Back to Homeschool Tips & Tricks

Here in BC, we’re in our last week of summer. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and so are my kids. For the last months, any hints about school have been greeted by one of them singing, “We don’t talk about school, no no no” (to the tune of a certain song from Disney’s Encanto). They may not be talking about school yet, but I’ve slowly been starting to look at the upcoming year and thought I’d share my back to homeschool tips and processes with you.

Back to Homeschool Tips & Tricks. Photo by Taylor Heery on Unsplash

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Organize the Books

I ordered most of our curriculum and books towards the end of last school year, and it arrived before we moved at the end of July. The end of the school year is generally the time I’m thinking about what worked and what didn’t work in our homeschool. It’s a great time to select new curriculum, before I get into the busyness of summer and forget to place the orders (or my teacher goes on holidays and isn’t around to approve the order!).

If you didn’t do it at the end of the school year, declutter and purge. Get rid of the old workbooks and notebooks that the kids won’t need this year. Take down the old posters and recycle whatever you can. Assess the books and decide what will get used this year, what should get stored for another year, and what should get passed along to another homeschool family.

Then you can organize the new books and homeschool materials. With our move, I’ve had to downsize our homeschool area. We are once again going to be homeschooling at the dining room table with one short shelf for books. I had to really prioritize what books went on the shelf there, to be easily grabbed during school time, and what books went elsewhere.

This is also the time to double-check that you’ve got all the books for each child and subject, and to place any last-minute orders.

Buy / Print Your Planner

I bought a teacher planner this week. This is how I keep us organized during the school year. For the past couple of years, I’ve used the Catholic Through the Year Homeschool Planner and just printed it myself, then taken it to be coil bound. This year I grabbed the Simplified Teacher Planner by Emily Ley. It’s colourful, organized and has a bit more space. Whatever your favourite planner, make sure it’s printed or purchased so you can start planning your first week of school.

Schedule the Extracurriculars

I’ve also been looking at our calendar and planning what activities we want to do this year. Priorities for us include:

I’ve been asking friends for recommendations for good teachers in our new city and also scrolling through the local recreation centre guide. (Pet peeve: everyone is going paperless these days so I have to peer at the guide on my computer, instead of being able to mark it up, show it to the kids, and keep all the information for easy reference later.)

Plan Your Professional Development

One thing I’ve noticed since my oldest daughter started high school last year is that teachers in the school system get one day off per month (roughly) for professional development. GASP! Like, really? Yes! So if a teacher in a school can take a day off to learn more about teaching and improve her own skills and abilities, then so can I! While I was ordering books for the girls this year, I also ordered Sarah MacKenzie’s The Read Aloud Family for myself.

I encourage you, whether you are a veteran homeschooler or starting your first year, to also schedule some time for yourself. Maybe that’s one book you intend to read this year (put it in the schedule and make it happen!), or a monthly coffee date with a fellow homeschool mom to discuss kids and curriculum and more, or a local or online class, or whatever fills your bucket and helps you to be better equipped to pour into your kids.

Tip: your local rec centre (and any other place that offers kids’ activities) likely has specific “daycamps” planned for pro-d days. I used to ignore these, because I wasn’t a working mom who needed childcare for my kids when they weren’t in school. Then I realized this was actually a great opportunity for the kids to do a one-off class that didn’t require a huge time commitment from me. It was fun for them and a break for me and basically win-win. If you haven’t yet looked at the local classes offered for kids on pro-d days, I’d encourage you to check it out and consider it.

Take Back-to-School Pictures

I love any excuse to snap some pictures of the kids, so we do back-to-school photos. For the last several years, we’ve taken a picture on the sidewalk in front of our condo. This year, we’re in a new place so we’ll have to find a new “tradition” for the photos. It can be fun to take the photo in the same place each year and then compare how the kids have grown and changed over the year, but it’s also fun to be creative.

Plan a Not-Back-to-School Party

The best part about early September here in the lower mainland? The weather is usually still great but all the kids are back in school so the local hikes and attractions are once again quiet! While we often jump right into the school year at the same time as the local schools, I also like to take some time to hit the beach a few more times, hike the trails we avoided during the summer because the parking was impossible, and even look for discounted rates at local attractions.

For many years, we’ve also joined other homeschoolers for a not-back-to-school party. As homeschoolers, many of us start the school year on a date that works for our family, rather than the date set by the government. The year that my fourth daughter was born, I started our school year at the end of August as I knew I’d be taking some time off around her birth, and another friend of mine has done that this year as she expects her fifth soon. It’s fun to get together with other homeschoolers and celebrate the start of the school year, whether we’ve started looking at the books or not.

What back to homeschool tips would you share?

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