Tag Archives: schedules

NGHS Journal: Lessons from the meeting my schedule forgot

19 Sep

Gotcher Family Homeschool — Day 13 — September 18, 2012

We’ve been “back to school” for several weeks now — we did schoolwork three days a week those last two weeks in August as a warm-up and review for the girls (and to test out my new school organization systems), and then we went on a 10-day family road trip that is becoming a tradition for our family. Needless to say, getting back into the swing of things after that vacation was like starting school all over again, and I’ve been hesitant to “journal” any of our days because I’ve felt like I’m flying by the seat of my pants still… even after all that planning and organizing!

For the past four years, my husband has been running a world-famous race over Imogene Pass, from the town of Ouray to Telluride, on the weekend after Labor Day. When he first attempted this race with his best friend, we lived in Durango (not too far from Telluride) and many of our Durangoan friends also ran the race. Since moving to Castle Rock two years ago, it’s a bit more of an effort for our family to drive to Telluride from the Denver metropolitan area for this race.

Last year we decided to make a family road trip out of it: Spending Labor Day weekend in Beaver Creek with my sister (who now lives in Eagle), camping near Crested Butte during the week after Labor Day (still warm enough to camp, but the summer crowds are gone!), and ending up in Telluride by Friday for the Saturday race. It’s a whirlwind 10 days of traveling through some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado, seeing close friends and family, and spending plenty of time “unplugged” from our normal life, enjoying God’s creation.

However, I have to admit it’s a little tough to “hit the street running” when we get home on Sunday night and the week that follows includes not just getting back into our own homeschool routine, but starting all of our supplemental programs and homeschool co-ops at the same time. This year, that includes ballet lessons for Audrey (11 1/2) on Monday nights, Worship Dance for Claire (10) and Elise (5) on Tuesday afternoons, our new Girls Book Club Co-op (which I’m hosting & coordinating) on Wednesday afternoons, PE Plus on Thursday afternoons, and AWANA on Sunday afternoons.

This past week, we also had a slumber party for my new 10-year-old Claire, the annual homeschooling family BBQ with our local support group, a visit from my in-laws (who leave tomorrow) and an upcoming visit from my dad this Friday (who’s staying for a week)!

So you’ll understand how a Type A personality like me, with all my appointments in my iPhone (reminder alarms set) as well as on a color-coded calendar on my refrigerator, could still manage to have a day like yesterday.

It started out with promise: I had printed out all the girls’ sheet work the night before and placed it in their “to do” folders in the school area. I had the necessary DVDs out and books checked out from the library. The girls woke up, ate breakfast, and started on their independent work. We did our family devotions around the table before my five-year-old Elise woke up to distract us. My in-laws (who live in a remote part of Kansas), wanted to get their Costco shopping done while in town, so because things were going so smoothly and Audrey’s ballet lesson wasn’t until 5:30pm, I offered to take them so my husband (who works from home) could stay home and work.

About 10 minutes into our trip to Costco, an iPhone alarm went off in my back pocket. I quickly discovered that I had a homeschool support group board meeting this afternoon — not part of the normal weekly routine — and it was starting in 15 minutes! (I was at least 20 minutes away from the meeting at this point in time). After searching for my in-laws to find out if they wanted to stay or rush out (they opted to stay and continue leisurely shopping), I left my cart in the middle of Costco and took off to the forgotten board meeting.

Right away, I realized my error: Although I had entered the meeting into my iPhone calendar, I had forgotten to put it on the refrigerator calendar – my visual cue that I see constantly, every day — so when asked if I could run the errand, I thought I was obligation free for the afternoon. But that wasn’t the case, and today I was especially thankful for the calendar alarm on my iPhone! I could tell it was going to be one of those days after all.

