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Children in lower income families who homeschool outperform public education. Even families making a combined household income of less than $35,000 per year outperformed public education by 35% in standardized test scores.

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Putting January Panic in the Past

Every homeschooler knows the feeling. It's January. It's cold. It's time to get back to school after weeks of festivities. You get the books back out, and then it happens. Your children look at you as blankly as wrongly accused suspects in a crime. Math? Punctuation? Spanish? Have they ever heard of such things before? A rising sense of fear starts to creep into your consciousness. Haven't we accomplished anything this year? Should I get different curriculum? We only have five months left of school. What about the testing coming up? Before you know it, your reasonable back to work schedule has turned into a siege. Panic has replaced peace, and you are determined to whip these blank responses into the rapid fire answers found on a college bowl team. Your journey towards the love of learning has just taken a detour onto the factual fast track, a place where only results count.

If you can relate to this scenario, then join the club. Anyone who has homeschooled for any length of time has experienced January panic. The key to surviving it is to walk in the three E's - expect, express and expand.

Expect your children to be a little rusty. While they come down from their treat-induced sugar high and reorient their bodies to a schedule that includes the ability to think in the morning, gradually reintroduce the elements of your schooling life. If you mercifully bring school back into their lives, they will be much more likely to respond with some signs of recognition. Start with a half-day or two before you get back into the full swing of things. Pretend you are preparing for jeopardy and review the smallest bits of knowledge until you see a glimmer of familiarity on their faces. Everyone will thank you.

Express faith in your children, and in your teaching. Faith is literally the opposite of fear, so fight the battle in the right arena. You know you have made progress this year so just remember what has been done, and remind the children and yourself what it was. Instead of the usual laments like, "Why don't you remember this? You've done it a thousand times!" try a more positive approach. "Can anyone help mommy remember how to do this? I know we've done this before..." Take some time to recap the successes of the fall, and go back to work in the glow of past victories rather than in the harsh light of all that's yet to be done.

Expand on this beginning of gradual return to routine. Once you have your children (and yourself) back on the same page you can move ahead full steam. It is better to start with a simple, peaceful reintroduction of school, then to start with an intense, boot-camp approach to life. Leaving the joys of the holidays behind is a lot like packing up the ornaments - necessary, but not nearly as much fun as getting them out. So start small and work up to full speed.

Taking time to review concepts and revive your children's ability to comply with your schedule will pay big dividends. Make the transition back to school one that's grace-filled and you will find your outlook brighter and your children's struggles more manageable. After all, what better way is there to go back to school than with a cup of hot chocolate and a hug on a cold morning? The memories you make will be ones you won't mind keeping and the panic of January will quickly become a thing of the past.

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