3 Ways to Homeschool More Effectively

Part I – A Fresh Start

Are you tired after teaching for 9 months?

Do you long for a fresh start, to make next year better than this one coming to a close?

Would you rather just put your head in the sand and not think about it until August?

I hear ya! I have felt all of those emotions and then some. Yet today, our first day of summer break, I found myself thinking about next year, strategizing on areas I can improve, considering the ways to help one child excel in a certain subject and another child in a different subject.

How about you? Have you started thinking about how you can make next year better yet? Or are you still thinking about this possibility:

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

How can we find the joy in the midst of the battle of wills? How can we continue to create lesson plans and teach subjects day in and day out when we are getting tired? Or when we are getting bored? Or when we are plain old fed up?

Over the years, I have received many interesting comments, such as…

  • “Why are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?” Um, duh!
  • “What about you? Don’t you need some time away from your kids?” Yes, but not all day. J
  • “You must be some kind of super woman because I think that I might go loony if I had to be around my kids all day.” I understand.
  • “Parents make the worst teachers.” Really?
  • “Your kids are going to turn out to be unsocialized misfits.” I thought that geekiness was “in” these days?
  • “What if your kids can’t get in to college?” Well, that’s a reasonable, if misguided, fear.

Getting bombarded with these kinds of comments can really make you second-guess yourself, can’t it? How many of you have second-guessed your decision to homeschool at some point along your journey? I have.

But the lowest point that I have reached in my homeschooling wasn’t because of these types of comments. My moment of true doubt and fear came when I found myself alone with no one to turn to or talk to when I reached my maximum capacity.

It happened like this…

I had been teaching my kids at home for 11 years (this was about 5 years ago). My oldest child had just finished her sophomore year of high school. At that time, I also had an 8th grader, a 4th grader, a 3rd grader and a kindergartener. I also had a 3 yo.

I should have felt well established, confident and secure in my decision to continue, right? But I didn’t.

I looked around and realized that I was the only one left of my peer group still homeschooling. We had quite a crowd of friends homeschooling while the kids were younger. We swapped subjects and children with each other. We formed a co-op together. We took our kids to the same extra-curricular activities, field trips and events.

One by one, these families decided not to continue to homeschool. There were many reasons, but most of them boiled down to these two:

  1. 1. The parents didn’t feel confident to teach the higher grades.
  2. 2. The parents were tired and burnt out.

Our co-op could no longer continue because the number of homeschooling families plummeted. I found myself at a crisis point. My kids were feeling lonely and isolated. I was feeling overtaxed with 5 kids now to teach ranging from high school to kindergarten and a busy 3 year old to keep out of trouble.

We had been living this lifestyle for so long and yet I suddenly felt unable to go on.

I had reached a new decision point in my life. I could follow the crowd, or I could start fresh, stay strong and finish well. I chose the second option and I would like to share with you how I did it.

 anne-of-green-gables (1)

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it,” Anne Shirley of Green Gables.

Isn’t it great that we get to start fresh? We can make a brand new fresh start at the beginning of the school year. But you know, we can also start fresh each week, each day. We always have an opportunity for a fresh start.

Thank goodness, right?

Here are some ways to make a fresh start when you need one:

  1. 1. Take a break. You don’t want to reward stubborn behavior, but butting heads isn’t the solution either. Sometimes we all need a break from the daily grind. Some ways you can take a break would be:
    • field trip,
    • spring cleaning,
    • plant the garden,
    • science museum,
    • reading day,
    • serve a widow,
    • organize stuff for a garage sale,
    • go to the library, go to the park, etc.
  2. 2. Change it up! Try something new. Guess what? You are not married to your curriculum. There is really only one thing you are married to – your spouse. Try something different and see if it helps. Maybe the curriculum you are using isn’t fitting the way your child learns. Try something different. You don’t’ have to spend a lot of money on experimentation.
  3. 3. Take a vacation, especially if the weather is wonderful.
    • We do take a summer vacation because there is no place more glorious than the Pacific Northwest in summertime (well, that’s my opinion).
    • But we also take snow days for sledding and snowboarding;
    • Spring and fall days for festivals, hiking, biking and swimming.
    • We rarely take days off school on school holidays, such as Presidents Day, etc. We just keep plugging along.

