Checklist for Your School Year

jogging track in the park

While I realize many readers may have already begun their school year by now (or school year-round) this post can help you work out the bugs and keep you on track throughout your school year. I recommend you look for the “print this post” icon at the bottom of the post so you can have a copy of this post handy throughout this year and for years to come.

GOALS: If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a little time to write down your long-term goals for your child’s homeschooling.  When I did this eons ago I divided the goals that I had into three categories: spiritual, academic, and social.  As the years went by and I went back to review these goals, I found that I had indeed kept on track with my long-term goals…which has been a very good feeling.

LEGAL: You can find out more about the legal requirements for your state by visiting http://www.hslda.org/hs/default.asp.  State-wide homeschool groups are also a good resource for understanding what is required and how to fulfill your state’s requirements.

YEARLY OBJECTIVES: Use the goals you’ve already written down to outline some objectives for your school year. What curriculum and books will you be using? When do you plan to start your homeschool year and when will you take breaks? What will your weekly schedule look like? How will you fit in all those extra-curricular activities? These are all good things to think about ahead of time and to outline in your planner.

DE-CLUTTER: While “spring cleaning” is considered as something of a ritual by some, summer cleaning might be more appropriate for homeschoolers. You will want to make sure you have the previous year’s schoolwork organized and available should you need to go back to it for reference. Any curriculum you will no longer be using can be stored or sold or given away. Make sure there is a place for everything and that you make room for new curriculum and school supplies. This might be a good time, also, to freshen up your schoolroom (whatever that might mean to your family) with some new paint or decorations. Given that homeschoolers spend so much time actually home it’s nice to change things up now and then.

RESEARCH AND PURCHASE CURRICULUM: Even if you don’t buy your curriculum from Amazon, their reviews can be a great help when trying to decide whether a particular workbook or other curriculum purchase will work for you. Another place you may want to look for advice is on the Facebook pages of various homeschooling websites. Try to avoid impulse buying when it comes to curriculum. Research and research some more. (Realize too that even with all that research, sometimes a particular curriculum just doesn’t work and you may need to change course, so keep that in mind when considering your homeschool budget.) You can check my “Resources” page for companies to consider purchasing curriculum from. Most of these curriculum providers offer discounted pricing, so it’s worthwhile to compare.

BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES: Take advantage of back-to-school sales to stock up on paper, notebooks, pencils, crayons, markers, construction paper, scissors, calculators, and anything else you may need throughout the year.

PREPARATION: After you’ve purchased your curriculum and supplies, spend some time reviewing your purchases so that you can be prepared once school commences. Actually planning out a schedule several weeks in advance is a good idea as well, as it will help you feel more in command of your homeschool.

YOUR SCHEDULE: Plan to keep things light for the first couple of weeks of school while you and your children make the transition. Focus on the essentials such as reading and math, and add on other subjects after you’re comfortable with how things are going. Also, consider staggering days or even months when it comes to subjects such as science, history, art, etc. For instance, you could focus on science one day a week while you focus on history another (this can allow for much more thorough instruction). You could also study subjects in units, i.e. studying one subject for a three or four month period, and then switching to another subject for another three or four month unit.

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Consider that the first day of school will mostly involve reviewing with your children their new curriculum and what your expectations are. Consider making the day a little more special by baking a cake to “celebrate” or by incorporating some other fun activity to make the day special.

EVALUATE: You will need to periodically evaluate how your homeschool is functioning and what might need to be changed. Too often homeschoolers think they have to “stick it out” when something isn’t working, perhaps because they’ve invested money in a particular curriculum or they think it’s all a matter of getting their child’s behavior in line. Sometimes those are legitimate concerns, other times it is just an exercise in frustration to not make a change. Use weekends and breaks (such as Christmas break) to keep things organized, review how things are going, and make any necessary adjustments.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: Life happens. When you are homeschooling it is sometimes necessary to drop everything to take care of an urgent situation. You need to learn to adapt to these situations because they will come, I assure you. A situation such as a death in the family or a move may require you to scale back schooling to the essentials for a little while (a homeschooling friend of mine calls this “homeschooling-lite”). Keep in mind that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. You will be able to get back to a full schedule eventually. For the moment, take a break or at least scale back while you deal with the challenges of life.

YOUR YEAR IN REVIEW: When you finish up your school year your first reaction will probably be a huge sigh of relief! Go ahead, you deserve it. Then take some time to evaluate, again, what went right and what went, well, not so right. Jot down some notes to yourself so that when you are ready to start planning for next year you’ll have that valuable information at your fingertips.

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