Friday, August 15, 2014

My Back To Homeschool Checklist: Get Off to a Great Start

We go "Back to Homeschool" on Monday! It looks like we're ready - we've got our curriculum, we've got lesson plans, we've got a proposed routine to follow, and we've got strategies for (hopefully) keeping records of what we do. We've even got a Scripture to focus on. Getting back into that school routine may not hold a lot of appeal for the kids on its own though, so I think it's a good idea to do some things to make "Back to Homeschool" a special occasion.
Because the first day of homeschool should look like more fun than this...
Here are some ideas to make the first days back to homeschool more fun and more successful!

First Day Event - Do something different to make the "official" first day of homeschool a special event. We usually have a special treat for breakfast or lunch on the first day each year - donuts or waffles for breakfast, or maybe we go out for lunch. Just something out of the ordinary. Some homeschool families I know make a big event of going to an amusement park or something similar, and plan it for the first day that public schools in their area are back in session. That's especially fun if the first day back to homeschool falls on the same day!

Make Memories - When my kids were younger, I tried to get first day of school pictures each year. They don't cooperate quite as well any more, but I still try to grab some kind of picture. Just because they don't have a bookbag and a school bus to catch doesn't mean that first day shouldn't be memorialized for your scrapbook.



Had to settle for this as a first day photo of Spencer in 2011
Harrison's first day at broadcast school in 2010
Something New - It's been a number of years since I've actually needed to stock up on any school supplies at the beginning of the school year. Chances are that we've already got what we need, because I'd rather buy the stuff when it's on sale, and my goal is to avoid the "back to school" aisles of the stores when everybody else is there! When the kids were little, it was a big deal to have a brand new box of crayons and new glue-sticks every year. Never mind that we already had a huge stockpile of crayons and glue-sticks in the house - those crayons were blunt and broken, and those glue-sticks were half-used and gummy. Nowadays, there's still something so appealing about having a brand new notebook, or package of pens, or art supplies. For me, too!
new school clothes!
Ease Into It - This is just practical. And maybe it's not for everyone, but it helps us. Instead of going zero-to-sixty on the first day, with everyone getting up early and jumping right into a full schedule with all subjects, we get going in stages. If I've been letting the kids sleep in during the summer, I start enforcing an earlier wake-up time the week before school starts. (That usually means enforcing an earlier bedtime too, but older kids kind of need to figure that out on their own - they don't believe me!) We also prefer to ease into our coursework. Maybe just half days during the first week, or only a few of the subjects, and we'll add and adjust as we go. This transitions us more gradually into our schedule.

Clarify Expectations - Even though this will be my seventeenth year of homeschooling, and Landon and Kennady have grown up doing this, we still need to have some sort of a "back to school" conference to talk through our goals and plans for the year. Some of it happens in the week or two leading up to the first day, as I remind them - "you know you're going to have to be up and moving earlier once school starts, right?" - "remember, there won't be TV or movies until schoolwork is done" - and consult them about what they think will work best - "is first thing in the morning still the best time for you to work on math?". Some of it happens months in advance, when we are choosing curriculum for the next year. But during the first week, preferably on the first day, we still talk through the daily and weekly routine; we review the expectations as to how much time should be devoted to each subject; and we look through the curriculum we're using again to get a refresher in how it's laid out and our plan of attack. 
  
Flexible and Adaptable - If something isn't working the way we'd anticipated, I'd rather make adjustments early in the game. Allow some grace, and some time to settle into a new routine or curriculum, and make sure it's working. If we find out that the reading for science is more challenging than we'd expected, or that the first hour of the day is no longer the best time frame for math, or whatever - let's tweak it or adapt it sooner rather than later.

Look Forward - By the time we start school, we already know what we're looking forward to later in the school year. We usually take a family vacation in the fall, and this year it will be the first week of September. Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks are coming too. Knowing that their first break from school is coming up in just two weeks (like this year) or in just over a month (like last year) is a powerful motivator and reminder to my kids to get off to a good start! After all, they don't want to take their grammar homework along to the beach, or have to try and pick up where they left off in the middle of a big project. When grandparents come for a visit, they'd prefer to spend more time with them and less time with math problems. I try to make the due dates and "pauses" in the coursework make sense with the big events on our family calendar, but the kids need to do their part and work hard when they are supposed to.
 

  How do you make the first day "Back to Homeschool" memorable? Leave a comment and let me know! Then be sure to visit the other Crew members that are blogging about "Back to Homeschool" this week! You can see all the participating blogs listed at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog - or you can start by visiting the blogs I've featured below.
Back to Homeschool Blog Hop
Check out these blogs for more Back to Homeschool ideas and encouragement:

Tara @ This Sweet Life
Laura @ My (re)Viewpoint
Alyson @ Family Style School
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Karen @ Tots and Me
Anne @ Upstate Ramblings
Julie @ Nurturing Learning
Beth @ Acorn Hill Academy

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