Homeschooling

Why We’ve Put Away Bookwork

We put away bookwork for this school year one week into May, and we won’t be picking it back up until the first week of September.

Why?

Because there’s too much work to do!

On our homestead, spring is the time for big plans. For a 12-year-old who has been enamored with Doll DIYs for over year now, the perfect plans will culminate in a full-size American Girl doll house.  She measured, planed, and diagrammed her dream. Now her Mechanical Engineering sister, who’s home from college and not heading back out of town for her summer internship for a few weeks, is helping her put the tools behind her plans.

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She’s so glad we worked hard on the bookwork over the long, snowy winter so we could be done our official school year in early May. Now the fun work can begin!

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This is the second year we crunched hard through core subjects in the dead of the winter so we could have a long summer. It was necessary when we were moving 400 miles away last May. And it seemed sensible when my homeschool graduate headed off to college last fall. We decided to follow her school schedule, so we could be off over her breaks. It was fabulous motivation to work hard and stay on schedule, knowing they’d have another long summer (and this summer wouldn’t be filled with moving boxes, painting, and wood floor refinishing).

Of course I’ll keep records of their projects–after all, not all 12-year-olds get to take on a hands-on Machinery and Design Class! Her sister will be completing Gardening, Planting, and Design 102. (101 was last summer.)

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And they’re both learning more than I’ve ever known about raising chickens and bunnies (other exciting projects on the farm).

Then there’s Lessons in Philanthropy. The youngest is perpetually engaging in Self-Paced Nature Photography. And the other is approaching the pinnacle of her 5-year-long project of Helping Others Through Rescued Horses.

And, yes, they’ll still be completing one math lesson a week and writing often… there’s the DIY blog, the just-for-fun blog, and the older sister’s business blog. But boy are we all happy to put away bookwork for a nice, long summer. Cause all the rest, well it’s so stinkin’ fun, it doesn’t even seem like learning. And that, my friend, is when they truly learn the most.

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“In all toil, there is profit.” Proverbs 14:23

Some things our family does during our homeschool year to help us shorten the time it takes to complete the bookwork:

{{ find classes that follow a short school year }}

We try to only attend co-ops that start mid-September and end early-May. And for Bible curriculum, we have attended a local Community Bible Study for 9 years now, and we love it. These classes also start mid-September and end early-May, yet my daughters’ daily readings and introspective work, along with their 2-hour weekly classes with homeschooling peers, more than equal a full credit’s worth of Bible study.

. . .

{{ skim the math review in leaps and bounds }}

For math, we’ve always used Saxon (well, once they’ve mastered the elementary school fundamentals–for those we never use a textbook). We like Saxon, except for the tedious, oh-so-boring review that takes up about 20 lessons at the beginning of every school year. To overcome the repetition, we complete only 80% of each textbook and whiz right through the review lessons at the beginning of the new book, skimming about 10 lessons in a sitting with Mom, just as a review. Then the student starts up with whatever lesson we hit on that she and I agree is a good spot to start. It’s also very rare that we actually reach the perfect ending spot each school year. We simply start the new book the next day after finishing the last book, regardless of the date.

. . .

{{ complete only the meaningful history projects }}

We love Mystery of History. But it took me a few years to get over my guilt that I never could do all the projects suggested. I don’t even try to do half of them any more. Instead, I skim the options at the beginning of the week and choose one that would be the most meaningful for each student. Even then, I’ll be honest, many weeks pass that no extra project is completed. But we keep on track with our daily readings, no matter what. I used to stop all progress through history until specific projects were done. Now I realize they will definitely complete the projects that revolve around their favorite people or topics, and those are the only projects that are likely to really make a lasting impact on them anyway. On the other hand, in elementary school my daughters spent an entire year on colonial times and another on just Civil War through 1900. And we were almost completely project-based those years. So do what works for your students and your school year plans. For us, at this stage in our homeschool, we have a set goal of covering specific time periods in the course of each year.

. . .

{{ elongate your bookwork time on the rainy, cold, or snowy days }}

Nope, we’ve never taken a snow day. Mind you, we spend all afternoon playing in the snow, but when it’s cold and windy in the early morning hours, we snuggle up inside with our bookwork. Then we enjoy our snow time in the afternoon sun even more.

. . .

{{ don’t take off the obscure holidays }}

Who needs to celebrate Columbus sailing the ocean blue or birthdays of other historical men we could learn about instead? A May summer is much more appealing to us than sporadic 3-day weekends.

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{{ combine students in subjects whenever possible }}

To encourage your sanity more than any other reason, I highly recommend you combine your different-grade-level students in the same-level subjects whenever possible. If the younger one isn’t quite ready for the challenge of their sibling’s full class, then loosen the expectations on the younger one, while expecting the full workload from the older student. But by teaching history, science, health, and/or grammar only once in a given school day (or a few times each, depending on your number of children and age ranges), you free up your time a little and face less chance of burnout. Burnout will definitely require you to take longer Christmas and spring breaks, which will certainly commit you to a longer school year.

. . .

{{ get a jumpstart }}

The summer before my then-9th and -8th grader were going to take on Apologia Biology together, we were all 3 very intimidated by the thought. It was by far the most text-booky textbook we ever even considered tackling. We feared we could never get through it all in a 9-month window, so we decided to complete Module 1 over the summer. That was the best decision we ever made, a precedent that has since become the routine for how we approach science textbooks. We start every school year with Module 1 under our belt. (Mind you, after that first year, we never again had to do science over the summer, we were always far enough ahead to complete the next year’s first module before summer.)

. . .

{{ change it up once in a while }}

Oddly enough, taking days every now and then to take OFF time from the typical bookwork can rejuvenate you and your children, allowing you to actually stay on track better than if you never have an off day. Do an interesting project, or make a homemade game about something you’re learning about, or spend the day watching documentaries on line about the historical time period you’re studying.

 

Do you have some tips on making the school year extra productive? Please share!

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