Now, I probably made it sound like you should rarely have regular school days, with regular school subjects and regular school assignments. Actually, no, this couldn’t be further from the truth – you should have a schedule and a routine (it’s good for everyone) – but these ideas are for you to fall back on when you are feeling stressed and burnt out.

Because the truth is that the #1 reason that homeschooling families stop homeschooling is because the mom is fried. It’s not because of a job loss, health problems, aging parents or other external reasons. These can often be overcome by sheer determination and creativity. But the homeschool mom who is burnt out does not run the race like she wants to or the way that she set out to. These ideas that I have presented are to help you when feel a weight of stress pressing down on you or when you start to feel quick-tempered, sad, annoyed, confused.

Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on how to Stay Strong so that you are less likely to reach burn out stage to begin with! Do you need any help getting back on track? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.

Question: What are some ways that you start fresh when you need a “do-over”?

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 at 11:43 pm and is filed under Homeschooling, Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Sandy

    Thank you so much for your comments. I have very much felt surprisingly overwhelmed this year. It is my 10th year homeschooling my 6 kids and like you say I SHOULD have it down pat. My oldest is doing great at a competitive University after never taking a formal High school or CC class (except Drivers Ed), I SHOULD be past worrying if my others are going to make it and be successful at anything. I have taught all but one of my older kids to read, I SHOULD not be having such a hard time getting my 6 year old to recognize more that 5 letters. But it has been a HARD year. My high school students have taken a very minimalistic view of what they need to do each day resulting in them not getting near done with what they should. UGH!!!! I am so glad that we get a break. Time to regroup and figure out how we can make next year better. I just hope that I don’t spend all summer stressing :) Why do I do that?!!!!

    • / Terri Johnson

      Hi Sandy,

      Thanks so much for commenting. I definitely understand where you are as I have been there myself. We think we should have it all down pat if we have been homeschooling for 10 plus years, don’t we? And yet with each child we have new challenges and new hurdles to leap over. Take heart! It took my 8 year old 3 solid years of daily reading instruction to be able to recognize words and begin to read. It finally clicked these last few months and she is now reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. It will happen for your 6 year old too.

      My junior high students have become very minimalistic too and we are figuring out what we need to do to up the ante for them. The problem is they are so darn smart that they can get their schoolwork done quickly and get most of it correct. (They are both A+ students.) That leaves them with large amounts of free time which I think they should use for further learning.

      So, all of that to say, I am regrouping too. BUT I am excited for what next year will bring. It will be good to have a summer vacation first though!

      God bless,

      • Xaidie

        Thank you so much for your article. I really needed to hear that others get to the same place I am. 11 years in and full of doubt in spite of major success along the way. Keep writing the blog, I’ll keep reading.

  • Pingback: Terri's Take… » Blog Archive » Stay Strong in Your Decision to Homeschool

  • Gabby

    I have not gotten to that point yet, the burnt out stage, but I have experienced boredom from same old everyday curricula stuff, so I will keep these ideas in mind and use them when I start feeling that way, maybe before it gets that way! ;) thanks for sharing!

  • JAS


    This is off subject, but I need some assistance. The map program which I ordered as an online download is not printing to fit the page. Rather, the map prints out as a one page segment of the original map. Any suggestions?

    • / Terri Johnson

      In your adobe print dialog box, there is a checkbox that reads “choose paper source by PDF size”. That box should be unchecked. If it is already unchecked, try checking it and see if that helps. HTH :)

  • Missimom

    Now I know why I have changed curriculum so much over the last 20 years! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Kristy

    Lol… I must be an overachiever or something because I am feeling the burnout big time this year and it’s only year 4. ;) We stayed the course though as it came on strong this spring and I have never appreciated summer break so much. I need this break more than ever, but I feel strongly about continuing to homeschool all the way through. Thank you for the encouraging article and reminder about ways to manage the feelings that us mom’s have at times. I just have to keep reminding myself… It’s normal!

  • annie

    I guess it is good to remember that I got burned out as a teacher at different times through the year, I used the same things you suggest. They work! I also helps to remember that you are still teaching your children good things, they are still learning, they are still growing, you are still doing a good job! (okay, so maybe I needed to write that to remind myself.)

  • Pingback: Terri's Take… » Blog Archive » Finish Well the Race You Started

  • Claudia

    What a well-articulated slice of encouragement, Terri! And so practical, too! Currently, I’m not at that point, but I have been, and will be again. That always helps me: This, too, shall pass.

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