Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Ready for Back to School, Homeschool Style

After a lot of thought, we have decided to homeschool one more year.

We went back & forth on a few options and finally decided that it still is the best fit for our family, based on scheduling. Neither Shaun nor I was in love with the idea of being confined to someone else's schedule and not being able to do family activities when we wanted to (especially travel). We really didn't want the kids gone 5 full days a week either.

A couple of the university-model schools are still in the running for the future. One of our favorites does not offer a kindergarten program, so if we would have to keep Ben home anyhow, may as well keep them both home, use a similar curriculum and enjoy our extra time with the kids.

Since we weren't 100% sure what the plan was back in April/May, we took a typical summer break, like other schools do, so it's almost back to school time for us too! All of our curriculum has shipped, so we are planning on starting once it's all at the house. Faith will be doing third grade this year and Ben is starting kindergarten.

Tips for Back to Homeschool:

-Research your curriculum early. I knew what I wanted for Faith (continuing with many programs we've already used), but trying to pick out kindergarten curriculum was daunting for me. You don't have to buy it early, but homeschool curriculum does go on sale from time to time, so it helps to have an idea what you want.

-Shop around for the curriculum. Really, I want mine *now*, but the local large Christian megastore that also sells homeschool curriculum is also significantly more expensive than online retailers (our math pick was $20-30 more). My favorite online site offered free shipping if you spent more than $35 and was tax free since it's out of state. I want it *now*, but I'll wait to save that much money.

-Don't buy it all from one site. Believe it or not, I found a book I wanted for Ben as well as Faith's two history books on Overstock. Not the first place I would have guessed to carry homeschool materials, but that saved me another $5-10.

-Remember to buy school supplies! Just like my friends who have kids in the local schools, I hit all the sales, buy my 25 cent boxes of crayons and my 10 cent spiral notebooks. Then I put it all up on a shelf in my office for school use only. We still use a lot of these items and I'd rather have it waiting at home than having to spend $1 on a gluestick in November because the sales are gone. Right now, I have plenty of crayons, markers, & pencils, but I'll regret not having extras by spring as the old stuff starts to wear out.

-Figure out your schedule. I know this varies from homeschool family to homeschool family. Personally, I do better with a schedule, I function better with lists & plans. We also really like to do a 4 day school week, which works much better if you have a plan for it. That's kind of the beauty of homeschooling, you get to figure out what works bets. This year, we want to get started a bit earlier in the day, since both kids are school aged and I'll need to work with both. I also want to give Faith a checklist for her of items she can do while I'm working with Ben (daily reading, handwriting, math facts practice on the computer, etc). Then, switch, work with Faith and have a second set of individual plans for Ben (learning games, handwriting practice, reading skills, etc).

-Find additional classes & co-ops early. I kind of messed up on this one and now I'm having trouble finding what I want. I admit, I'm not a co-op kind of mom. I'm a former teacher. If I wanted to still be teaching other kids, I'd be back in my own classroom, not in a co-op. Again, that's just me. I want F&B to take a class or two for fun and learning that does not require me to do anything but show up & pay for it. Needless to say, I should have planned ahead. I have found a few classes that I like but I've also found a number of others that would have been cool but are closed. Got to plan that one better. They are signed up for art class, and they'll still take taekwondo, and our Wednesday night church programs (Stars for F, Rainbows or Champs for B), and Faith is still a Brownie. I did want one more hands-on science class, but I want one they can both attend. Still looking.

But there you have it, my top 5 or so tips for back to homeschooling, from the been there, done that, perspective. Now hopefully my curriculum arrives soon so we can get started!

Coming soon, I think, posts on our kindergarten & 3rd grade curriculum & schedule details.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get a HarperCollins book set. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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