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Ease Into the Best Homeschool Year Ever

By Shelley Noonan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #84, 2008.

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Shelley Noonan

This school year was going to be different than all the others. I was determined to make this the best homeschool year ever! During the lazy span of summer days I had allowed my mind to wander into dangerous territory. Good, sound ideas and teaching methods soon ballooned into wild educational expectations and unrealistic homeschool goals. Unlike other years, my students' curriculums were purchased by early July and the lesson plans were meticulously lined up until Christmas. I could barely wait for the first day of school so I could present my well considered curriculum to my unsuspecting students.

As the little scholars settled into their assigned seats around the kitchen table to begin our best homeschool year ever, I inhaled deeply and delighted in the slight crispness I sensed in the early August air. (I should have realized that the crispness was only wishful thinking and a symptom of my over eagerness.) With what I thought was infectious enthusiasm I launched into a detailed overview of what each learner would accomplish in the up coming year; educational, vocational, spiritual goals, detailed reading lists, and the new books were handed out. As my spiel reached its crescendo, I glanced around the table to see all three children crying . . . and within 10 minutes flat. A new personal record!

This school year certainly was different than all the others and not even in the running for the best. Under my expert tutelage, I expected my students to respond with irrepressible joy and unbridled enthusiasm. Instead, my children responded with tears. Somewhere during the dreamy days of summer, I traded in home educating my children for teaching students. Long forgotten was the best part of home education-the freedom to consider the needs of my children. This year, my children needed just a few more carefree days of summer and a gentle easing into the school year that lay before us.

Here are a few suggestions to help you E-A-S-E into the first days of school:

  • Establish traditions. Transition into the first days of schools by establishing traditions that will cue the children that summer is coming to an end. Our yearly traditions included the County Fair, tubing down the Niobrara River, day trip to Water Park, dentist and eye doctor appointments, school shopping, and of course, the first day of school pictures for the scrap book.
  • Assign a reasonable amount of work for the first few weeks. I liken the act of starting the school year off to juggling. One would never begin juggling all four balls at once; rather you would start with one ball and then add another and another. The same can be said with school subjects. Begin with one or two subjects and then as the days go by add another and another. Pretty soon you will be juggling a full day of subjects!
  • Sense your children's needs. One of the true perks of home education is not just being the teacher, but being a parent who is aware of their children's needs. You have the ability to gently lead them into the school year rather than drag them kicking and screaming.
  • Enjoy! Why make the first days of school so serious? Lighten up! Hand out tongue twisters for your students to master. Have classes outside to enjoy the last days of summer. Plan a First Week of School celebration and invite the grandparents. End your first full school day with a water balloon toss in the back yard. Be creative!

My abrupt approach to the first day of school was as grating to my children as fingernails scraping the chalkboard were to me! My method was altered and the entire week was devoted to reading aloud from a book we all delighted in. As I remember, that year did turn out to be different from all the others as my children and I eased into our best homeschool year . . . ever.

Shelley Noonan is a homeschool veteran, popular conference speaker and co-author of four books including The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood. Visit her online at PumpkinSeedPress.net.

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