The new school year is right around the corner – 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’ve been homeschooling since 2002. Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips for a smooth transition back to school.
1. Don’t try to start everything at once.
I learned this lesson 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.
It’s easier on everyone to allow time to adjust to the school routine and get used to any new curriculum we’re using.
It doesn’t matter if you ease in with fun stuff, like electives, or work on finding your rhythm with your core classes. Just start with a few subjects, 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.
In my area, schools usually start mid-week. That allows kids to get back into a 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. Although we usually prefer starting on a Monday with a lighter course load, we have started mid-week before and it’s worked well.
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 kicked off the year with a field trip, which I used as a springboard for our first unit study.
Depending on your kids’ ages, new crayons, special pencils, and fun notebooks may be all you need to 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 of their education most kids will take. And, the more invested they are, the less likely they are to grumble.
5. Allow room for flexibility.
Occasionally, the start date for school rolls around and I realize that we’re just not ready. Now, the fact is, the kids might never be ready to start. However, my motto is usually, “Bash on, regardless.” (My favorite Cathy – the comic strip – quote.)
Sometimes, though, you just need to push your start date back a week or two. Sometimes bashing on is just going to cause stress, frustration, and resentment for everyone. What’s another week of summer break? With the flexibility that homeschooling offers, you can make up the time.
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, usually stay up late and sleep in each day.
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. Backing up bedtimes in 15 to 30 minute increments until you get back to where you want to be works well.
We accomplish this pretty easily by starting on Sunday night and Monday morning. You know, when the kids are exhausted after having to get up early for church.
What are some of your best tips for easing back into your school routine?
updated from an article originally published July 8, 2014