Top 10 New Year's Resolutions For a More Successful Homeschool
By Lee Binz
Happy New Year! No year will feel complete without a little self-reflection and commitment to improve in the coming year. It is part of being imperfect humans that we can see our weaknesses and earnestly want to change. Newspapers, magazines, websites and social media are abuzz with advice on how to make 2015 your best year yet. Every year, ten specific resolutions appear at the top of most lists.
I know you are doing an awesome job, but let’s give these top ten resolutions a homeschool twist, to help you improve your homeschool performance for 2015. There is always some room for improvement! Use this as a checklist for a more successful year.
1. Lose Weight
Eliminate homeschool clutter. No resolution appears more consistently on every list than losing weight. You’d think after so many years of trying, we’d figure this out! Instead, I am again starting this year the same as I did last year… committed to losing the proverbial 20 pounds. From a homeschooling perspective, “losing 20” applies to eliminating homeschool clutter. January is a great time to clear out what I call the “curriculum Hall of Shame.” Eliminate those homeschool purchases that were made with the best of intentions but just didn’t work out. It is time to put these behind you. Sell them, store them, give them away, and move on. Take a moment to mourn the loss of a fabulous unit study on aquatic birds, but then pick yourself up, dry your tears and look to the future. Every failure teaches you something. My children’s failure to appreciate my Charlotte Mason leanings taught me that they probably didn’t have a future in biology. I had to be satisfied with engineering and political science. Oh well… I survived and you will too.
2. Get in Shape
Get your transcript done. Getting in shape and losing weight always seem to go together. To accomplish something important, you both have to give something up (like poor food choices) and add something (like exercise). It is the same for homeschooling high school. You need to give up the curriculum clutter but you also need to add some transcript training! Start the New Year with a commitment to get your homeschool transcript in shape. It is easier than you think! I know this is the thing many homeschool parents fear the most, and putting off this task is one burden that seems to be the most common source of homeschool guilt. It is time to shed the guilt and get with the program. Start with the current school year, since it is the easiest to remember. When you have that done, move back to last year. You will find that once you get started, it really isn’t that hard or scary.
3. Break a Bad Habit
Cover the core consistently. Even acknowledging you have a bad habit to break can be embarrassing. It is the same with bad homeschool habits. Confessing that something isn’t working is good for the soul. If something is interfering with the education of your children, it’s time to make a change. Got a curriculum choice that cost a lot of money but just hasn’t connected with your kids? Toss it! Start the New Year fresh with a new choice. Does your schedule not meet the needs of your family? Mix it up. Try a later start in the morning to give your kids a bit more sleep (which can work miracles on bad attitudes). Do you consistently experience conflict on an elective class? Sometimes the quickest fix is avoidance. You can drop a class, you know. That’s right, not every hill is one you need to die on. Absolutely cover the core classes. Put your weak areas first, so they get done every day. Have a morning meeting with your teenager, so you stay on top of their progress. Choose your battles to make sure you don’t lose sight of the big picture for your family.
4. Get Organized
Keep homeschool records. Lots of resolutions seem to revolve around the broader topic of self-discipline. Getting organized is one of them. If your homeschool records look like a candidate for an episode of “Hoarders,” it may be time for an intervention. Remember that you don’t have to have to be Martha Stewart and color code your student’s math assignments in order to be a successful record keeper. All you need is a sturdy box or Rubbermaid tub! Just make sure the assignments are labeled (so you know who did what and when) and then toss those things into the tub when finished. There will be time at the end of the year to sort and document the contents of your tub. Don’t let your fear of three-ring binders stop you from taking this simple step towards homeschool discipline. Become a “Tubbie” today (and I don’t mean a “fattie”)!
5. Save Money
Earn grants and scholarships for college. One of the big motivations to keep great high school records is the financial reward. If you do it well, colleges and even the government may be throwing money at you when you are done! What a nice bonus for your work in raising well-educated, mature children! There are two primary ways that you can find this “free money” for your homeschool. The first is to find scholarships from a college or private company. The biggest money payoff is often the result of your college search and application, but you can also find private scholarships as well. Fortunately, the internet makes this very easy through sites like Fastweb.com. You can easily filter and sort to find scholarship opportunities to fit any child and any interest. The second way is to secure funding from the government for your family by completing your FAFSA every January. You have paid taxes for public education for years, and now it’s your turn to receive a piece of the pie. Yes, the FAFSA is about as fun as paying taxes or getting a root canal, but you might be very pleased with what the government is willing to contribute to your children’s education. You will never know if you don’t try. Commit to making time for this task starting January 1.