I arrived about 15 minutes late to the meeting. It figures that the new home of the board member hosting this meeting wasn’t recognized by Google maps, so I had to wing it and find her home by driving around the general vicinity — praise the Lord I found it! This was to be a “short” board meeting, but about 2 hours later, my iPhone was buzzing again because my in-laws were done shopping at Costco, waiting for me. And then there was Audrey’s ballet lesson, which was going to start in 45 minutes. I left the meeting at 4:45pm — Castle Rock rush hour — so traffic to and from Costco was unusually heavy, of course. Because it was one of those days.

My husband had to intervene and drive all three girls to drop off Audrey at ballet. And I had to rush back to Costco, rush back home to unload all the food from Costco, and rush back out to pick up Audrey from ballet. On the way there, I’d planned to make a quick return to Kohl’s. Turns out that would not be easy, either. If I made the return, I would lose the value of the “Kohl’s cash” I used on the original purchase. Unless I could find an item of exact retail value, which I could then evenly exchange for my returned item. Of course, a quick scan of the aisles and nothing I actually needed right now was exactly $34.99. And now I was 10 minutes late to pick up Audrey. So I left without accomplishing anything. Because it was one of those days.

What does any of this have to do with homeschooling? Maybe, nothing. Or maybe, everything — at least for me. Don’t they say that school is never out for the pro? I have a better version of that saying: Growth is never out for the child of God.

Because hours earlier, before the “planned” school day began — and the afternoon’s chaos ensued — I read this:

“It is easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life. Although each day contains twenty-four hours, every single one presents a unique set of circumstances. Don’t try to force-fit today into yesterday’s mold. Instead, ask Me to open your eyes, so you can find all I have prepared for you in this precious day of life.”Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

It was one of those days that could have ended in tears, anger, frustration, self-defeat. The thoughts that used to haunt me on days like this included things like, “How can you be the teacher when you can’t even get organized?” Or even better, “You aren’t the parent who’s working, so why can’t you manage to stay on top of things?” Lies that took my focus away from God and back to myself.

But as the day unfolded, the words from the morning’s devotional reading came back to me again and again. Yes, it was my calendar mishap that set off a chain reaction of chaos. But God knew what would happen before I woke up that morning. In fact, He knew what my day would look like before I was born.

Have you ever stopped and really thought long and hard about what that means? “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.Psalm 139:13-16

My loving Heavenly Father knew that I would blunder up this day — with so many people depending on me — and He planned to be there for me through all of it. He wanted me to grow, to draw ever closer into His presence, and He knows what He is doing! “When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you,” writes Sarah Young, as she captures the words the Lord has placed on her heart. “I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone.

My homeschooling journey has been as much about my growth and my education — with my Heavenly Father as my teacher — as it has been about what I can teach my girls. Maybe even more. Sometime soon, I hope to share more about my personal struggles and journey with the Lord this past school year that have transformed my perspective on what homeschooling means to me. Another story for another day.

Today, I am very thankful that my Heavenly Father not only knew I would have this crazy day, but walked with me through it every step of the way. He prepared me with a very specific devotional entry and accompanying scriptures. He prepared me with a peaceful morning of (almost) everything I had planned being accomplished around the school table with minimal fuss from the girls. And then when things started to fall apart, He reminded me of the fact that nothing I could have done or should have done mattered now — it was time to walk through it, knowing that He was by my side and it was part of His plan.

I was able to be completely focused at that board meeting, and completely present for my family that evening when we shared a late dinner with my in-laws. And I was able to go to sleep in peace — thankful for another homeschooling day!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Gearing up for the “official” start of school: Ward family

10 Aug

By Rosanna Ward

Although my son Joel and I have been reading and doing math facts practice all summer, along with golf and swim lessons, August 6th will be our “official” back-to-school start date. That means back into (um… or beginning) a routine: bedtime, awake, chores, breakfast, devotionals, no cartoons, and a full school schedule starting at 9am and stopping at 3pm.

