This September marks the beginning of my 11th year of “not” going back to school. In all honesty, my kids never started “going” to school so technically they have never had the opportunity to go back to anything. But I digress.
Over these years, we have tried different “re-entries” into our most structured season of home learning:
- We have taken “not” back to school photos.
- I have surprised them with special “back to learning” baskets. They loved that – but how many more pencils and erasers do we really need around here?
- We have tried shopping for new clothes with nobody in the store – except the entire store had been so badly picked over already by the public schoolers, we ended up buying little and going home disappointed.
- We have made bird feeders and enjoyed fun and messy science activities.
- I have even had “school” conferences with each kid to discuss their goals and ambitions for the year – best conducted over hot chocolate and coffee at a local shop.
- We have enjoyed “not” back to school picnics in the park with fellow homeschoolers – which are actually a ton of fun and as the chairperson of a local support group, we’ll do this again this year.
But none of these things have really made the start of my year better or worse.
They are simply things to do.
What truly makes a difference to our “re-entry” into the learning season – is mindset. It is perspective and patience. I have spent many Septembers racing out of the gate and burning out in October.
My thoughts on how to “not” go back to school.
- Think of September as a month of curriculum “tasting” – try out new books and approaches, but don’t marry them. Chuck out what doesn’t fit for you or your kids. If you don’t like it, you won’t use it no matter how much your friend loves it.
- Take yourselves outside for as long as possible – the seasonal change will come regardless and you will miss the fresh air when the cold comes. (A truly Canadian home school tip)
- Find something you love to do with your kids – and do it, regardless of schedule, make it a priority. Which means it doesn’t come after math, or spelling, or (insert various should item here) – make it happen. Read that book aloud, go for your walk, paint something, and build Legos – place value on your family and its culture above “schooling.”
- Give the kids some choices – there is plenty the kids don’t get a say in, so if there is room for a choice, let them have input. Remember how they won’t eat certain foods until they started helping make dinner? Same principle, different objective.
- Protect “uninterrupted” home time – I get so eager at the beginning of the year, I over-extend before the year even starts, I usually resent the busyness before the snow flies.
- Find your “monkeys” – your support, your fellow home educating buddies.
- Lastly, don’t let your mind go “back” to school. As a publically schooled child, then public teacher, I am quite familiar with the way school works in a public setting. I have been known to compare our “schooling” to my knowledge of public schooling, and to feel like I am failing the comparison. But if I stop, breath, and look around me – I see that this isn’t “school” but rather my family learning together, through all these seasons. I see that our choice to follow this lifestyle is working for us – and for them. It is apples and oranges – both are food but delivered via different sources.
Every family should have their traditions and by all means go do something you enjoy before you begin another season of learning in your home. Make memories and then move slow into your September, and learn about what makes your days “not” school.
I am joining other Canadian Homeschool bloggers today on the topic of “not” Back to School and other ways to kick off a new year.