6. Focus on Your Kids
Include delight directed learning. Homeschoolers are good at fulfilling this New Year's Resolution, and pouring their love into their children. This is really the easiest resolution of all! However, for homeschoolers this is more of a “letting go” than a “adding on.” Let go of your ideas of teaching, and give your children more time for delight directed learning. As your children mature, they will develop areas of passionate interest. Sometimes these start young and are easy to identify. Other times they are slow to develop and require more nurturing. Take time this year to explore with your children what they might be secretly passionate about. Shape and mold these interests away from what might be rightly considered as “time-wasters” (for example, video game playing) to what might be considered as “life-revealers” (for example, computer science). This is such an important part of homeschooling high school, our family devoted an entire day each week to the pursuit and development of delight directed learning. It was a huge commitment but has paid off handsomely.
7. Find a New Home
Adapt your school choices. It’s so stressful to move – who really loves that kind of change? Moving is not a yearly resolution for most people, but when it does come up it can be very stressful. Think about your homeschool “home.” It could be an online class, co-op, classroom setting, teacher, or support group. Ask yourself, “Am I happy here?” “Are my children getting their needs met?” “Is the cost of membership more than money – more than the benefit I am gaining?” These are uncomfortable questions for sure, but essential to ask when you are taking stock of your homeschool for the New Year. Moving from a co-op or support group can be difficult and may even damage personal relationships, but may be essential. Ensure that you and your children are being encouraged and supported, rather than undermined. Don’t be afraid to make these sorts of moves. Homeschooling high school is a very brief season of your life that deserves your commitment to making the most of it, regardless of the personal consequences like a simple awkward conversation. Your children are worth it. You know if you need to do this. Trust your judgment.
8. Find Love
Search for a college that loves your child. It’s the topic of movies, and books; the eternal struggle to find a true love. Hopefully, you have already found this in your spouse. Your homeschool kids, however, still need to find their true love. I’m not talking about their future husband or wife, though. I’m speaking of finding a college that will love them almost as much as you do. This is a place where their education can continue and accelerate during the college years. This is the college that will nurture and encourage them, but not at the cost of bankrupting your family. Finding a good college is a time-consuming job and one of the most important tasks of your homeschool career. Don’t shy away from the challenge! Your “true love” college is out their waiting for your child! Spend time finding them, getting to know them, letting them fall in love with your child, and encouraging them to express their love in the form of admission and scholarships. I am such a sucker for a good romance!
9. Travel More
Visit colleges in person. Your travel resolution may not include a trip to the Caribbean! It is important to travel to the colleges you are considering. College is a huge commitment to make, and it includes a significant financial investment. Even more, it’s an investment in your child’s continued education, personal development, and career. You simply cannot avoid the need to see the college in person. College brochures are just marketing materials. They are designed to sell you on their college. They will not reveal the whole truth about the institution. For that, you will need to visit in person, ask questions, and observe it with all your senses. Then ask more questions and do a lot of quality praying. Don’t think you can somehow avoid this. Brochures and on-line tours will not give you the insights you need prior to committing your fortune and your children’s lives into their hands for four years. It takes time.
10. Find a New Job
Prepare yourself for the empty nest. Finding a new job is right up there with marriage, divorce, death in the family and public speaking as far as the level of stress induced. In January, you are that much closer to the end of homeschooling and the beginning of a new season of your life. Just as your children need to discover their future path during the four years of homeschooling high school, think of what you will do when this season of teaching, training, shaping and molding is over. Will you return to the workforce, in a professional capacity? Will you give yourself away through volunteering and community service? The one thing I know for sure is you NEED to find an alternative to homeschooling. When your kids are grown and gone, your pets won’t need homeschooling and your husband may not be responsive to unit studies. Transitions in life are so much easier when you have something positive to look forward to. Don’t make the mistake of avoiding this difficult topic until your kids graduate. You will be in no shape emotionally to deal with both your own empty nest and the gaping void that was once filled with planning your classes, teaching your kids and loving your homeschool. Consider your upcoming graduation with a positive plan.
Each New Year is filled with such promise. Despite my failures, I know that I face each New Year with a pure heart and the best of intentions. I want you to do the same with your homeschool this year. Look squarely into the coming year and commit yourself to doing those things that will bring you and your family health, happiness and maturity. I guarantee you that everything on the list above will be easier than losing 20 pounds!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.