Looks like it’s that time again. In spite of the fact that it is the dead heat of summer, you can’t miss the school supplies sales in the stores and the shut down of the local swimming pool. I wish summer lasted a little longer!
Since all the neighbor children are going back to school, it’s time to think about this year’s homeschool. The first thing I do is make a plan for each child, entitled “Educational Goals.” This is the master plan that I work from all year long. On the left hand side of a paper, I write down the school subjects I feel are important for this child for this coming school year. On the right hand side, I list the resources we’ve chosen to do the job. I list the textbooks but also jot down any experiences, trips, mentors, hands-on projects that come to mind. This “spiritual creation” really helps me focus on what is important for this child to know, and how I am going to help him learn it. I also ask my student about what he wants to learn, what he is interested in and consider his personality and talents when choosing curriculum. The books/resources you use can either “make or break” your child’s interest in a subject, so I am looking for the very best!
Next, I look at the months of school on a calendar and jot down an overview. For example, for math, my son will practice Math-it at the beginning of every school day and then go on to do one Saxon math lesson. I can divide the table of contents between the school year and know where we will be in a month, 3 months, and by the end of the school year. In real life, my son will progress at his own pace. If it’s too hard or too much, we will do only a half of a lesson. If he already knows several chapters, we skip them. But having an overview gives us a general plan so that we don’t lose our focus and wind up coasting through much of the year without accomplishing our goals. It also helps me look ahead at which resources I will need to buy, and what field trips or projects we will want to do. It gives me a plan!
We do homeschool in the morning hours and I keep that time free from all interruptions (including phone and doorbell). After noon is the time that we schedule extra activities such as Children’s Drama class, music lessons, jobs, or taking a class at the local high school. I try to stick with this schedule as I find it nearly impossible to do homeschool in the afternoon (I’m too tired!), and if I allow children to come and go on different schedules, nothing seems to get accomplished.
I’ve never met a teenager that wanted to go back to public school for any other reason than social life. Friends are important! Just think of “Social Life” as another subject in homeschool, because it deserves your attention just as much. I plan activities where the children will get social contact right along with our academic plans. Even just getting your children together with other homeschool families one day a week helps fill that need. A co-op school is ideal! A support group with regular activities has always been a vitally important part of our homeschooling.
Once you get your educational goals set and your plan for the first month written out, turn to organizing your school room or area. Even if you only have one shelf to operate out of, each child can have his name on a piece of masking tape stuck to a section of shelf where his books can be placed. When I first started homeschool, I picked up 6 identical small cardboard cookie boxes from the grocery store (free) and labeled each with a name. My children’s planners, textbooks, and a pouch for pens, etc. all fit into the box and they worked from it. Sure beats stacks of school books all over the family room! Nobody had to wander off in search of a book or pencil. Everything was stored in the bin, and handy.
I stock up at the back-to-school sales on paper, spiral notebooks, art supplies, pens, glue, scissors, etc.— buying enough for the entire year, and putting them all together in one place. If you have room, it is handy to gather resources by subject. All our art supplies are on one shelf. I have a shelf for math that holds math games and manipulatives for all ages. Stacking bins or even cardboard boxes will also work. Don’t forget to make a bin or low shelf for the little ones so they can get out puzzles, games and coloring books on their own.
This is the time to weed through all the books you’ve accumulated and pass judgment on them. I have come to view any book that has “just one good chapter” as an enemy: it just takes up space, is hard to remember to use, and clutters up my life. With the exception of readers before 1950 (when they were still phonetic), most everything that I ever dragged home from the public school cast-off sales, I have not used. Many of those books are slanted with an agenda, or so out-dated as to not be interesting or true. There are exceptional books being produced for the homeschool market that are wonderful to use. If you are stumped where to start when choosing curriculum, take a look at my “All Set for School” Kits. These were created after years of counseling new homeschoolers on how to get started.
Above all, gearing up for school means recommitting yourself to this infinitely great work of teaching and sharing yourself with your children. I think all of us entertain (perhaps very briefly) the idea of putting our children back in school each fall. It takes work and devotion to teach homeschool! But I so enjoy being with my children and helping them learn! Be assured that no one can do it better than you can, no matter how educated and talented they are, because no one cares about your child’s success as much as you do!
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