Year End Steps
End Your Homeschool Year Better with 3 Vital Steps
May is here. For most of us it means a well-earned break from our daily schooling efforts. For me it means that it is time for the big homeschool clean out.
Cleaning and Prepping in May?
I know you might be tempted to wait until you have had a bit of a break. After all, I know at our house we are all so done looking at stacks of school books on the living room floor and dining room tables. Your whole family is ready for a break, but if I may speak from thirteen years of experience, do this last thing. Gutting your schoolroom, your cabinet, or boxes as your last task of the school year is an act you will thank yourself for later.
Memory and Feelings Are Strong Now
Right now is the best time to update your records while the year is still fresh in your mind. In a few months, you might wax poetical about your run at the latest Language Arts program; right now you know you hate it. You watched your child struggle. Now is the best time for honest reflection, when memories are fresh and clear. Don’t spend August digging through homeschool refuse, guessing what math your elementary kids did last year.
Now is a good time for me to remind you of that verse you tell your kids; “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11
Year End Check Off in 3 Steps
There are three areas to focus your efforts on to get any size school area ready for next year with a little effort: books, paper, and records.
This is not a sexy project, but the good news is that you won’t need to go to the hardware store, unless you are out of trash bags. After the last week of school, find a good day to send the kids outside. Grab your favorite coffee cup, your biggest trash can, two big boxes—labeled SELL and DONATE, a pen and notebook, and get ready to end the year well.
Create a Habit of Keeping Records
- Gather up all of the stacks of books you have used this school year.
Note any text and workbook titles, publisher, published date, and version. Add a quick note about what you covered for the year with each child. Maybe you studied birds, 6th grade math, or composition in English. Good records help you plan in the future.
In the high school years, this is the information you use to create your child’s transcript. It is a good habit to keep a running record of your curriculum and classes in a regular common place. You can keep a file on your computer, notes in your phone, or you can use an online record keeper like I do. I use AppleCore for my record keeping and simply add classes a few times a year as well as grades.
By keeping good records I can print a report card for the semester or for the school year any time I need to. This helped us get a “Good Student” discount with our auto insurer. When graduation time comes, you will have a homeschool transcript ready with what you had already entered over the years.
- Make a List of any co-op classes, online classes, and unconventional learning opportunities your child has had over the year as well.
Those opportunities help to create a well-rounded transcript that better shows who your student is as a learner. As you go through books and papers, you will remember a three week class for painting or Coding that might otherwise be forgotten. Those classes deserve school credit, too.
Making Room for the Best Books and Curriculum
- Purge any unused curriculum and books that did not work for your family.
Many homeschool groups have an end of the year sale or swap. Empty workbooks and those with only a few used pages can be resold. It might be difficult to part with your investment, but unused curriculum won’t get anymore valuable sitting on your shelf.
I know it was costly, but curriculum you hate, even if it is a great program you could not get implemented, is not worth the schoolroom space. Keeping books you don’t like or use inhibits you from filling that shelf space with books you all will love.
- Pull any reading books that aren’t an age appropriate fit for your family.
We keep a small box of board books for little visitors, and our most beloved picture books. But what about that shelf of Box Car Children or Junie B. Jones? No one has touched in years; so box them up for resell. Don’t want to hassle with resale? Donate to the local library’s annual book sale or give them to an afterschool program.
Tackling the Paper Trail
- Curate Your Portfolio and Update the Map of Your Year
The amount of paper you amass depends on a variety of factors: number of students, style of schooling, record keeping method, and the like. I know a family that keeps a box for all paper that is turned in for the year. At the end of the year, this Mom creates a portfolio from the best samples of progress from this collection. In years past, I have kept an accordion file with a slot for each student, keeping a few samples of completed assignments for our records. You can check HSLDA for your state’s record keeping requirements to be sure that you are in compliance with what is required.
Log any courses and file major projects you need to add to your transcript and portfolio. I search my photos by date, according to the school year for reminders of events we might have forgotten about. Check your Homeschool Facebook groups or co-op calendar pages as well to remind you of events you might have forgotten about and record them.
- Throw Away Every Scrap You Don’t Need to File
At the end of the school year, I clean out all of the notebooks, binders, and drawers. From this you can pull any samples of work you might need for record keeping, mementoes, or a year-end scrapbook. The rest goes in the trash. I am completely unsentimental when it comes to art projects and the like. In our life, there is no room for clutter. If you want to be a little less drastic, choose a small box, and store only what fits neatly inside.
In the past, I have kept finished workbooks, but after they aged for a few years in the attic, I realized that no one was going to ask to see that handwriting book my son finished in the fourth grade. Eventually, I tossed all of the workbooks in the trash. We log our records well and keep only a few sample pages for the current school year.
If you want to keep your kids work but want to kill the clutter, I have two great suggestions. . .
- One is to scan/photograph the keepsakes and create a file in your computer or print a year-end book from an inexpensive source like Chatbooks.
- Use a three ring binder and clear page sleeves for each child. Make it a project to fill the binder for the school year with fun work samples, memories, and pictures.
Make Record Keeping, a Habit to Keep
The best way to insure that you continue this habit, year after year, is to keep it simple. Limit yourself to only one box, photo book, or binder each year.
All of this can be done in one day, leaving your whole break to play, dream, laugh, and plan for the next year. Having a clean and neat space might even change the way you use your school space over the summer, but it will definitely change your attitude when it comes time to get geared up for school again.
You are going to love being ready to go . . . way before day one.
Amber Smith is a second-generation homeschooling Mother of 11. Her K-12 home is in rural Iowa, where she has spent the last 21 years with her 5-star chef, & laundry maverick husband, Doug. Amber is a freelance writer. She is a regular contributor for the Sonlight Blog and is a curriculum reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. She has been blogging for three years at 200fingersandtoes.com, where she writes devotional work and shares quality tools and resources that help parents to live well and finish strong as homeschooling families.
As a leader of a large family, her heart desire is to prove that no none is too busy for self-care or to peruse their dreams. She is encouraging homeschool parents to find their passions and live vibrant lives while their kids are still home.