“Spring” into Fall! How to Set Up a Successful Homeschooling Academic Year NOWMay 6th, 2012 | By Jessica Parnell | Category: Building a Homeschooling Curriculum, Featured Articles
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” —Alexander Graham Bell
Spring is here! Yet before the urge to put on your swim goggles and head to the beach or off to the mountains on a family retreat strikes too hard, it is best to think ahead a bit toward the upcoming school year. Remember that it will help to reduce any mid to late summer panic attacks as fall approaches, or some critical mistakes in curriculum choices.
So what’s our advice for you? We have a step-by-step guide for “springing” into a successful homeschool year this fall! Get out a pencil and paper, and get off to a great start right now.
Step 1. Review your previous year. What were the highlights and successes? What parts didn’t go over the way you had hoped? Were there any particular issues either you or your child struggled with? Did the curriculum you chose really work for your family, and where could improvements be made in the upcoming year?
Step 2. Identify your homeschooling style. First, think about your child. Is he/she self-motivated or does he/she need extra encouragement? Is he/she a visual learner or more of a hands-on student where lots of demonstrations/labs are necessary? Does he/she learn or study best on the computer? Also think about your own teaching style. Were you comfortable with your knowledge and skills last year, or do you think you could benefit from additional support? All these factors will weigh in to what sort of curriculum you choose for the upcoming year.
Step 3. Determine your homeschool year. Some curriculum come organized for a 40 week schedule. If your homeschooling curriculum doesn’t come with a schedule, it’s best to create one before you embark on your school year. If you follow state guidelines and hold school for 180 days, then you must determine your homeschooling schedule and decide which days will be celebrated as holidays. Be sure to include time in your homeschooling schedule for any final tests and studying for those tests as well.
Step 4. Identify some yearly goals. What do you want your children to learn in the upcoming year? Do you know what courses are required? (This is especially important in the high school years, as you begin to zero in on what’s needed to graduate and apply for college). Remember that not only do you want your children to learn academics, you want them to absorb critical life skills and experience extra-curricular activities as well.
Step 5. How much time and money do you have? If you don’t have the time to do hands on projects, for example, you would want to look closely at any curriculum you are thinking of buying. And although science projects can be a wonderful learning tool, if you don’t have the extra money to buy the materials needed, then your child can’t learn from them! Finances will also dictate your chosen curriculum, and any extras such as books and materials. Start budgeting early so there are less surprises later! And if you plan ahead, there are numerous ways to save money on supplies .
Step 6. Research your state requirements. In some states, you are required to teach a basic homeschool curriculum, which is just about universally accepted as “standard.” It consists of reading, writing, math, English, American history, the history of your state and, possibly, civics or health. In other states, parents are not required to teach this curriculum, but it is suggested. This core material can be amply covered in two to three hours per day. Over and above this, the parent and the student are free to add whatever they wish to their course of study – another wonderful thing about homeschooling!
Step 7. Identify ways to stay active civically. In any town, the feeling of community is often built around its schools, so in some ways, learning in a public school promotes the feeling of citizenship. Some homeschooled children do not encounter the diverse perspectives in a large community group, and so may become at risk for not easily understanding other points of view. Moreover, when homeschooled children do participate in group situations, it is most likely with other homeschooled families who share similar values, background, and social class. Think of ways to volunteer or interact in your community, and establish a sense of belonging and pride in your town and country – and also appreciate its diversity.
Step 8. Narrow your curriculum choices down. Selecting two or three choices now – well ahead of time – will give you the ability to mull the pros and cons of each over the summer period. Discuss options with your child, and get his or her input as well. Don’t forget to take into consideration 1) areas that he/she is very interested in or inspired by, and 2) areas where extra time and effort is needed to bring your child up to speed. Think in terms of developing their natural strengths but also correcting any basic weaknesses that might prove essential in later years.
So there you have it! Eight easy steps to get you on course for a fabulous summer break followed by a smooth transition into the new school year come fall. And don’t forget, there is always help whenever you need it!