at a crossroad

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There has been some heavy-duty thinking going on at chez Pear Tree this summer. Last school year was our first with both kids doing homeschool, and it was a doozy. I was definitely challenged – some days it felt beyond capacity – and there has been some serious consideration about what we’ll do for school this year.

I know, I know, there are parents out there that homeschool broods of six, eight, 10 kids, with three of them still in diapers and at least one with autism and the father deployed overseas and they somehow just thrive on the challenges and the good they do for their children. They have my full disbelief respect.

So, Mr. Pear Tree and I started exploring other options over the course of the summer. Bricks and mortar schools. We found one that we absolutely adore. It checks off all the educational goals and aspirations I have for my kids, and then some… but it’s so far outside of our budget that it’s just not going to be possible. At least not this school year.

Our choices came down to lowering our expectations and trying a less expensive or public school for the interim or heading once more to the breach, dear friends, once more.

After many talks – parent talks and family talks that take into consideration the feelings of our two young students…

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“Well, what’s the answer??? Do we get to homeschool another year???”

We’ve decided to sign on for another year of homeschool.

But there are going to be some changes this year that I really hope will help things run more smoothly.

  1. A stricter schedule

One of the advantages of homeschooling is having a flexible schedule. It’s also a big disadvantage if the kids get too comfortable doing something (usually playing) and don’t want to switch gears when it’s time. This never became a problem to the degree that we weren’t finishing our work – just enough to get the kids cranky about doing it. This means lessons are not fun for anyone. This year, I’ve made a tight schedule that begins from the time we get up, with a consistent start at 9 a.m. each weekday morning.

  1. No social media until after lunch.

Part of the reason for our inconsistent start times was me finding a really inspiring article (often about homeschooling or raising kids) while doing a “quick” scan of Facebook… or Pinterest… or various online news sources and just needing to quickly finish it up. This would often lead to one more interesting article or idea or theory to pursue, and the kids were playing so nicely anyway, they won’t mind… and next thing you know it’s 10:30 a.m. and ACK! Let’s go, let’s get started, let’s get this show on the road! No more internet distractions. Not even a peek at email until afternoon.

  1. Planning ahead a week at a time, with a review of the next day’s plan the night before.

I’m pretty good at improvising. I can think quickly on my feet and pull something out of the bag quite spontaneously to make due. But that means that, at 9 a.m. when we should be cracking open our first lesson, I’m quickly scrambling to put our day together. The result is much more harried, less creative and so much less nurturing. Nobody thrives on that. Not my children and definitely not me.

  1. Get out more.

Another advantage to homeschooling is the ability to do more. More field trips, more adventures in nature, more learning on the go. But with our schedule being so unreliable, starting late and going late, we stretch out the time we could be adventuring and tie ourselves down doing basic lessons. And if we’re just shackled to our small abode, a) cabin fever and b) we’re no further ahead than any traditional classroom. So. Watch for more posts, when school starts, about our adventures out and about. And if you don’t see enough, feel free to remind me.

  1. Create a community

Despite the homeschool stereotype, my kids are well socialized. We have a gaggle of neighbourhood kids that all play together daily, they have friends at church and attend a weekly homeschool co-op for socials and science. I, however, tend to put social encounters for myself on the backburner. One of the most fortifying experiences of the school year, I find, is the annual Christian Home Educators Convention and Trade Show (CHEC) conference held by Heritage Christian Online School, who we homeschool through. Hearing the stories – challenges and successes – of other parents, the tips and inspiration they share and the possibility that, if they can get through rough times then we can, too, is so encouraging. Whether it’s a community of homeschooling parents or friends outside of that arena, a little more adult time is definitely in order!

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From the start, we knew we’d be taking this homeschool adventure a year at a time. Three years in, we’re committing to “one more.” After that, well, we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, please do come along for the ride. And please share – how do you plan to make it through the year ahead?

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