Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Building and Maintaining Homeschooling Momentum

If you are anything like me, then building and maintaining a momentum with education at home is something you will have to work at! It is all too easy to start out really enthusiastic about an idea, book, or curriculum, only for the first flush of interest to subside and for another potentially great opportunity to fade into the cupboard to gather dust! So why is is hard to build and maintain momentum? What are the pitfalls to avoid and what tips and techniques can help you to succeed? I'll start with where I went wrong and what I do now to build and maintain a happy flow to our schooling!

Why is the flow hard to start and harder to keep going sometimes?
Part of my problem is that I want to DO everything........ I want to teach them to play the piano, teach them to draw and paint, bring in a foreign language, facilitate sporting and social activities, do lots of hands on science experiments, as well as make sure the basics are really thoroughly covered in a way that they will truly understand and gain lasting benefit from rather than just going through the motions...... this is the perfectionist in me showing her colours!

Over the last few years though I have realised that if I try to do it all, then it isn't all done well, with enthusiasm and passion and enjoyment, and the more I try to plan, the less actually happens. Also, in the UK, we have no minimum hours of teaching/attendance to record and no statutory subjects to cover; whilst I embrace this freedom with joy and gratefulness as it allows me to tailor the children's education to their own needs and interests, it is a double edged sword as there is then no-one outside the home to be accountable to and I work quite well with deadlines and requirements to meet!!

So how can you BUILD momentum?
  • Make it a HABIT! I often read articles about schedules versus routines and which might be a better fit for your family but it suddenly clicked recently upon reading a series of blog posts about schooling multiple ages that for us it is neither schedules nor routines, but HABITS that make the difference! This was a eureka moment for me..... I am planning to go back to this series (scroll down for the list) and read them properly to see what could be useful to adopt within our family. Forming habits isn't just for habits of doing lessons, but for things like quiet time, or when to fit in the myriad of other things that vie for your time and attention, like blogging (ahem) or paperwork, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and so the list goes on!
  • Do it YOUR WAY! It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you read of the mountains of subjects that other homeschooling mothers manage to shoehorn into their day and to feel that you too should be doing that, or writing your own curriculum or teaching it in a spectacularly well organised schoolroom, or all of the above...... well DON'T!! Look at how your family works and fit it to that, store it all in a plastic box in the garage to pull out once a day, curl up in an armchair to do it, take it to the beach with a picnic, do it in the evening or weekends if that's when you work best, write your own or buy it in if that suits you better - whatever you do, make sure you have chosen that way for YOUR reasons and not because ti looks glossy on someone else's blog...... you are far more likely to stick with it if it is designed around your family and therefore fits well.....
  • It won't all fit well so DITCH IT if it doesn't work and try something else! Knowing that you can ditch a misfit will make you feel more relaxed about trying something new.
  • MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME...... multiplication songs in the car, audio stories on during lunch, reading and narration with a cuppa and a snack, have one child read to you during another's swimming lesson, be creative! This leaves you time to enjoy each other's company or for you to have a well-earned cuppa whilst the children are busy playing after a fulfilling and enjoyable morning..... there I go mentioning a cuppa again, can you tell how I like to relax for ten minutes??!!
  • Build in ONE THING AT A TIME........ jumping in with a really full-on week of scheduled lessons and work to complete can be exhausting and demoralising. Pick your priority subjects and introduce one or two things at a time, get to grips with them, then add in other things as the weeks go by.
And how can you MAINTAIN that momentum?
I believe that building momentum is the most important part. If you have built it well, then even when the unexpected comes along to disrupt your homeschooling plans, you will continue with your core priorities as they are part of daily life and slot in easily. In our house the core subject that carries us through is phonics and reading. Come rain or shine we slot them in, and I have taken some lessons from how I set up the phonics programme when considering how I will build and maintain a different looking momentum this Autumn with a new baby and a toddler livening up the environment! 
  • Make CAREFUL CHOICES of curriculum that will fit pleasantly rather than jar with your children's learning styles, interests and your family circumstances. I have written about planning your own curriculum here and here, with a third post to follow soon.
  • READ IT THROUGH from start to finish before you begin so that you are familiar with it and know where you are headed through the year.
  • GATHER SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT before you start and have everything on hand and easy to grab. If you have to go searching around for materials each time you want to use them, you are more likely to let it slip, rather than just grabbing them and getting on with it when the time is ripe.
  • Know when to TAKE A BREAK or leave it for the day..... if your children are getting frustrated, or everyone is tired, there is a virus working round family members that is pulling everyone down, then leave off the lessons for a few weeks until the time is right to pick it back up! A few weeks break from  just one subject can bring amazing leaps and bounds in understanding and capability, without having done anything on it in the meantime! I have experienced this in my children, previous learning seems to consolidate in the break that you take. I am right now taking a break from phonics with my youngest daughter. She is becoming fidgety and frustrated with the activities but really enjoying reading books to me as well as being read to so backing off is in both our interests.
  • Just as importantly, know when to GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Drop a few of the balls you juggle constantly by putting some convenience foods on the menu for a week or so, or saying 'no' to a commitment outside the home. Making one or two temporary changes can create just a bit of space that means that your priorities can keep taking the top spot and keep that momentum rolling on!
  • Finally, WRITE GOALS for yourself. I don't write goals for my children as I want them to learn at their own pace and to their own rhythm. I do write goals for myself though, to keep myself on track with the things that I need to provide and facilitate. I learned a particularly effective way of goal-setting last year at a seminar I attended and I'm going to try it out on home education goals this coming year!
I haven't yet perfected the art of building and maintaining momentum, but I hope that by sharing what I have learned so far, it will help some of you to find an educational rhythm to help you flourish! I add to my ideas on my homeschooling pinterest board, if you are after any further inspiration!

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