Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to Homeschool Basics

We rarely do anything {normal}, so why would school be any different?  We homeschool (strange!) and we work at it year-round which makes us even stranger.  Just ask the neighbor kids who are preparing to go back to school after an enjoyable summer break of swimming, camp and lazy days.  They are mortified when my kids can't play because they have homework.

There is something that we do like everyone else: back-to-school shopping.  Every August, we hit the sales with the rest of America and stock up on paper, pencils, and pens.  This is just one component of our kickoff celebration for the new year.

Cleaning & purging - In July, we spend a week cleaning and purging anything from the last school year that will not be used this year.  This is broken up into small daily tasks, such as cleaning out crates and cabinets (explained later), assembling last year's work into a spiral-bound book, assessing what we have that can be used in the coming year, and making a list of what is needed.  The kids can add reasonable things they want to the list, such as a certain type of pencil or thin markers instead of colored pencils. 

Shopping - I make two copies of the wish list, one for my mom and one for myself.  My mom generally gets the kids a few things and I get what's left on the list.  As the stores put things out, I get one or two things from the list each time I go shopping.  When the ads come out, I do some price matching and finish out my list.  Everything goes into the school closet for now.

Organizing - Mid-August, we set aside a week for organizing our new year (see note below).  Again, this is broken into tasks which are completed throughout the week.  Each kid has a crate for their everyday stuff - a tool box, binder, folder, books, etc.  They each also have a cabinet in the school room for things that are used less frequently or that don't fit into their crate.  This is when they get a bag filled with their personal supplies such as pencils, pens, glue, scissors, etc.  Everything from this bag is marked with their names before being put away.  Some of the supplies are left in the closet to be given out in January. 

The First Week of School - The next week is the first week of school.  I sit down with each kid to set goals.  We take those goals to Dad and the three of us sign a contract stating that we will all work together to accomplish those goals and how we will do it.  That contract is laminated and placed in a visible place as a reminder to us all throughout the year.  This is mostly a fun week, with assignments such as decorating notebooks and movies (I know, not normal.)  On Friday, we do some sort of field trip.  In the past, we have visited the zoo, gone to the local water park, and had a picnic at the park. 

We have found this routine to be just what we need to get our minds focused on the year ahead.  What helps your family get into the new year?

*Our school year starts in July, but it is a scaled-down version until our kickoff party in August.  Because of our need for a constant routine, we have "school" every week and simply scale back during the holiday seasons and vacations.

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