It can be hard to reestablish a sense of normalcy after a break in the homeschool routine, can’t it? Even if the tree is still blinking in the corner of the living room, Christmas is, to borrow from Charles Dickens, past. As Ebenezer himself said, “There is no doubt whatever about that.” Getting back into a homeschool routine after holidays can feel like swimming upstream in peanut butter. But it must be done.
So how do we shift gears from merriment and relaxation into finishing the whole rest of the school year stretched out before us?
When you’re preparing to re-enter school mode after the holidays, you might find it helpful to think back to how you prepped for the first day of school in the autumn. You likely
- cleaned and organized,
- prepared a school space,
- assessed your schedule, and
- evaluated your curriculum choices, right?
These are all great ways to make mid-year adjustments, too.
1. Clean to Create (or Restore) an Inviting Space
If your house is anything like mine after Christmas, each room has a sprinkling of
- greetings cards,
- opened gifts, and
- a whole lot of other festive clutter.
Rather than skirting around the mess because you feel like you have to get back to school immediately, take time to restore calm and order first. Organize a first day of school clean-a-thon and make it fun! Pack at-home lunches the night before, perhaps with favorite foods. Type up and print out
- check lists,
- scavenger hunts, or
- cleaning bingo cards
to use during the clean-a-thon. These don't have to be elaborate, just simple enough to provide direction.
You can even set up timed races to see who can put away the highest number of items in the shortest amount of time. My husband's family used to call these tornado clean-ups, and they're surprisingly effective. (Do your kids constantly run to look at the timer, though? Use music instead, and see how far down the cleaning list everyone can get before the playlist stops.)
2. Establish Expectations About Household Chores
Once you see order return to your home as returning as
- the Christmas decorations are packed up,
- all the fallen fir needles are vacuumed (it smells great, doesn’t it?),
- old toys are in the trunk of the car ready for donation to the thrift shop, and
- new gifts are put away,
it’s time to identify the pain points in your routine.
What everyday chore causes you the most stress daily? Is there one catch-all spot on the counter you’re perpetually having to clear? Print out a “Nothing Zone” sign on orange paper, and tape it down, until the habit of dropping items in that spot is broken. Simple changes can often buy back precious minutes, and those add up quickly. In our home, purchasing additional laundry baskets and assigning designations such as
- socks, or
- black t-shirts
eliminated the entire process of sorting laundry. What a time saver!
3. Make Adjustments to Last Year's School Routine
Maybe last semester you followed popular advice to begin with the most difficult subject, but starting off with math put everyone in a grumpy mood. Maybe you love the idea of morning time, but your kids have too much energy to begin the day with Read-Alouds. Now is the time to reassess what worked well and what didn't work as well as you'd hoped. Be honest, and give yourself the freedom to make adjustments.
If a system doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work—no matter how much everyone else raves about it. Start with PE to get the wiggles out, or switch circle time from morning to afternoon. As you get back into a homeschool routine after the holidays, make your routine work for you, not the other way around. Homeschooling is all about individualized education and flexible schedules. Launch into the new year with a fresh slate!
4. Let Go of Things That Aren’t Working
There’s a good case to be made for finishing Read-Alouds you don’t like. But if you’re going back to school in the middle of a book none of you are crazy about, it’s okay to cut your losses on that one, and start the year afresh with a brand-new book. Sometimes dropping a book is exactly what you need. (You can always return to the book when kids are older.)
5. Write Thank You Cards During the School Day
Ease into a full schedule. Pause the handwriting and language arts assignments momentarily, and put a hold on the art projects. During the first week of the new semester, use part of the school day to write thank you cards. Littles can draw pictures or complete simple copywork, while older kids can write spontaneous thank you notes. The recipients of these cards will be so grateful, and you’ll have practiced
- addressing envelopes, and
Don’t forget to mail the cards!
6. Test Out Your New Routine, and Be Encouraged
Look at how much you got done—and all before you even cracked open your big blue binder. Now, with
- Christmas a memory,
- your house restored to order,
- new expectations in place, and
- thank you cards on their way to recipients,
you’re ready to rock your new post-holiday homeschool routine.
And if you find the changes you’ve made still need further adjustments? Heed the wise words of Helen Keller:
“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”