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Your January Checklist: Planning for the Second Half of the School Year

Written by Lora Thompson

We find January to be a good time to reflect back on the first half of the school year and look for any areas that may need adjustment or improvement. The start of the New Year can be a fresh start again, like the beginning of the year. We use this month to buckle down and put in the hours while it is cold and the daylight short. We always seek to maximize the time and effort we put forth in January and February to benefit from the better weather when we get to April and May. When adding a family trip or two in these months to break up the long days and weeks, we plan ahead and double up on our work (using the week before and/or after) to complete a full day’s work so we are able to take the whole day off and still stay on track. We do this for any days my husband has off (like Martin Luther King Day). The key is to plan ahead and complete the work. We also count an extra day in that week if we have completed all the work and spend a full day on an educational trip.

This is also a point to begin any new curriculum you may have purchased but haven’t incorporated yet—new spelling, literature guides, writing program, etc. Now is the time to begin these new things. At some point this month we should all be hitting the halfway point in our school year.

Take the time to look ahead now—count the days and lessons (if you haven’t planned the whole year). Check to see where you are in each subject area. Especially note the number of math lessons. January is a better time to double up on lessons if necessary to get back on track. You do not want to get to May and have fifty lessons left in any subject area.

If you are like us, the little details tend to get lost in the shuffle, especially as the anticipation of the holiday season was upon us. Now is the time to tighten back up or stiffen up your standards on things like handwriting, spelling, grammar and punctuation. These are areas we tend to let slide when we get busy. Here you should involve your children in planning, ask for their input, but of course you make the final decisions. You may find it helpful to post these reminders on their desks or in your school area.

It is also a good time to begin requiring all cursive handwriting for your children in transition, if you haven’t done that already. Require better self-editing skills and the final drafts of their writing; don’t accept rough copies of their work. It is important to instill these good work habits now and push them toward more independent efforts and ownership of their work. As we progress through the year, a main goal of focus in raising and educating godly children is to work toward this end.

Dig out previous Bible and history songs from the last couple of years to add to your review and memory work. At our home, we use the songs as a transition after lunch. The older children are responsible to put the CD’s in and keep it moving. It allows me to finish cleaning up lunch and gives our children a chance to unwind from the morning before concluding the rest of the days’ work. We include the younger children here—our two-year-old requests to do” her songs” before taking a nap.

You can also incorporate a fun exercise video or a brisk walk during the day to help with your New Year’s resolutions for diet and exercise and break up the long winter days.

Take a look at your schedule and find weak spots. Look for areas where you may be inconsistent. What are you leaving to the end of the day? What is not consistently getting completed? It may be time to do that subject first for a while to ensure that area is getting better or more appropriate attention.

As you are cleaning up from Christmas and putting away new things, organize your school area and take inventory of supplies. Look ahead at materials needed for projects and plan ahead and purchase so you are prepared if the weather gets bad.

Use the long winter afternoons to tackle literature guides and the longer Bible and history projects you have put aside. These are great areas to get Dad involved.

Most of all, enjoy this God-given opportunity to teach your children; it is such a blessing. Enjoy the rest of your school year. It really does go fast. Praise God for his goodness and faithfulness as we strive to make a difference in the lives of our children and culture.