Preparing for a New School Year

Next Monday, our family begins the 2016-17 academic year.  We have started school the first Monday in August for almost as long as we have homeschooled.  People are usually surprised when we tell them about our early start date.

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I often hear questions like, “What about summer vacation?” “Wouldn’t your kids rather be outside?”  “How can you possibly be prepared to teach by then?”  Well, the truth is, it really would not matter if we started the first week of August, or September, or January.  The same organizational problems exist no matter when the school year starts.  And vacations?  We opt instead for several week-long breaks throughout the academic year to balance out our shorter summer vacation.  In the end, we get just as much time off as everyone else.

In full disclosure, this year I would have preferred a later start date for school.  Our youngest daughter and I spent most of the summer doing occupational therapy and intentional tutoring strategies at home in an attempt to get her “caught up.”  We only finished that work last week, so while two of our daughters have enjoyed a couple months off from school, the little caboose and I are diving in next week without much respite.

Oh well, such is life.  I am intentionally easing her transition into first grade materials gradually, so the lack of time off should not be too painful.  And I feel fairly hopeful and confident about that statement because of one thing: I am really stinking prepared this year.  When I was not eating, sleeping, vacationing away from home, or teaching a severely dyslexic kiddo to read, I spent my summer preparing for the upcoming academic year.

This week, everyone is actually enjoying a summer vacation.  In our time off from studies, I am finishing up final details.  And come Monday?  We should be ready to go.  So, what exactly did I do to prepare?

I invested in an online lesson planning and grading program.

Last spring, I became rather frustrated with the self-designed Excel spreadsheet system I used to plan the girls school lessons.  It had served me well for many years, but was becoming time-consuming now that there are three kids to teach.  I spent way too many Sunday evenings scrambling to get everything in order and I often felt like there had to be a more efficient way to get things done.

On a whim, I signed up for a free 30-day trial period with the program Homeschool Planet.  I liked it instantly and decided the annual subscription was worth the cost.  Because of the program’s ease of use, I was able to get the girls’ lessons planned for the entire upcoming school year in every. single. subject.  For all the folks out there who buy prepackaged grade-level curriculum, lesson planning is simple.  This mom is a bit eclectic, so the Homeschool Planet software is a huge blessing.

I purchased curriculum gradually.

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The first curriculum purchases for the 2016-17 academic year were made in February when I attended our state’s homeschool conference.  Every so often, as items went on sale or I found gently used copies, more books, software, and supplies found their way into our home.  When materials showed up, I continued to plan those subjects in the online program.

About two weeks ago, I finally made one last purchase through Amazon to finish my list.  Not only did I give myself lots of time to plan and prepare, but I also saved a bunch of cash because I knew what I was willing to spend and could get lower than retail prices on just about everything I wanted.

I did an inventory.

I love a good school supply sale.  Office Max has been my friend this week–the pencils, the folders, and the notebooks.  Our stash of art and school supplies is already pretty extensive, though.  I was ready to go out and buy several new 1-inch binders for the girls and found almost a dozen brand new ones today when I cleaned out a closet.

I also double checked supply lists for science, health, and history for the entire month of August.  Because I married a man who considers MacGyver’s lifestyle one to be emulated whenever possible, it turns out that we had most everything in the house already that I thought we might need.  Our school supply list consists of notebook filler paper, cotton string, and a chicken.  Not live, but from the grocery store.  To make a mummy when we study Ancient Egypt.  Just to clarify…

I started cleaning things.

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I like having a tidy house, but there are a few places around here that get a little out of hand.  One is our basement storage room.  The other is anything having to do with school.  The school closet.  The art closet.  The game cabinets.  The bookshelves.  They get a little scary.  Today I began the daunting, yet necessary task of getting everything in order.

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I cleaned out last year’s assignments and organized all the textbooks.  Everything that can be seen on the floor in the “after” picture is getting sold sometime soon.  Tomorrow, I will tackle the art closet and hopefully get to all the games.  By the end of the week, everything we use for school should be organized and ready.

I gave myself grace.

Six months ago when my birthday rolled around, I declared that this year, I would give myself grace.  Thus far, I have been sticking to that.  I have released several commitments, spent quality time with family and friends, enjoyed more laid-back opportunities with my kids, and learned to let go of some things that used to really bother me (like messy art closets).  I decided that the concept of grace needed to apply to our homeschool as well.  This week I realized that six months of grace gave me a moderately messy closet, but no real reduction in sanity.

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I worked hard to prepare for our upcoming year, but I am not going to stress about perfection.  We will have bumps in the road and things that do not go quite right.  But because I am prepared, we will be better equipped to handle them.

How do you prepare for the start of school?  Send me an email or comment below!