While my neighbors are counting down the days ’til the big yellow bus whisks their kids back to school, I’m over here counting down the days until the pool is empty so all 8 of us can go to the small neighborhood pool without getting the stink eye from the pool monitor… my promise that “they’re all mine” wasn’t convincing enough for her this summer when the pool was teeming with kids! Since we can’t fit in the pool yet, I’ve decided I might as well use this week to knock out my back to homeschool checklist.
13 years ago, my Back 2 School prep looked a lot different. I spent a year researching, months deal shopping and weeks carefully organizing a little bookshelf squeezed into the corner of our small family room. I hoped I was good enough to homeschool my son for kindergarten. If you’re that mamma, let me save you a lot of agonizing. You are enough, mamma!
Of course you will need some basics. Pencils, paper, don’t forget snacks… do you need workbooks and stickers and a potty pass? Are you wondering, “What exactly are the basics?”
Here’s my I’ve-been-homeschooling-for-13-years-and-have-18-years-to-go Back to School checklist of what you need, what you don’t and what I wish I’d known.
what you need.
You need to have your basics organized. I’m a firm believer in having a place for everything and everything in its place… so B2S for me means a bit of organization. Instead of having our school supplies spread across the house, I corral them into one space so when we need them, we can find them! (I made a streamlined, pretty, printable Back 2 School checklist I’m happy to share with you!)
You need to have a heart for your kids. If you’re feeling frazzled, don’t start school tomorrow. Plan a fun “last day of summer” in the sprinklers or hire a babysitter and get a pedicure or swap kid care with a friend to finish planning your first week. I also try to spend time praying that the Lord will help me keep our homeschool a priority in our family’s schedule and will help me to elevate character building in importance… because let’s be honest, respect and kindness and diligence are more important than penmanship.
You need to prepare. Even if you bought a scripted curriculum, you need to read through the first week’s lessons. Gather every book and every supply you’ll need so you don’t have to interrupt the flow of your early school days to go find cotton balls or a book that was whisked into a kid’s bedroom.
You need to have some quick meals handy. If you’re new to homeschooling, this may sound silly but all the veterans are nodding their heads right now! You’ll have days that you’re so involved with learning something fun that you hate to pull away to start dinner and others that you’re just too exhausted to even think about it. Having some “emergency” options in the freezer or pantry can eliminate stress and is gentle on the budget.
what you don’t.
You don’t need to schedule out the entire school year. One of the benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. Scheduling your year out in too far in advance can keep you from the spontaneous learning tangents and hands-on experiences that make homeschooling so rich. When we developed Homeschool Manager, we made our focus “Long-term planning, short-term scheduling”. So plan & purchase curriculum for your entire school year but schedule in smaller increments to leave room for each child to learn at their own pace.
You don’t need to buy traditional classroom stuff. I, personally, love a big world map and US map but we haven’t re-hung ours since moving a year ago since we’re short on wall space. As for the rest…white boards and motivational posters and math manipulatives and learning games and school desks and charts and workbooks and separate curricula for each subject… you don’t need it. If you’re getting started, give yourself time to learn what you’ll really use. This reduces the chance of feeling guilty for not using “all the things” that you spent money on. Keep it simple. Except for a great pencil sharpener. You should definitely buy a real pencil sharpener.
what I wish I’d known.
It’s ok not to answer the phone. I know that has nothing to do with a school checklist but SOMEONE has to tell new homeschoolers it’s a good idea to put those phones away and focus on the kiddos. You would be appalled if a teacher in a traditional classroom answered calls and paid bills and scheduled appointments between each math problem… give yourself a week or two with no phone at all while you get in a groove.
You’ll buy stuff you don’t like. I was 10 years in when we purchased a super pricey curriculum I just knew would revolutionize our large family’s school time. Yeah… you figured it out before I did. It just didn’t work for us! I had to walk away from all those hundreds ($$$$) of dollars we invested and chalk it up to a learning experience. Mamma, it’s bound to happen at some point. You’ll research and talk to friends and lurk on message boards and that perfect program just won’t be a good fit for your family.
Please hear me… your family is unique. You are uniquely qualified to school your children because you know them better than anyone else in the world. It’s ok that a curriculum is amazing for your friend and doesn’t work for you. That doesn’t mean you did it wrong. It just means there’s another fit that’s better for your specific family.
Whether you’re scrambling to start Monday or you’ve decided to ease into school bit by bit, enjoy every last ray of sunshine this summer both inside your home and outside.