The beginning of a new year is always exciting for both the student and the teacher (or parent/teacher). What will we learn this year? What new adventures will we have? What will we create together? One can almost feel the excitement in the air when they enter a classroom the first day – either at home or in a school.
However, the first days and weeks of school also come with some confusion and anxiety. This is also normal. As teachers we ask ourselves, “can I really do this? I have not taught this grade before,” or perhaps, “am I doing enough?”
As teachers/parents we may also have other anxieties. Am I using this curriculum correctly? Am I missing something? What if I don’t teach it the right way? Oh no! I am behind schedule already!
I have felt all of these and more. We all have. Every teacher has. Even experienced teachers feel this at the beginning of each school year in varying degrees. With excitement comes a desire to do our best!
For the students there is also a bit of anxiety. If they are in a school they may be wondering what friends they will make this year, if they will be able to handle the new work, and if they will do better than they did last year. In a home environment they may have some struggles transitioning from a summer schedule to a school schedule or they may feel apprehensive about a new grade or a new curriculum.
In many cases our first inclination is to “fix” this anxiety by filling the space in the day, staying busy, and working full-steam ahead. Or we may think, “If I can just get through all these lessons we will all feel better and more accomplished.”
However, this often creates more anxiety and a feeling of chaos in the classroom.
Rather than striving for accomplishment or perfection in those first few weeks the one most important thing teachers or teacher-parents can do is to ease into the school year.
We are unable to build this into the curriculum itself as everyone is starting at a different time of year. So, instead, we provide ample materials for the student so that no matter which month you choose to use as your “ease” month you can rest assured that the student will still be learning everything they need to for the year. This means that if you do not do all the lessons in planner 1, because you are using it as the “ease” month that is okay. Similar concepts are covered again in other months and you can always go back and use materials you missed when you have extra time.
Note: I always print the weekly schedule for each planner and X out lessons we have done and circle lessons we have not done so I can easily go back later in the year if we find extra time. And we always seem to find extra time! Inevitably, the student will work quickly through something later in the year, leaving us with some empty days to fill.
My recommendation for your “ease” month is to try some of the following:
- Instead of starting the year with lessons start with our “Space Clearing Block” here: https://earthschooling.info/thebearthinstitute/friday-freebie-space-clearing-block/
- Start with just one lesson the first week and when you are comfortable with doing one lesson each day add the second lesson, the third, and so on. Most of the grades have one main lesson or two, a handwork project, and a music lesson each day. Each day also has a snack or bread-making project. Count each of these as “1” and add just one each week or every few days as you are comfortable. And (see above) don’t worry about missing lessons! Just circle them and continue forward.
- Alternate lessons the first weeks. Perhaps do a main lesson on Monday and Tuesday, a handwork project on Wednesday and Thursday and music and cooking/baking on Friday! As you become more and more comfortable you can add more lessons in each day. Once again, don’t worry about missing lessons. We make sure concepts are presented multiple times each year and if you want to you can even circle the lessons you miss and go back to them later (although this is NOT required).
- Remember that you may make mistakes. That is okay. Every new lesson, story, and skill you learn as a teacher will progress within you over time. It is not important that you do wet-on-wet watercolor perfect on day one. What is important is that you start the process of learning with your student and that each time you do it you feel more comfortable. At the beginning you may struggle but then three months later you will look at yourself and say, “whoa! This was easy today!”
- If you ever feel frustrated or see your students feel frustrated during this “ease” month then take some time for a nature walk, a second circle time, a second story, or perhaps some stretching. The most important thing this first month is not academics but is building confidence for both you and the student. You have the entire rest of the year for academics and this aspect will go much more smoothly if you build confidence first.
The most important part of your year will be this “ease” time. For some this may last a week and for some this “ease” time may last a month. However, I guarantee you, I have worked with many families over the past 27 years and they have all felt more comfortable within 2-4 weeks. This rings true for myself as well. No matter what our challenges were – we always seemed to be “flowing” 2-4 weeks into the school year! As long as you use this ‘ease’ method for the beginning of your year your feelings of being overwhelmed will be diminished.