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An Extreme Home(School) Makeover

Posted By Jessica Fisher On January 16, 2012 @ 1:54 am In Homeschooling,Learning | 51 Comments

Homeschooling can be the hardest and best of teaching jobs. But, mid-year we often need a little boost and perhaps even an Extreme Home(School) Makeover.

Twenty years ago, I set myself on a course to be a teacher. I was 19 and really wanted my life planned out. {chuckles} Little did I know back then….

Since my parents were teachers, it was definitely something I knew well. The teacher culture is unique just as is the policeman culture or that of the fireman. There’s verbiage and customs that ring true all across teacherdom. So choosing to be a teacher felt very natural.

Four years later I had a Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a teaching credential. Despite slim pickings in the local job market, I had also secured a teaching position two days AFTER the school year started. That first year I taught two different courses: American Literature and Beginning French. The year after that I had five preps (meaning five different classes to plan, teach and grade), more than one troubled student, several pairs of illogical parents to deal with, and a very stressful day.

Once I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait for our first baby to be born so I could “retire.”

Ha! Little did I know then that God would set us on a path, even during that last teaching year, to teach our children at home. By the time my newborn was in my arms, I was of the mindset that I would be his teacher.

And I have been. And it’s been the best teaching job I ever took.

It’s also becoming the hardest. For those of you who read my Getting Started in Homeschooling [4] series last summer, you’ll know that this year I’m teaching five of our children at home while keeping the sixth one happy and out of trouble. Definitely a new pitch to my learning curve.

Almost halfway through our year, I’m dragging. This is hard! And I’m not doing it well! Ugh!

Yes, I know it could be just the winter blues, but I live in CA! Bad weather is not my excuse. My zest — and theirs — is missing. A friend mentioned that everyone struggles mid-year. That is good to know!

But, I don’t want to limp along the next 4 to 5 months. I want to reclaim my love for teaching and learning. And I want my kids to be able to welcome each new school day with fewer whines, groans, and complaints.

So, I’m embarking on a new project in these last two weeks of the semester:

An Extreme Home(School) Makeover

Yes, really. I’m going to live a better story [5] with our school. Or at least try my darndest. After all, today is a new day [6].

I’ve only seen that Home Makeover show a few times. The Keeper of the Remote (also a carpenter) always rolls his eyes and moves on. But, I’ve seen it enough to identify these steps.

Even if you don’t homeschool, maybe you’ll be able to apply them to your current challenge.

1. Acknowledge that something isn’t quite right.

For me, I know that we’re not energetic or efficient. So, I ask myself: Why are we doing this again? What needs fixing? Redesigning? Refurbishing?

2. Gut the place.

While I’m not going to ditch everything, hubs did encourage me to entertain all opinions and options. I will confess to being biased in a certain direction, but I am trying to have an open mind in terms of teaching approaches. There are some structures I know I’m keeping in place and others that I’d be okay with tearing out.

Having survived more than one physical home remodel, I know that living with “the bare bones” for awhile is a good way to get perspective.

3. Seek outside opinions.

I emailed my list of homeschooling mamas I admire and respect, who also happen to be flung all over the map. As answers come trickling in, I’m learning that I am not alone. This is a hard job, but it’s nice to know there are others working to make it be one of the best. I’m determined to push through and learn from the challenges.

In addition to reading their emails, I ordered some books and have scheduled some reading time next week to do more research. I’m also visiting homeschooling sites and forums for more inspiration and to gain perspective.

4. Design.

This is the fun part. And I’m eager to start afresh somewhat. Find new books. Explore new field trips. Add some pizzazz to our days.

5. Be willing to call in subcontractors.

Last semester was the first time that we ever outsourced some subjects. And they were/are great experiences. We love the online Latin class as well as the local science lab class we enrolled in. I’m trying to keep my eyes and ears open for other opportunities for outsourcing.

6. See it through to completion.

This is the hard part. In the immortal words of Calvin [7], “The days are just packed!” But, I am dedicated to giving my kids a fun and enriching learning experience at home. I think we’ve seen success in years passed. This year just takes a little more tweaking than others.

Obviously, this is a work in progress. I don’t have any real answers or tricks, but I’m very excited about this little “remodeling” project. I have no idea where it will end up. But, I don’t want to wait for things to change. That was just plain depressing….

How do YOU reenergize how you spend your days?

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