There’s an office-supply company locally that uses a parody of the Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to advertise their back-to-school sales every year. And getting ready for starting your homeschool year can be the most wonderful time of the year! To make sure it’s a great year for you and your kids, here are a few things you can do to start off right.
1. Before you start your homeschool:
Before you start your homeschool year, take a moment to grab a calendar. Things will go a lot smoother this year if you do a little bit of planning, especially if you’re a family that thrives with predictability. So, on your calendar, plan out your school year dates. What day will be the “official first day” of your homeschool year? When is the “last day of school”? And when is your fall vacation break, Christmas break, spring break and any other days off? Mark them all off on your calendar.
Next, gather up all the resources — books, curriculum, paper, pencils, etc — and put them where you can find them. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated homeschool room, but a dresser, shelf or cupboard where all the supplies and resources live, will help immensely. Give your homeschool a home base, so that you can find stuff when you need it.
Finally, it’s time to go shopping. Just because we homeschool doesn’t mean that we can’t take advantage of all those back-to-school sales! There’s just something about freshly sharpened pencils, brand-new glue sticks and crisp, blank notebooks that excites my kids about getting started. So, take the kids and go back-to-school shopping.
2. Get ready:
Now that you have a plan and supplies, it’s time to get ready for school. Start with cleaning out the shelves from last year, if you haven’t already. Get rid of the old worn-out pencil sharpeners, the crinkled and torn papers, and the tiny bits-and-pieces of eraser lying around. Straighten up the books, sweep out the pencil shavings, and tidy up the paints and math manipulatives. Then you can put all those fresh new supplies away, ready for that first day.
Next, do yourself a favour and plan out your first month of meals, at least. Starting a new school year can be busy, because it’s not just our studies that begin again, but all the extra activities do too! So, if you’ve got kids who will be doing swimming lessons, soccer, and Spanish classes this fall, you’ll probably be busy driving on top of everything else. Who has time to figure out what’s for dinner? Plan ahead.
And stock up on snacks for the new school year, as well. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ve been used to raiding the fridge anytime they like over the summer, while fresh fruit and veggies are in ample supply. Keep up the good habits by stocking up on healthy snacks now, so that they (and you) aren’t tempted by more convenience foods later.
Make a note
Speaking of all those extracurricular activities, pull out your calendar again, and note down when those start dates are. Do you need to get new shoes for soccer? Are fees due for Scouting or piano lessons? Make a note to yourself of the extra costs and supplies you need to get. And you’ll also want to check for potential field trips or special events you want to attend with your homeschool community.
Adjust your routines.
And finally, it’s time to start adjusting your routines to accommodate a less casual day. If you’ve slipped into later bedtimes, less frequent baths (because they’ve been out at the splash pad or pool anyway!) and meals have been more “grazing” and less “sit-down”, you may want to start those habits again with your family. If you have a “school year” routine and a “summer” routine, take the time to adjust yourself and the kids from one to the other.
3. “Not Back to School”
In many homeschool support groups and communities, homeschooling families will celebrate with a “Not Back to School” party, potluck or picnic. These are awesome ways to connect with your community and celebrate homeschooling! And because we aren’t sending our kids to school, we have the flexibility to enjoy the last days of summer at parks, playgrounds, splash pads and trails without the same crowds.
Check with your local support group for dates and locations!
4. It’s the First Day of homeschool!
Homeschooling doesn’t mean you can’t do those cute “first day” traditions that public school parents do. Make your first day just as memorable and fun! Maybe you spend the day in pajamas? Or maybe there’s a special “first day” breakfast you make? Grab a fun sign and take pictures with the kids! Create your own special traditions to mark that first day.
5. Keep going.
Maybe your first day isn’t as fun as you hoped. Or maybe those first few weeks are a little rough. Homeschooling is all about the flexibility. So, keep going with your homeschooling, even if your first few days and weeks don’t go according to plan.
There’s no need to rush on getting things done. So, it’s ok to take your time, and let the kids adjust to a new routine. Whether it’s your first year, third year or 18th year of homeschooling, not everything goes well the first time you do something. That’s normal. Take a deep breath, remind yourself why you chose to homeschool, and keep going.
Follow the kids’ lead here. Sometimes it’s not going well because something isn’t working. But sometimes, it’s just a transition issue! It helps if you can stick to a routine as much as possible, and keep the house rules and expectations as clear as you can. When things change, sometimes kids start testing our patience again, just to see where the boundaries are. Stay consistent, and keep going.
Play with them
Take time out for play too! Public schooled kids get recess, and our kids can have much more. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be an all-day thing. So, go outside, break out the board games, or grab the craft supplies and have fun with your kids too. If the day has been hard, maybe a snuggle and a movie will lighten the mood.
Throw it out and start again
If your first days have a few bumps along the way, that’s ok. It should smooth out soon. But what if it doesn’t?
Well… homeschooling is about flexibility! Don’t be afraid to throw it all out, regroup and try again. Reach out to your support group, or favourite blogger, and get encouraged. Keep going!
Sarah Wall is a pro at teaching her older kids and homeschooling teens. She also helps homeschool mamas do the same. After leaving an abusive marriage with 5 young children, launching a successful business, and creating a support community with several hundred members, Sarah believes there’s always a way to achieve your goals. It’s just about finding the right support. So, if you’re contemplating homeschooling teens, or middle schoolers, she believes that you can accomplish it.
Curious about how to start homeschooling in Canada?