It’s that time of year; the time when public schools wind down their academic pursuits. Students are passed from one grade to the next (assuming their grades are good) and then they’re off to enjoy the seemingly carefree days of summer. Does your homeschool have a similar time of shouting to the world that you are done for another year?
It doesn’t take much talking to homeschoolers to know that they don’t necessarily march to the public school’s drumbeat. Some school all year long; others school for three weeks and take a week off. And there are dozens of other variations. I’m not really asking if you take a summer break. I’m asking if you finish a school year? Do you say to yourself and to your children – we are done?
I was somewhat stunned to discover when talking to one of my twenty-something daughters that her memory of our early school years is that we never finished. We never completed a school year. In her mind, the years stretched one into another with a merging that never quite defined when she moved from one grade level to the next. When I thought about it a bit I realized she was right. I never wanted to leave any of my plans undone. So, our school years spilled over into the summer and although we slowed our pace a little, we just kept chugging along. It wasn’t until we joined a local homeschool co-op that our school years became more defined.
Don’t fall into the same trap I did. Ecclesiastes tells us that “to every thing there is a season; and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Try to build some closure into your homeschool lives. I’m not talking about stopping the learning process; just the formal education process – for a bit. I’m also not talking about trying to clone the public schools. I’m just saying that it does the heart good to know that the year’s educational journey has concluded. Determine a particular time to be done – and then stick to it.
By the way, the biblical pattern is clear – do your work (run with patience the race that is set before you); work hard (whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might); and then rest (God rested on the seventh day from all His work).
This can be done without sacrificing learning. Just as textbook publishers build review into the first part of every course, they likewise consider the ending chapters as “extra credit” rather than course essentials. But what if it’s a course of your own design – full of living books and hands-on activities? Be realistic as you set your pace and your goals – and don’t be afraid to change them. One of the most important lessons I needed to learn as a homeschooling mom is that I am in control of curriculum (and plans). I am not their slave. I have to confess that I came to this understanding only after years of homeschooling.
As you’re concluding your educational year, don’t forget to celebrate! Plan a special end-of-the-year bash – cook-out, camp-out, party with friends – anything that includes family, friends and food will do. Wrap into that celebration notice of what has been accomplished: movement from one grade to the next (or, if you prefer, from one level of study to another), any work or service activities, and recognition of positive character qualities that have been developed – or bad habits that have been squelched.
While I’m at it, I’d like to give a plug for high school graduation ceremonies. Many homeschoolers participate in these with a group of some sort but if you don’t, consider having your own ceremony (we did that for our eldest). It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair – maybe just your own family. However, it’s an important milestone and provides closure. I’m convinced graduations are as important for mom as for the graduate. Both of you need to receive recognition for what you’ve accomplished.
We don’t like to think about endings. But once a year, it’s good to close the book on a year; to close it with decisiveness and finality, so you can open the book on a new year with enthusiasm and excitement.