One of the keys to starting our homeschool year well is my before school planning. For many years I winged it (not by choice, it was usually due to a new baby or a move, sometimes both) and I always felt unprepared, behind, and my kids missed out on a lot of cool activities because we didn’t have the materials to complete the projects.
For the past few years I have purposed to spend two to four days homeschool planning. My kids are now old enough to babysit themselves and my husband was also able to take all the kids out of the house on the final planning day so I could finish everything before school started.
It is important to begin planning with a plan. That sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you don’t know what you are doing I can assure you, very little will get accomplished during these planning hours. For the homeschooling moms I know, time is limited, so it is important to make the most of your planning sessions.
Here are the things I set out to accomplish during my planning time.
Familiarize Myself With All the Curriculum
There is no way I can read every page of every book for each child before the school year begins, but I do look through everything and make sure I understand how to use the books. Since we have been homeschooling for a while there are a few subjects that I am very familiar with like 1st grade math and the Explode the Code Books. But there are a few, such as Pre-Calculus and Latin, that I need to learn a little more about before we begin.
Make Copies for the Year
I find that making copies during the school year never works well for me. The kids and I will be sitting down at the table, ready to work on school and I realize that they need a page copied out of the back of the teacher’s book, or we need a duplicate of something. I get up to make copies and by the time I change ink in the printer, find paper, and make the copy, my kids have left the table and are busy doing something much more interesting than waiting for mom.
Two classes, Rosetta Stone Spanish and Personal Finance publish all the worksheets on CD’s, so having those printed, hole punched, and ready to go before the first day of school makes a big difference throughout the year.
Finalize Curriculum Choices
There is always one subject in limbo until right before school starts. This year it was Bible. I asked on Facebook and Twitter for suggestions and was overwhelmed by the great responses. I also talked with a few homeschooling friends locally and got their opinion on my high school Bible choices. I spent a few hours looking at books online and going through the ones we already owned. I didn’t make the final decision until about a week ago.
Begin the 2010-2011 Paperwork
I like to have all my paperwork ready before school begins each year. My planning time allows me to set up grade books, hours sheets, attendance forms, book lists, as well as forms for the county and our umbrella program. My favorite site for forms is DonnaYoung.org. I am so thankful I found that site years ago as it has saved me hours and hours of time. Donna Young is a free resource with many downloadable forms. It isn’t just a site for homeschoolers, you can find calendars, chore lists and more on this site.
Create Curriculum Supplements
I have a hard time going strictly by the book, so I usually end up adding to or changing our curriculum. This year I really wanted to do the The Original 21 Rules of This House with all my kids. I thought it would be a perfect way to begin the school year by making sure they all knew what my expectations where for their behavior. The problem with this book is that it is definitely geared toward younger children. I spent some time creating supplemental material for my older children so they could participate in this study without feeling like preschoolers.
Out With the Old in With the New
Since we reuse folders and notebooks, I make sure they are all empty and ready to go for the new school year. Papers are sorted and filed or thrown away, books are packed away for another child, and old crayons, pencils and markers are tossed. My kids usually help with this part of the planning.
Find and Print/ Bookmark Supplemental Curriculum from the Internet
There are so many awesome FREE homeschool resources on the internet. I like to have extra coloring sheets, cutting practice worksheets, and games printed and in the kid’s binders so they have something to work on if I need them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I also bookmark websites that I have approved for them to play on during school hours. For a list of great free websites visit Five J’s homeschool downloads page. This is my go to page when I am looking for good homeschool web content for my kids.
Relax and Remember that School is Fun
Depending on which state you live in and its homeschool requirements, homeschool planning can often feel like a chore. This year I felt like I spent almost as much time on paperwork as I did on the planning! (Not really, but it felt that way) As you look through the books remember, they are a guide not your master! If you wake up to a beautiful day, ditch the books and head out for a nature walk. Take advantage of the homeschool days in your area and go on lots of field trips.
Homeschooling is more than books and paperwork, it is a way of life. Live it.