The warning of the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, might not seem applicable to homeschooling. But beware, it does seem that every year the middle of March brings with it a sort of malaise that saps the life out of homeschoolers and their parents alike.
Unless you are a first year homeschool mom, you may very well know to what I am referring. It catches us off-guard, and yet it returns each spring without fail. The symptoms are a general apathy, lack of motivation, fear that we’re running out of time and yet that too much time remains, and a sense that nothing has been accomplished all year. These fears are exacerbated by our children’s blank stares, distracted thoughts, and forgetfulness. What makes things worse is that perhaps even you have more trouble getting out of bed in the mornings and long for a vacation.
I remember the first spring I taught my three small children. I had worked diligently all year. I was feeling like homeschooling was not as daunting as I had first anticipated and that my children were actually learning. Then it swept through our house like influenza. I had trouble getting the children up in the morning, beds remained unmade, chores were just what their name implied ‘chores’, summer could not come fast enough for any of us – yet there were still eight more weeks of school. Those feelings of competence I had experienced were replaced with discouragement. I dreaded the end of the year evaluations. I did not understand that what we were experiencing was common and would recur. I am sorry to have to admit that I was unaware of the signs and pushed us all the harder – yelling a bit too much, showing my own disappointment rather than encouraging my children, and all the while feeling guilty myself about my own bad attitude.
I was embarrassed to share my struggles and pretended all was well around my homeschooling friends, all the while wanting to cry out for help. It was an intuitive mother at one of our homeschool support group meetings that actually had the boldness to take me aside and probe a little further. The truth of the situation poured out and I was surprised by her lighthearted response to my crisis. She smiled and sensitively encouraged me to persevere. She said that these feelings in my children and me were common to teachers in the home and in the classroom. I was encouraged to finish the course that had been set before me with hope and perseverance.
I’d love to say that we never experienced that spring slough of despond again, but I would be lying to you if I did. Every year that followed we went through a bit of a low as the second semester drew itself out. But so as to encourage you, I want to say that there are many things that you can do to enliven your children and make the school days fresh again. The result of which will actually give you the hope you need to press on as well.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Take school outside! We live in the balmy state of Florida, so taking school outside in the spring is a very viable option. But it is the change of venue that is the significant point here, not simply the out-of-doors. You might think that the distractions outside would hinder your progress, but I found that it did just the opposite if I engaged my children in their surroundings. Do math on the driveway with chalk, paint or draw the birds that migrate through the area as an impressionist might, observe the parts of the flowers that bloom in the season, follow the phases of the moon each evening with white chalk on black construction paper, talk about surface tension and blow bubbles, the options are limitless. If you need more ideas to make learning more interactive, go online or to the library. Resources abound.
Go on a few field trips! The high schools in our area have plays and musicals that they perform each spring. These are inexpensive opportunities to take some of the books we read and see them displayed on stage. Or perhaps a trip to a local dairy or farm might be more applicable to your course of study. Zoos, libraries, bookstores, even math at the grocery store can shake up the routine and invigorate our students.
Read a fun story aloud! Not all of our reading has to correlate with our social studies courses. Children need to see that reading for entertainment is also a good reason to pick up a book. The positive results of which can motivate them to read rather than turn on an electronic device in the future. There have been times I have had to stop reading because I couldn’t stop laughing or the children couldn’t hear through their own peals of laughter. Junie B. Jones, Geronimo Stilton, The Redwall series, The Series of Unfortunate Events, Shel Silverstein’s poetry, can all add lighthearted reading to your school days. I was just introduced to the Mysterious Benedict Society by my daughter who discovered and loves the series even though she is an adult. I am now looking forward to the second book myself.
Pray together! We sometimes keep our struggles to ourselves and neglect to take advantage of opportunities to show our children our own weakness. This is a disservice to them. As they see our challenges, their own trials will not be so surprising and they will have learned how to appropriately handle them. Going to the author and perfecter of our faith and laying down our burdens is a wonderful example of humility and authenticity. I found my children respected me more and trusted God with their own struggles as a result of corporate prayer. Praise God!
Finally, remember that we are in the last lap of the race. It might be uphill, but the goal is set before us. Whether the goal is completing the coursework, the school year, or getting to the end-of-year homeschooling convention, the finish line is attainable. Stay the course! You will be glad for it.
Remember what is true:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Love, Nicole Schrader