Preparing for the new homeschool year…the busyness of the festive season has subsided, and you have waved your house guests goodbye. The wrappings have been popped into the recycling and the excess food carefully packaged up and stored in the freezer, ready for some quick, no-fuss meals later in the month.
It’s not quite time to get back to lessons so now is a good time to carve out a little quiet time for yourself while the children are playing with their new toys and turn your thoughts towards preparing for the new homeschool year.
Throughout my years of homeschooling, I have found it beneficial to plan some mini-retreats – well a couple of hours at least – to prayerful consider what is or is not working in our homeschool and to spend a bit of time planning; shifting focus if need be and re-aligning priorities to achieve the goals I set out at the start of the new homeschool year.
I must admit to feeling out of my depth at times in our homeschooling journey especially in the early years. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see how veteran homeschool moms prepared themselves to direct their homeschools or how they planned and what their thought process might be.
Read our post “Words of Wisdom From Veteran Homeschool Moms” for an extra dose of encouragement.
This post is going to be just that. A very practical insight into my personal retreat time as I prepare my heart and order my thoughts to ensure that the new homeschool year runs as smoothly as possible.
1. Prepare Your Heart for the New Homeschool Year
Charlotte Mason said that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Elizabeth George in her Bible Study “A Woman After God’s Own Heart”, speaks of how we as mothers and wives are the thermostats of our homes.
Both women recognise the importance of atmosphere and to a large extent, we as mothers and wives have the power to adjust the thermostats of the atmosphere in our homes. We can create a warm, inviting, comfortable atmosphere or an atmosphere that is icey and unpleasant to be in. It’s all down to where our hearts are and our attitudes.
So, here’s practical tip #1 – Make time for yourself.
An exhausted mom is no use to anyone. Make time to spend time daily in the Word of God for this feeds your thoughts, which filters down into your heart. This is important for what is in your heart plays out in your everyday life.
Make this time special. Light a candle, grab a cup of tea or coffee if you prefer, play some sweet soft music as you quieten your heart and sit at the feet of Jesus.
Can you see that right here you are creating an atmosphere of peace and calm? It’s the perfect way to start your day in every way!
2. Establish the Areas that need Change and Improvement For your New Homeschool Year
Standing at the cusp of the new homeschool year is a good time to look back over the past year and establish what is not working and then look forward to seeing what changes you can make that will help your days run more smoothly. Don’t limit this to just your homeschool, include yourself in this exercise and practise a little self-care
Here are a couple of areas I consider:
- My attitude and mental wellbeing – Do I have the right attitude? Am I looking after my mental health by taking time to do something that I enjoy, like knitting or stitching? What 3 steps can I take right now to move from a place of dissatisfaction or pain to a place of peace?
- Physical wellbeing and appearance – Am I ensuring that I am well hydrated, nourished and getting enough fresh air and exercise? Am I taking the time I need to dress properly for the day, put on a bit of make-up and do my hair? These may seem like silly things, but have you ever noticed how your feel when you have invested in a little time to do these things?
- My Environment – We are back to atmosphere. Your environment is more than just the house in which you live. This is about turning your house into a home. That is done by all the living and loving that happens inside your four walls. Why not try establishing some fun family traditions that encourage the family to talk and play together? It could be a family pizza making and movie night twice a month or roasting marshmallows over an open fire under the stars once a month. Perhaps it is as simple as putting a routine in place (including the children who are old enough) in making sure that the laundry is dealt with weekly and kept under control.
- My Children – I lift each of my children up in prayer. I consider each one’s strengths, challenges and think of how I can better support and encourage them.
- My Homeschool – Are there areas that are causing strife in our days? Is there a better way I can approach this? Is there something that I want to include in our learning but have not had the courage to do so? How can I bring that in? What 3 steps am I going to take to implement/change this area?
Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and make your list of areas in your life that you want to address. Your list may be longer or shorter than mine and probably different – after all, we all lead different lives.
3. Explore It
Practical Tip # 2 – This is a great journaling exercise. Make sure that you have your favourite journal to jot down your thoughts. Journaling is a therapeutic activity, and you will probably find that you will feel clear-headed once you have got all those thoughts out of your head and onto paper!
Here we go… pick an easy area to tackle first. From my list, I chose to focus on our homeschool. It generally runs well but like a ship sailing the seas small adjustments to counteract life’s external forces (bereavement, caring for elderly parents, redundancy etc) are called for to keep us on course.
Write down all your thoughts about this area of your life in your pretty journal bearing the following in mind:
- Ponder on how you feel and why you feel that way.
- Look over what has worked well (or not) over the past year and what you could do differently going forward.
- How has this specific area affected other areas of your life? How has it affected the people you love and care for? Has this had a positive or negative influence?
- Has this area contributed to your (and others) general well-being or made you feel sad, anxious, angry etc.
4. Defining and Setting Goals for Yourself and Your Homeschool
Now that you have explored these areas emotionally and practically you are ready to put a plan in place and set tangible goals.
For example, when I was looking at my health and well-being, one of the things I was not feeling great about was how unfit and lethargic I often felt. So, my goal here was to do 3 workouts a week from my favourite exercise app and take at least one long walk each weekend with my family.
Do remember to make your goals realistic. For example, I don’t think I could realistically expect to run a 10K marathon in February if I’ve only just started exercising.
Once you have set your goals, break each one up into steps on how you are going to achieve them and be sure to note the natural reward for achieving your goal. For example,” I will feel stronger and have more energy the longer I keep up my workouts”.
This process is more to do with looking at your lifestyle goals than it is about setting new year’s resolutions – which always seem to result in failure in my case. It’s an opportunity to re-calibrate in order to achieve the life/homeschool that you want to live every day.
Imagine it’s early morning, overnight there has been a fresh snowfall. The cold is biting at your nose, but the heavens are clear and the sun is illuminating the sky and bathing the earth in a soft golden pink light.
You are standing quietly on the edge of rolling fields, everything pristine in its white blanket, not a footprint has marred this white wonderland. You step forward and begin crossing the field and then you turn around to see how far you have come. Behind you are your footprints.
This is the opportunity that a new year presents to you. A chance to plan out your route and mark out each step. To contemplate how you want to cross the field remembering that with each step your mark will be left.
May I encourage you today to take this time to prayerfully plot the way for yourself, your family and your homeschool into this beautiful brand-new year.