As you begin to think ahead to a new school year, don’t get bogged down by all the things that you think you need to have planned. Relax, start slowly, and follow this Simple Guide to Planning a New Homeschool Year.
Video: Simple Guide to Planning a New Homeschool Year + Sneak Peek into Our Homeschool Space
Before you get all caught up in planning your year and stressing over curriculum and costs, stop and pray. Commit your year to the Lord and ask for His wisdom and direction.
When I began homeschooling several years ago, I didn’t know many other homeschool moms. There weren’t many (or any) homeschool graduates that I could look at to see how things turned out for them or to realize that colleges were recruiting them. Though my husband and I both felt that this was the direction the Lord was leading us, the whole endeavor seemed a bit risky. Because it was out of my comfort zone, I approached our first year with a sense of dependency on the Lord. I asked Him for help with EVERYTHING…how to schedule our day, how to teach multiple ages, to provide friends for our kids.
When I step back now, after 12 years of homeschooling, to see how rich this lifestyle has been for our family and how God has blessed it, I never want to lose that sense of dependency on the Lord.
Homeschooling is a big task. Don’t try to do this in your own strength. Commit your year to the Lord. Ask for His help and then watch and see what He does.
#2 Have appropriate expectations for yourself.
Don’t plan to have everything figured out for your whole year by the first day. When we are on summer break, we fully live in that season. When we start school, we dive into that season. Planning for a new year doesn’t have to be this big intimidating thing that you have made it in your head! Remember, homeschooling is simply learning together. It can be as basic as opening the books again on that first day and starting from there.
In my early years of homeschooling, I would unnecessarily stress every August when it was time to start a new year. I always felt that I should have been more prepared than I was. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. I learned that it is ok to simply open the books where we left off the last year and just start. As soon as we start, I get back in my homeschool groove. The inspiration starts flowing. I start jotting down ideas, things I want to try, things I want to buy.
#3 Purchase the curriculum you need for the first two weeks.
You do not need to have every book, unit study, tool, science experiment, or item on your list for the first day. You just need the basics to begin. Have what you need to get started. This means I make sure that we have what we need for Morning Time, Reading, Writing, and Math for the first few weeks. Science and History are variables depending on when/how often we plan to study those. All the extras like Art, Music Study, Geography, etc. don’t have to be completely planned and purchased before the first day of school.
Since we usually pick up where we left off last year, often the kids will already have some of their books (ie. Math workbooks). We don’t make a habit of “finishing 3rd grade math” and doing nothing the rest of the year. When we finish one level, we continue with the next. This way our kids are continually making progress and can learn at their own pace.
Other than buying basic necessary supplies, often I wait until we have started our first day to begin to make a list of things I want to purchase. As long as we have what we need for the first week or so, we can begin. Here are two reasons why I recommend this.
- It’s only after you get into your subjects and daily routines that you can feel out what you really need and what is actually going to work for your kids.
- Slowly starting your school year will help you and the kids enjoy it which will encourage you both to keep going and avoid burnout.
#4 Write Out a Simple Routine or Checklist.
Make a bare bones routine or checklist. I really hesitate to use the word “schedule” since this implies time limits which can feel restrictive. Try a routine or checklist. This will give you some direction to start out with. Start your school year simply! Ease into it. The first week is for getting back into your rhythm, NOT for completing every subject in a school day. Include the most important things: reading, writing, and math. Anything else is extra.
After your year starts, you will change your schedule or checklist. I guarantee it. Once you see how things play out, you will find that you want to arrange things differently. Math doesn’t work well in the afternoon because your son loses focus that late in the day. Piano lessons need to be finished before lunch because the baby is napping. There are innumerable tweaks you will likely need to change, but you won’t know this until you are in your rhythm.
Writing out a routine or checklist will look different based on your kids ages. Older kids do more independent work, so a checklist might be more appropriate for them. You will be guiding your youngest children through their day so, for them, a routine might be more appropriate.
Make sure to leave space in your day for the things that need to happen in a home… laundry, meals, chores, etc.
#5 Organize/Create a Space.
Have you seen those amazing Pinterest homeschool room ideas? If so, then you know the pressure you can feel to create this perfect homeschool area! Here’s a tip for somebody who needs to hear it…you don’t have to have a homeschool room! Nope, you don’t! Your home can look like a home and still be a wonderful place to learn. Work to make your home a beautiful, warm place with interesting things to capture your child’s curiosity. Music, flowers, art, books, and living things. Make a space for them to keep their pencils, books, and supplies, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a specific room or a certain way. You can homeschool successfully without a homeschool room!
We have never had a separate homeschool room. It is just not something that has worked for our family. Home meshes so much with with school and school meshes so much with life. It’s hard to separate the two! We have certain wardrobes and dressers for supplies. Also, my husband made some workboxes which I have labeled for the kids to keep their personal supplies. We have multiple bookshelves throughout our house, including one in each child’s bedroom. We have several seating areas, 2 tables, and one roll top desk. This gives the kids the option to curl up on the sofa to read or to spread their work out on a flat surface.
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#6 Buy a few Basic supplies.
Do not feel the pressure to go out and buy a ton of school supplies. I find that I think of more things to purchase after we get started on our school year. Buy the basics that you will need to get started. Here is what we have on our list.
- Pencil Sharpener
- Kid Scissors
- Wide-ruled Notebooks
- Glue or glue sticks
- Pocket Folders, as needed
- 1/2 Inch Binder, one for each child (I like to have these at the beginning of the year so we can start inserting samples or creating the cover for our homeschool portfolio whenever we are ready.)
Also nice to have, but not necessary…
- New Crayons
- New Colored Pencils
- Eraser tops
- Post it Notes
- New Paint brushes
- Finger Paint (for the littles)
- Watercolor sets
#7 Plan a Simple Way to Celebrate the first day.
Plan to do something special to commemorate the start of a new school year. It doesn’t have to be fancy or include a ton of preparation. It only needs to be something that sets the day apart as special. Celebrating the new year will give you a sense of confidence that you started out well. Also, it will get them excited about beginning a new school year.
One of the things we like to do on the first day is to take individual and group pictures of the kids. Also a fun thing I like to do which requires a little preparation is to give them each a new book. Sometimes it is a brand new book that I know they will love. Other times, it might be something I picked up at a thrift store. Some years I have worked to make decorations and special wrapping paper for their books. Other years, I wrapped the books in newspaper and let it go at that. The kids loved it both ways. They don’t care if it’s fancy or simple. They just love opening something new and knowing that mom worked to make something extra special for them. Another way to celebrate that first day is to make a special breakfast.
#8 Don’t Stress!
Remember that the heart of homeschooling is discipleship and learning together. Plan to begin your year by opening the books and making a little progress each day. Don’t let the pressure of a new homeschool year weigh you down! Follow this simple guide to planning a new homeschool year and enjoy this time with your kids!
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!