As much as I appreciate the benefits of year-round homeschooling, my husband and I just couldn’t shake our precious, childhood memories of long, leisurely summers, so we passed that tradition on to our children. The only problem with this plan was that the extended vacation time tended to make us ALL a bit lazy, so we had to kind of eeeease our way back into school.
Getting back in the groove of a more structured routine came back rather quickly and, surprisingly, we all actually enjoyed it. But, in order to get my kids really excited about the new school year AND not end up with a mutiny on my hands, I came up with ten simple strategies to slowly and ever-so-gently jump-start our school year.
1. Create an Atmosphere
Creating a fun, happy, creative educational environment was of utmost importance in our home school. For me, that also involved being organized, keeping things reasonably tidy, and maintaining a peaceful, calm, loving, and encouraging home life. It also meant purging our home of excess stuff and providing baskets, bins, and cabinets for neatly storing school supplies and books. Educational toys for my youngest and art supplies for my oldest were easily accessible. Classical music playing quietly in the background during our family devotional added to the ambiance and had a calming influence, as well.
2. Do a Unit Study
For our family, unit studies formed the backbone of our home school all the way through high school. But, whether they are a regular go-to resource for you or not, the beginning of the school year marks an ideal time to get your kids fired up about learning and excited about the new year with the hands-on creativity a unit study can offer. Put one together yourself or buy one prepackaged; either way they’re a surefire way to jump-start your school year! Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to dig into those textbooks.
3. Take a Field Trip to the Library
The first week of school found us hightailing it over to our local library. I found my kids enjoyed reading a whole lot more if I allowed them to choose books for themselves. Sure, there were occasions when I required certain reading. At times I even vetoed books not up to my standards. But, the more ownership I gave my kids in this area, the more they actually enjoyed reading.
4. Choose a Great Read-Aloud
While at the library, I made sure to pick out a great classic or award winning book for us to read aloud as a family. Homeschooling doesn’t get much better than cuddling on the couch and introducing your kids to an outstanding piece of literature.
5. Major on the Majors
Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” God’s Word also teaches us in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Putting God first in our lives was the foremost habit we wanted to instill in our children. But, if you’re anything like our family, summer occasionally caught us getting lazy in this area. The first day of school offered us the opportunity to reignite and jump-start that habit, and the family couch, once again, provided the perfect Petri dish in which to grow in God’s Word and our relationships.
The second major habit we wanted to develop in our boys was a good work ethic, so we made it a point on the first day of school to schedule daily chores into our sons’ academic routine. Chores gave them a reprieve from their studies and tended to produce cheerful hearts and willing attitudes which, more often than not, transferred to their schoolwork.
6. Stick with The Three R’s
Eeeeasy does it! We took the first week to ease our way back into a full academic schedule by focusing on just The Three R’s…reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Much to my children’s chagrin I’m sure, I had plenty of time the rest of the year to pile on a heavier work load.
7. Slow and Steady wins the Math Race
You’ve heard the story of the tortoise and the hare and how “slow and steady wins the race.” Well, a slow and steady approach to the school year can help you also win in math! I took the first week to determine where our kids needed to be in their math books. There’s rarely ever a need to have kids complete a lesson in the first few chapters, since the first third of a math textbook simply repeats the last third of the previous year’s textbook.
Instead, we simply asked our children to complete a math problem from the introductory lesson of chapter one in their textbooks. If they could correctly complete the problem, we moved on to chapter two and did likewise. Our sons typically covered about 5 chapters (for a total of 5 math problems) each day this way. By the end of the first week of school, we often got as far as chapter 25 before the problems finally became challenging. This identified for me which chapter we needed to begin their math the following week.
8. Plan for a Rainy Day
I kept a few, fun activities ready in my back pocket, just in case some rainy day blues accompanied the first couple weeks of school. Baking, arts & crafts, a movie, coloring, or a puzzle all proved to be great options.
9. Join or Form Your Own Club
Our family actively participated in both 4H and Boy Scouts. American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA are two outstanding organizations from which today’s homeschoolers also have to choose. Many home-schoolers enjoy co-ops, as well. You could even start a club of your own with a particular focus such as: field trips, cooking, sewing, hiking, etc. Clubs provide homeschool families with a delightful change of scenery and an opportunity to meet and socialize with other homeschoolers. They also offer students, as they did our sons, invaluable leadership and community service opportunities, both of which look great on high school transcripts!
Let’s face it, the start of a new school year brings lingering summertime temperatures, so give yourself permission (as we did) to get outside and enjoy an afternoon swim, picnic, or hike with your kids and some friends. Winter will be here before you know it, and once it comes you’ll be yearning for summer’s warmth. So, relax! Take advantage of the brand new school year and the delightful sunshine that accompanies it…as YOU jump-start YOUR home school year!