How to Prepare for the Upcoming Homeschool Year

photo:cybrgrl

If you are a Homeschool Mom you know that there is ALWAYS something to be working on, preparing for, planning out, studying up on, buying, etc….

I thought it would help if I laid out a short version of my yearly schedule so those who are new to homeschooling, thinking about homeschooling or are curious about homeschooling could see what our family does throughout the year.  I am trying to draw your attention to the summer months, when most “teachers” take time off, us homeschool teachers need to be using that down time to the best of our ability!  I am by no means saying this is the only way or even the best way to lay out your time and efforts but this is one way (our way) and we have adjusted and tweaked it every year.

In September we start our fall schedule. I sit down with each kid and we do a goal session, this is where they tell me what they want to learn that year and I tell them what I want them to focus on.  My goals are sometimes things like “I would like you to be getting all spelling words correct by the second time testing them” or ” I would like you to be half way through your math book by March”.  The kids goals usually will focus around extras, like “I want to do more hands on science projects” or ” I want to learn about horses”.

We then make a schedule based on each of our goals.  For example my Son was wanting more video game time (he only gets 60 minutes a day) and I was wanting him to work on writing skills outside of his already wonderful story writing.  So we incorporated some video game reviews, he got an extra 60 minutes of game time each day but he also had to do a comprehensive video game review for us–it was a win, win situation.  He got extra video game time, he worked on his typing skills and he realized how difficult it is to be critical, yet fair.

Our fall schedules always include reading, writing and math, anything more than that is up for negotiation.  If you would like to see a sample of my children’s schedule you may send me a message and I will email it to you (it is quite lengthy). My children also do a homeschool co-op once a week, this starts in the fall.

In January we re-evaluate our schedule. This is usually quick and painless.  The kids will let me know if there is anything they are not liking or learning from and we will adjust it.  This is also time for me to make sure we are on track, time wise, and if not we will add, subtract or swap some subjects each day.  For instance, my Son decided that the video game reviews were not nearly as fun as he was expecting, so we decided to switch to doing a blog, he LOVES it and has had a great time updating it and keeping friends and family in the loop of his teenage life, and he is still working on his typing skills and creative writing skills.

In May we usually adjust our schedule to a modified summer schedule. This schedule usually includes anything we didn’t wrap up over the Fall and Winter and anything the kids need to focus on.  For example my oldest is doing  just his pre-algebra this summer because I want all his attention focused on that, as well as mine :-).  My daughter is reviewing her multiplication facts every day for 30 minutes, because I really think that multiplication facts are something that need to be used daily or you forget them!  The end of the year is usually when we look back and make sure we met our goals, if we did, that is GREAT, if we didn’t, we figure out why.  I also like to go through all my curriculum at this time and decide if I am going to keep, sell or toss it.  I like to be able to use the same curriculum for more than one child but all my kiddos have different personalities, priorities and learning styles…so that is not always an option!

photo:CourtneyDirks

Throughout the summer I am using my free time to do a plethora of things:

*look up reviews on curriculum I am considering, my favorite sites are:  homeschoolreviews.com, homeschool-curriculum.org, homeschooling.gomilpitas.com and many more!  Talking with other homeschooling Moms helps too!

*Buy new curriculum.  This part is so fun!  It is like Christmas.  Some of my favorite places to find used curriculum is at homeschool curriculum sales, these are advertised through various means but a good way to stay in the loop locally is to sign up for The Homeschool Building’s email updates, they send out regular emails with activities and events.  I also check Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist for some good deals.

*Research extra curricular activities, camps and classes for the upcoming summer and fall.  Like I mentioned before my kids take part in a homeschooling co-op once a week so I make sure to pick out the schedule for the next year and sign up for the classes we want before they are full.  My kids always want to do an acting camp at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, so I make sure to figure out good dates for that and sign them up.  I also check around for other educational yet fun camps that may work in the schedule.  Some of my favorites are: The Blandford Nature CenterThe Grand Rapids Public Museum and Kendall College of Art and Design.

*I try to start a list of field trips I would like to do over the upcoming year.  I don’t ever get to all the field trips I want to do but if I have a list then at least if we have a free day I can go to the list quickly and have a place in mind.  Some of the activities are seasonal too, so I make sure to note that (such as Christmas around the world at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens).  Some of my favorite field trips are: Impressions 5 Science Center (Lansing MI), The Blandford Nature Center (Grand Rapids MI), The MSU dairy farm (Lansing MI), Fredrick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids MI) as well as local high school band concerts and plays.

*I try to scour garage sales looking for education tools, toys, videos and books that I can use!  Lots of people who don’t homeschool will buy their kids educational products in hopes that they will use them and then they end up in the garage sale for a great deal.  My favorites are flash cards, books, art supplies, and Magic School Bus videos (I love Ms. Frizzle)!

