We all know life happens. Good or bad life seems to relish throwing out the best-laid plans. So what to do when life does get off track? Join Janna Koch, BookShark's Community Manager with her guest, Tanya Warpula, an advisor for BookShark, a military wife and mother of 5 who homeschools as they discuss getting back on track.
Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Janna Cook and BookShark's community manager. February can feel like spring or winter, depending on the day and location. Whether winter doldrums or serious complications have derailed your homeschool, let's talk about getting back on track. My guest, Tanya Warpula, an advisor for BookShark knows all about homeschool derailment. As a homeschool mom of five, with three now graduated, she has faced cross-country moves, as well as unexpected extended family demands, and still manages to come out on top. And you can too. This chat was taken from a previous recording created for BookShark Bootcamp. For more information on Bootcamp, please email email@example.com.
Hello, it's your community manager, Janna. Today, I'm going to be bringing in one of Book Shark's Advisors. Her name is Tanya. She's been with Book Shark for several years now. You may have talked to her on the phone if you were looking for advice on which level to use or maybe some advice on just how to get things going with Book Shark. She is a mom of five. She herself has been through quite a year. As a military family they do a lot of moving around and finding new communities, and building new communities. If anyone has been off track because of the life that they live, it is Tanya.
I was going to chat about what you can do if you're feeling like your homeschool has possibly derailed a bit. It's February and depending on when you started your schedule you might be two-thirds of the way through. If you're on a year-round schedule, you might be starting over again in January and you're in the beginnings of it. We want to encourage you to do either with you starting or you're halfway through, wherever you're at in your homeschool journey to keep going. We're going to give you some great tips on how to get back on track if you feel derailed. I'm going to bring Tanya in.
Good morning Tanya. Thanks so much for being here with us.
It's actually afternoon where you're at. Is that correct?
Yes. One o'clock on the East Coast.
On the East Coast. Why don't you start off by introducing yourself if maybe some of our listeners, our viewers have not had a chance to talk to you on the phone or meet you in the booth at the homeschool convention and give a little bit of background of your homeschool experience?
I am Tanya, military wife to Rick who is a surgeon in the Navy. We move every three and a half years. We are parents to five teenagers. They're 19, 19, 18, 16, 14. Three of them just graduated in August, so I'm down to homeschooling two, which is so exciting. At the same time, I'm finding that we have been derailed this year more than in other years because now I'm competing with two college schedules and my other son is in working force now. I felt like this year I would take off time when my college students were home, but then it turns out that's a lot of time off. Getting back, and starting again has been really hard.
I bet. Now, in the years that I've known you, you have done two moves and one of them was just up the coast, but this last one was cross country.
Yeah. Washington to North Carolina. Thankfully we moved our moves to the summer. We used to be January movers, which is not ideal with snow and everything. Now, we're summer movers and that's been great. This move was probably the hardest of all because we had four different moves in one. We had two college students moving out, so we had to separate their stuff. Than one moving off on his own. Then our stuff. It was super complicated and it took a very long time.
I cannot even imagine. I give you kudos for being the brave woman that you are. In the midst of all of this, you're still homeschooling two children. What has that done? Not only going from five to two this year, I know going from three to one really in itself derailed me, because I was so used to getting us all together and everyone being together. Now, I've got two off doing their own things, having their different schedules that I feel like when I'm down to one I get lost. I thought it would be easier, but it's actually a little bit harder.
Yeah, I think it is a little harder, because, as you said, we used to all start at one time. Now, that three are out of the home, I still potentially could do that. Like I said, now with the college schedule it's a little more tricky because I want them to see their siblings when they're home. The two in college have different schedules from each other. The spring breaks are different. The Christmas break was slightly different, so then my younger kids ended up taking off for over a month. It makes it way harder having to split like that.
It doesn't... You don't even... It's one of those things you don't realize until you're in it that, "Oh my gosh. Okay. Now, we have to stop, reassess, and figure out." The same thing with my younger who's still homeschooling when her siblings are off it's like, "Why..." She doesn't want to do school when her sisters are home and having fun. As a homeschool parent, I'm a little type A, I hate to admit it, but I am.
