How to Have a Successful Start to Your Homeschool Year

Making lessons plans and buying curriculum, while important are only a couple of the tasks that need to happen to kickstart a new homeschool year. But it’s amazing how often one forgets all the other moving parts that make a homeschool successful until its the end of September and you’re already breathing into a brown paper bag. That’s why I’m sharing my best tips for how to have a successful start to your homeschool year.

Wrap Up All Loose Ends From The Previous School Year

Before you start another school year, make sure your kids have submitted all their work from the previous year (either to you, their online teacher, or to whatever program you’re using) and that you’ve finished grading any work submitted to you. (I only give grades in high school, but I still need to check work and make sure everything’s been completed. Some years I did year end tests in Language Arts and Math just to make sure progress had been made.)Don’t head into a new school year with old work hanging out there-trust me! Make sure everything is wrapped up and that you have a good understanding of what your children learned, or struggled with, the year prior.

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Make a Complete List of All the Curriculum and Supplies You Need and Have Them Purchased Well in Advance of the First Day

If you want to have a rough start, put off buying curriculum and pulling books out of storage until the day before you intend to start. As soon as the old year wraps up, make time to plan for next year, and then act on that plan ASAP! I always like to buy used books and pay for Media Mail and then wonder why all my books haven’t arrived in two days. If you’re taking online classes, be sure to do a tech check in advance. You don’t want your child in a panic on the first day of class because the old laptop you gave her for class, which runs on Linux, isn’t working with the teacher’s online program. If you can’t afford the tech you need to run the online classes, you’ll need to come up with another option before you shell out hundreds of dollars for the course.

If you have books you need to dig out of storage- again, not something to put off until the last minute. Because that’s when you remember you lent out three books to other families two years ago and they’re not actually in your possession anymore. I’ve also lost books in the ether of my library. I’m sure I have a copy of said book, maybe even two, but who knows where??? I need time to order up another copy if need be.

Create Your School Calendar For the Entire Year with Breaks and Important Dates

Admittedly, some things may change, but it helps to go into a new school year with a master calendar. The more detailed the better. If you want to get better at observing the liturgical year, be sure to include important feast days. If you want to avoid burnout in February, add a longer Christmas break. We include breaks our college students will have, and if you have some kids in online or community college classes, it can help to plan your year around their academic calendar.

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Have Your Lesson Plans and a Daily Routine Ready to Go

If you don’t purchase premade lesson plans, make sure you have weekly or daily lesson plans ready to go for at least a semester. If you say, “I’ll write them up every Sunday evening!” …no you won’t. Just plan out a semester at a time. You can always tweak them, but you will hate writing up lesson plans from scratch every week. And if you don’t, you have a special charism that I’d prefer you not rub in my face.

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Clean Out The School Room / Homeschool Space

Get rid of old papers, art work, and workbooks, keeping only the best items or whatever is required for a portfolio. Consider digitizing work and saving it online. Get your kids to help dust, vacuum, and clean any desks, tables, shelves, etc. that are dedicated to homeschooling. Toss any old school and art supplies and make a note of what needs replaced. Same with the supplies you use to store and organize everything. If the the bin your child uses to hold his books is barely held together with Duck tape, it’s time to buy new storage bins. If that bookshelf is looking like the leaning tower of Pisa, its time for an upgrade.

Take any books you won’t need and store them to make room for next year’s books. Evaluate any art or materials you may have hanging up on taking up shelf space: is it still relevant and age appropriate? If you no longer have any kids in early elementary, you can put away the ABC charts and Teddy bear math manipulatives. Make sure any desk, tables and chairs are sized correctly. Eventually, that cute desk will be too small for your high schooler. When it can no longer be adjusted or passed down, it will be time to find a new solution.

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Prioritize Activities Your Kids Love

Think about what activities your kids will be participating in and add those sign ups and any important dates to your calendar. If you know your child will be in a spring musical performance, consider scaling back school for a bit during tech week, or at least maybe you can avoid scheduling a major test for the day after the cast party. Check your sports equipment and make sure you have everything in the right size for the coming season. Do you kids even want to do the same activities, or do they want to drop/ add something? Spend time searching for new activities before the school year starts so you don’t miss the opportunity to enroll your child.

This is also a good time to set up regular playdates or social gatherings for your kids. If you set up a standing event on say, the second Thursday of the month, at the beginning of the year, it will be easier to stick with and plan around. When my kids where little, these types of meet ups were a great opportunity to play with friends during the week and give me a chance to catch up with other moms, aka unload my problems on another adult besides my husband.

If your children are a mix of ages, think about how you will balance the needs of everyone. How will the high schoolers get to sports practice and games seven days a week? Do you need to arrange car pooling for dance classes so you’re not taking the toddler along in the van three nights a week at bedtime? Who needs to be in an activity, and who doesn’t need to be signed up for a fall sport? It’s great if you can make it work for everyone to do everything they want, but if you can’t, you’re not a bad parent. Being “fair” doesn’t mean all your kids need the exact same number of outside activities each season. You can still provide them with opportunities to play sports or perform music, or whatever, without running your entire family ragged. Don’t hesitate to say no.

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So enjoy your summer break, but allow yourself enough time to properly prepare to have a successful start to your homeschool year. Speaking from experience; waiting too long not only ruins the first day, but sometimes a whole week or month. And while you can get back on track, it’s better if you can save yourself (and your kids) the stress. Let me know what tips you would add to the list in the comments below!

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