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End of the Year Draws Near - Issue 227
November 25, 2011
Hi there! ....



This week seems much like any other week- it was busy, we achieved some things, and some things didn’t happen. We struggle with sickness still hanging around. Fairly ordinary! And yet when I sit back and take a deep breath I start to think of some heart stuff we have been addressing. I remember noticing that someone went to argue and stopped themselves. I remember someone putting aside a hobby to focus on their study. I remember the kitchen being extra clean as the kids work on virtue: consistently doing the right thing. I remember crying with a friend and pausing to visit with another friend. These little moments, that are a part of everyday life and yet easy to overlook. It is these things though that makes for a good week – not a to-do list ticked off. Do you pause and acknowledge heart change? Regardless of how small?

Live life with your kids!

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End of Year Draws Near

Not only is it very close to Christmas (something like 30 days) it is also coming very close to the end of the school year (for us here in Australia anyway). How do you wrap up your year?

I have mixed emotions about the end of the year. On the one hand it represents the end of a season alluding to a fresh start; it also signifies the children’s progress and opportunity to move on. But then on the other hand if the children aren’t finished their work, or aren’t ready for a jump in academic work it just puts pressure on me to conform to a system that we have stepped aside from. Changing things at the end of the year simply because it is the end of a year (or the beginning of a new one) simply doesn’t make sense for a family orientated, discipleship focused, identity directed homeschool.

For this reason we look at the end of the year slightly differently:

  • We tidy up our desks and make sure we do file away anything that is finished with though we tend to do this a few times a year, as we change seasons of focus. End of the year does indicate a change in season for our family as we have more family time, sometimes take a holiday and work on family projects. The family room tables are used more for creative projects than study so a clean-up makes sense.
  • I reassess our goals and purposes. Because we take time off from study, it does give me a good amount of time to assess things and look at what we are doing a little deeper. This is a family assessment not a homeschool assessment – I look at lifestyle more than curriculum.
  • Routines and curriculum generally remain the same in the new year, unless something wasn’t working.
  • We don’t buy new books/folders in preparation or the new year – the children file their work in binders that represent their life’s work, not their year by year work. We buy a new binder when it is full or if they find themselves with a new focus (which doesn’t automatically happen at the end/beginning of a year)
  • Our children don’t graduate – since we don’t use grade levels it is hard to graduate from one level to the next!! Throughout the year we recognise good effort and achievements. We do make a point of telling our children what grade they are in so they can communicate this to people who care. (They don’t like looking silly when they don’t know what grade they are in but it has no application to our day to day life).

To be on top of the learning opportunities I want for my kids I need to make changes whenever I see things not working – not wait for the end of the year. I need to praise and commend my children when they do well, I need to continually give them challenging work so they are stretched and learning new things all the time, regardless of when in the year they make academic progress.

The Education Department has set up a school year, in order to help teachers, students and parents bring order and direction into their year. This same system though does not have to be what dictates our order and direction. Over the years I have seen a repeat pattern in our family life that I now call ‘seasons’. Knowing the seasons of our family life has helped me keep each and every month balanced with purpose and flexibility, taking in the opportunities that our lifestyle offers. Each season brings its different focus (activities and purpose), along with a tweak to our routines.

  • December – January – February are the months for family. Peter and I generally take time to review our year and look at the coming year in terms of our goals and ideals. I prepare for the next season – which is a study block – so I prepare lessons and make sure we are ready to go. I try and achieve one personal project and help the children remain focused and productive even though we have a much looser routine. But the primary focus of this season is family time so we either go away for a holiday or try and enjoy the place where we live as a family. We may do some study during this time but it is not a primary objective.
  • March – April – May – are generally our productive academic months.
  • June – July are set aside for creative projects, camping, community activity and study if we have time. This is a good time to deep clean the house. I also take time to prepare for the next season which is another focused study block.
  • August – September – October – we tend to be able to focus well on our studies again. Somewhere in here we take time to pick and process mangoes.
  • November – this is a hard month where we just do whatever we can do. By hard I mean the weather is yuk and we deal with end of year emotional exhaustion. We just need to be kind to ourselves! Sometimes we study, sometimes we focus on creative projects as we make Christmas presents. This year we’ve focused on doing little bits and pieces that need doing.

I have found this pattern to our year makes more room for family living, discipleship and individual focus for each child’s needs than a strict school year calendar does. Once I recognised these seasons and how they repeated themselves each year, I was able to accept the opportunities that our lifestyle offered us. I stopped pushing my kids to study when life was so ridiculously busy with community projects. I recognised the learning opportunities in preparing for Christmas: making gifts, baking, and serving and stopped trying to squeeze in math, science and history at the same time. Recognising seasons has been one of the biggest tools in helping me balance life and lessons.

As this year comes to a close can I encourage you to reflect on your year, and to begin to recognise the seasons that flow in your family life. It will look different to mine. It will look different even for another family who lives in Kununurra. Our family seasons need to reflect our family. They need to reflect:

  • The activities that happen year in and year out either in your family or in your community
  • The emotional wear and tear on your family
  • The opportunities that the gifts and talents of different family members bring to your family
  • The opportunities that any ministry you are involved with brings to your family
  • How you work around your husband’s work schedule
  • Your academic goals and expectations
  • Family memories and traditions you want to uphold
  • And anything else you think of that affects what you manage to realistically do in a year.

I believe as you give yourself permission to work with these seasons, you will find your year so much more productive and far less striving. Our family life is a vehicle to teach and train our children; in it you will find so many opportunities to help your children grow in the spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical, and emotional areas as well as many lifeskills.

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1


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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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