Does this mean I make my 7-year-old boy sit at a desk for that time period? Like that’s even possible! No, this year I am planning “centers” (kind of like a Montessori thing, I guess). He will have a lesson plan with assignments in Horizons workbooks for each subject, but because he usually finishes each assignment in less than 15 minutes, each center will have other activities to do.

For example, we will start off the day with math. Joel will do a math facts practice sheet (5 minutes), followed by his Horizons assignment (15 minutes). Then he will have 20 minutes or so to enjoy a math “center” activity, such as a math game on the computer or iPad, math bingo or the math dice game, or some other activities I have. I found a great Web site for creating math facts worksheets called Math Fact Cafe.

After math, we move on to reading, then English, all with the same concept — an assignment followed by some time in a “center” activity. After lunch and a short break, Joel will do science and history the same way. I am hoping this will solve the “starting at 9am, done at 11am, and bored the rest of the day” problem we experienced before.

I have also put together “center” ideas for my toddler. He now has a “town” rug with all of his cars and floor toys, as well as a table and chair for his art, play dough, and small manipulative activities. I am doing all of this in our home office space this year, hoping to contain the mess.

Something I started last year that I plan to maintain is the Prize Bucket. It worked great as a motivation tool and also helped me be able to say “no” when I take the boys to the store and they want me to buy them things.  I recently refilled the Prize Bucket with Matchbox cars, airplanes, flashlights, fans, gum, Toy Story figures, candy bars, stickers, trading cards, Angry Birds toys, etc. I really need to get in the habit of picking up clearance toys for this, because those little $1 to $2 items can add up quickly. However, it really seems to motivate Joel to focus on getting things done.

Everything in the Prize Bucket has a points value, and once a month, Joel can take the points he has earned and buy things from the bucket. Last year I kept track of his points with a punch card: For some reason, it was hard to keep track of the points this way, so I may try something new this year.

I plan to award points for meeting different 2nd grade standards, such as reading a certain amount of pages. Last year I awarded points per book, but we are moving from short, easy-read picture books to “chapter” books this year. I will also award points for doing math facts in a certain amount of time. Our goal this year is to get addition and subtraction facts to 3 minutes or less. We are also going to work on writing skills. Points will be awarded for good spelling, vocabulary tests, and creative sentence writing, as well as copy work and some dictation.

All of these subjects have pretty objective standards, but one of the bigger areas we will be working on this year is attitude.  We are trying to eliminate the “whine” —  I am still coming up with a way to award points for this.

I bought the Well Planned Day Planner at the Tulsa homeschooling convention this spring, and I am trying to be better at filling it in this year. My goal is to stick to a plan and a routine a little better than last year. Next up in the planning stage is field trip and outside activity scheduling.

Rosanna Ward is a devoted wife of 19 years and mother of four children, two of which are homeschool graduates. She currently homeschools her 7-year-old son Joel and her youngest son is a toddler. Rosanna is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling for seven years. Rosanna loves to study History and Genealogy: Her genealogy blog is called “Rosanna’s Genealogical Thoughts.” She and her family reside in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: How do you cope with burnout?

27 Mar

Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!

This week’s question is one that many homeschoolers often face about this time of year: How do you cope with feelings of “burnout” during the school year? What works best for you during these times, and what if anything do you change to breathe some life back into your days?

There are many reasons why homeschooling parents can experience burnout during the school year: It could be seasonal (a long winter), topical (curriculum feels stale), or more personal (family crisis, illness). It may even get to a point that you feel like throwing in the towel, as Simple Homeschool’s Editor Jamie Martin recently wrote about in her post, “For When You Want to Quit” — which includes some great advice for coping with this feeling.

