As the holidays wind down and we pack away ornaments while enjoying the last remnants of homemade cookies, homeschool parents are looking ahead to the next segment of the homeschool year.
Veteran homeschoolers often report that the early months of the year, when daylight is scarce and temperatures are low, can be a challenging time to maintain motivation. Add to that a lingering pandemic and, well, it might be a good idea to have some homeschool resolutions in your back pocket.
Here are 21 ideas to consider for 2021.
1. Be Present
When you’re home, there are so many other things besides your homeschool responsibilities that beckon—the mess in the corner, laundry, screens, and incoming messages. However, the most important thing you can do is to be fully present with your kids as you work through your homeschool day.
2. Upgrade the Soundtrack
Add new music to your playlists to create a lovely atmosphere that is conducive to focus and creativity. We find that focusing on one classical composer at a time has been a remarkably easy way to learn about the genre and periods of music through history, as well as to simply being able to recognize the composer of a piece by ear.
3. Make It Art
Marketing guru Seth Godin once stated: “If it’s work, we try to figure out how to do less. If it’s art, we try to figure out how to do more.” Turn your homeschool assignment into art projects and watch how much more fun they become.
Now that you’ve got a few months of this homeschool year under your belt, you can see what’s working and what’s not. Separate the wheat from the chaff and keep your highest priorities front and center. From your schedule to the volume of materials you keep on hand, simplify, simplify, simplify.
5. Go Outside
Author Alfred Wainright famously wrote, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Don’t let some sprinkles or chilly temperatures stop you and your family from lacing up those shoes, bundling up in those coats, and heading out the door each day.
6. Just Add Treats
Sometimes the work is a struggle. When the long division feels like a chore or the writing project has reached a stall, just add treats. It’s amazing what a plate of freshly baked cookies, a bowl of warm popcorn, or a platter of sliced fruit can do to help push on through.
7. Plan to Cancel
Add an element of unexpected delight by sprinkling in some “sudden” cancellations to the mix. That Tuesday, when you canceled math and drove to the beach, or that Thursday, when you scrapped school for the day and headed to the zoo, will become the memories that your children will look back on with a giant smile.
8. Start a Project
Don’t forget to offer your kids opportunities to take on longer-term projects, such as producing a research paper, a presentation, a website, or a movie. Put to work their creative interests on projects that teach values such as consistent effort, persistence, resourcefulness, and overcoming challenges.
9. Documentary Nights
Winter nights are especially conducive to movie nights. Make some of them educational by strategically sprinkling in documentaries that enhance the topics you’re already studying or those that your kids have expressed particular interest in.
Just because you’re homeschooling doesn’t mean you need to do all the educating yourself. Look ahead at the new year and decide how you can outsource some of your goals for the rest of the year.
11. Schedule a Makeup
Life happens, and that feeling of falling behind schedule can nag at a homeschooler. Pencil in a lifeline right on your calendar by scheduling makeup days or even a week where all you do is catch up.
When the big holidays are over, it doesn’t mean you should stop celebrating. Think of fun things to do for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Spring Equinox, Easter, and any birthdays or anniversaries that your family may be marking.
13. Increase Responsibility
Now that your homeschool year has been running for a while, perhaps it’s time to place more responsibility on the shoulders of your children. Whether that means taking charge of a new chore around the house, getting involved in the community, getting a job, or starting an independent venture, encourage age-appropriate incremental increases in the responsibilities your children carry.
14. Start a Journal
An easy way to ensure that writing practice happens consistently is to incorporate the practice of journal writing into the mix. Give your kids attractive journals and fun pens and stickers to encourage them to keep up with a new habit.
15. Use the Library
Hopefully current circumstances haven’t knocked out the services of your local library. Use the request system to focus on specific authors or topics and regularly visit the library with your kids.
16. Be Silly
Don’t be too serious. Tell silly jokes. Sing silly songs. Lighten up and laugh with your kiddos.
17. Add Anticipation
After the year we just had, what family doesn’t need something to look forward to. Put a fun excursion or celebration on the calendar. Even if you pencil it in for the end of the coming year, just knowing that you’ve got something to look forward to makes the day-to-day that much easier.
18. Notice Progress
It’s easy to notice that your 6-year-old is struggling with reading or that your 12-year-old is just not getting Algebra, but how often do you remember the areas in which your children are excelling? Don’t forget to notice and cheer them on when they’re knocking it out of the park—which might be a lot more often than you think.
19. Let Them Linger
Sometimes you’ll hit on something that totally fascinates your kids, whether it’s the Revolutionary War, the Great Barrier Reef, Chinese characters, oil painting, woodworking, or photography. When they’re genuinely interested, back up and let them linger.
20. Connection Over Completion
You’ve got a list with boxes that you just want to check off, but don’t lose sight of the importance of connecting with your children during this period of their lives. Checking boxes is not nearly as important as connecting with your kids and walking with them along this homeschooling journey together.
21. Remember Gratitude
Pause regularly to reflect on all that you’re grateful for—including this opportunity to homeschool your children. It’s such a gift for them, for you, and for everyone they’ll impact in their lives going forward. When the going gets tough, sit with gratitude for a while. The perspective it brings can be extraordinary.