By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Every summer, starting in July, I pull all the books off the shelf and start reorganizing our baskets for the new year. It's an unhurried process for me. I like to tackle one thing at a time to not let the magnitude of the task of preparing for a new year of learning again and seemingly so soon overwhelm me.
I've learned over the years that there is no one-size-fits-all method to prepare your home for a school year. Some of my friends meticulously plan out each week ahead of time. Others attend conferences and curriculum sales to gain inspiration and new content to add to their school day. Some of us wait until the day before we crack open the books once again to ensure we have everything we need to get started. Your method is the best method for your family.
Even though the specifics of how you organize your school room or calendar are for you to determine, there are a few things that we all should do in order to prepare for the school year. We each need to take time to seek the Lord as we prepare our homes for our learning routine. Creating a routine for your home is also vital to keep everyone sane on this journey. Here are a few more ways to prepare for your homeschool year:
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1. Pray Over Your School Year
We need Jesus to do this work well! Praying over your schedule, community, curriculum, marriage, sibling relationships, academic progress, sports, and more is vital. All we aim to do as a family is live in a way that honors God. We cannot do that without first asking him what he has for your home in the next school year. In my experience, every year is different! The young years feel similar to preschool. The most important thing you can do is build community and play together. Your kids' interests, friendships, and academic needs will expand as they age. Praying about finding the right places for them to grow and connect is vital. You can't forget yourself on this journey. Asking God to show you how to keep your cup full in a role that can be so utterly draining is huge. Keep your eyes on Jesus; that is how you will find the grace you need for this work.
2. Ask God for a Word for the School Year
At New Year's, I started the tradition of asking God for a word for me to meditate on for the year. Just something to keep me grounded and focused on what I feel the Lord is trying to do in my life. In the same way, I've started to ask God to give us a word or phrase for our school years. Sometimes those words can build on each other from one year to the past, growing the mission of what you are hoping to accomplish in your home together. Two years ago, my word was diligence. I wanted us to focus on doing everything we put our hands to well with a good attitude. Last year my phrase was "embrace the pace of grace," and boy, did that become necessary, as we did not know we would be adding an additional toddler to our family!
This year I want to focus on wisdom and truth. Our world is full of misinformation. Culture is full of confusion, and truth is hard to find. As we study, I want to prod my kids to think critically about the information they are being presented and how it is being presented to them. Is it true? Is the source credible? What bias is being added to the information? How does it align with God's word? These are the conversations I want to have this year with my kids.
3. Make a Plan
Now everyone plans differently! I personally like to make a rough draft of what our days will look like, and then once we get going, we improvise from there. I also like to know which subjects/curriculums we will be using as we move through the year. I've learned that in our home, less is more. Every time I think we should add an extra workbook, subject, or study, it just falls through the cracks of our life. I try to focus on the basics and only change what's not working.
Planning could look as elaborate as marking out exact time frames for you to eat, teach, read, rest, clean, and more in your home throughout the week. One tip I liked personally was to write out what we did at the end of the week, not the beginning! That way, I don't get too discouraged if we didn't get to everything I hoped for. One thing is true with homeschooling, life happens! Things seem to interrupt my plan at least once a week if not more! So be ready for things to change. As a former public school teacher, I recall I rarely finished all the work I had prepared for my class in the week! Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. If you miss out on something planned, just remember none of us get to it all.
4. Consider Housework and Childcare
Here is the deal: the dishes don't evaporate just because you have decided to learn at home with your kids. The laundry still has to be done. More messes are made when everyone is home all day! Meals still have to happen at least three times a day every day. Babies and toddlers need care even while the big kids are doing lessons! There is a lot on your plate, Momma! Considering how to handle these things during your school week is helpful.
Some ideas include a chore chart for the kids, helping them remember how they can be a part of caring for the house that you all use every day. In my house, we have 'clean up day,' which is one day of the week we all work together to thoroughly clean the house after our school work is done. Making a plan for how the older kids can help with the younger kids can help give you more teaching time in the day. Other options, such as preschool, are a great way to gain some more focused hours of the day learning together.
Remember, though, in traditional school, there are 20-plus kids in each class. There are very few "distraction-free" moments in a school day, so if your toddler is creating mayhem while you teach math, this is probably no worse than kids whispering in the back of the class while the teacher is talking. We must be realistic about what we expect of ourselves and our kids during the week. Homeschooling is a commitment to do life together, not just get through a certain number of math lessons weekly.
5. Find Your People
The only reason I have not given up on homeschooling is because of our community. Whenever I ask my kids how they feel about school, they emphatically love homeschooling because of our community! If we changed course now, we'd disconnect them from friends and families that are deeply invested in them as individuals. You can find this tribe through co-ops, church groups, play meet-ups, or take homeschool classes. Just be sure to make space for a community on this journey. Every person in your family needs the accountability, joy, and support that close friends offer.
May God's abundant grace be in your home as you prepare for a new school year! Would you have eyes to see God's beauty in both the profound and the mundane! May God equip you and provide all your needs to love and serve your people well this year!