Planning the school year

I love the transition months! You know the months that are not quite one season or another. Like every week or sometimes every day they try out different weather outfits with curious stares into the mirror….Ok maybe it’s a Texas thing. I love that their teases promise a new season will come and with it new hobbies, new garden edibles, even new directions. I am the type who loves to rearrange rooms. Ok love may be romanticizing it a bit..need might fit the bill better. Swapping couches with chairs, painting walls and completely changing the curtains does wonders for my disposition. So naturally when the season begins to change I get excited. Currently I can feel the long summer morphing into cooler nights and crackling thunderstorms. This change also gives me a needed boost in motivation to prepare for the coming season. August means preparing for the school year ahead and I have many way of doing that.

I generally begin “school” the first week in September. That gives me some of the summer to toss around ideas, observe where my kids are at ( I often find they make huge cognitive leaps in the summer) and lightly plan. I generally spend August getting down to business. This year I am almost half way through the month and look to be on track if I manage to continue at this steady but not overwhelming pace. I began meal planning again…Lets face it, the summer is a great time to fly by the seat of your pants with whatever bounty is at the farmers market, and sometimes I just don’t want to follow a “plan”. As the leaves begin to fall more freely I am desiring to reach for my weekly plan and begin sauteing and baking new and delicious recipes. And so, I use this month to experiment each night with a new recipe with some baking in between to see what will make it into our fall menu. It is fun and a great way to get excited about planning food for the semester.

I realize the title of this post is “planning for the school year” but most of us would agree; if food isn’t planned nothing else is. Taking the huge weight of figuring out what to make three times a day is no small win. I need that figuring out part of my brain for creative science experiments, behavior problem solving and general life learning energy to name just a few. So I highly encourage you to meal plan if you have not before. And not just that, but to really think about meal planning as part of what is needed to have a successful school year for your family. I will get into some specifics of what I and others do in another post.

I used the summer to read over and wet my feet into this years curriculum. I need time for it to marinate and have some general idea of where I am headed before I can be all that I can be teaching my young ones. Also there is generally supplies needed and I prefer to get them discount if at all possible, so I have a few months of thrift store perusing to accomplish this. I also really love brainstorming creative ways to incorporate new concepts that may not be outlined specifically in the curriculum. What I haven’t done yet is write out specifics for each day or finishing making the gifts for the girls graduating grade ceremony. But I have a couple weeks left and plenty of fall anticipation energy to draw from so feel confident this year will begin smoothly. But even if it doesn’t, this is homeschool right! It doesn’t have to, there is flexibility because it is homeschool. And the only pressure is the amount you put on yourself.

So really one of the most important things to do when beginning to plan for the school year is to get your own routine and expectations in order. Having quiet reflective time before everyone else is awake is better than sleep. This is where your inner work is done. Inner work being the self work that all of us need to deal with our junk, our baggage, our frustrations, our longings, etc. This is where you vent and heal and are made whole again. This is the most important thing you could do as a homeschooling parent. A whole and healed parent is the most engaging, creative, loving, patient, smart, focused, need-I-go-on they could be. I use this time to pray and read, to sip tea uninterrupted and journal. I also take a look over my detailed plan for the day and set out supplies as needed. In addition I might prep food for later in the day if required. I usually fuse my menu with my school schedule so I only have one place to look if I need to know if rice should be soaking or beans started, etc. This may seem overwhelming at first but it only paves the way for rhythmic and peaceful days.

I also plan by writing my personal goals for each child on a separate sheet. This is something I can refer back to every month or so. This may include goals that will naturally be met within the course of the year (reading, writing, multiplication) or it may additional skills. Often times you will find character goals listed here for each of my children as I find character is a huge part of the foundation I am attempting to lay for them.  I not only want to see my children growing in intellect but also as grateful and kind people. Knowledge can always be added to as we age, but character gets harder to change as we age. In any regard character traits are often high on my goal list.

If this is your first year or you still feel new to this another good activity to do for yourself would be to make a general list of what you hope to see during the year. This may look something like:

  • establish a rhythm
  • make it through a day without getting frustrated
  • have the children make their own lunch
  • spend time outdoors each day
  • improve in memorized storytelling skills

This gives you a broad idea of what you want for your school year, and will help fill in those gaps when doing your detailed day to day plan. Much of the time as homeschooling parents we have ideas and goals for our children but fail to actually put them down on paper. Remember that this schooling journey is part of your life’s work. Treat it as such. That means giving it the respect it deserves and treating it a bit more professional at times. I’m not a very administrative person but I do love organization to an extent..ha ha and using my very tactile need for keeping stuff in my head by writing lists, etc. You may find this helps you as well. I find that if I write it once I don’t even need to refer back to it as that tactile experience helped cement it in me.

Here are some tricks that also may help get you in the mood when you are stuck:

  • Make yourself your favorite fall beverage, perhaps something with pumpkin. Sip this and pretend beneath your feet lay the settled leaves of falls promise for clarity and renewed minds
  • Play music that reminds you of this season, for me it’s Jim Croce, James Taylor, and the like. Something about their soothing voices and poetic lyrics prime me for a new school year
  • Read a book for yourself. Preferably fiction. I mostly read non-fiction, but when I am in a rut I find a good fiction novel does wonders. It takes me away and breathes new life on the hope I once had for day to day life in motherhood.

Much more could be written on planning for the school year but I do hope this gives you hope and breath to know it can be done in a peaceful way. So much of your years success is tied to the parents well being so I find it helpful to keep that wisdom present in a mindful way. Remember, this is supposed to enrich your family’s life not give added stress. If you find yourself more stressed than fulfilled you may need to back down on the scheduled activities and leave more room for open play and learning. Nature is where I find it easiest to de-stress, step outside, breath and be filled again with inspiration.

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