Whether you’re a new homeschooler not sure how to get started or an experienced homeschooler looking for a little planning inspiration, these simple strategies will help you get organized for the learning year ahead.
Have a student-teacher conference.
Include your kids in the planning process. When they are active participants in planning, they take on some responsibility for their own educations and take more pride in their accomplishments. Start an end-of-the-year tradition hanging out together at coffee shop or diner to conduct a post mortem of the school year. Which curriculum did your child like or not like — and why? Which publishers’ texts would he like to use again? What area of study is he most interested in exploring further? If you have multiple kids, try to make time for a separate sit-down with each one. This simple tradition can give you direction and focus when planning the next year. It can be helpful to bring a list of classes and activities to consult during your conversation — it’s easy to forget things that happened back in October after your second mint-chocolate-chip frappe.
Host a planning party.
Invite a few homeschooling friends over for a casual curriculum party. Keep it simple — open a bottle of wine and order in dinner — and ask your guests to bring their favorite curricula from previous years and new material they’re excited about using. These informal get-togethers can be a great way to get inspired and to discover curricula you never knew existed. These planning parties are also a great way to clear some space on your bookcases — keep a giveaway stack of books and materials, and pass on outgrown or not-quite-right materials. This is also a great opportunity to chat about everything from organizing your day to keeping track of lessons to finding the best calculus teacher. The real experts in homeschooling are the parents who do it every day, so you’re much more likely to find a brilliant system from a fellow homeschooler than you are from a generic organization website. If you’re still building your local homeschool community, a planning party can be a great way to get to know other homeschoolers, but you can also get planning support from Facebook groups and online forums. If your homeschool pals are scattered far and wide, consider hosting a Facebook curriculum party instead of an in-person get-together.
Make a love it-need it-hate it list.
Whether it’s your first year homeschooling or your fifteenth, you’re your own best inspiration. Get oriented by making three simple lists. Start with a list of all the things that are going great, whether it’s making Monday baking day, doing narrations with Story of the World, or starting the morning with yoga. You already know that these things work well, so when you’re stuck between two choices, opt for the one that’s closest to something that’s already a perfect fit. Next, make a list of all the things you need to cover in the coming year — maybe it’s time to get serious about multiplication, or your daughter’s dream college requires a lab science for sophomore year. You’ll want to find materials to help you fill these needs. Finally, do yourself a favor and make a list of all the things you just plain haven’t enjoyed, whether it’s your drill-and-drone math curriculum or your way-too-busy Monday schedule. Get rid of the things that aren’t working for you, and fill that space with books and activities you do like.
Set up a DIY homeschool retreat.
Sometimes, you just need a little inspiration before you dive into another year. Book a hotel room for the weekend, and pack your suitcase with some of those books you’ve been dying to read (On our list: Lighting Their Fires: How Parents and Teachers Can Raise Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World by Rafe Esquith, Teaching What Really Happened: How To Avoid The Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History by James W. Loewen, Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer, and Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning: A Story for Mother Culture by Karen Andreola) and lectures you want to hear (consider Susan Wise Bauer’s Homeschooling the Real (Distractable, Impatient, Argumentative, Unenthusiastic, Non-Book-Loving, Inattentive, Poky, Vague) Child,” The Homeschool Scholar’s A Homeschool Parent’s Guide to Grades, Credits and Transcripts, Pam Sorooshian’s Unschooling and Math, or Donna Simmons’ Talking Pictorially and Living Actively with your Young Child.) Feel free to add your favorite inspiration sources in the comments.
This was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine.