Getting Ready For A New Homeschool Year

In just about one week, we will be starting our fifth year learning at home.

In some weird way, it makes me feel old just typing that… like when the young mom talks about how her toddler gets into all the kitchen cabinets, and I sigh and remember those days.

Homeschooling is kinda like that for me too – a mix of sighs and remembering where we started.

Photo credit to Samantha Ballard and her little guy.

I remember the days when it was brand new – I was filled with the anticipation and all the promise and possibility.

I remember five years ago, carefully prepping the carefully selected curriculum, and carefully reading through every single teacher’s manual .

I remember setting up our schedule for the day, and reminding my children that we were three days away… two days away… one day away from starting our new school year.

I remember ringing the bell (I am completely serious, I rang a school bell to get us started that first year – never mind that my son has massive sensory issues related to sound and hated that stinking bell every single day… it was time for school!). I remember ringing that bell, taking a deep breath, and jumping in.

It all looks so pretty.

Five years later, and I am a week away from our new school year.

Five years of fighting the good fight, giving up completely and researching special needs private schools in the area, remembering why we decided to do this in the first place, deciding to try again and again and again, realizing that this is more about how they learn, than it is about how I teach, realizing this is more about raising functional, loving, contributing adults, than it is about SAT scores, realizing that this is the best job I have ever had and the hardest one I have ever had, all at the same time – five years have changed me.

Because five years later, making cookies together totally counts as school.
Because five years later, making cookies together totally counts as school.

This year, my planning and preparation looks completely different from it did back then. I guess you could say that I am learning just as much, if not more, than my boys.

This is how I am preparing for the year –

1. Getting Inspired

Rather than researching curriculum and spending endless amounts of time downloading worksheets and placement tests from online sites, I have spent time listening to other mommas talk about real life homeschooling.

One of my favorite resources this summer, has been the Homeschool Snapshots podcast, by Pam Barnhill. In it, she interviews real moms who all approach learning in very different ways. The best thing about her podcast is that after just a few, you realize that everyone is so very different in their approach and in the families they have been given. I have found that listening encourages me to just do my own thing, rather than to try to mimic another momma.

Two home school blogs that have inspired me this summer are Quill and Camera, and My Little Poppies. These ladies are the real deal, and write honestly about the messy, and the awesome parts, of being a mom who chooses to home school. Both advocate doing it your way (or even more so, your child’s way!) and not getting caught up in the comparison game with other mommas.

Which brings me to…

2. Do NOT Compare

I have learned that it does no one any good, not my children and especially not me, to wistfully look at what other moms are doing to set up their school year. This includes banishing all jealousy over the writing class that one mom signed her kids up for (and her kids are actually excited about it – I have never known this), ignoring the pang of longing I feel when I see the shiny, new curriculum that another momma just received in the mail, or the  strong desire to somehow create a home school room when I know that no one would ever be in it except me.

On a much more serious note, this also includes letting go of the fact that my son’s friends are all starting to read chapter books and write book reports on the their own, while mine still struggles with basic sight words. It means ignoring all the ways the junior high school home – schoolers are starting to interact with each other independently, when mine just wants to visit the fish store again.

It means looking straight ahead, at the ones I love and what they need, and not around me.

3. Make Money to Spend Money

This is the first year in which I have not bought all the things. Because I love the idea of new, fresh curriculum, every single year I would buy them. My children however? Not so much. In fact, the longer  I have home schooled, the more I have learned that a boxed learning program is never, ever going to work with my out of the box kids.

So, I finally let go of my “home school library”. Not the boys’ library – they have more books than the actual small town library down the street from us – my library. The one with all the binders and teachers manuals and reading lists and workbooks… it’s gone.

The good news? I sold most of it on Amazon and used the money to buy the boys a few books I knew they would love, and a whole bunch of fidgets and games.  I actually ended up with enough money left to buy myself a few books, so everyone wins.

Purchased at a fish store, to test water. Looks like chemistry to me!

4. Pick One New Thing

For each of my boys, I have a pretty consistent learning goal. Learn to read for one, work on daily living for the other. There are many, many steps that we take each day to help them get closer to these goals (which some days are like asking them to fly to the moon by the time they are eighteen and graduated).

Because I do not want to lose sight of these goals, I am just picking one new thing for each of them to start this year. For my youngest, this one thing is starting science classes (with reading accommodations) one day a week. For my oldest, it’s signing his name in cursive. Both are simple, but new goals.

New can mean complicated for my kids. I have learned that less is more, and slow is fast around here. Once we master these, there will be one more new thing for each of them. And then another and then another. But only one new thing at a time.

