Tips for a New School Year

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With the new school year upon us, I'd like to offer a few tips that I learned over the years we homeschooled and afterward as I have listened to and talked with hundreds of other homeschool parents. May this encourage the many new Sonlighters and serve as a reminder for successful, long time Sonlighters.

Allow yourself some time to settle in.

Homeschoolers say it takes about a month to adjust for each year your child has been in a classroom school. That's just how long it seems to take ... to overcome old and establish new (and useful!) habits, behavior patterns and attitudes. May it be that your family beats the averages and you all settle in much more quickly. But if not, relax! You've got years ahead of you. Your children will not be harmed if you take a few extra months to get to know each other in a different way.

Grant yourself time to catch a rhythm of how to schedule your day and get everything done.

When my children were little, I'd set them to their seat work while I cleaned up breakfast dishes, made the bed and threw in a load of laundry. I always had the kids do their tough jobs first while they were fresh, so we did math in the morning. And, we read the Bible before we did the other fun Read Alouds. I found my kids were motivated to finish their tougher jobs to get to the more rewarding time of reading together.

Settle in on a schedule that works for your family.

For example, we did our reading aloud directly after our morning snack. Any work the children hadn't finished prior to that time, they had to complete before they could go and play in the afternoon. Remember, children who learn to tackle jobs quickly and work efficiently to finish tasks gain impressive life skills.

But, stay flexible.

If a good opportunity to do an outside activity comes up, grab it. You can always double up assignments on later dates. But to teach your children to be flexible is a terrific gift to them.

It takes time to understand your children's learning styles and work with them appropriately.

With my four children I had all four key learning styles. (Thankfully, reading aloud works for all of them.) One of my children was so easily distracted that I had to sit next to him while he did his math work ... simply to remind him to do his next problem. While the task made me feel crazy, I did believe that I was modeling how to do school work for a child who probably would have been medicated in a non-homeschool environment. We do have the joy and challenge of training our children in multiple areas of life.

Take some time for yourself.

If you can get out on a weekend, please do so. When I started homeschooling, we had dear friends who offered to watch our four children on the first four Friday nights of my homeschooling journey. John and I went out and ran errands and brought back pie to share. I found that particularly in the beginning of homeschooling, the challenge of being with my children 24/7 felt overwhelming. As my children (and I) grew used to the pattern and rhythm of schooling and my children learned to entertain themselves in the afternoons (this does not happen immediately), homeschooling became much easier. A long term benefit of being together as a family a lot (at least in my experience!) is that your children learn to get along with one another and, even, like one another.

I have had the great privilege the last several years of interviewing all the Sonlight scholarship winners. And all of them have mentioned that they like their siblings. In today's world, I find that a delightful statistic. And I believe it will be a reality in your home as well as you spend time with your children.

Don't worry about the work load as either being too much or too little.

Since homeschooling uses a tutorial model which includes one-on-one training (what every teacher recommends for struggling students!), teaching is much more efficient and effective. Although some students leaving the classroom can't read, I have never met a homeschooling mom who allowed that to happen.

According to an article on Breakpoint,

[H]omeschoolers tend to be more mature, happy, and better socialized than their peers.
They also boast better academic performance. Standardized test scores for homeschoolers are well above that of private and public school students. And in a survey of those homeschooled between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, 74 percent have taken college-level courses, compared with only 46 percent for the general U.S. population. Homeschoolers have also made a name for themselves in national spelling and geography contests.

As I mentioned above, each year I have the privilege of interviewing our twelve scholarship winners. They are articulate, sharp, committed to serving God, appreciative of their families, and they excel in the finest colleges. Homeschooling does work!

Keep the long view in mind.

Homeschooling provides the unique opportunity to grow in your love for your children, to see them develop and mature, to have daily input into their lives, to be present when they grasp new concepts and to bond together. As a mom whose youngest is in his senior year of college, may I encourage you to "stay the course." I like my kids, I'm proud of the people they have become, and I have many precious memories of our time together through the years. As opposed to much of the rest of the world, I didn't experience the "tough teen years." Rather, I had the privilege of seeing my children excel and shine.

May it be, that you, too, one day say, "I have no regrets." And, may God give extra grace during this busy, occasionally confusing, sometimes frustrating, and often challenging time. And, may your children rise up and call you blessed.

Blessings to you and yours,

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