I’ve been homeschooling for 13+ years, I haven’t graduated one kid, and I switch things up ALL THE TIME.
So let’s face it — I don’t know everything about homeschooling.
On the other hand, 13 years is a fair amount of time, and I’m still at it, and I am really good (if I do say so myself) at starting well.
So here is what I recommend to parents starting out homeschooling this year:
- Go to the library and get your fines in order. We currently owe $28 for two books that took a summer vacation under my daughter’s bed. It’s super cute when your kids get their first library card, and they are so excited! But then they want to use them, and you’re trying to keep track of books checked out on three different cards, and it’s like your brain is trying to juggle flaming library card batons. So start with a clean slate.
2. Plan out extracurriculars for your first “semester.” My rule is that the kids can pick one activity at a time — music lessons, sports, Brownies, whatever. More than that, and we start living on frozen pizzas. Make a rule that works for you.
3. Figure out what your weeks are going to look like. I am a big rhythm fan. I like to know what’s going on so that I can talk and argue less. So I like the idea of having set days to do things — Mondays are library days. Friday is co-op. Or whatever.
4. Know that your plans are going to get screwed up some weeks. Other cool stuff will come up. People will need to visit the dentist. This is just your general plan.
5. Figure out what you want your days to look like. I’ve seen this described a lot of different ways in the homeschool-verse: make a schedule, find your rhythm, create a flow-chart, whatever … but write down a basic idea of how you want things to go and when you are going to do things. Focus on the big stuff (in our house that’s reading together, math and allowing the kids time to pursue interests) and go from there.
6. Schedule some down-time every day. Even when you have big kids and especially if you have introverted or sensitive kids.
7. Buy some new stuff. Because it’s the start of school and it’s fun. And you want to begin again. And you’re all full of beans.
8. Don’t buy too much new stuff. Don’t buy stuff for the whole year. Instead, take some money (I’m serious) and put it in two envelopes: label one November Slump, and pull it out the day after Halloween when you have a sugar hang-over and are questioning your sanity.
Label the second one February Hell, and pull it out around Valentine’s Day when the weather feels like it’s trying to kill you and your kids are climbing the walls and you just want to hide and eat those Dove chocolates without bothering to read the inspirational messages inside.
Set Yourself up for Success
9. Plan something fun. As more and more school buses start clogging up your neighborhood, hit the drive-through for donuts or have a backyard waterpark day.
Take a picture and put it somewhere you’ll see it all the time, and when your child is whining during math, or breaks a pencil out of frustration because writing one sentence is JUST SO HARD, look at that picture, and pack everyone up and go for ice cream and start over.
10. Make a plan to take care of you. Right now. Think about what makes you feel good. Do you love good books? Do you love at-home spa treatments? Do you love fancy coffee?
Write down 9 or 10 things that make you feel good and commit to doing at least one every month. Do not feel one bit guilty.
This is how you’re going to fill your bucket, so you can fill everyone else’s. It’s important. It’s vital. Please — do it for your kids, your husband and because you deserve it.