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!
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I’ll be honest, last year the transition from Summer to a structured homeschool routine was incredibly difficult and stressful. I was determined this year would be different!
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 New 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 also knew that the first week would be an adjustment, so I did not plan overly full lessons, and we didn’t even start on Monday. Mondays are hard and the kids are always tired, so we eased into things on Tuesday. The first week was 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 time, 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 I did this year to help 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’ve decided to do is to make lunches for the whole week on Sunday. I know this may sound crazy, but lunch always becomes a stressful time of day, and always takes more time than it should because I try to get the kids to clean up while I fix lunch. The problem is, they need my help/supervision to do it, and so the whole process takes a lot longer than necessary and often results in frustration and yelling.
So by having lunches ready, I can focus on being with the kids and guiding them as they clean up, and then we go down for lunch together.
08/2020 UPDATE: Now that my kids are older, they typically fix their own lunch while I transition to work time. But when they were little, I would use a loaf of sandwich bread to prep peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then I would put them back in the bag and leave it in the fridge. I would also slice some fruits and veggies, and slice up a block of cheese. They would then add things like pretzels, raisins, yogurt, etc. to this each day and it would usually get us through the week.
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.
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. For me, this often means my kids watch cartoons for a few minutes. 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??).
08/2020 UPDATE: This is still basically our evening routine, but I now have a robot vacuum that runs after we wipe down the tables and put up all the chairs. 😉
Make it a Celebration
To help make it clear to my kids that we were transitioning into “school mode” and that with that comes certain responsibilities, we made 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 made a big difference. They knew what to expect and had a lot of fun!
Pam Barnhill of Homeschool Solutions 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
Even though we just started school last week, I started getting my morning routine, evening routine, and earlier bedtimes in place a couple weeks before. This gave me time to figure out what worked 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 was able to have a great first week and ease the transition.
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 am learning as a fairly new homeschool mom 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!
What would you add to the list? Have you started a new year yet? Share in the comments!
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