I like to say I'm an A, B. I ride in the middle of those two personalities. I want to be chill and sure we're homeschoolers we can catch up, but then I start to sweat because I'm seeing the weeks tick away and "Oh my gosh, we're only in weeks 13..."
"...and it's January."
Yes. This is my situation exactly. Right now, I feel like we've been in weeks 16 for 16 weeks. I'm in that exact situation. I really, I'm like, "Why is this one week taking us so long?" Yeah, you have to start... This week alone I started a reset. We're starting over pretending like we're fresh and we've started week 16 again for the last time this week on Monday.
Yeah, fingers crossed.
This is the last day of week 16.
I think it's a testimony to what homeschooling really is all about.
If we go back to, we've said it over and over our why. Why we choose to homeschool. We all have our different reasons, but if your why is lining up with the derailment it's to be together as a family, it's to be able to vacation our holiday together. Then we have to just take a deep breath and know that we can get back on track. We can reset it whenever we want. What does that reset, how did that look for you and your family this week?
I set expectations over the weekend and said we will be starting school on Monday. Now, we've been doing school the whole time, but it's been very light. It's been math, and a little bit of reading. It hasn't been the rigorous schedule that we typically keep. On Sunday night, I felt like it was super important to clean out the homeschool area as if I was starting in the fall and get out all my supplies for the week, all the books that were to be read that week. I gave them an expectation at dinnertime on Sunday night, we'll be waking up at this time we'll be starting, and this is what's expected of you. We did that. We started Monday and here it is Wednesday and we've completed day three, week 16. I think we're ahead on some of our books, so I feel really good about that.
It is amazing that if we just stop and go back to the beginning, we have recently released the BootCamp accelerated, so people can re-watch those first nine weeks of how to get into Book Shark and how to use your curriculum. It's okay to start over. It's okay to start again. You don't have to feel like you're a failure. This is your schedule, your plan for your family, and although your curriculum will have a set time you can use it however you want. I think part of my problem is that I get bogged down with my unmet expectations.
The last six years in February, we have already been to almost week 20 knowing that we have four more months of school left. This year it's gotten away from me. Sometimes I feel like that pressure almost paralyzes me. Then I don't end up doing anything or very little and then I'm in a vicious cycle.
Well, I have to remind myself that every year looks different. One year we started, I don't remember why, but we finished a curriculum a level in March and then I was able to start the next year. We did March to June and then I picked up in August. Then I was done again by March. I loved that. Well, this year I didn't do it that way. It's freaking me out a little, but I have to remember it doesn't matter. I'm going to finish when I finish. It is what it is. They're still getting more than, I guess if they were in public school as far as history and math. We're still following our curriculum. We're sometimes a little lagging on our math or our reading, but we're going to get back on track.
Absolutely. I think, getting back on track is going ahead and doing one thing, like you said, in the week that you were in. Instead of freaking out and saying, "We're behind now we have to do three days in one day." Right?
That's how I tend to be also okay to get back on track we have to catch up and that can totally derail you in a week or two if you even get that far. Right?
Yeah. They're really not taking in as much information and as you all know with Book Shark, it is very hard to double up in your reading. We read everything aloud together and we're doing Level I for our ninth-grade level. Actually, I have a 10th and an 8th grader, but I'm doing Level I in our American history. There's a lot of reading involved and we do it altogether out loud. You can't double up, not in my house. I would go on too long. For them to retain the information, enjoy the information, and enjoy the subject matter I don't want to double up. I think it's a matter of using that fifth day wisely. Sometimes, I use it to get a little bit ahead, so if we have a slower week it balances it out.
Now, in our household science, we do feel like we can double up if necessary. Right?
Someone had actually posed a question to our advisors last week, could I do science two days a week instead of four days a week?
Well, I feel like yeah, you certainly could. The caveat, if you're doing Level J, the history of science might not work out as well.
But, if we're talking about our lower levels up to I and J...
...you certainly could do two days a week of science and they could be fun.
