If you joined us for Our Journey in Homeschooling Series Then you might have wondered, “What Now?” “Where do I begin?” Well our contributing author is back and giving us a few basic tips on getting started with our homeschool year, which can be completely overwhelming.
Beware of the comparison
Don’t compare. It’s easy to be discouraged by all the people “out there” or who you even may know that have their whole next school year planned to a “T” by June. It’s okay if you are still making decisions in July. If you haven’t ordered anything! Prayerfully move forward and make the best choices you can. Understand you will buy things, start to use them and realize you don’t like them or your kids don’t like them or it just doesn’t work for some reason you can’t understand. Take stock of what worked for you last year and what subjects you want to replace or branch out in. If this is your first year homeschooling, read and research! Pray and pay attention to what you are continually drawn to. It’s worth a try! Each year (this is our sixth year homeschooling) I have things I want to change up. By now though, I also have things I keep constant because I know they work.
Check your Calendar
Look at the calendar year ahead. Are there big things happening? Do you want to try a year-round schedule or keep a traditional school year? Write in the days and holiday breaks you want or need off. Know that life happens and people get sick or have appointments that you won’t account for. You might consider planning four-day weeks, using that fifth day for a catch-up day. Or just a fun day. You may have to school a little longer than you would like to that year, but the break may be worth it. (And learning happens even when you play!) Set a goal when you want to start your year. This helps you to know when you would like to have all your curriculum ordered so you can look at it and get a feel for it before the year starts. This deadline is a big help when you can’t seem to decide :).
Review your Curriculum
Once you have your curriculum, familiarize yourself with it. Read the suggestions and see if they have recommended schedules or plans already written for you. If you buy a core or box curriculum, they generally already come with lesson plans laid out. Great! But if you piece together your own curriculum, as I have usually done, you can easily write your own plans. Count up the lessons and look at the chapters. Where would be a good place to stop at Christmas? Set a goal to get to a certain place in each subject by the holiday break.
Some people like to write out plans for the entire year. This may be helpful, but I would suggest not actually writing them in your planner, or have two planners. Don’t date them. I plan two weeks at a time, so if something comes up and I have to change my plans, they are easily adjustable in my planner. Take two weeks at a time from your master plans and transfer them to your working planner. Or a week, or a month–whatever works for you. It is so much easier to make changes in two or three weeks worth of plans than in a year’s worth! And if you change up curriculum you can scratch out the old in your master planner and keep your working one neat!
Set your Pace and Get Started!
We start the school year slowly, meaning we take a couple subjects (one of which is usually math, the other usually english) and start getting back in a routine in August. Then we add in a couple more. Then a couple more, til we are doing it all, hopefully by Labor Day! I found it was hard to jump in to all our subjects on one day. Two different grades and old curriculum and new curriculum I was getting used to, plus the usual high expectations of the beginning of the year all make for a big let-down. Starting slowly helps us all to adjust to routine, new things, and remembering what we may have forgotten on our summer break.
Remember we all have to start somewhere just getting started can be the hardest part of all, but I’ve discovered that once you’ve gotten into a routine, everything runs smoothly. I’ve done it both ways, where we just get up and lets see what happens that day. Which works fine when they are young toddlers, but when there are actual goals to achieve. Hitting certain marks are impossible with the free spirit approach. I still take that approach with my youngest one because she just is not ready. A few more months and we will jump into a more consistent groove for her. Don’t be afraid to cut out what isn’t working, and don’t feel like you have to live up to someone else’s idea of homeschool. Your house your rules, your groove!