Thoughts On Planning Your Homeschool Year

Planning Your Homeschool YearAnd so it begins again, time to plan our 2015 – 2016 homeschool year. One of my very best friends, who also homeschools, called me the other day and asked if I had a plan. I LOVE her to death and think everyone needs a homeschool friend like her who you can get real with – anyway, we both agreed not to have the “planning” conversation again until at least the beginning of August. I told her, at the time, I was planning on Unschooling or taking a “Gap” Year – can one even do that with an 8th, 7th, and 5th grader? Just kidding … I have not gone completely off the deep end but, sometimes the thought of planning another school year can get me a little crazy. I have gleaned so much knowledge in my last 9 years of doing this … So, if you are just starting out as a homeschooler or dreading planning out your own year – please read on.

First, I will tell you we have done it all … or, at least it feels like we have. Everything from “out-of-the-box” traditional Christian curriculum, like Abeka, all the way to a Charlotte Mason eclectic mix. We have done Classical Conversations and outside classes at a local hybrid school.

What have I learned … they are all great! Each one of the programs/curriculum’s we have participated in were amazing. Now, don’t get me wrong none of them were perfect and you can always find something you wish might work better or be taught differently.

So, as you begin to plan your year and as I plan mine keep this mind – there really are not too many “wrong” choices out there. Do not compare your children and your homeschool to what everyone else is doing around you. Now, that’s not to say that you don’t ask for some suggestions or recommendations but, remember, everyone has an opinion and you must decide for yourself what will work.

We have the blessing of being a part of a large homeschool group (we have for many years). If I surveyed those families – out of 100, I would probably find 85 of them doing something different. Even those families who might be in an on-campus program one or two days a week, their days at home probably look different then their friends. Do what works for you!

Second, those cute “homeschool rooms” may be great when your kids are really little (think early elementary) but, trying to replicate a school room is really not necessary. Remember, you homeschool for a reason. If you wanted your child in a traditional public school classroom they would be there. I drove myself crazy setting up our rooms just perfectly for many years. Then my kids grew older and I found 1/4 way into our homeschool year everyone was homeschooling around the house. While some prefer the quite of their bedroom others prefer to stretch on our wood floor or a gymnastics mat as they do math or read. We still like to come together to do history and science – that is now around our dining room table or kitchen table.

I found that it is more important for the kids’ work to be portable so they each have a large wicker basket and a plastic basket – both fit into a large IKEA shelving unit. Small whiteboards, an individual pencil box, and a clipboard are necessities. All these items can easily be gathered up and taken with us outside or to a ballet/baseball private lesson during the school day.

Third, do not attempt to keep up with your friend who has the perfect homeschool room, the perfect curriculum which must equate to perfect children! Trust me when I say “no homeschool is perfect” – some are just better at faking it. I am ashamed to say I am probably one of those. Early on I would even coach my children exactly what to say if someone asked how our homeschooling was going. No more … we have struggles, my kids have strengths and weaknesses, just like any student.

Love on your children, enjoy your time together (it goes by way too fast), when things get really hard or your having a bad day – get up and get out of the house. Go for a hike, grab a snack at the donut shop, remember the reason you homeschool! We homeschool for flexibility and the ability for our children to learn with curriculum tailored to their own uniqueness.

I look back at how my mom homeschooled my three youngest siblings … my Mom and my Dad (a public school teacher – gasp!) homeschooled before homeschooling was the “in” thing to do. There were very few “out-of-the-box” curriculum’s to pick from and no big homeschool convention to attend. My three youngest siblings are awesome individuals … one of them went on to become a professional ballerina, the other is now in Sommelier school, and the third is helping run a professional football franchise. They were allowed at young ages to follow their unique path!

As we all head down the planning path for the coming school year let’s all remind each other what is important, why we homeschool, and the need to keep it simple! Happy Planning!

Have you started to plan for the new school year? Is your year already planned? What is on the horizon?

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A New Year … and a new semester.

THE BEST THINGAVAILABLEDoesn’t it seem like you blink and the Christmas season is over? All too soon it is back to the everyday …

January can be a hard month for homeschoolers. There is always so much to look forward to in the Fall when it is back to school – football games, fall leaves, and holidays. Many times when we head back in January, and look ahead to that long stretch of Winter, it can just all seem so monotonous.

One way to combat the post-holiday back to school blues – plan some fun activities. Get together with friends for lunch, get a field trip on the calendar, try out a new sport – like indoor rock climbing. Just get out and away from the house!