However, burnout doesn’t have to lead to towel-throwing! There are lots of great ideas and suggestions from veteran homeschooling moms out there who’ve endured periods of burnout and survived to tell about it that can encourage us all. Here’s what the authors of NextGen Homeschool have to say about coping with homeschool burnout:

NextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005

In past years, I have suffered from homeschool burnout about this time of year. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I was also anxious that we weren’t going to get enough done before the summer break — and my girls really counted on a summer break. I would become tired of planning lessons and pushing the girls to finish them. At the same time, they would struggle to stay focused. Every year, the same feeling of impending failure — the “maybe I wasn’t cut out to be their teacher as well as their mother” feeling — would start to set in.

Then several years ago, Tulsa began hosting an annual homeschool convention in April. Oh, what a relief it is! I start looking forward to this conference as early as January. It isn’t just the workshops and the vendors hall: It is the whole atmosphere. It’s so refreshing to be surrounded by so many other homeschooling parents all there to be encouraged and learn new ways to do a better job.

This year has been difficult for me, but not so much in the homeschool arena. My daughter Virginia is a senior, and even though she can do her work fairly independently of me, she still needs direction, prodding and encouragement. Now it is March, and I am back to feeling like maybe we didn’t get enough done — and we have this graduation deadline looming. Which is totally ridiculous really, because she is only 16 and if we don’t finish everything, so what? We can just finish in the summer or fall.

Joel is in first grade and doing quite well, but I still feel this pressure (that I put on myself) to have him doing more seatwork. So much of how he learns is not done at the table, where it is easily analyzed and graded. I have to keep telling myself that his real world learning is so much better than anything he learns in his workbooks. He is a good reader, and his math skills are great. But he is above his grade level in so many other areas — areas that aren’t easily tested except through observation. He speaks articulately to people of all ages, although sometimes his innate shyness kicks in. He knows all about golfing. And his knowledge of our small business is astounding. I am constantly amazed at all he is learning just by being his dad’s sidekick.

All that to say this: The burnout I experience is because of the unnecessary pressure I put upon myself. I am so ready for that homeschool convention next month, and I am already planning next year’s curriculum, which I am very excited about!”

NextGen Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12
Began homeschooling in 2009

“When you’re feeling homeschool burnout, take it outside: Pack up the schoolwork and go somewhere else to do it. If it’s nice outside, you can hit the park — or even just your yard. Enjoy the birds chirping, do some earth science. If it’s cold, find a library. I’ve even taken the girls and my laptop to McDonalds on a rainy day, that way my youngest Cadence could play and the girls could do their workbooks while I got things done online.

Here are a few other suggestions for coping with burnout:

  • Take a teacher’s day off — they do this in public school, and we should too. Take this time to read up and plan out new ideas.
  • Plan and take a fun field trip.
  • Read homeschool blogs and/or call other homeschooling parents that you are friends with and tell them how you’re feeling. They can uplift you and give you new ideas.
  • Spend extra time in prayer for motivation.
  • Go to a homeschool conference if possible. If not, buy some CDs or podcasts from a conference on topics that you need help in.
  • Revise your goals: I get new ideas from looking at my past goals and setting new ones.
  • Block out negative feeds, like comparing to that “one kid” who is doing so strangely well in public school.
  • If you’re like me and have parents that homeschooled, or you know veteran homeschooling parents who did this without all the helpful tools we have today, take a moment to ask them for some burnout advice.

Not every family homeschools on a traditional school year schedule (we happen to do math and science through the summer), but if you do, then you’re in the home stretch. Hang in there!”

NextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

“We are in our second year of homeschooling, and although we did experience some burnout in our first year, this year has been different. Last year, the burnout was the result of our curriculum and lesson plan methodology simply not clicking with our family. That wasn’t so hard to fix: I took the books that came with our package and reworked the lesson plan to satisfy both my girls’ need to spend more time on topics they enjoyed and my need to have more flexibility in our days.

This year, the curriculum and lesson plan changes I made as a result of last year have been working out quite well. The girls are enjoying the unit study approach, and I see them really stretching creatively and demonstrating a high level of understanding of the subjects we’re covering. The lesson plan has also been flexible enough to handle typical schedule interruptions like family visits, extracurricular activities, impromptu ski days, etc.

