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 worksheet that I work from all year long. 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 put a lot of deep thought into this plan, consulting my child on his desires and interests and considering his personality and talents. On the left hand side, I write down the subject and what I really want to accomplish (be realistic!) In the right hand column, I list the resources we’ve chosen to do the job. Sometimes I find a new and better book to use later in the year and so this is updated and changes, but generally I can rely on my plan. I search for the best resources. We all know that the books/resources you use can either “make or break” your child’s interest in a subject!
Next, I look at the first month of school and jot down an overview. For example, for math during the first month, my son will practice Math-it at the beginning of every school day and then go on to do one Saxon lesson. I can get an idea where we will be in a month, 3 months, 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. All this overview does for us is give 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. I can also coordinate all of my children’s school assignments so that we all study The Human Body at the same time, our Subject of the Day.
We do homeschool in the morning 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 one other homeschool family one afternoon a week helps fill that need. A support group with regular activities has always been important to us.
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.
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 must entertain (perhaps briefly) the idea of putting our children back in school each fall. It is an awful lot of work and devotion to teach homeschool! 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!