- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Out with the old. In with the new. The beginning of a new year always seems to bring with it a time to reflect on the past and an opportunity to make a new start for the future. I probably have made hundreds of self-improvement New Year's resolutions. But what about home-schooling resolutions?
Although we have been able to maintain a relatively regular school schedule over the past year, I have let activities inside and outside our home take precedence over home-schooling. This was not done consciously; it happened gradually, and now the Huber Home-school needs to be revamped.
This year, my No. 1 resolution is to make what I hope are some lasting changes in our home-school program. Even after 18 years of home-schooling, we have room for improvement.
The first key to making changes in our lives is to modify our environment. One way to modify our environment is to add motivating reminders, something that encourages us to keep working toward our goal.
I have begun to listen to home-school teaching tapes from past state home-school conventions. As I listen, some speakers help me look back at why our family chose home-schooling in the first place, and they motivate me to keep going even if the waters get rough. Other tapes share insights and ideas that can help me be a better home-school parent and teacher.
Even simply posting notes around the house with encouraging quotes or Scripture can help keep us motivated.
Another way to modify our environment is to remove distractions, those things that draw us or our children away from the changes we want to make.
Lately, the biggest distractions for my two home-schooled sons have been the television and the computer. In and of themselves, these wonders of technology can bring great benefits to a home-schooling program. In the hands of a poorly monitored child, however, they can rob us of precious home-schooling hours.
The solution? No television or computer time? Maybe in extreme cases, but a good start may be limiting television viewing or computer games to after-school hours. We even have taped shows with educational value and watched them in the evening.
My biggest distraction? Leaving the house. If I leave home for whatever reason, my errands will take twice as long as I think, and when I return home, we will get only half our scheduled schoolwork done. The answer? I'm trying to go out just once a week. This means I need to plan my outings more effectively and strive to accomplish as much as I can in the least amount of time.
The second key to making changes in our lives is to monitor our behavior. There is something about checking off a "to do" list. Adults and children can have an immediate sense of accomplishment as home-school or household duties are checked off. My sons and I are keeping daily planners. When we are finished with a lesson or duty, we check it off. You can make picture or sticker charts for young or non-reading family members.
The third key is to make a commitment to change and, preferably, make that commitment to another person. In other words, be accountable. This person may be your spouse, friend or fellow home-school parent. Let that person know the areas in which you are struggling and your plan of action so he or she can know how to help or encourage you in your endeavor.
The fourth key to personal change is to maximize your momentum. Celebrate your successes. Change doesn't happen overnight, and celebrating even small accomplishments along the way can help you continue working toward your goal.
Finally, don't quit when you fail. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There will be days when it looks like change will never happen. Don't give up. I once heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 21 days to break it. Regardless of whether this is true, change takes time, and with a little perseverance and determination, you will reap the rewards of your efforts.
Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 17 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail ([email protected]).

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