Yeah. We do that. We do two and sometimes three days a week of science because sometimes I'll do the two weeks of Book Shark and then I'll go on to Teachers Pay Teachers and get some free add-ons. Right now, we're in the midst of the chemistry lesson. I had done Levels A, B, C, G, and H. It's Science H, so I did the biology portion last year and this year I've broken up the chemistry, and physics together. I'll do some add-ins like we're doing the periodic table. I'll go on there and get some free worksheets and add that in on my third day to supplement a little bit and for better understanding, honestly. I don't know that it always goes in. My younger student isn't always... Doesn't have the full understanding, she's not in high school yet. That's what I've done for the third day of science, but definitely pair up on the science. I'm also able to do that sometimes with the language arts do three days of the language arts.
Too you have to gauge where your child is at.
If we have some parents who call in and they'll say, "Oh my gosh. We read through a whole book in a week." Well, that's great if your child wants you to keep going you get to decide. "Well, no. We need to stop and we need to do other things. Although, whenever my kids wanted me to keep going I knew it wouldn't last, so I was just going to keep going with them. "If you want to keep going we're going to keep going."
Because they were having fun. I think another thing that happens as a homeschool mom is when we feel behind we start to put that pressure on our kids and then they stop having fun in learning. What is the point if they're not interested in engaging in and enjoying it? That is one of the reasons that we're at home educating our children.
Then you can add those activities. I think the other thing is we want to start taking the fun out of it so that we can catch up with the have-to. That is a temptation that I would encourage parents, don't take away the field trips. Even though you feel you're going to get further behind it is part of the learning and the experience that you want to bring to them in this homeschool education.
Ironically, let's be honest, that's what they remember, the hands-on, and activities, the field trips, and those things. It is important. Yeah.
To give parents permission to get comfortable with switching some things out. If you feel like they already know what you're talking about then speed it up, and skip over it. It's okay. Especially, history gets repeated over and over again. You could watch a 15-minute documentary and knock out a couple of chapters. Now, they may not be the exact same things that your curriculum is covering, but it's the gist of it. Right? It's funny that it's we need to give ourselves permission to get creative, have fun, and not feel like it's this deadline that we have to meet, and we're not going to get our paycheck if we don't do it.
It's funny that you say that about history repeating because today we're doing Level I and we took it outside today, because it's in the seventies. We were reading a Boy's War and it's based on the Civil War. It's talking about all these boys that are underage that joined the Civil War. We are reading about one particular character and as I was reading it, my eighth grader mentioned "We learned about him and Level D." I thought, "Man Level D was a long time ago. I didn't even remember that," but she did. I love that it ties altogether.
That was exciting for me, because I was like, "Oh really?" Apparently, we drew that character. I don't remember. I'm telling you that was at least... I don't know, seven years ago. Six years ago. Yeah.
Yeah. It's funny what gets embedded in our brains and then it's funny what actually brings it back out. We have no idea. I don't remember what I learned in third-grade social studies in a public school. It's not something that I've carried with me, so I try not to get stressed out about what my kids are picking up. We're teaching the love of learning and that is the goal. Not so much the information. Sure we need to add and subtract and be able to recognize a noun and a verb, but it's that stuff that is it's going to come it's going to get repeated.
I feel, like part of getting back on track after this derailment is breathing and remembering that it's not always about checking off the box so much as it is enjoying learning alongside your kids.
Yes. I have been guilty of being a box checker because I am a type A person. This is my first year really feeling more derailed than others probably, because of our move, three kids moving out, and a lot of family stuff going on. It's been hard, but I've also had to let go of type A and embrace where we're at. If we're on week 16 in February who cares?
It's true. I think, as... Grant it, you and I are youngest are eighth graders, so 13, 14. I feel, the more I am letting go of checking all the boxes she's actually stepping up and there'll be days where all of a sudden because we're doing virtually I'll get notifications that she's really gotten through some work. I'm like, "Wow, she's just really getting it done today." I think if I'm like, "Why are we still here? Why aren't you getting that done? I need to make a list for you." I think that would paralyze her just like it would me. I think we forget that our children feed off of our energy and they're little humans too. If we're feeling stressed don't you think they can feel it too? That's going to shut them down...
...and they're going to take twice as long.
Yeah. Which is the opposite of what we want or need or need.
It's like when you're trying to get out the door and nobody can find their shoes and you don't know where the dog's at.
