NOT Going Back to School
NOT Going Back to School!
It’s that time of year again! As summer draws to a close and school supplies take over store shelves, the big yellow buses warm up to begin their familiar rounds. Parents collectively breathe a sigh of relief as the children head back to school and routines are resumed.
But what if, like our family, you’re not “going back to school”?
In my experience, military families seem likelier to choose homeschooling than do their civilian counterparts, since the flexible homeschooling lifestyle dovetails nicely with the typical military family’s challenges of frequent moves and deployments. Homeschooling can help ease transitions as it’s familiar, and parents don’t have to worry about “gaps” in learning or what their local school district is or isn’t teaching, if they relocate often.
So, how about some ideas to launch your “not going back to school” year in a memorable way?
Close out the last year. Even if you school year-round, it’s nice to have a sense of “closure” before moving on. At the end of every homeschool year (and we’ve been doing this now for seventeen years!), I pull papers from the beginning, middle, and end of each course; load them all in a gallon Ziploc bag; and mark it with the child’s name, grade, and where we’re stationed ( a helpful reminder for this forgetful mom). I also list the textbooks/courses used, as well as any memorable occurrences (like “Daddy deployed again” or “We moved from Hawaii to D.C.”). The bag goes in the big Rubbermaid bin where I keep all our past years’ records. Then…I toss out everything else. Yes, you read that right! We move often, and can’t tote around boxes and boxes of old papers. This may sound ruthless, but you really don’t need every bloomin’ worksheet your second grader filled out. On the other hand, keeping sample work is a good idea, and may be required by your state. As the mother of two graduates, I get sentimental when I look back at some of my older children’s early learning attempts. So even if for no one else but myself, it’s worth it to be somewhat organized about record-keeping.
Make it special. Think about it—most schools don’t get a lot of actual work done those first couple days of school. So why not start off your family’s year with a “fun” day, too? We’ve hosted “Not Going Back to School” ice cream parties, movie days, and picnics; or gone out for a special breakfast or lunch. Sometimes it’s just us; sometimes other homeschooling friends join us. (I’ve learned the hard way not to be too obnoxious about this—I feel our apartment mates in Florida didn’t appreciate our big “NOT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL” banner and streamers that my kids used to decorate our front door!) Whatever you decide to do, begin with a bang! Your kids will love it.
Pick a “theme verse.” Along the lines of setting the right tone, why not choose a Scripture for your family to memorize together? Some ideas:
- 2 Timothy 2:15 (“Study to show yourself approved…”)
- Proverbs 3: 5, 6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…”)
- 1 Timothy 4:12 (“Let no one look down upon you because you are young…”)
Display your theme verse on a bulletin board or poster, and work on memorizing it as a family. If your husband is deployed, this might be a good time to learn Scriptures such as Psalm 91 as a reminder of God’s care to you and your children.
Welcome your new “class.” Kids enjoy milestones and recognition. For many years, I lettered a sign for each child with their name, along with something like, “Welcome to 1st grade!” Each of them would pose for a photo while holding their sign. It’s such fun to look back on those photos now. These years will pass more quickly than you’d like to think, and you’ll appreciate having documented these precious memories. And what kid doesn’t love being made a “big deal” of? Get creative and have fun with it!
Ease into your year. It can be tempting to go great guns right at the beginning, but you’ve got a lot of months ahead of you, Mom. If you’re using a full prepared curriculum, you may feel you HAVE to do a complete day’s worth of work each day, right from the beginning. But I bet that both you and your students will be a bit rusty. Be kind to yourself, and grace-filled towards your children. Perhaps spread the first week of the schedule over a couple of weeks to lessen the stress and harried feelings of keeping up. Be sure to allow for library days, park days, and quiet reading time as you get back into the flow of your school year.
Find support. It’s important to connect with local homeschoolers. After all, they know the secrets to the best field trips in your area! If you’ve recently relocated, and are living near a military installation, there are often support groups associated with them. I usually find homeschoolers coming out of the woodwork near the Air Force bases we’ve lived on, and we’ve been stationed all over the world!
Your family may be like ours and “not going back to school” this fall, either. I pray that you have a memorable and peace-filled year!
Jennifer McDonald has written for numerous publications and websites, including the Rosetta Stone website, Home School Enrichment, Home Educating Family, Crosswalk.com, and the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Tough Times and Fighting Fear: Winning the Battle at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. She’s the Reviews Department Editor and staff writer for Home Educating Family Magazine. She’s been married to her amazing Air Force husband for 24 years, and they are the parents of four children. They’ve lived all over the world from the Pacific to Europe, and are currently stationed in Washington, D.C. Find her at http://www.just-jen.net/ and on Twitter as jenmcdonald88.