5. Pray, A Lot

I have learned that the most important thing I can do for my children, and their education, is to pray. Pray for my boys, pray for me, pray for my husband, pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for creativity, pray for progress, pray for rest, pray he learns to read, pray he learns to cope, pray for fun. Prayer is now the most important part of how I prepare for a new year. And, I have found it to be the most effective.

Thank the Lord for Legos!

In just about one week, we will be starting our fifth year learning at home.

I know now that no amount of preparation and planning, is going to make it go exactly the way I think it should.

I also know now that there is a good chance this year, like all the others, will be messy, and fun, and frustrating, and interesting, and loving, and ugly, and good, and my boys will learn.

And I think that just may be the point.

Getting Ready for a NewHomeschool Year


10 thoughts on “Getting Ready For A New Homeschool Year

  1. Again I feel that I must thank you for this post. I have been homeschooling James for 2 years and I’ve spent most of that time beating myself up over it. I realised (when reading your post) that I am going about it the wrong way! I have to cater to James’ special needs. Not what I think a child of 10 should be doing.

    I will never send him to school again. He absolutely hated it to the point that it made him sick. So what if it takes him a whole week to do one task. Who is timing him? As long as he learns and is comfortable that is all that should matter. No more comparisons.

    1. Hi Shelley!
      I do exactly the same thing – still. I can completely identify with the comparing his progress to what a ten year old “should be doing”. We are homeschooling because we can determine the pace and the order of learning. I have no idea why I struggle to remember that!
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. No — wait! YOU inspire ME!! Seriously, though, sometimes, when I read your words, I feel a calm come over me, like I’m talking to a friend. And Cait is so awesome too! I’m so grateful for the internet! And your kind words. And hooray for real, messy homeschooling!! 🙂

    1. I was away last week and Silly Phone wouldn’t let me comment here. I am honored to be included here, Shawna, because you inspire me. So does Kara. In fact, and no joke, I woke up to read Kara’s Full Stop and your Mama Guilt posts this morning because it’s been One Of Those Weeks – those real, messy, ugly weeks- and I need to shift gears before the kids get up.

      Can you just IMAGINE what homeschooling asynchronous kids would have been like WITHOUT the internet? I’m so thankful for you.

  3. Shawna, thank you so much for sharing this. I appreciate so much hearing other Moms honestly express what is going on in their homeschooling days and life, rather than making it look like a glossy magazine ad! Because most children are not going to fit into that mold, as we well know.

    My children are younger (8 and 6) and the youngest has a host of special issues. I started homeschooling the oldest in preschool, because I felt led to do it even though I often think I’m super-unqualified. Then, the youngest came along. We tried our district’s special ed preschool and it was a disaster! I know in my heart that this is the right decision for my children and our family, even when I feel we are getting nowhere and the youngest is completely resistant to learning.

    I’ve never bought a curriculum, and was always glad I didn’t. I found various workbooks at yard sales, thrift stores and through our library and sort of made up my own, focusing on the basics — reading, writing, math. The kids have amazed me at what they’ve learned even when I don’t think they’re listening! Concepts instead of memorization, for instance — when they can do something in their head because they understand the “why” of it. I am often humbled by what they have shown me.

    This year, we are doing 4th and 2nd grade. I have so many plans of what I want to accomplish. Reading about all the presidents, one a week. (I should probably just throw that under the bus now, lol!). Two monthly field trips. An outside class weekly (that one’s actually easy around here). I’m sure by Christmas I’ll be rolling my eyes at my first-of-the-year enthusiasm 🙂

    I will continue looking up your blog. Thanks again for being real!!!!

  4. I think you sound enthusiastic and realistic about this new year. I had all the enthusiasm that first year, but very little reality. 🙂 Praying for you and yours.
    Here’s to a great year!

  5. We are headed into year 11 of home educating. Such good reminders for the journey. It took me a long time to let go and do things out of the box. I watched for years as my friends completed their workbooks on time and had these well kept schedules. Ha, so not my world. I still get those pangs of comparison and when they hit I have to remind myself that this is our life with HFA and it is just different.

  6. I love what I read here! So good! I especially loved the quote, “Realizing that this is more about how they learn, than it is about how I teach.” GREAT reminder as we start our new school year in a couple of weeks. I, too, have a high functioning son on the autism spectrum, more Asperger’s. And on his heels is a smarty pants girl. It can certainly be tough, but they balance each other well. I have to remember, and always seem to forget, that they learn SO DIFFERENTLY! And that is MORE than okay. Thank you for the inspiration this morning!!! Blessings on your new school year.

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