For many homeschooling families, it’s time to start thinking about the start of a new school year – if you haven’t started already. That first week or so back to school can be difficult after a more relaxed schedule and too much screen time. (Tell me that’s not just my house!) We’ll be starting our 12th homeschooling year in the next week or so. Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips on how to get the school year off to a smooth start.
1. Don’t try to start everything at once.
This is one of those lessons I learned early on in our homeschooling journey and it has served me well. We never jump in with a full load the first few weeks of school. Some years we start with a heavier course load than other years, but never everything all at once. I like to allow time to adjust to the school routine again and get in the swing of any new curriculum we may be using.
Recently, as I was pondering how I wanted to organize our first few weeks of school, I considered starting with electives first. Ultimately, I decided to follow my usual M.O. and start with the “big rocks” and add in the extras as we get the basics in place. So, we’ll start with things like math, science, and history, throw in some great books, and add the rest a little at a time over the next few weeks.
2. Don’t start with a full week or full days.
You know that saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Yeah, I don’t like that one either, but it’s applicable here. I do tend to just jump right into the school year. I don’t know about where you live, but in my area, schools usually start on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. That allows kids to get back into routine, but then get a break before they’re expected to jump, full-swing, into the school year.
That may be a smart move for your family as well and, thanks to circumstances this year, is what we’re doing. Due to outside activities, we’ll be starting on a Wednesday this year and I’m really kind of excited about that. Depending on how it goes, we may make that our new norm.
3. Start with something fun.
Celebrate the first day of school with something special – a special breakfast, outing, or field trip. The first year we homeschooled, we started our first day with a field trip that I used as a springboard for the topic of our first unit study. One family I know goes to the public pool on the first day of school for the area public school kids (which may or may not coincide with their first day, but it’s still a fun idea).
Depending on your kids’ ages, new crayons, special pencils, and fun notebooks may still make the first day of school special. I still get excited about those things myself. As a side note, you may find it helpful to color-code school supplies like I’ve done in the past. If you need more ideas for your first day, check out my article at Real Life at Home, 10 Ways to Celebrate the First Day of School.
4. Get your kids’ input.
This will require a little pre-planning, but get your kids’ input on things like:
- Topics they’d like to study
- Curriculum they’d like to use (Take them to a curriculum fair with you and let them look, too!)
- What worked and what didn’t from the previous year
- School/study times – This may not work for everyone, but if you’ve got older kids who are doing some or all of their work independently, it can be a great time management lesson to allow them to choose, within reason, their own school hours. Some kids work better in the morning, while others work better in the afternoon or evenings. Allowing the flexibility for them to work at their peak times is one of the benefits of homeschooling.
- Outside classes or activities they’re like to be involved in
The more input they have, the more ownership most kids will take over their education. And, the most invested they are, the less likely they are to grumble.
5. Allow room for flexibility.
This is the first time since we started homeschooling year round (and maybe since we started homeschooling, period, but I can’t remember back that far anymore) that the start date for school has rolled around and I’ve realized that we’re just not ready to start. Now, the fact is, the kids might never be ready to start. However, my motto, when I don’t feel ready, is usually, “Bash on, regardless.” (My favorite Cathy – the comic strip – quote.)
This year, though, with multiple summer activities still lingering on the calendar, I’ve decided that we need to push our start date back at least a week and maybe even two. I think that bashing on would just cause stress, frustration, and resentment for all of us. What’s another week of summer break? We’ve got plenty of make-up time available in our schedule.
6. Start easing back to normal schedules a week or so before your start date.
I know many families stick pretty close to their normal schedules during summer break. We’re not one of them. Well, my husband and I stick to our normal schedule because we’re getting old and we have to whether we want to or not. The kids, however, have been staying up quite late and sleeping the mornings away.
If your family is like ours, it’s a good idea to start working your way back to normal wake and bedtimes a week or two before school starts. We find that this is most easily accomplished by starting on Sunday night and Monday morning. You know, when the kids are exhausted after having to get up early for church.
I find that backing up bedtimes in 15 or 30 minute increments until you get back to where you want to be works pretty well. Then, I just have to remind myself to wake everyone at a decent time the next morning, rather than getting caught up in what I’m doing and losing track of the time – or, you know, being unwilling to give up the quiet of a sleeping household.
These are some of the tips that have worked well for me over the last 12 years or so. What would you add to the list?