Friday, September 01, 2006

7 Habits of a Highly Effective Year

At Trinity Prep School, Maureen was asking for contributions on the subject of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective New School Years". Thanks to Deputy Head mistress of The Common Room for blogging about it.

Here's my seven off the top of my head:

1. Begin by being organized. Clean off the bookshelves and put them in a reasonable order so that when it's time to look for the books you need, you'll know where they are. If you do this once during the year, you are at least assured of having one day where everything is where it belongs.
This is only partially tongue-in-cheek. I can't count the number of minutes (hours!) we have lost because books (and other items) weren't put where they belong. It's one of the more frustrating moments in homeschooling. And I can't blame the kids *all* the time - after all, whose books do they see around the house?
Habit # 1 - have a place for everything and everything in its place to start with before school starts
2. Decide why you are doing what you are doing. A friend of mine has always had an educational plan for her family. In it, she lists why they do what they do. This is very important for those days when you question exactly why you are doing this. Pull it out then and remind yourself of what's important to your family. Then order pizza.
Habit #2 - Decide why you are homeschooling and write it down for the tough days.
3. Set aside time for the things that are very important to your family. Over the past two years, we have not maintained our regular readaloud time in the evenings that we had for years, due to busyness and scattered activities. My husband and I have agreed that this is important to us and we miss it. Therefore, it's going to be a priority to do it. This is a good reminder to do it tonight!
Habit #3 - Make time for the important things in life. Don't let everything else take it over.
4. Set your mind to what God has called *you* to do, even in the area of the curriculum you presently own. Is it working? If it is, don't buy anything else, no matter how much someone else raves about another program. If it's not working, try to figure out why before you start chasing after something else. There is no magic bullet for curriculum. It's never going to do exactly what you want it to do and it will not produce the perfect children, even though that mom online seems to have it all together. If you can't resist new curriculum, then put the catalogues away and try to avoid online discussions of curriculum you don't have so you aren't tempted to get anything else.
Habit #4 - Be content with what you have.
5. Take time to enjoy your children. For example, have you ever observed that being in a rush is the most stressful time for your family? I have. There's nothing more guaranteed to bring out the wrong attitudes and talk in me then being late and having to hurry everyone. In whatever way works for your family, plan ahead so that you don't have to rush to get to the next appointment. And relax enough to enjoy your children on the way there. If you find that you are always in a hurry and you feel like you are always running, maybe it's time to sit down with your calendar and your family and figure out what's important and what's not.
Habit #5 - Plan ahead so you can enjoy your family
6. Teach your kids to do it right the first time and keep working with them until they learn to do it. There are a couple of things I regret not doing properly when the older two were younger. Handwriting for my oldest is one of them. I let him get away with it and now we're talking about the need for remedial handwriting skills. I wish I had taught him correctly the first time and persevered with it.
Habit #6 - Persevere until they really get it
7. In what may seem like a contradiction to #6, know when you and your kids need a break. Sometimes you may hit a wall, either in attitude problems (and it could be Mom's attitude, not just the child's) or with school skills. Sometimes you need to push through, but sometimes you need to take a pajama day and give everyone a break. Then go back to the problem the next day and see if it's been resolved. You really need to know your own children for this. Is it a spiritual issue (ex. a matter of resisting authority)? Is it a character issue (ex. needing to learn perseverance)? Is it a maturity issue (ex. she'll learn to read next year but you'll keep working patiently on the phonics until then)? Is it a matter of being overwhelmed - too many nights out and fighting a cold? Or a preteen who is finding that the hormones are overwhelming and she really doesn't know why she wants to cry half the time? I think for me, knowing my kids is one of the hardest aspects of homeschooling because I tend to get wrapped up in my own little world and not notice that they are changing and growing. Taking time to study my kids and knowing when to take a break is really important.
Habit #7 - Know when to back off

I don't know if these are all habits but in reflecting on the upcoming year, they are some issues that came to mind that I think we may be dealing with. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes - I hope that I'll be prepared for this year and I hope you will be too.

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