Maybe permission, like we've said, to take a breath, to relax, to know that you're going to get through it. You don't have to get through it all. You're the one that sets your timeline. What are some other things that you guys do in your family to not even get back, let's not even say on schedule, but back in the groove of things?
Well, I tried to make it more interesting on the nicer days. Take our reading outside. We sat around the fire pit. We didn't light the fire pit, but it was nice to just take a book outside the dogs were romping around and we just listened outside while I read out loud. I feel making slight, little, tiny changes gives them a boost. I remember when I went to public school and I remember when the teacher would even rearrange the room it would be so exciting. It was very rare that that happened, but I think little, tiny changes, changing the room you're in.
I always try to shift. We start in the living room for our readings and then we move to the table for science. Then they move to the computer desk for their math lessons. I think, the tiny changes, so they're not always in a seat. I have one with ADHD, so sitting in a seat the whole time is very boring and tedious. I think changing it up. I offered today to even sit on the trampoline. We could all sit on the trampoline and read our books. Little, slight changes. I think that helps.
I know that... It's funny we forget those little changes mean so much to us...
...why do we not think that they're going to mean so much to our kids. If you usually work Monday through Thursday and have Friday off, well, what if you switched up and the next week you took Monday off and worked Tuesday through Friday? Little, as you said, switches help our brains get excited again about the things that we're doing. It's for humans, not adults, not children. It's like for everybody.
Yeah. Or even some people like to start off with a walk, walking the dogs. I do best if we start off with all of our reading and then halfway through we might take the dogs for a walk, something like that. Being out in nature is so helpful. If you live in a climate... We came from Washington state where it rained 24/7, so we're so excited about the weather here. We're trying to take advantage of that. I think, that that helps. Getting your kids out in nature and the fresh air it really makes a difference.
I will even say, being in Colorado, we've had some really cold days. I grew up in the Midwest, so I was used to going out in the cold during the winters, so I don't know why I'm surprised that I'm like, "Oh, it's cold. I don't want to go out." The other day I was looking for my daughter, and even though it was chilly out it was sunny, and she was sitting outside in the sun reading. I was like, "Oh, well that makes perfect sense. We all need some sunshine."
It's February, we're really itching for the spring. No matter where you're at in the United States you've gotten... That's why we need a change of season and we need a change of scenery as we're doing our homeschooling. Moms, parents, and children.
Besides, oh, you had mentioned a great one. You said to bring back Sunday planning. That obviously was huge for you guys this week, which is a great reminder.
Make those little changes. Change the scenery, change of pace, how you're doing it. Do you guys plan regular outings or does that happen because of your schedule that you keep?
Not necessarily, because of course, we're new to an area, so we haven't met very many people. But, there is something on the schedule. I've joined a lot of Facebook groups for homeschoolers in the area. I try to jump in when I can. There's one... It's a little harder when you have older kids because they're not as interested in some of the activities. There is one at a trampoline park and my son is a big flipper. He is really good at back flipping, so I am going to join that and it's a bunch of teen homeschoolers. I'll add in things like that, but we're not consistent on a weekly basis of doing that. I feel... Well, number one, my kids are older, so there are not that many things out there for teens. This is what I'm finding in this area. Number two, what does derail me a little bit is if I have to commit to something plus our homeschooling.
I try to make it special.
I feel like winter is a good time to use your shorter days.
Not a lot going on to hunker down and maybe not take the fifth day off and go ahead and work through it. You know once the weather changes there are going to be so many opportunities to do things and you want to set yourself up for success at the end of the year, as well.
Right. Yeah. Or spring break when the kids come home from college. I feel bad about making these ones work when I've got the other ones home that want to go out and do things.
It's we don't want to be planners, but we have to be planners.
It's very conflicting, Tanya. One day at a time. For sure. One day at a time.
Well, I appreciate you coming on and giving us some really practical boots-on-the-ground tips on how to get back on track. So happy to hear that you guys have had a successful week 16.
We hope that you guys were encouraged by listening to this. Again, Tanya is one of our advisors. If you do have some questions for her you can definitely contact firstname.lastname@example.org through email, you can call our TOLLFREE number, or go on the website to look for that. Thank you so much. Bye-Bye.