Back to School Checklist for Homeschoolers
It’s almost that time. Soon you and the children will be back on another year-long learning adventure. Here are some ways to get the school year off to a great start that have worked for me. Brainstorm, adapt them, and find your own back-to-school checklist.
Here is my back to school checklist:
- Review Last Year
- Talk to My Children about Last Year & Coming Year
- Choose Subjects/Curriculum/Living Books
- Make a Flexible Schedule
- Purchase Curriculum & Supplies
- Organize School Area
- Celebrate the Start of a New School Year
Review Last Year
Take some time alone to look back over the past year.
- How did it go overall?
- What did the children learn?
- What aided their learning best?
- What did they not learn that you hoped they would and why?
- How did each child grow academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
- How did you enjoy the year?
- What did you enjoy teaching and how did you grow as a homeschool mom?
Once you have processed last year, you are in a better position to prepare for this year. You know some things to avoid and some things to repeat in a similar way.
Talk to Your Children
Have a special meal where you and the kids share highlights of the past year with one another. I would keep it positive so that it will cultivate looking forward to the new year. You can talk about negative things one-on-one.
Me: “Shine, you aced it in math this year.”
Shine: “Well the new curriculum really helped.”
Jimmy: “I loved the food in history class each week. That was awesome!”
Jenny Rose: “We took some awesome field trips this year. I really liked visiting the palm tree farm and the tide pool at Sebastian Inlet.
You will gain insight as kids share the highlights of the past year. They have often surprised me!
Be sure to share your own highlights and how proud you are of each child. Focus on where they have grown, acquired skills, and overcome obstacles.
This is a good time to ask about the coming year. Here are some questions I ask:
- What are you looking forward to this coming year?
- Is there anything you want to learn this year?
- Is there a book you would want to read aloud together this year?
- Is there a place you want to visit? (field trip)
You might be surprised to find out that your daughter wants to take ballet or your son wants to learn about the Middle Ages.
Choose Subjects/Curriculum/Living Books
Nail down your overall plan for the school year.
- What courses will the whole family do together?
- Will you use a unit study (tying everything together) or individual subjects?
- Will they be part of a homeschool co-op? If so, what courses?
- What lessons, sports, and other outside-the-home events will your family participate in?
Choose curriculum or living books for each subject. Or maybe you will just choose topics and choose materials when you get there.
For me, I like to take one week during the summer and completely devote it to flexible lesson planning for the new year. I don’t cook dinner, clean, or anything except work on lesson plans. I work at my long dining room table with books strewn everywhere. This helps me so much during the year because I have a plan, and even if I change it, I have a blueprint. I don’t have to do any more lesson planning until next year!
I love shopping for curriculum! We’ve had a lot of experience with curriculum that has worked and things that just didn’t fit in with our family. However, I spent over half of my homeschool budget on living books and literature, especially historical fiction. We love books in our house, and I have always wanted to raise readers!
We use living books a lot in our studies. They are such a treasure and are often read over and over again. For more insight on living books, read “4 Ways to Bring Living Into Your Home School.”
If you need help with choosing curriculum, you are not alone. I have talked to many homeschooling parents who feel confused this time of year. Here is my advice on choosing curriculum: “8 Steps to Choose the Best Curriculum for Your Family.”
Make a Flexible Schedule
Nail down your overall plan for the school year. Again, this is a big project. I make schedules on the computer for myself and each of my children. We print them and use them for the first two-three weeks. Then we always have to tweak them. I post all of our schedules on the huge white cabinet in the homeschool room. They are there for all to see, and it helps us stay focused.
I use block scheduling. You can read about the way I use block scheduling in our home school here: “How to Use Weekly Homeschooling Schedules.”
Purchase Curriculum and Supplies
It’s time to shop!
I like to make one overall HUGE list so that I can keep track of everything. Excel is great for this. I put the items I need to purchase in rows and then use columns for price comparison. Oh, make sure you include price of shipping in your comparing. Many companies offer free shipping after you spend a specified amount.
Look for back-to-school sales for supplies like pencils, crayons, notebook paper—it’s a huge savings!
Organize School Area
Every year we make changes to make our homeschool room, dining room, and family room more efficient for our homeschooling.
Some principles to keep in mind:
- Everything should have a place to “live”
- Make things you use frequently easy to access
- Make it easy to put things away after schoolwork is done
- Make sure bookshelves are accessible (without clutter in front)
- The tidier the workplace is, the easier it is to focus
- Let children find their work spot—it’s different for each one
When I finally got a homeschool room, we still used the family room for reading and the dining room table for writing.
Storage is a huge asset for homeschool families, and I tackle this in a blog post. You can read Six Smart Storage Solutions to Eliminate Homeschool Clutter.
Celebrate the Start of a New Year
Open the school year with prayer together. Be positive without chiding anyone in your prayers. Be positive and thankful as you pray.
Take a school photo all together. I love to see the photos of homeschool families holding a sign with their name and grade or name and year 2021/2022.
Enjoy breakfast out or make something special at home to celebrate the first day of school. Make the first day fun by ending with a movie, trip to the playground, or messy art project.
As you start the new year, realize even the best laid plans go astray. Relax. No matter what happens in the year ahead, God’s got this! Surrender the year to Him and enjoy His care in your life!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Travel God’s World Geography, Travel to London Unit Study, My Creation Week Lapbook, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.