Or, if the weather has you stuck at home – change up your homeschool day. Do school by the fire, have a day y’all stay in your jammies, find some great History documentaries on Netflix and pop some popcorn.

January is also a good month to start thinking about your plans for next year. Many hybrid homeschool programs and enrichment classes begin enrolling for the next school year in February. Give yourself some time to think about what has worked so far this year and any changes you might want to make. And, while your at it … set some goals to help you finish out this school year strong! A great way to do that is to set some SMART goals –

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Time-Based

SMART Goals Sheet

One goal my daughter, Ava Mae, has set (see her sheet above) is to memorize the whole timeline for Classical Conversations (the on campus program we do on Wednesdays). The timeline is long (encompassing Creation to Present Day) … it takes about 15 minutes for her to say it all and that is talking fast. So we set this specific goal – it is easily measurable – definitely achievable (she has been working on it since last year) – most certainly realistic for a student her age – and time based (she wants to have it memorized by the end of our Classical Conversations school year – the first week of April). Do you or your children have any goals for this 2nd semester? I know it also helps to have some sort of reward for those who attain their SMART goal.

And, I have a made this SMART goal sheet we have for our homeschool a FREE PDF download for you … just CLICK HERE. Because, I do not like printables that drain all of my color print cartridge I kept it simple but, as you can see above, your kids can easily decorate the sheet. Then find a place in your homeschool to pin it up … it is a great reminder of the goal they are working toward and the reward at the end.

Hoping your 2015 is off to a great start! What SMART goals have you set for your homeschool?

Homeschooling Reality

Official School Photo 2014 - 2015

Don’t you just love all those beautiful homeschool rooms you find on Pinterest. I have totally been sucked in by looking at them. 

I would love to just go and hangout in a few of those school rooms! But, back to reality … this is how we homeschool … 

homeschooling

Gone are the days of sitting at a cute school table! Embracing this change … as long as schoolwork gets done any location in our home is fair game.

So where do you homeschool?

Back to “School” … tips from a seasoned homeschool mom

It’s time … time to pull ourselves out of summer mode and kick-off our homeschool year!

There are always a variety of attitudes towards going back to “school”. While some students are very excited – others tend to be a bit unmotivated – wanting that summer schedule to never end. Even the seasoned homeschool moms struggles sometimes when the school year gets back into swing … many times it is just overwhelming when you think of the year ahead and everything that needs to be accomplished.

It is time to step back … take a deep breath … and face that new school year with a smile. Take it one day at a time … whether you have a lesson plan book filled with your whole year or just a post it with the next five minutes planned. I promise it is going to be o.k. I have done it both ways and I can assure you my kids learned just as much the years we had to wing it a little as the years when I planned everything down to the last minute of our school day.

Here are some tips and tricks for helping you kick off your school year.

Start the day off with a positive attitude.

  • Like they say, “A smile goes a long way!”
  • Get excited for the new year, your excitement for the new year will be contagious.
  • Never complain about the start of the year. Talk about some fun things you would like to do over the school year. {maybe plan a fun field trip that first week or two of school}

Get organized.

  • Out with the old … in with the new! Spend some time clearing those school shelves and packing up last year’s work. If your kids are old enough – get them involved it will have everyone transition back into school mode.
  • Set up your spaces! It doesn’t have to be a fancy school room but, having the kitchen table clean and ready for the first day is important.
  • Make sure you stock up on school supplies while there are sales … and, if you start later than your area schools – take advantage of the clearance prices! Now is the best time to get all your markers, colored pencils, notebook paper, and folders for the year.
  • Have your curriculum and schedule planned out.

Give your student(s) special treatment for the first day of school.

  • Have a fun breakfast at home or change things up and head out for donuts!
  • Some school years, when I really have it together, I have even picked out a small token gift and have it sitting on our school table.

Take pictures!

  • There are tons of fun ideas on Pinterest for staging great 1st day of school pics for homeschoolers.
  • We try and snap a pic of each child individually holding up a sign with the grade they are starting and a group shot. Some years this goes better than others …

Lighten the load.

  • Since it is the first day of school, try not to make it overwhelming.
  • Give each child a chance to settle into the new schedule and routine. Talk about what the school year is going to look like, expectations, and fun things you have planned.

Really enjoy that first day back!! Don’t think of the 180 days to come – live in the moment!

Have a homeschool question … I would love to hear from you!!