It is summer time and the living is easy. At least, that is what you would think right?! It is true for my four children (age 8, 5, 3 and 18 months), they are enjoying summer to the fullest. For me as a homeschool mom not so much. I am busy planning the new homeschool year, which will be our 6th year homeschooling.
If you are new to homeschooling I can share a couple of things. First of all, don’t worry, you and your kids will be fine. This is an adventure you will embark upon together. You can do this. It might be a great adventure, it might be a huge challenge, especially when you have school experience because school and homeschool are two different things.
You need time to deschool.
To deschool is to get used to the new situation before you can start to homeschool. It is like a detox period. But in the end, you will learn valuable life lessons. Even if after a year you decide it is not for you. Secondly, doing school at home takes less time than at a traditional school which means you have more time to do fun stuff.
And last but not least, you are in charge of your own schedule. You can be the one to enjoy the fresh snow or have astronomy class at night because you can sleep in or drive all the way to where you can see the solar eclipse or have your class at the park just because you can.
The start of a new year always comes with some excitement. I love books and this period, more than during the year, I can go wild and get the books for the upcoming school year. My boys always get excited when a box with new materials arrive, cause maybe there is something extra special in there for them besides the new pencils and erasers. It has everything to do with the word new. A new school year, new books, a new planning and foremost a fresh start and renewed energy. Anything is possible!
When it comes to choosing our programs, I basically look back to what has worked for us in the past, I evaluate. What did and what didn’t work for us. I have learned, being a boy mom, that my boys can’t sit still for a certain amount of time unless it is something that they are really interested in.
I have learned that they learn best when they don’t feel they are learning when learning is fun and unintentional for them. Even though I did plan their learning. And that is the bottom line right?! Learning happens everywhere and all the time. Even when you are not homeschooling your children. All children are eager to learn, they are curious creatures filled with wonder about everything that happens around them.
What we try to do is keep that innate learning flame burning.
By feeding and gently poking it.
So what do I do? I observe them. I make it my business, my goal to know what interests them. What sparks their fire. Then I find interesting things, that I think they might like and I basically place those in their area’s where they “accidentally” find them. It could be as easy as a toy, a book or a flyer from let’s say, the aquarium with a shark on the front.
Looking back I felt that every year I was inventing the same preparation method all over again. Up until now, I never wrote my steps down. I love to share these steps with you and hopefully make your life a little bit easier. Some of my steps might not be appropriate to you or they might give you new ideas.
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11 Steps to Prepare for a New Homeschool Year
1. Comply with Legal Regulations
Check the legal regulations in your area. For instance, in Colorado, USA we have to file a letter of intent every year unless we are enrolled in an umbrella school. In the Netherlands, we also had to file a letter of intent but we had to do this before July 1st every year and it was a very specific type of letter.
2. Know your Child
Knowing your child’s learning style, his interests, what he struggles with, what he is really great at, helps you to make the best choice to accommodate him in his learning.
Currently, our 8 year-old is interested in snakes, but he struggles with reading. However, he loves everything about snakes. And one of his favorite things is his snake book. He looks at it, draws from it, is being read from it and tries to read from it. And it is not an easy book that he picked. His reading level and his comprehension level don’t match. The books that we read aloud are much more difficult than that he is able to read. Luckily we can tailor it to his needs.
3. Choose a Curriculum
Now that you know all of this about your child you can make a choice in curriculum, you can make one yourself or you can go along as you go and base it on the interest of your child. We started out as unschoolers, which for us meant child-led learning, but it was a lot of work. I found it was easier to follow a curriculum, and at the same time follow our children’s interest. Currently, we do a lot of reading aloud from living books and a lot of hands-on activities.
Living books pull you into the subject
and involve your emotions,
so it’s easy to remember the events and facts.
Living books make the subject “come alive.”
4. Sign Up for Classes, Co-ops, Homeschool Programs etc.
Again, based on the interest of your child you can sign him/her up for classes or programs. Libraries may offer free programs. Your area might offer a part time homeschool program through the public school system, however, sign up dates might have closed or there might be a waitlist. In our area, a lot of private homeschool programs are starting up their programs for the fall now. Apart from enrolling in a part time homeschool program we are part of a nature explorers co-op, a nature study group and a book club.
5. Create One Big Overview Year Planning
This big overview year planning will be your master planning. On this planning, you will write all the important data for this coming school year, like birthday celebrations, holidays, festivals, scheduled field trips, free days at the museums, planned vacations, school vacations so you know when to avoid museums and so on.
6. Create a Week Based Overview for the Whole School Year
This is the step that I always dread. In this step, I combine every curriculum of every child and make it into one. I include all of their activities. I will start in the week that we will begin our homeschool year and I call that week 1. Most curriculums start in September and end in May or they have 36 weeks but no fixed begin month. Some years we start in January, and we homeschool from January till December, just depending on how the kids are doing. I also add in our weeks off in this overview. You can do whatever works for you.
What I do is, I open an Excel sheet. In the columns, I will add the weeks and in the rows, I will add the subjects. Below you see the book part of our schedule. I combined three curriculums into one, a Waldorf curriculum Yr3, A Charlotte Mason curriculum Yr 3 & a Waldorf curriculum Yr K. This is my week based overview. When we finished something, I simply cross it out, add a date and I know we did it and when.
If you only choose to do one curriculum and you are not as crazy as I am, yup I said it, then this step is not that much work. You just end up with as many schedules as you have kids. You can see below that my Charlotte Mason curriculum comes from the Ambleside website, it is a free curriculum and I make it fit our needs. They already provide you with a wonderful week to week schedule like mine below. You just print it out and you are good to go.
7. Create a Week Planning
I like to have a week planning. To know which books we’ll be reading on which day. When we’ll be doing nature study, when my children have their homeschool program, etc. I plan our homeschool reading activities in the morning between 9 and 11 am and after that we are free to do whatever we want.
8. Check Out Books You Need From the Library
Books are expensive and it is nice if you can borrow those from the library. Plus, most books you only use for a relatively short period of time. Libraries have an option that you can request books and they will let you know when the books are available.
We use mostly living books and also very old books. So I like to go to Thrift Stores and search online if I can find them and lately I have been lucky and were able to score some hard to find first prints.
9. Get Your Materials for the First Trimester
The beginning of the school year is always the best time of the year to stock up on school supplies. Notebooks, folders, glue, pencils, laminator sheets. What else do you need for your homeschool home?
Remember, it is okay if you don’t have everything. It is an adventure you are taking together with your kids and you will learn along the way.
10. Prepare a Week-to-Week Meal Plan
While you are still in the flow of preparing your homeschool year you can take this final step before you can sit back and relax! Yup, step 11 is to just breathe and relax. You can plan your meals. Which will be such a great help. You do this once and you can reuse your meal plans. I have made meal plans for one month for every season (so four months in total) with a shopping list. It took me some effort to make these but it saves me so much time. If you want to take it one step further you can prepare the meals ahead for a week or two, make freezer meals. But I myself haven’t been able to do that. Although that has been on my “I wish I could do that and wanted to do that” list.
I love this step. You’re all done. All ready and set to start the new homeschool year. Now, enjoy the rest of the summer!
And as a bonus this handy printable checklist with all the steps to get ready for a new homeschool year! Wishing you all a great Homeschool and School year!by