-curricular activities, field trips and events.
One by one, these families decided not to continue to homeschool. There were many reasons, but most of them boiled down to these two:
- The parents didn’t feel confident to teach the higher grades.
- The parents were tired and burnt out.
Our co-op could no longer continue because the number of homeschooling families plummeted. I found myself at a crisis point. My kids were feeling lonely and isolated. I was feeling overtaxed with 5 kids now to teach ranging from high school to kindergarten and a busy 3 year old to keep out of trouble.
We had been living this lifestyle for so long and yet I suddenly felt unable to go on.
I had reached a new decision point in my life. I could follow the crowd, or I could start fresh, stay strong and finish well. I chose the second option and I would like to share with you how I did it.
“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it,” Anne Shirley of Green Gables.
Isn’t it great that we get to start fresh? We can make a brand new fresh start at the beginning of the school year. But you know, we can also start fresh each week, each day. We always have an opportunity for a fresh start.
Thank goodness, right?
Here are some ways to make a fresh start when you need one:
- Take a break. You don’t want to reward stubborn behavior, but butting heads isn’t the solution either. Sometimes we all need a break from the daily grind. Some ways you can take a break would be:
- field trip,
- spring cleaning,
- plant the garden,
- science museum,
- reading day,
- serve a widow,
- organize stuff for a garage sale,
- go to the library, go to the park, etc.
- Change it up! Try something new. Guess what? You are not married to your curriculum. There is really only one thing you are married to – your spouse. Try something different and see if it helps. Maybe the curriculum you are using isn’t fitting the way your child learns. Try something different. You don’t’ have to spend a lot of money on experimentation.
- Take a vacation, especially if the weather is wonderful.
- We do take a summer vacation because there is no place more glorious than the Pacific Northwest in the summertime (well, that’s my opinion).
- But we also take snow days for sledding and snowboarding;
- Spring and fall days for festivals, hiking, biking, and swimming.
- We rarely take days off school on school holidays, such as Presidents Day, etc. We just keep plugging along.
Now, I probably made it sound like you should rarely have regular school days, with regular school subjects and regular school assignments. Actually, no, this couldn’t be further from the truth – you should have a schedule and a routine (it’s good for everyone) – but these ideas are for you to fall back on when you are feeling stressed and burnt out.
Because the truth is that the #1 reason that homeschooling families stop homeschooling is because the mom is fried. It’s not because of a job loss, health problems, aging parents or other external reasons. These can often be overcome by sheer determination and creativity. But the homeschool mom who is burnt out does not run the race like she wants to or the way that she set out to. These ideas that I have presented are to help you when feel a weight of stress pressing down on you or when you start to feel quick-tempered, sad, annoyed, confused.
Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on how to Stay Strong so that you are less likely to reach burn out stage to begin with! Do you need any help getting back on track? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.
Question: What are some ways that you start fresh when you need a “do-over”?