‘Tis the Season! No, not Christmas. It’s the other busy season of the year for homeschool parents — Planning Season!
This isn’t my first rodeo in terms of homeschool planning. Following are a few things I’ve learned over the years that may help you avoid headaches down the road.
Network with other parents – Have questions about curricula, coverings or activities? Now’s the time to ask them. You may discover that the materials you considered purchasing are more time intensive than you thought. Or that the community service project your fifth grader is so excited about only accepts middle school students. Host a homeschool mom get-together in your home, organize a beach day, or use facebook to chat with friends. The information you learn and share with others can give you a good head start in your homeschool planning.
Order your curricula as early as possible (that’s a no-brainer) – The earlier you order, the more time you have to plan, obviously. If you find yourself procrastinating until the “midnight hour” (like I have done, *ahem*, a few times) e-bay can be a great place to find what you need.
Research extra-curriculars – Friends can be a wonderful source of info on extra-curriculars. However, it is still wise to contact the club coordinator or visit the organization’s website for the latest details. Don’t assume that things will stay the same from year to year. Verify meeting days, times, location, and dues. Some organizations may not have all those details worked out until summer is over, but you will be surprised at what you can learn.
Work on your portfolio – Our family is blessed to live in the state of Alabama, where homeschool regulation is very light. We are not required to keep portfolios, but it is highly recommended you do so beginning at least with high school. This is especially crucial if your student plans on attending college after graduation. If you’re a portfolio veteran, give yours a few thoughts while the prior year is still fresh in your mind. Anything you’d do different than the year before? Is it time for an overhaul? If you have not kept a portfolio but feel the need to do so, start your research now on helpful information to include in it.
Create your calendar – This is no small task, and not to be taken lightly. A poorly thought-out calendar will cause major problems sooner or later.
1. The basics: Decide on the first and last days of school and what your holidays will be. Don’t skimp on your planned days off. This is especially easy to do in the fall. The period from Labor Day to Thanksgiving has no major holidays, and many homeschoolers are tempted to cruise right on through without a break. Three words: Don’t Do It! Learn to love the minor holidays like Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Presidents Day. They are your friends! And by all means schedule yourselves a Spring Break.
2. The definites: Now that your basic calendar is created, it’s time to start plugging in outside classes and extra-curriculars. Write down all weekly and monthly activities to which you are already firmly committed and will definitely continue. At this point our calendar contains the four activities that we will keep no matter what: Art & Music Lessons, 4-H, and Nazarene Youth International (NYI). Here’s our “definites” calendar for the month of October. So far, so good.
3. The maybes: The third step is to enter all weekly and monthly activities that you are considering adding to your schedule. Other activities we are considering for ninth grade are Jr. Civitan, science labs, a theater group, and co-op. We have not nailed down exactly which theater group we will join this year. I picked the front-runner in that category and included its meeting day on our calendar. We know the theater group meets on Wednesdays, but we don’t yet know the time. We have also not received our co-op’s finalized schedule for the upcoming semester. We may not attend this year depending on what is offered. However, I have added it on the day it will meet to remind us that it is still up for consideration. Here’s our “definites and maybes” calender for the month of October. You can see a big difference after all the “maybe’s” were added.
You may be wondering why in the world I’d put labs in the optional category. The labs appearing on our calendar are not those that go along with our science curriculm. They are stand-alone labs offered by our local science center. While they are fun and educational, I prefer not to count stand-alones as high school credit unless they correlate directly with what we are studying at the time the labs are offered. Sadly, most of these will not. Therefore, they are optional.
Now that you’ve added all your outside classes and extra-curriculars, you should be able to see more clearly what is realistic for you and what is not. A lot will depend on the age of your student and the amount of help available to you. Is your student able to drive herself? Is a family member like Dad or Grandma able to serve as chauffer/chaperone once in awhile? Can you teach or host a class in your home to cut down on weekly travel time? Another option might be to take turns with fellow moms driving and chaperoning one another’s children who are participating in the same activities.
Come back soon for the continuation of ‘Tis the Season as we discuss the pros and cons of carpooling and being a group chaperone in the follow-up post ‘Tis the Season, Part II – Reclaiming Lost Time in Your Schedule.”