If homeschooling is working well for your family, one day you will wake up and all of a sudden realize your kids are getting older, and it’s no longer all about learning to read… it’s about college and life prep. If your kids are still little, don’t let this post intimidate you. You do not need to be looking forward to college. You just don’t. On the day when you wake up and you realize you only have six more years of your child at home, and oh my gosh they are talking about what they want to do as an adult (and actually mean it)… then come back and read this.
That being said- how do you plan for the long haul?
Homeschooling for the Long Haul
Avoid Burn Out
If you do nothing else from this post…. take this to heart.
You can not be an effective homeschooler if you are miserable. You can not be an effective teacher if you are tired and burnt out and can’t put one foot in front of the other, let alone help your child with their algebra lesson. There are times and seasons where life will be hard (survival schooling anyone?) but in the absence of illness and crisis, you shouldn’t often feel like a hot mess.
Take care of yourself. Set a timer for the amount of time a lesson should take, teach your children to work diligently during that time period, and then STOP when the timer goes off. Take breaks to let the kids run and play, and for you to decompress, during the day. End your school day at a reasonable time.
Take breaks during the school year. Schedule in vacation time from the get-go. You can “sabbath school” and do lessons for six weeks on, and one week off year around. You can follow the public school calendar. You can do as we do and take the whole month of December off to bake cookies. Whatever you do, take breaks.
Don’t take on too much at once. Don’t overlap curriculum. If you have a writing program that includes grammar, don’t buy the spelling program that also includes grammar, and the grammar based latin program. Just get one program for grammar. Skip redundant lessons. Allow your child to test out of things that they know.
And, relax during the early years.
Don’t forget what I just told you about relaxing and taking care of yourself and taking breaks. This is not intended to stress you out. There are things that you need to know as you make your yearly plans, and doing some research now will save you headache later.
I don’t think the fact that your child’s educational experience pretty much decides what the rest of their life is going to be like is lost on any of us. For me at least, it’s a constant nagging weight on my shoulders. Knowing that what I do now will decide what opportunities my kids have later in life is what motivates me to keep going even when I really don’t want to. (most of the time I do want to, but you know what I mean).
Personally, it is important to me that I don’t shut any doors for my child. I don’t know what is in store for them. I don’t know if they will want to go to med school, or learn a trade, or join the military like their dad. But I want them to have options.
When planning long term, I first look at what the basic requirements for admission to college is in our state. What level math do the kids need to have completed? How much science and what topics should be covered?
If your kids have specific goals (for example, Bug talks about wanting to go to the Air Force Academy to be a pilot), check out the specific program and see what your kids need to get there. For Bug, he’d need to complete higher levels of math and science, as well as participate in team sports to be considered. It’s good to know these things in advance!
This step is only recommended if your kids are in 6th grade or above. Don’t make yourself crazy in the early years.
Now that you know what the end game is, look closer at that highest level class. For example, if it is recommended that your child takes AP calculus in high school, what are the prerequisites for that course? If they need to take AP Physics, what classes do they need to get there.
Put together a basic high school plan working backward from the end goal. This isn’t intended to be your actual plan- it’s just a roadmap of subjects and topics to aim to cover. Keep it in a safe place, and when you go to plan each school year, pull it out to make sure you are headed in the right direction to reach your goals.
Outsource Where Needed
I am a huge fan of outsourcing. When you have a house full of kids, and only one teacher, it isn’t a stretch to think at times, you may need help.
Each year, I sit down and take a close look at each of my kids. I look at our experience from the past year, what they have struggled with the most, and what I would like to see the greatest improvement in. I pick a subject or two for each of my kids that is the “must improve” area, and that is the subject that I spend the most time on.
For example, this year my main goals are:
- Teach Little Miss to read
- Improve Bug’s spelling and writing
- Improve Mr. Man’s math skills
My most teacher intensive curriculum for the kids this year is:
- Logic of English Foundations for Little Miss (reading)
- Logic of English Essentials Advanced List for Bug (spelling)
- Right Start Math (and, maybe Math U See in addition to Right Start?) for Mr. Man (for math)
These three programs will take a chunk of time out of my day. So, to balance my time, I have outsourced some of the other subjects. I still have to follow along with my kids, I help them with their assignments, and re-teach lessons they may have missed the first time, but it eases my load to have a class or program that doesn’t require a lot from me.
There are many computer-based and online classes your child can take. My favorites are Athena’s Advanced Academy (for kids about 7-12 years old who can read at a 5th grade level and above, and type moderately well) and Well Trained Mind Academy (for 6th grade and above, rigorous courses).
You can also dual enroll older kids in community college, or use computer-based software (check out Time4Learning, Dreambox, Great Parents Academy, Teaching Textbooks, Veritas Press Self-Paced Programs).