But I still experienced burnout. This time, it was personal. In January, I experienced a medical situation that threw me into a tailspin. For a Type A personality like me, feeling out of control the way I did during this time was extremely hard to cope with. I kept telling myself everything would be fine, and I found a way to muddle through the days that followed. But my joy and excitement for our schoolwork faded, and my physical energy seemed to vanish as well.

The first thing I had to do was face the reality of my feelings head-on and take them to the only one who could truly heal me body, mind and spirit: My Heavenly Father. I spent lots of time in prayer, reading His Word daily (along with a few books that provided further spiritual encouragement), and seeking the counsel of Godly women I could trust to fill me with their wisdom and prayer support. Praise God for His amazing grace in my life and how He has answered my prayers: He has been restoring me day by day — and I am deeply grateful to Him for my recovery!

During this time, I also had to figure out how to keep school moving forward without stressing myself out. The one thing I made sure of is that we kept our foundation intact: Our morning family devotion time. That time was especially precious to me, because as we put the Lord first in our day as a family, it gave me more confidence that no matter what we were able to get accomplished later, it would be OK! God was in control of our day — and that gave me peace.

On days when I was feeling overwhelmed, I dropped things back to the basics: The girls worked on the math and language arts workbooks for their grade level mostly on their own, with help from me when necessary. I also made sure the “book basket” was filled with library books for them to read, as well as educational DVDs on the topics we’re covering, so that they had plenty of learning activities to do without me.

I  also started asking my girls what projects they wanted to do — and just let them run with it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much they will throw themselves into a project that they have initiated. For example, my 11-year-old Audrey decided to create a lapbook on the state of Colorado. She picked her own resources from the library, did Web research, drew some original art, and turned out an amazing lapbook report on a topic that’s not even in our lesson plan for this year! This also relieved me of the burden of feeling like I had to come up with a cool project for every lesson on the agenda.

Lastly, I think it’s really important to recognize when you simply must take a break. We took an “early” spring break in February to see my family in California and go to a friend’s wedding, and it was such a refreshing time for all of us. The beauty of homeschooling is that you’re not tied down to the traditional school year, so don’t be afraid of taking time off when your family needs a break. You can make up the required hours (if your state tracks them) later, when you and your family are re-energized and running at full speed again.”

NextGen Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010

“Sickness, family in town, over scheduling, bad communication week with the husband… these are just a few of the things that set our homeschooling days back. I’ve had my pity parties about it and rewritten my agendas accordingly. But it never seems to fail that “life happens” at least once a month.

So what do we do? We just go with it. We read a books, watch Leapfrog videos streaming on Netflix, play with Legos, spend extra time on things I usually just brush over (like piano), clean the kids room really good, do coloring pages… anything that is productive (in a way) and will keep me from losing it because of whatever is going on.

Since I usually have to crack down at some point, because I have to turn in work samples to my CT (Certified Teacher via charter school), I plan to do one great lesson with one assignment of whatever it is my six-year-old son Elijah needs to cover that month (such as birds, American symbols, etc.) before I see her. Then voila, we’re done, and I move on to the next month and hope it’s going to be less crazy.

I guess I’m learning that it is good to have a schedule, because you need a “home base” to get back to when days are smooth and easy. But there is plenty of grace to take the time that is needed to attend to “life” as it happens. Our children are watching our responses to our circumstances and learning more than we’ll ever know by how we respond. So rather than fall apart because we’re falling behind, I find the joy in the teaching moments that we do have and look to tomorrow, or next week, or even next month, to start fresh.”


How do you cope with burnout? What changes (if any) do you make to breathe life back into your days? We’d love to hear what you think!

We are also taking NEW questions for upcoming “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” features. Send your questions to nextgenhomeschool@gmail.com or post them as comments to this article (and let us know if it’s OK to quote you if we use your question). We look forward to responding to your homeschooling questions!

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