Fighting Educational Doldrums
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Fighting Educational Doldrums
There are times during the year when students are very excited about learning.  One of those times is when school starts in the fall.  Even parents seem to feel the excitement of a new school year and the bright, shiny, new school supplies.  By this time in the school year it is possible that students are less excited about school and this happens not just for public or private school but for homeschooling as well.
While there are many ways to overcome the educational doldrums of this time of year for homeschoolers, there are three worth particular mention.  While these may work in traditional education, it is important to note that homeschool has flexibility in some areas where traditional school might not.
Special Projects
After school has been in progress for a couple of months students often feel like it is just an endless series of studying, and chapter tests.  One way to break that cycle is to allow the student the opportunity to complete a special project.  Many subjects lend themselves to independent study and research.  And don’t think that it only has to encompass one subject.  These special projects can also be adapted to the age, abilities, and interests of your student. It is an opportunity to go beyond the standard homeschool curriculum. Here is an example for a high school student.

Suppose the student picked the Renaissance Period.  While it is easy to see that this might be a history project, consider that that period was rich not only in history, but art, literature, and music.  It was an important time for textiles, important time for science, and a challenging time for religion.  By choosing a time period that is so rich it is possible for the student to touch on many subjects as they relate to the main subject of the Renaissance.  If the student’s interest lies particularly in music or art, allow them to direct their research to those subjects.  The final project can include reports, art work, and perhaps a presentation as the student teaches and presents what he or she learned.
Allowing the student to direct his/her own education for a short period of time allows them to feel control, and lets them branch out from the week in and week out occurrences of worksheets, questions, and chapter tests.
Varying Schedules
While many student, especially young ones, benefit from a regular schedule, homeschooled students have the opportunity to have a schedule that fits their individual needs.  As students enter high school they often find that their biological clocks seem to shift.  It is more difficult for them to concentrate early in the morning, and harder for them to go to bed at night.  As parents we tend to want them up early and to school pretty quickly thereafter.  Fortunately, the schedule that homeschooled students need can be accommodated fairly easily.

One of the benefits of a flexible schedule for homeschoolers becomes very apparent for students who have a particular interest.  Consider a student who is very interested in science.  That student is not necessarily going to be ready to move on to another subject after an hour or so.   One student had a great interest in science and did all of her other subjects the first two days of the week to get them out of the way.  She then concentrated her studies in science to the last three days of the week.  By doing that she was not interrupted in the middle of a project or experiment, and it allowed her to get deeper into the subject than if she had only an hour at a time.
Another student had an interest in becoming a veterinarian.  Each morning she spent doing her coursework, and each afternoon she went and “shadowed” the local veterinarian.  Not only was it great experience for her, but it gave her a depth of understanding that could never come from just book learning.  Having the ability to vary the schedule students to specialize and work past the boredom that might come with a more regimented schedule.
Year-Round Homeschooling
Another way to avoid the educational doldrums of late fall is to homeschool year-round.  You might think that homeschooling year-round might make your child be bored more often.  The reality is that by homeschooling year-round you student is not required to take breaks when everyone else does.  Fall semesters usually have a Thanksgiving break of approximately a week, and then about three weeks later there is the Winter/Christmas break which lasts about two weeks.  The problem with this is that students sometimes need a break earlier than Thanksgiving week.
By going all year long homeschooled students have enough days in a school year  to take short breaks when they need to instead of when other people think they need to.  Sometimes that means taking a three or four day weekend.  Sometimes that means taking a whole week.  At our home we call these short breaks “mental health” days.  They allow us to unwind after particularly difficult chapters, or if we just need an opportunity to collect and regroup.
Amazingly, one of the best ways to fight the educational doldrums is to allow the schoolwork to be geared to the student’s needs instead of trying to mold every student to the same schedule.  Whether that is by allowing the students to control some of the subject matter, or allowing them to choose to do coursework in their own schedule, or by allowing a longer school year so that you are not working from break to break, but making breaks where your student needs them.