How to Open and Close your homeschool year

Are you ready to start a new homeschool year?

Here are 6 tips on how to start and end your homeschool for a successful year:

  1. Plan curriculum ( or unschool)
  2. Gather, buy materials & school supplies & clear a space for learning
  3. Set expectations (AM “do school” PM Enrichment & outdoor play, chores before screen time, etc.)
  4. Set up routines (start school a week or two early to ease into your homeschool rhythm one subject at a time)
  5. Decide what check-ins (informal assessments) you will be using
  6. Close out your year (final assessments, set aside keepsake projects & academic pieces of evidence & jot down progress notes)

Plan Curriculum, Unschool or something In-Between

We have tried several different ways of homeschooling!

First we did a fully planned homeschool out curriculum (I went WAY overboard). Then we tried unschooling (I recommend this at least for a small period of time if you are transitioning from a public school to homeschooling) and now we do a blend of both for balance.

Fully planned curriculum is great because all of the planning is already done for you and there is very little prep. Just note that what they have planned out may not always work for your child and you will need to regroup and extend the lesson or plan something else that would make retention much easier.

Unschooling

Unschooling is an option for families who do not like a set (rigid) schedule or formal curriculum. This method of homeschooling is a challenge for a lot of families because the lack of school structure can be hard for some families.

With all the weirdness that schooling in the time of covid brought we decided to unschool at first then transferred over to a relaxed eclectic looping schedule.

Schooling for Success

You’re not going to do everything perfect the first or even second time. Our greatest successes were when we found our balance, enjoyed learning and embraced challenges together.

Find projects and resources that support you in our journey and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Unschooling is definitely not for everyone.

Gather materials & supplies

This is pretty self explanatory although you may mostly need help gathering curriculum (if you are using a formal program).

Gather up materials like math manipulatives, science supplies (or buy a science KIT) and general school supplies. At the bare minimum you should be teaching English Language Arts, Math, Science & Social Studies. I take a week to “launch” our routines and just focus on that subject one at a time. Then, we build our school routine for the year. Last year we looped meaning we focused on direct instruction one subject at a time. (The remainder of the day was enrichment to reinforce reading & math standards & teach science.)

This year we started with looping but have worked up to 3 subjects in one day. Do what works best for you!

I have found it’s best for school age kids (Kindergarten & up) to store the materials where they can access and use them independently. We have had a dedicated kid table and Montessori style shelving since my son was 1. As he’s grown I have set out different developmentally appropriate materials for him to work/ play with.

If you are not comfortable setting up a table try an organizer for small projects like my process art box. It contains all the supplies you will need for a single project.

Set Expectations

Map out your daily schedule and how your days will flow.

Teach kids where things are and how you expect them to be used & cleaned up. Plan to fit all of your learning in with our daily life (chores, meals, family trips & fun stuff, etc.). Kids should help with chores as best as they can. Try using a homeschool schedule & planner to make the most of your time together.

Set up routines

It takes 21 days to create a (new) habit or so the saying goes.

It will take about that much time to start a homeschool routine. When I was teaching professionally I planned for it to take a month for us to get in the flow of school as a class. Some years it took more time some years it took less but 3-4 weeks was the average.

If you are brand new to homeschooling start with family agreements (ground rules) & values that are expected in the home (like honesty, responsibility & respect). THEN move onto work expectations & do one single subject per day (unless you know your kids are older and can handle it).

Some kids are easily overwhelmed and that is perfectly fine. Scale it back & introduce one subject a day (in the flow you’d like to do it). For example if you will eventually be doing all subjects in one day start with Math. Day 1 should be the intro the program then introduce any supplemental resources you plan on using one at a time.

Progress Monitoring

Taking time each week to make note of or organize what your child is learning will save you a lot of time at the end of the year. Photograph projects or celebrate your Childs learning with a portfolio. It’s nice to keep moments for later and it may save you a great deal of time one day down the road.

Keeping track of learning as the year progresses helps you not be surprised if grade level expectations aren’t being met.

Close out your homeschool year:

Decide how you will store your child’s work or portfolio. This can be important later down the road when you are putting together a high school transcript or applying for college for example.

Make time for assessments, formal or informal so that you know where they are leaving off & where you’ll start next year.

Create a report card (based on CCSS) or note where you are leaving off academically for math, science, language arts, etc. Grade level expectations are not perfectly aligned so it’s important to know where your child is at if you are using a formal curriculum.

Celebrate the year of learning with a special outing or a family tradition on your last day of school!

How to Open and Close your homeschool year
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