This is the 12th in my 12 Days of Holiday Organizing series, which is part of the 12 Days of Homeschooling Fun that includes crafts, meal planning, recipes, holiday-themed study units and more! Today, we talk about how to turn holiday tasks into fun activities and drop the stress. As they year comes to an end, you may be considering how to plan your homeschool for next year or jumping in to homeschooling. Take time to research and relax before diving into your homeschool year.
Want to know more about homeschooling? The new Homeschool Life Magazine is packed with valuable information to inspire and support homeschoolers of any range of experience.
There are many perks to homeschooling, including the freedom to homeschool as you like. That was a foreign concept to me as a new homeschooler! It took some time, and lots of trial and error, until we found a groove that worked for our family. As a full-time working mom, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in homeschool. It can be a juggling act, but with a good plan, and room for flexibility, homeschooling has been better than we ever expected.
Plan your homeschool year in 4 steps:
- Find Your School Year Fit
- Know Your Child’s Learning Style
- Gather the Curriculum
- Set Goals
Plan Your Homeschool Year
To get started, determine how you plan to run your school year. There are a few ways to plot out your homeschool.
- Calendar – Start at some point in January and homeschool through December at your own pace.\
- Traditional – Start when public school goes back to the books in August and end in May with the same vacation schedule, federal holiday days off, etc.
- Year-Round – This is more of a typical homeschooler approach. Homeschool happens at your pace, the curriculum comes and goes and you only stick with what is working and ditch what doesn’t. Take 2 to 4 weeks off in spring, summer for family vacations and maybe the month of December off for the holidays. the year. You can start the school year at any time.
No matter what you choose, make sure to take time off and give kids a break. I’m always surprised by their passion for learning when they return to school after they are given a break and allowed to just be kids.
Find What Works Best for You
We have done each way of homeschooling. As a newbie, I didn’t even think of not following the public school year schedule. But then I realized that when school is in, all those packed play places are open, empty and great places to meet new homeschool friends.
After trying on different styles, we tend to do year-round homeschooling. But then we have always homeschooled during the summer, even when they were in public school, we just didn’t realize that was homeschooling. The twins would get interested in something and we’d snap up books and fish through study units online until we found one that looked fun.
We do a child-led homeschool. That’s not to say they don’t have to struggle through fractions (which, oh my, did we ever!). But I realized halfway through the last bucket of tears from twin one that I was applying my public-school mindset to our relatively happy homeschool regimen. We shall learn fractions no matter the struggle! But then I talked to other homeschool moms, went through a few books and curriculum that didn’t work until we found Learn Math Fast and Math Adventures. They love puzzles and could solve puzzles that involved fractions. They got it just like that!
Get the Kids Involved
When we went with what worked for them and their learning style, it all fell into place. As a homeschooler, you can take the time to work with their learning style.
When the twins were little, I planned worksheets and games based on what they needed to learn and what they liked. So, we did math worksheets with space or animal themes. We used candies and Legos to count and spell. As they grew into elementary-aged subjects we changed it up. They also took on subjects they didn’t like with a determination to get through them. Now that they are older, they want to be more involved with what we are learning. They shop for curriculum and give suggestions.
If kids learn better in groups, find a co-op or consider starting your own co-op.
Schedule Homeschool, Or Not
When we made the leap from public to homeschool, I thought we had to mirror the schedule and courses they were taking in their MAGNET school. They had been in gifted classes and I worried I wouldn’t be able to give them the same opportunities. But we found coding, robotics and many more opportunities around our city. The 4H clubs, scouts, YMCA and local non-profits opened a world of opportunities that the twins could never get in a crowded classroom of other curious and gifted kids.
We set up schedules with P.E. days at the local YMCA homeschool classes, coding class once a week, a set amount of math, reading, social studies and other age-appropriate subjects and workbooks. We started at the same time every day, dressed and no distractions. Dog outside, music off, focus on.
That schedule was my friend! It showed we were doing something; the kids were getting the info they were supposed to be getting to be good little 3rd graders and pass any test thrown at them. Except there were no tests, they weren’t really learning anything and we all felt like we were going through the motions. Was this what homeschool was supposed to be like?
When Schedules Fail You
Don’t get me wrong. It was great for a few weeks, but then the novelty of being home for school began to wear off. We whirled through online classes mixed with workbooks and couldn’t find a good fit. I was overwhelmed, worried I’d made a big mistake and threw my arms up in defeat. We were a slave to the schedule and the holidays were fast approaching. I work full time and was waking up earlier and earlier to get the work I needed to done before the first twin’s door cracked open in the morning.
We picked back up in January, two weeks after the deadline I had set for us. What was the rush? We went on a mini vacation when public school went back in session and got a great deal because it was the slow time. Another perk of homeschooling. We had an incredible time! And I took another week off to decompress, unpack and get my life back on schedule before tackling homeschool. I highly recommend taking time for self-care when you homeschool.
Bend the Schedule
Another perk of homeschooling is the freedom. We created a happy homeschool. We came back with Time4Learning. It fit well with my need to have some structure. We started around 8, or 9, and finished about 3 hours later. And 3 hours was plenty! We talked, we listened to each other.
As a working from home mom, I tried to carve out those hours to be only about homeschool and not answer emails or phone calls. When I had to take a call, meeting, interview, whatever, I had things in place the kids could do independently. Otherwise, I’d cave and just say yes to Roblox. I have a love/hate relationship with Roblox, but that’s another post! (Seriously, you can use Roblox in your homeschool. I’ll write that up for January.)
Plan the week ahead and make room for the fun things. If you have a test, quizzes, or assessments happening, plan for those days and maybe make the homeschool day less challenging. Homeschool is about meeting the child where they are. If they need extra time on test days, take it. Those worksheets and reading will wait.
Set a Goal
My first year I looked up what 3rd graders need to know and went by that. The online curriculum doled out what they needed to know and told me what to print out, pick up at the library and get them to the next grade. It is a great way for beginners to dive into homeschool. Once I got comfortable with our ability and saw how much my kids love of learning was being fed by our efforts, I dove into the deep end. I snapped up curriculum about bugs, anatomy, astronomy, the Roman empire and anything else the twins showed the slightest interest in. It was exhausting. I had a pile of books that we would never have the time to plow through, much less learn from.
I slowed down and asked the twins what they wanted to learn about first. How did they want to do it, online courses, virtual classes, workbooks, a combo? We set goals for our homeschool. This is also when I learned they were bored with their current online program. I worked with the staff at Time4Learning and advanced their grade level to make it more challenging. It worked! Taking the time to set goals, talk to the kids and slow down made a huge difference in our homeschool.
Relax and Enjoy
The other perk about homeschooling is that if something pops up, say a field trip to a dairy or a ranger led nature hike, take the fun thing and ditch the homeschool schedule. You can get back to the books. Kids are naturally curious and want to explore the world. Take those opportunities.