Ten Step Plan to Back to Homeschool Bliss
Back to School means a lot of things to a lot of people. At my house it means: decluttering, donating, reorganizing, cleaning, discussing, planning, purchasing, scheduling, record keeping, and (most importantly) involving my entire family in the process - and even making it fun and rewarding for us all. Here are some simple ideas for the best ways to reach back-to-homeschool bliss!
1. Reclaim your house!
Round up everyone who is old enough and give them each a large laundry basket, a box, or even a good-sized trash bag. It’s time to free yourself and your house!! Send everyone to their room and tell them that they can’t come out until their bag is full of unwanted items. If your children are too young or too attached to every little thing, have dad take them to the park for a couple of hours while you do the dirty work.
You can start in the office/craft room and don’t be afraid to grab another bag if you need one, but be sure to select your unwanted items carefully; remember that some things may be good resources for this school year. I personally go for the decorative and broken items that just take up space first. I also run into books, games, and materials that my son has grown out of. Drawers, closets, and shelves are a huge hot spot for clutter. Remember, everything you put in that bag is one more thing that you will NEVER have to pick up off the floor again!
Tip: Inspire your kids by giving an award to whoever gets rid of the most stuff. Have a quick talk with your kids and be sure that they understand what is appropriate to throw away. You may have to look everything over before the final ok. Last year, my son threw everything from his dresser into his bag so he could outdo his dad!
2. Make a Litte Trash Turn into Cash
After you have piled all of these items into one spot you can talk with your family about a garage sale. If there’s enough stuff, this is a great way to pay for some of those fun new items for school. I have a garage sale every year and I try to get rid of as much as possible. Last year alone I made around $475 on a hot Saturday in August, but it was all worth it (you should see the great curriculum that I ended up with)! You can take anything you don’t sell to your local Salvation Army at the end of the selling day. Be sure to get a donation slip from them, because you can deduct the donation from your taxes as a charitable contribution.
Take your unsold items to the Salvation Army immediately . . . do NOT leave the extras lying around because you’ll only end up with a headache later! I learned this from personal experience. I tripped over a bag of donation items for 6 months before throwing it in the car and finally getting rid of it!
3. Tackle the Dust Bunnies
Now that all of that clutter is out the door, let’s clean house. Instead of a Spring Cleaning Day my family has the annual “Summer Sundown.” We clean on the first Saturday of August and don’t stop until the house is spotless, even if the sun goes down! We order pizza, turn on music, and have fun with it. The person who works the hardest gets to pick the fun place we go to the next day.
Here are some ways to inspire the kids to help you:
- Collect Loose Change. You know that when you do laundry, turn the sofa cushions, or move the furniture to vacuum you always find loose change. Keep a big jar in the living room were everyone can drop the change that they find while cleaning. Choose something fun ahead of time to buy with the money (like candy or ice cream cones or even a fun trip to the zoo!). Sometimes I even hide some extra coins for them to find and keep them motivated. It’s really fun to see my son’s face when he discovers that extra fifty cents I put under the coffee table!
- Cleaning for Clues. Write up a checklist of tasks that your children must complete that day and hand the list over to them. Every time they finish a task, they can bring their list to you and you can check off the item. In return for the check, give your kids a “clue.” This can be a clue to where a special thank-you gift has been hidden, a clue about what the gift might be, a clue about where you’re going to dinner that night, whatever gets them excited! If you’re feeling really artistic, you could draw a map that will lead your kids to hidden treasure. Just cut it into puzzle-like pieces and hand out a map piece for every check mark your kids earn. Of course, make sure that your kids won’t accidentally stumble on the hidden treasure while cleaning!
4. Organization Made Easy
Now that you’ve purged all of the extras, and cleaned out the broken crayons and spilled paint, take a good look at the organization of things. Every one of us knows that we have our problem areas. Mine are dirty laundry in bedrooms, my son’s “school zone,” and the scariest of all . . . the Office/Craft area. These are the items I bought to solve my messy problems:
- Laundry hampers and new laundry baskets. Yes, all the gross and half broken ones when out with the trash! I couldn’t believe that such a small change could make me smile so much!
