Looking for tips for starting a new homeschool year or getting yourself and kids back in a school routine? Here are my best tips after many years of homeschooling, teaching and many ups and downs.
It’s that time of year again: Back to School! Unless you homeschool year round, you are probably gearing up for a new year (or have already started!). And while I enjoyed some summer travels, as well as the many lazy days, late nights and relaxed mornings, fall is nearly upon us and it’s time to get back to the structure and accountability of school. And I’m excited about that! I was not, however, ready to jump right back into a daily, structured homeschool routine!
Before I share my back to homeschool tips, just know that the main point of the whole article is this: do what works for you and your kids in this season. What works for me might not work for you. And what worked for you last year might not work this year, and that’s ok! So let’s dive in!
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I’ll be honest, when my kids were little, there were definitely years when the transition from summer to a structured homeschool routine was incredibly difficult and stressful.
But over time, I learned tips and ideas from other homeschool moms to make things easier (and more fun!) when it’s time to start a daily homeschool routine again. So I hope these tips help you too!
So before we got started again, I did some things to prepare to set us up for a great first week and a great homeschool year.
08/2020 UPDATE: After a weird and hard year, easing into a new routine is going to be more important than ever! If you are stepping into homeschooling for the first time, or doing distance learning at home, I hope some of these tips are useful and encouraging for you!
7 Tips to Prepare For a Daily Homeschool Routine:
Even though I would love to get up at 5 am and be super productive and get all the housework and blog work done and then have a delicious hot breakfast ready for my kids at 7 so we could start school, that’s just not me. I know that I am not a morning person, and I do not want to set myself (or my kids) up for failure!
So our routine and mornings look a little different, and I’m ok with that. I know that the first week would be an adjustment, so I do not plan overly full lessons, and we don’t even start on Monday. Mondays are hard and the kids are always tired, so we ease into things on Tuesday or Wednesday. The first week is about having fun and getting used to a daily school schedule again!
I also focus on having a daily plan & routine rather than a daily schedule. In other words, we have a structure or order of things we do (breakfast and morning prayer, then schoolwork, then lunch, etc.) but not at a specific time.
This means I don’t stress out if one day we start at 8:30 but then the next day we start at 9:30. Whenever we get up and going, we just follow the same order of activities until it all gets completed. Now I’m not constantly feeling like we’re “behind schedule.”
Prep meals ahead of time
Something that always helps take the stress out of our first couple of weeks is stock my freezer with meals. I wanted our first few school days to be as smooth and enjoyable as possible. And one thing that I absolutely hate and that stresses me out is cooking dinner. I struggle to come up with ideas and then I struggle to tear myself away from my work or my kids to go chop and slice and cook.
This was super simple thanks to my friend Sharla’s freezer meal plans! She shares tons of great tips to make it simple, and the meal plans include simple directions and grocery lists, making planning easy!
Another thing I did when my kids were little is to make lunches for the whole week on Sunday. I know this may sound crazy, but lunch always became a stressful time of day, and always took more time than it should because I tried to get the kids to clean up while I fixed lunch. The problem was, they needed my help/supervision to clean up, and so the whole process took a lot longer than necessary and often resulted in frustration and yelling.
So by having lunches ready, I could focus on being with the kids and guiding them through clean up, and then we would go down for lunch together.
Now that my kids are older (middle/high school), this is not an issue. They don’t need me to supervise clean up or make them lunch, so things are much smoother.
But if lunch time ends in frustration or melt downs, prep on Sunday night! A few tips that helped me back in the day:
- Use a whole loaf of bread to make pb&j sandwiches, then put all the sandwiches back in the bread bag and stick it in the fridge.
- Chop up a variety of fruits and veggies and keep them in the fridge
- Bag individual servings of crackers/goldfish/chips (whatever your kids like) and store them in the panty
Then you’ve got easy to grab lunches ready each day!
Have a Morning Routine for Yourself
When you homeschool, you spend all day, everyday with your kids. And although this is one of the amazing benefits of homeschooling, the reality of it is also incredibly exhausting, especially for an introvert like me. So even though I am not a morning person, I DO make sure I have at least a half an hour of quiet with my bible and a cup of coffee before joining the kids for breakfast. This time allows me to wake up, spend time with the Lord and prepare myself for the day ahead.
These days, my kids are older and more independent, but I still need a few minutes to myself in the morning. Since my high schooler takes art at a local school, we have to be out the door at 8 am. So I just make sure to bring my coffee with me and have some quiet time in the car while she’s in class!
What you need to do to start your day on the right foot will look different than me, but that’s ok! Figure out what it is that you need and make it happen. Maybe for you it means a chance to exercise and shower, or read that book you’ve been neglecting. Whatever it is, take time to make it a priority.
Need help getting into a working morning routine? Try Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings course. It has made a huge difference to me this Summer as I’ve had to make adjustments and prepare for our new normal as we start school again!
Have an Evening Routine
One of the biggest things I learned from Crystal’s course was the importance of an evening routine. After looking at our weekly schedule, thinking through my goals for our year and finally accepting the fact that I am not a morning person, I came up with a handful of things that we could do in the evenings to set us up for better, less stressful days.
I then discussed it with my husband, and together we came up with a plan to get several things done in the evening. For us, it includes washing the dishes and cleaning up the table and chairs, sweeping the floor and wiping down the kitchen. Having everything clean and ready for breakfast in the morning has been hugely helpful. (Remember I said I wasn’t a morning person??).
Now that my kids are older, they are part of the evening routine. They help handle the dishes/clean up dinner. They do a quick sweep of the school area/living room to put away their things. And they do a quick run of the vacuum. With everyone doing a little bit, it takes no time at all, but we wake up and start our day with a clean(ish) home!
Make it a Celebration
To help make it clear to my kids that we are transitioning into “school mode” and that with that comes certain responsibilities, we always make the first day of school a big deal. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but having conversations about what it means and how things will change, and having a family celebration to get them excited makes a big difference. They then know what to expect and have a lot of fun!
My friend Pam Barnhill of Your Morning Basket has a fun tradition of grabbing donuts on their first day of school, which I think is an excellent tradition, and a really easy way to make the start of school a fun celebration!
Start Your Homeschool Routine Early
No matter when we plan to “officially” start our school year, I start getting my morning routine, evening routine, and earlier bedtimes in place a couple weeks before. This was especially helpful when my kids were younger, but it’s still true now. This gave me time to figure out what our routine needs to look like and make it a habit before adding daily school lessons into the mix.
By taking baby steps and coming up with a realistic plan, I have been able to have a great first week and ease the transition for many happy years now.
My friend Shelley from STEAM Powered Family is also gearing up for a new year. Her best piece of advice? Be Prepared! She states,
“My goal is to have a big picture plan for our first few weeks. I’m leaving a lot of room for flexibility and I’m including a lot of fun! My goal is to know the material and start our year introducing the lessons we will be learning in a way that gets my boys excited to learn more.”
(I will admit, I am still working on this! 😉
And most of all, relax!! One thing I have learned over the years is that our life, schedule and routine do not need to look like anybody else’s. It needs to look like whatever works best for us!
And the same is true of you. Figure out what works and go with it, and if something isn’t working, try something else!
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