Top Five Tips from This Past School Year

We're wrapping up the year and just about finished with our entire first grade curriculum. In fact, we only have 2 math lessons left to do, but WAVA still likes us to log attendance (and actually do work) until the end of the year on June 18.

We've had a fairly good year. I say "fairly" because as Mother and Teacher, I know where exactly where I goofed, where I could have done better, where I should have done better. But on the whole, I think our first year of homeschooling was a success.

Of course, if I were to do it all over again...boy would I do it differently! I suppose it's better to learn from your mistakes at the very end of the year, than to have never learned from them at all.

Here are five big lessons I learned this year of home school.

1) Less emphasis on the product and more attention placed on the process. I'm by no means a perfectionist. But I do think I got hung up a bit on making sure we did each step, each section, each suggested activity. I loosened up about half way after learning that if we master the skill or concept with one activity, there's really no need to hammer on it. And if we don't come out with a "pretty" end product like the one in the picture, it's really ok. What DOES matter is how we arrived at our product and what learning took place.

2) Set ground rules from day one. I was told to do this, of course. But being SO GREEN, I had no idea what ground rules I would need! And I wasn't even sure how our day would look or be structured so I didn't know how to tell my daughter, "This is how our school will work." So we just played it by ear a llloooooooootttt. Things changed too often. Schedules were not predictable. I was learning to juggle my 3 young children, homeschool, and all of my other existing responsibilities without going mad. It took a long time to figure out.
In the future, I intend to have a set routine for our school day so that we all know what is expected and how things will operate. This will no doubt eliminate some arguing, confusion and tension (not to mention stress). (More on this in the next post)

3) More games. I've only just begun to dig into the exciting world of File Folder Games. My girls L-O-V-E them. And I see now that so much learning can take place via games and other "fun stuff", which allows us to toss out the tired old work sheet and learn a concept in a more relaxed way. Worksheets have their place of course. But we need to sprinkle our day with more relaxed learning materials like games. I will be adding in more leisurely games, activities and such to spice up the day and give them a break from "book work" while sill helping them learn.

4) Trust My Instincts. There were times when I knew that the lesson was boring, that my daughter would not enjoy a certain activity, or that we could find a better way of doing a certain lesson. But being new, I feared the unknown. I feared veering away from the curriculum. I feared that if I jumped off track, we would not get back on and my daughter would miss out on important information or skills. So I stuck to the curriculum like a bee to honey and regret missed opportunities to add our own personality and flavor to school. There were times when my daughter expressed an interest in something, but because I feared falling behind the school schedule or taking too much time away from "required lessons" , I put her off indefinitely at times. I regret that. From now on I will take more cues from my children and do better to incorporate their interests into our lessons. I will trust my ability to know and love my children better than any curriculum ever could. Certainly only good things can come of that.

5) Make Myself a Priority. It was just a couple of months ago when burn out was really starting to set in, that I really made a conscious effort to put myself back on the list of priorities. I started working out (at least twice a week) again, I made sure that I got to SIT DOWN for a meal, that I got enough sleep, that I had time to read for enjoyment and personal enrichment, that I saw my friends once in a while, etc. It makes a huge difference.
Yes, there are still late nights when I'm up cleaning and organizing the school room, preparing new materials for the shelves and creating games. But knowing that I can carve out a little time for me during the week helps to keep me going.