- Two-dozen (yes two-dozen) plastic shoe size boxes with lids. I found them at Wal-Mart for one dollar each. Twenty-four dollars can buy you a lot of freedom. I know twenty-four sounds like a lot, but once you get them home you’ll see that everything seems to belong in one!
- Four big plastic containers with lids. I put all of the summer camping gear into these containers and stored them in the garage; I sorted Art and Crafts materials in the office; I organized the extra curriculum items that I wasn’t going to be using just yet; and (most importantly) I put this year’s curriculum and materials in the last one and kept it close at hand. I also used a couple of the smaller plastic containers to help keep the boxes organized.
- One package of thirty-six labels. I used these to label every one of the containers I bought and a couple of other boxes on the shelves. Keep the boxes stacked label out and make your labels as descriptive as possible. This way, you’ll avoid searching through box after box for that one item you just can’t seem to find!
- One old shoebox. Last but not least my son’s “school zone” was tackled with plastic containers for extras and an old shoebox. The shoebox is turning into a tradition at my house. I cover it with white paper (old birthday or Christmas paper turned over) or a paper bag and then he draws whatever he wants on it. We use this box as his school box. We always keep the following items in it: three freshly sharpened pencils, a big eraser, crayons, ruler,counting bars, and some others depending on what we’re doing. To make your own school box just think of all the things your children need everyday and keep it in their own box. This will save you a lot of time and frustration that would’ve been spent trying to find everything you need everyday.
5. Make a Game Plan With the Kids
This is a perfect time to talk with the kids and see what they want to learn about. I love to give my son the option of one major topic (per quarter or semester depending on how interested we get) and we use unit studies and some creativity to cover some of the basics. Depending on the age of your kids, this doesn’t have to be a very complicated topic. This year my son said he’d like to learn more about sharks (he’s been in love with them ever since “Finding Nemo”).
6. Printable Resources to Simplify Lesson Planning!
Lesson plans are a great place to start. The more you know what you’re doing for the year, the more specific you can be about your school supplies. If you’re using a complete curriculum, then you’ll already have most of the specific materials that you’ll need. On the other hand, if you’re more like me and like to take it a little more relaxed, then try out this Blank Goals Sheet. I like to start every year with this, because it helps me decide what I want my children to accomplish for the year. To find the curriculum that’s right for you and your family there is also the teaching style and learning style quizzes. After you’ve taken the quizzes, please check out our Select Curriculum Guide for help to fully understand your curriculum options. There are also a lot of free worksheets and interactive websites to assist you this school year on our Select Resource Guide.
7. Shop til you Drop!
After filling in the goals sheet or looking over your curriculum options, use the garage sale money to make a dent in your back-to-school list.
8. Ready Made Schedules
Whether you’re a traditional homeschooler or an Unschooler, schedules can help you stay on track. Here are some great examples successful homeschool moms have shared with me. I’ve also made a great 2004–2005 school year calendar that you can personalize and print.
9. Take the Sting out of Record Planning
The more I look into the record planning software the more I’m aware that the perfect one just hasn’t been made yet. So after looking over the top recommended ones I was very disappointed. They weren’t very user friendly and they all seemed overly complicated and tiresome. As I keep my fingers crossed for the perfect computer program to come on the market, I will stick to what works for me. Depending on your states laws you can personalize this to your needs too! I buy one 3 ring binder per child. I color code and give each child the color of their choice. You can buy matching folders and other things to give to each one of your kids. Then I start out with the basic subjects and other important information for the school year. I have made some examples that you can print and use or copy as the beginning of your own record-keeping information. I keep these files on the computer and type in them daily or weekly (or whenever I get around to it). I print them out and put them in the binder. This is the boring paperwork part that we all have to endure. Fortunately, there is a fun way to keep track of the brighter side of your child’s homeschool year. Check out Amber’s awesome scrapbooking ideas for a great way to get everyone involved in the fun.
10. Relax, Smile, and go on a picnic at your local park!
Thanks for listening and I hope this helps you along your homeschool journey!