*Read, read, read books on homeschooling.  I have favorites that I re-read, my top three picks are: 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, Homeschooling for Dummies and The Homeschoolers Book of Lists.  I also will read any new books and magazines that the library has, if I decide I love it then I will try to find it used online and buy it for my ever expanding library!

*I look at the chore chart and re-evaluate what each child does and can do.  I may add chores, switch chores or change days.  As the kids get older they can take on new, more difficult chores but they also have less free time because of harder school work and more extra curricular activities, so all of that has to be taken in to account.  In our family chores are a part of school because it is training for real life!

*This year I added looking for volunteering opportunities to my TO DO list for Summer.  I have been looking for ways my kids can learn new skills, work with others and get some time with other authority figures.  My Son has fallen in love with volunteering at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, he is helping out with the campers and doing some light and sound work!  Another great place for younger kids to volunteer is The Humane Society.

*I like to take extra time in the summer to pray about my kid’s future and ask God to lead me in the right path.  I want their time with me to be enjoyable and educational and that is a hard balance that I need God’s divine intervention with!

FYI: This is my 5th year homeschooling, my oldest Son is 13, my Daughter is 10 and I have a 2 year old Son and one on the way.

So homeschooling Moms tell me what you do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming year…………

Comments

  1. Thank you for all of this great information! I have twin 6-year-olds, a 2-year-old and another is coming in the next couple of weeks! We’ll soon be a family of six as well! My oldest will be starting first grade and I’m still sort of at a loss as to what I should be doing. Kindergarten was pretty easy but I feel like we’ll be doing a lot more this year and I would love to get a look at your children’s schedules. Thanks again!

    • @Melody,
      Oh how I long for the days of 1st grade!!! :-) I was so worried back then that I wasn’t doing enough….I look back and realize 1st graders dont need that much, they are natural born learners! Lots of reading, hands on cooking/creating and some fun math games and they would learn more than you think!

  2. This was very helpful and encouraging to me as I am just getting ready to start pre-school with my daughter and in the throes of deciding what is necessary and what is not :) I love your ideas!

    • @Meagan,
      I know that lots of Moms think they need to “do” something for preschool and really preschool should be the foundation for the love of learning, not just learning……so personally I would stear away from curriculum or anything you are sitting around doing one thing…unless your kid is a calm, patient, book lover :-)

      Homeschooling is an exciting adventure…….GOOD LUCK

  3. When I left my job in January (partially because it was clear my son needed some additional “guidance”), I started seriously considering homeschooling. I have lots of great role models (my sister and several of my good friends), but the resistance from my son is too great right now. I have not yet ruled it out… maybe I’ll start out with my younger daughter (now 2.5 yrs) and see how it goes! I sincerely appreciate your insight!

  4. Summer is break time for us. Without it, I’d have no time to focus on my other projects. Having 2 high school students, they use the extra time to earn money for the upcoming year. My oldest gets to increase his job hours from about 20 hrs. a week to up to 40 if he chooses, as long as he keeps a good attitude, continues to help out at home, and uses the extra money responsibly. My middle child works at odd jobs to make money: landscaping, teaching an elderly neighbor how to use her computer for HER needs, yard work, helping friends move, working in the family’s garden, etc. He learns a lot of varied skills through the summer that I’d never come up with in just curriculum. My youngest is a girl and during this summer, we’re baking scones and making homemade lemon curd and lime curd to sell on weekends at the local Farmer’s Market.

    Summer break also allows me to help my husband with his company do all those projects that he doesn’t have time for – like creating a company blog & facebook page for him. I also get time to plan and order the curriculum for our next year, something I don’t take lightly.

    We spend the extra moments watching movies and playing games together, going to local events in our small town, and participating in church activities and summer camp.

  5. Mrs. Rouzan says:

    Hello,

    I have a 6 year old, 3 year, and 6 week old. I’m also at a loss of how to go about my 6 year old 1st grade year. This summer we are reviewing his letter and number writing, seeing that was what he needed to improve. However, I feel a little overwhelmed and not sure how to prepare and start with the curriculum. Please help!!

    • @Mrs. Rouzan,

      Well my views on 1st grade are probabley a little lax. I feel like at that age you should be fostering a love for learning because that is what will keep your child wanting to learn forever. If you are forcing them sit at the table doing workbooks at 6 years old, when they would be learning much better from a game or fun story, they may equate learning with being bored or some other negative feeling. This won’t be the way forever (my olders do workbooks) but for young kids I am a little anti-workbook :-) .Kind of like an adult when they get in to exercise — you start out with something you enjoy until you get in the routine, then you add in the hard stuff! Good luck and HAVE FUN!!!!!