Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Easing into the School Year Saved My Sanity

We are just entering our 3rd year of homeschooling.   What started out as a "let's see how this works" thing, has now turned into a "I LOVE this" kinda thing.  Homeschooling isn't easy, especially at first. But it does get easier as time passes and you figure out how you can best teach each of your children. This year's big challenge is that I have 2 "official" school children (K & 3rd), plus a preschooler and toddler.  Zoe did complete about half of Kindergarten last year at her own pace, but because of her birthdate, I had always planned to "hold her back" a year, making this her first official year in school (read: where I actually have to make sure she's on track with her learning). We're still figuring it all out, but it's coming along nicely.

Anyway, you know how the start of a new school year (whether homeschooled or not) is always a bit crazy?  You start new routines, new school work, etc. all at once and it's TERRIBLE.  Everyone ends up stressed, the kids are crying, I'm hiding in the hall closet crying and eating chocolate, and it all sucks.  By week two everyone hates school (and life, for that matter), and you're already counting down the days to fall break.

This year was going to be different.  I wasn't going to be stressed or lose my mind.  I wasn't going to put all our school year routines on my kids and myself at once.  I wasn't even going to have an official "first day of school."  Weird, right?  No-genious.

I started by writing down what our typical school days have look liked in the past, and adjusted for things that didn't work or that I wanted to add.  For me, these are the things that change/transition when we shift from summer to school year:

*Personal Hygiene Routines/Chores: The summer is very relaxed around here.  Once school starts, though, the kids eat breakfast and then are expected to get dressed, make their beds, brush their teeth & hair, and tidy up their rooms immediately following.

*My Chore/Cleaning Schedule:  Again, in the summer I just do things as they need to get done (or let them get way out of know how that goes).  During the school year, I typically start at least one load of laundry in the morning before school, and another in the afternoon.  I unload the dishwasher after breakfast and do all the morning dishes before school starts. I clean the bathrooms on a particular day, wash all the bed sheets on a particular day, etc.

*School Time: This is an obvious one, but we did do a bit of school this summer, so this year, our school routines would feel a shift too.

*Activities: Although some activities ran through the summer (gymnastics, piano lessons), others would start in late August/September (Farm School, soccer classes, homeschool co-ops, and choir).  This meant that our daily schedules/times we're home would change.

After I made the above notes (I LOVE notes, lists, journals, spreadsheets, etc.- ha!), I then assigned them each to a week.  I gave myself about 3 weeks of leeway before I wanted to be "going" with everything.  So, since my goal was September 1st, I started on about August 10th.

The week of August 10th, I began having all the children get in the habit of their morning routines.  Breakfast, getting dressed, picking up rooms, teeth, etc.  By the end of the week, no one was complaining anymore, and a couple of them had even started doing it on their own, without prompting. We still enjoyed our summer, and visited parks, the discovery museum, and played with friends.

The week of August 17th, I added in my chores, as well as the kids chores.  We started getting into our laundry routines.  The kids started helping do their own laundry loads again.  I started making sure the kitchen was clean after breakfast (a messy kitchen is a huge distraction while homeschooling).  I also started adding back in my trips to the gym (where they have FREE childcare-woot!).

The week of August 24th, I began adding in our school work.  We just did a little, and didn't spend a ton of time lesson planning this week.  I did a little each day and we'd take breaks when I began to get big push back or huge frustration from the kids.  By Friday of this week, they were starting to ask for their next assignments or what our next science lesson would be about, and their frustration levels had already decreased significantly.

By this week, we are in full "school mode."  We're getting our chores done, our routines are in place, I've gone to gym everyday, the house is (mostly) clean, and we're doing all the school we need to do.  The kids are in good spirits, they aren't burned out from an overload of new changes, and I still have my sanity.  We still have a few activities to add in to our schedules this month, but I know it won't be a big deal since we've got everything else going already.

By easing into our school year, we have definitely started out on a better foot than any other school year in the past.  I will, without a doubt, ease into all future school years in this same manner.

Now, I totally get that if you're NOT a homeschooler, this will look a bit different, but after seeing my public schooling friends' stressed out posts on Facebook, too, I definitely encourage you non-homeschoolers to find ways to ease into your next school year as well.  Perhaps start with getting bed times and wake up times back on schedule, and following that up with morning routines.  That way, by the time school starts, the only NEW thing is that they are headed to school during the day (which is still a big adjustment in itself).

Easing into the school year for the WIN!

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