A fresh start is a wonderful feeling. I enjoy thinking about goals and new habits at the beginning of a new year. But what happens when you're halfway through the year and you feel like you are behind, or something is just not working?
When you hit a homeschool snag, it's a great time to evaluate where you are, give yourself some grace, and think about anything you might want to adjust for the second half of the year. If something didn't work for you, it's not a fail, it's a step in the process of learning to meet your kids' needs.
When I first started homeschooling, we were about two years in when my children took standardized tests. I was pleased that the kids did really well and were obviously learning, but I discovered they were all terrible spellers! (I had thought they might just naturally absorb good spelling through our phonics studies.) Rather than get discouraged, I took note that we needed to add formal spelling instruction, and we moved forward. They all spell just fine now!
So when you hit a snag in your homeschool, here are four things not to do.
1. Don't Panic
It's highly probable that this homeschool snag is something you can solve with a practical solution. It's also possible it's simply a temporary season, or even less of a big deal than it seems right now.
If it is a big deal, panic won't help anyway. Your children need to feel secure that you are enjoying the learning process with them and that you have confidence that they can learn. Stay calm; you will get there!
It's usually helpful to do research, find out more about what's common for your child's developmental age, tap into different approaches to learning styles, and talk to parents who have raised a variety of personalities over the years.
Remember, this is your homeschool, and for the most part, you don't have to succumb to outside pressures when it comes to doing what is best for your child. Stay flexible. Look for ways to make learning happen and let the timelines take a back seat if needed.
2. Don't Take it Personally
The worst thing you can do is to take something your child is struggling with and make it a symbol of personal failure. Just because your child doesn't automatically grasp something doesn't mean you aren't a great teacher or a good parent. Be solutions-oriented and look for a different way of helping them thrive.
For several years I often felt like I failed at educating our children while managing our home and squeezing in some quality time with each child. Sonlight was literally an answer to our prayers. Our first year of using Sonlight Curriculum was the first time we ever completed a full school year without switching to something else halfway through. Sonlight has lightened my load, helped me feel like a success, and brought joy back into our homeschooling journey. —Shannon H. of Port Arthur, TX
3. Don't Give Up
You care about your children more than anyone else in the world. When you take the time to figure out how to help them learn best, you are giving them a lifelong gift. Education is not a race. Whatever your child's strengths or weaknesses, you are looking to make progress in ways that mean success for your child. This is worth it.
No one is going to ask your child in a job interview what age he was when he learned to read. An employer simply needs to know that he can read. Therefore, don't sweat your milestone timelines too much. Use them as general helps in shaping goals and then adapt to your children's needs.
4. Don't Go it Alone
One of the best ways to respond to snags in our homeschool efforts is to talk it out with someone who understands. I encourage you to first turn to your Creator who knows you and your children inside and out. Pull in your spouse to share both the victories and the struggles you encounter. And connect to community, whether that is in your neighborhood or your favorite homeschool Facebook group. The Sonlight Forums offer a wealth of perspective from moms who have journeyed through more scenarios than you can imagine and it's likely you can find someone who understands or who would be happy to encourage and pray for you.
May you enjoy a new year of learning side by side with your kids. I am confident you can look back on this season–both the fun times and the snags–and see how God was working in and through your family to draw you closer together and closer to Him.