Happy Homeschool {Rising Out of Survival Mode}: 2015 Overview

I'm writing this post amidst a flurry of homeschool planning and organizing so pardon the typos and grammatical violations. You could describe my personality as artistic (if you want to be generous) rather than organized, so the frantic end of Summer school preparations are pretty much the bane of my domestic existence. (Okay, well... maybe aside from finding spoiled chicken in the back of the fridge.) As I approach this particular academic year, I'm faced with a few challenges, some old and some new:

1. We have again determined that the eclectic approach best suites the needs of our family. This means that I will not be using any of those lovely prepackaged programs. I dream about the potential awesomeness but, alas, they are not for me.

2. Three teenagers. One middle schooler. One primary student. One pre-K. And one toddler. Do I really need to say more? (Basic homeschool math: 1 Teenager is the equivalent of 3 Toddlers)

3. Our first high school Senior. Okay, Google... Can you please transport us back to the simplicity of First Grade? Because this a new level of crazy.

THE STUMBLING BLOCK

Every academic year I say the same thing: THIS is the year that it all comes together and we knock this baby out of the park! And at the end of each year, I realize that I did pretty much the same thing I did the year before but with a different set of books. The final analysis ends up being more of a we made it through rather than a big win. So This year, I've put some solid effort into identifying our primary challenge and it looks like this...

ME.

Yep. I have been applying the Albert Einstein rule of insanity by "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I have a huge desire to make this thing a success and a big toolbox of God-given gifts at my disposal. WHY am I still trying to replicate the same limited vision I had when they were all tiny? I cannot throw workbooks at teens and expect them to thrive. I have become used to a certain way of surviving... but I'm ready to embrace thriving. What have I been doing wrong? Oh... So many things... But mainly the following... 

-Getting stuck in survival mode.
-Reusing materials that no one likes and are of little value.
-Thinking that throwing money at my homeschool will magically make it awesome.
-Stubbornly relying on my talent for "winging it."

THE ANSWER

I've been around the block enough times now to know that there is no magic pill. Homeschooling is an extension of parenting, which means that it is HARD. It's a big old Cross that we carry in love and devotion for the benefit of our families and the glory of God. But it's a heavy one. So when I say "solution," I mean that it's a step closer to excellence... to the vision that God has for my family... and not an absolute path to human perfection. So let's talk real solutions...

(Full disclosure... There are affiliate links in this post that provide me with a few pennies if you purchase through them. I can't complain about that! But there isn't one that I wouldn't share even if I got nothing at all.)


Obstacle #1 : Getting Stuck in Survival Mode

We can get used to failure. We can get used to feeling oppressed by burdens, weaknesses, and obstacles. So it's a good time to shake it up and RISE. It's my 2015 motto (read more HERE and HERE) and God is using it to transform my life. 

Solution...

I will be rereading (and highly recommend Sarah Mackenzie's book, Teaching From Rest. If I could only recommend one homeschooling book, this is it. If you previously purchased her ebook, she has a new expanded print (and ebook) version just released this week with 35% more content.
BUY IT.
 Don't put it off. I will be reading it with new eyes this and every year. The PDF Companion Journal is also available (and wonderful) along with audio files HERE.

We can read up on every curriculum on the market, listen to podcasts, devour articles, attend conferences, participate in co-ops or support groups...but none of this will have the same impact on the life of a homeschooling family as a peaceful and happy mother.
— Sarah Mackenzie

Obstacle #2: Reusing Materials That No One Likes

We're homeschooling for crying out loud...We can use any books or materials that we like! Why do I keep going back to the ones that add very little of value to our days? The obvious answer is that I'm just trying to patch holes. See a gap? Buy a workbook. But that can be lazy and wasteful. Sometimes a new baby comes along and you do what you gotta do. Other times, there's no excuse for not seeking out the best fit for the kids. 

Solution... 

Among other things, I stopped buying spelling books. Yes, I did. They hate them. I hate them. (Some even hide them.) They seem to learn how to spell without them. And I'm not seeing good enough value for the price. I saved $60 this year by not buying spelling workbooks we all dislike and don't use. 

Along with weeding out things of little value, we're adding resources to our homeschool this year that are either brand new or rediscovered. We will be doing less with pricey colorful workbooks (I love them, I do. *sniff*) and more using resources like Khan Academy and Homeschool Connections Online. (I will write more about this soon in an upcoming post on using technology in our homeschool.)


Obstacle #3: Throwing Money at the Problem

Buying new books doesn't solve old problems. Shopping is fun and I know we all love opening those big heavy UPS boxes that are filled with crisp new materials; but I have the alarming ability to throw hundreds of dollars away on tools in a desperate attempt to fix the user of the tools. The problem goes unresolved and resources are wasted. 

Solution...

Instead of looking to inanimate objects (lovely as they are) to solve the puzzles of my little world, I've turned my attention to the user. Peace will come to my homeschool when my goals and actions are in line with our ultimate purpose.

We already have a lot of books. This year, I still spent money but I largely redirected it from new consumables to systems and tools that can help us better use what we already have. This mainly comes in the form of a couple of Chromebooks and online courses. (More details on that coming later this week.)


Obstacle #4: Winging It

I am not a Type A homeschooling mama. I love a flexible and creative schedule and in a perfect world, I'd probably be unschooling. I don't ascribe to a particular methodology other than teaching in the service of Jesus Christ. And I have a pretty good capacity for keeping life in my head. Unfortunately, I have reached a point where I can no longer keep that up. One paper planner can't handle my obligations and schedule and I have tried just about every system out there that appeals to me without much success. It's time to face the facts of... User Error. 

Solution...

Time to suck it up and act like a professional. I need a system. Not a miracle cure. Not a magical solution to the chaos of ordinary life. Just a basic tool that allows me to work hard while keeping a modicum of order. Here is a list of my basic tools. I will be expanding on some of them in the upcoming post on technology in our homeschool.

Evernote (Where I dump everything digital and then some. I wrote a little about how I have used it HERE)
Chromebooks (Keeping me connected to my teenage students and their work)
Asana (Homeschool planning using a business project app)
Disc Binder System (My favorite paper calendar and brainstorming option. See this post for more info on how I use it)

Summary...

We need a shake up. Mama's got a new plan. And in spite of my recent commitment to dramatically reducing my time online (which is going extremely well, by the way), I'm finding ways to increase productivity by making technology work for us. Stay tuned!

Read PART 2 here: Happy Homeschool: Harnessing Technology

Posted on August 4, 2015 and filed under homeschooling, high school.