At the beginning of the school year, I can operate on excitement and adrenaline alone. I have all my goals charted and my tidy little lesson plans. About halfway through the school year, I’m wandering in a mental fog, holding on by a thread, desperately wailing, “What’s my motivation, again?”
In his book, My One Word, Pastor and author Mike Ashcraft came up with this snazzy idea of axing the notion of setting New Year’s Resolutions and instead shifting your focus to one area of improvement. Instead of setting a bunch of resolutions that you may or may not keep, you choose one word that serves as a kind of theme or encapsulates an overarching goal you desire to work on. The cool thing about one word is that you don’t have to choose it at the beginning of the school year! Perhaps the best time to choose one word is when you find yourself in the middle of the school year needing motivation to push forward. Choosing one word is somewhat like a simplified mission statement that provides focus and a lens through which to evaluate progress.
Having one word has been a motto that has helped me to maintain focus when I find myself running on fumes at different points during the homeschool year. It has also helped me to look back to see how we’ve grown with homeschooling and look forward in anticipation of what we can accomplish in the future. Here are the “one word(s)” I’ve chosen since we began our homeschool journey.
Year One: Baseline
I considered the first year I homeschooled a baseline year. I wanted to get the basic mechanics of homeschooling down. What was our routine going to be? Under what conditions did my kids learn best? What was their stamina like during a school day? How was I going to juggle lessons for four children at different ages? I had a million little questions, observations, and adjustments I needed to make. Getting used to having my kids around ALL the time. Learning what habits worked best for us and what didn’t. How to keep my little ones engaged while I worked with the older ones. Helping the older ones transition to more independent learning.
I treated our first year like the control variable in an experiment, which meant I didn’t add anything fancy like homeschool co-ops, a ton of extracurricular activities, or even field trips. I learned a ton about myself as a parent and teacher as well as my kids. Our first year of homeschool brought us closer together as a family and showed us that our leap of faith was not in vain.
Year Two: Socialization
“What about socialization?” A commonly held misconception about homeschoolers is that they get little to no social interaction with other kids their own age simply because they don’t attend public school. Although we kept things simple and frill-free our first year of homeschool, my kids still had friends and interacted with kids their age at the park, the library, and the church. They had socialization. What was missing was socialization with other homeschoolers. In a previous post, “5 Reasons You Should Consider Joining a Homeschool Co-Op” I lay out some of the wonderful benefits to be gained from participating in a local homeschool co-op. Interacting on a consistent basis with other homeschooling families was just what we needed to spice up our homeschool year. Additionally, participation in a recreational soccer league was the icing on the cake to a more balanced lifestyle.
Year Three: Consistency
This is our third year of homeschool and I finally feel like we’ve hit our stride (at least until the high school years begin). We have a good schedule down. I’m satisfied (for the most part) with curriculum choices. We have the right blend of extracurricular activities and involvement. This year has been all about being consistent with school. Finishing what we start. Plowing through the occasional bouts of burnout. Setting goals and reaching them.
One Word: Looking Forward
Using one word to define our homeschool year has been beneficial in giving shape and definition to all the many goals and desires I have us. It has also helped me to more clearly anticipate future needs. As my children get older I want them to learn how to serve others in their community. I want them to see firsthand how the talents God has given them can be a blessing to others and bring glory to him. I already have in mind that next year our word will be “Service”.
What is your word for this homeschool year?