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The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind-jump in.

Chuck Swindoll

How true this is, especially in the past year! With so much uncertainty in our world, most of us made few firm plans through 2020. Well, guess what? It’s a brand new year and a brand new school semester! The world might not be much different out there yet, but our homeschools can definitely be different this year. 

Jump into the new semester with both feet. You won’t regret it!

Do you need help forming new healthy habits within your family? Are you spread too thin? Would a little push to strive for excellence in your homeschool be helpful? Are you looking for ways to build connections with other homeschoolers?

Take courage, mom and dad! This can be your best year yet. Let’s take a look at some practical suggestions for starting the new year off on the right foot in your homeschool. 

Start the morning off right.

Have you ever been told that you should complete the hardest subjects first off in the morning? I think there is some truth in this but maybe also a little wiggle room. 

When my children were all younger, we used to get up, have a small snack, and immediately start math. I loved getting math done early, but I didn’t love my children’s or my attitudes. We started to dread the mornings of cramming in math before breakfast. Something had to change. 

I decided that we needed a more enjoyable start to our school day. For us, that was reading aloud, specifically, reading history aloud. We now eat breakfast earlier while reading a devotional and then snuggle up for some great history reads either from an interesting history book or a historical biography or historical fiction. Then, we tackle math. 

Starting our mornings off together with something that is enjoyable allows us to bond more as a family and set our minds and hearts on what is true, good, and beautiful in preparation for each day. Consider how your family starts each morning. It can impact everyone’s mindset for the rest of the day. Here are some ideas for how to start your day.

  • Read a devotional together.
  • Read history or any other book aloud.
  • Memorize poetry or scripture verses together.
  • Do science together, if your family enjoys that, by reading about fascinating creatures or doing science experiments.

Form healthy routines.

Do you ever wonder how your daily routines can fall into shambles so quickly? I have to remind myself that if I had not started with any routine to begin with, we would be even worse off most of the time. 

Whether you are more free-spirited in your homeschooling style or prefer a tight schedule, a healthy routine can bring balance and fulfillment to your days. 

Here are some habits and routines you may consider for your family.

  • Read aloud to your children every day after lunch. They will look forward to this predictable activity each afternoon. 
  • Exercise as a family each morning before lunch. Do push-ups and jumping jacks together. You can make games out of it or have competitions. 
  • Have a specific chore time each day. This family work time can bring stability and help keep your homeschool area (your home) organized. 

Do a few things well.

Let me speak from experience and tell you that trying to do six to nine subjects a day, and do them each well, is not likely to be a successful or enjoyable experience for you or your children.

We want to be people who strive for excellence in teaching our children. That doesn’t mean we have to cram more into our days. Remember, covering more material and subjects does not always mean more learning is taking place. Better learning often takes place when we dive deeper.

Let me let you in on a little secret—you don’t have to do every subject every day or even every week (with the exception of math maybe). We study grammar for a portion of each year but not all year. Some semesters we go all in for history and read, visit places, watch documentaries, and pull out all the maps. In other semesters, we go lighter on history and do more science experiments. 

Here are some subjects that you might choose to not do every day or week, but when you do study them, you dive in deep.

  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • penmanship
  • art
  • history
  • geography
  • science

The point here is that you have the freedom to aim high with your children’s education. You don’t have to feel pressured by your neighbor’s checklist or standards. You can tailor your children’s education to fit your family (while still giving them an equivalent education). Take the time to dive in deep and watch your children’s interest in learning skyrocket!

Keep good records and make memories.

What does keeping records look like for a homeschooler in Indiana? It’s pretty simple. You need to keep attendance records for your child. That might mean you put checkmarks on your calendar for each day you do school, or it might mean that you use the attendance sheet in the 2020-2021 Meeting Indiana Attendance Guidelines for Homeschool Students ebook

Though keeping samples of your student’s work is not required by law in Indiana, 

I strongly encourage all parents to keep a sampling of each child’s work every year. Doing so provides an opportunity to reflect on both the work your child has accomplished and improvements made along the way. You could have a file box for each child that is organized by year or by subject. Some day, you and your child may look back and smile at some of their early schoolwork.

Here are some ideas of samples you may want to keep.

  • handwriting
  • essays
  • drawings
  • math worksheets
  • foreign language worksheets
  • hand-drawn maps
  • science lab sheets

If you have high school students, it is imperative to keep accurate records of the courses they have taken. This can be done by creating a transcript for your student. Do you need some help with that? Check out Writing a Transcript for College Admissions.

You also issue your child’s diploma when they graduate. That’s exciting! Check out Issuing a Homeschool Diploma for more information about how to do this. Be sure to keep a copy or two of your child’s diploma in a safe place. They may need it in the future.

Build connections in the homeschool community.

For whatever goal we are attempting to accomplish or whatever activity we are pursuing, a support system can be a determining factor in our success. Homeschooling is no exception! Educating our children is a weighty responsibility and most of us don’t come into it with all the answers. I sure didn’t.

We need our questions answered, our fears allayed, and our confidence built up. We need community.

There are different types of communities from the statewide homeschooling community here at Indiana Association of Home Educators to the local homeschool support group to extracurricular groups. They each have their place and purpose. Let’s consider the benefits of each.

  • state homeschool organization—Indiana Association of Home Educators is a membership-based organization that works year-round to protect homeschool freedom and support homeschoolers throughout the state. You can find out about conferences, workshops and events to support you on your homeschooling journey.  Join now to access and experience all the benefits!
  • state-wide Facebook group—The IAHE Indiana Homeschool Discussion and Support Group has almost 9,000 members that regularly chat about all things homeschooling and help answer each other’s questions. You will be encouraged.
  • sports teams—There are many homeschool sports teams that your child could be a part of. This could be a great way to connect with other homeschool families. Find a listing of sports teams in your area here.
  • co-ops and support groups—Families involved in co-ops come together anywhere from once a month to once a week to teach each other’s children and fellowship together. Support groups typically focus more on encouraging and equipping parents. If you log in to your IAHE account, you can see a list of co-ops and support groups in your area. Don’t have an account? Start one here
  • homeschool activities in your area—There are many activities for homeschoolers that don’t fall into the categories of co-op or support group. Your IAHE Region Rep can be a great resource and friend and connect you with other homeschoolers in your area. Find your Regional Rep.

The year 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, homeschoolers included. We have a bright new year staring us in the face now though. No matter what is happening in the world around us, our children need us. They need us to pick up our chin, start our mornings off well, dig deeper into learning, and find homeschool communities to encourage and motivate us. You’ve got this, mom and dad!

2021, here we come!