Are you getting ready to get back to school? Have you finished your shopping? Completed your lesson plans? Bought your curriculum? We haven’t. And that is mainly because we homeschool year-round. So how do you go “back to school” when you are a year-round homeschooler?
One of the easiest ways to commemorate a change in the school year is to switch grades. It is also the most obvious.
And it usually doesn’t matter when you do this. Make sure you check the legal requirements from where you live to make sure.
Now, we used to switch to the higher grades every September at the rentrée (back-to-school in France). However, this year I’ve decided to move that date until January.
Having been forced to begin my eldest daughter’s education before she was ready (because of French law), I have noticed a gap between her maturity level and those of her “classmates.” She is struggling to keep up with the faster pace required in upper elementary. As well as the increased workload. So we have made the decision to slow it down a bit and start her a little bit later.
I’m not exactly sure how this will be received by the educational department just as they are starting to crack down on homeschoolers. But frankly, my child comes first. I’ll let God sort out the rest.
So oddly enough, our rentrée this year will just be a continuation of last year’s classwork. We will do another rentrée in January when we make the official switch.
However, changing a grade level is not the only indication that we are heading into a new school year. In fact, as homeschoolers, back to school can be at any time.
One of the best ways to mark our return to school is the beginning of outside activities. Whether you are starting back in with soccer practice or going back to the conservatory for weekly music lessons like we are, the schedules change for everyone in the fall.
Obviously, because most clubs and schools follow the routine of the public school system.
We celebrate a return to the orderliness that is required by adding multiple activities to our weekly schedule. When these start back up again in September, we know that we are entering a new school year. Regardless of how we do things at home.
Which brings me to the next indication that we are back to school. Our schedules change.
Gone are the days when we can start school in the afternoon after spending the morning at the beach. Gone are the days when we spread lessons out for the five days of the week.
With the addition of our activities and my husband returning to teach at the local high school, we are now limited in when we can have lessons. We must be finished in time to make it to classes in the evening. And we usually can’t do anything at all on Wednesdays (the big day for activities in France).
Not to mention, I am now alone with the kids all week and need a bit more regiment to keep things running smoothly.
And these new schedules can be a great time to implement new systems. Being forced to work within a given time frame means being more intentional with our house and schoolwork. No more just going with the flow. We have legitimate time limits that we need to work around.
Since last year ended with an extremely messy house, our chore system was obviously not working anymore. So this year, I’m trying a new way of schooling and cleaning that I hope will get it all done while still leaving us time to have fun.
With the rentrée fast approaching, we begin to see local sales (les soldes) for school supplies. And since this is the time of the year to get the best deals, it is also the time I like to update our current supplies.
Their music and dance classes require certain supplies. And we often need replacement pencils, markers, or notebooks.
To help the kids get into the spirit and renew their zest for learning, we do an inventory of necessary supplies and have a little shopping spree.
What is wonderful about this is that I am not bound to a specific list but can allow the kids to have a bit more freedom in choosing the supplies that are fun and useful at the same time. Which does wonders for their motivation. Who doesn’t want to get back to multiplication if it means using a sparkly new glitter pencil and an eraser that smells like strawberries?
This year, I’m trying something new. I recently read a book Drama Free Homework written by JoAnn Crohn from the website No Guilt Mom. It is written mostly for parents struggling to help their schoolchildren with homework. In this book, she explains how homework should be something that the children are able to do alone.
My favorite section is when she describes the four different personalities most often portrayed by children during homework. Whether your child is the quick quitter, the perfectionist, the overwhelmed child, or the oblivious dreamer, Drama Free Homework gives great examples of how to motivate them to get their work done.
And one of the best tips she has is for the creation of a Homework Box. So this year, I’m giving this a shot, though I’m calling it the School Box.
Of course, before stocking up on new supplies, we need to make room or risk being inundated in broken pens, crayons, and scraps of torn paper.
So we have to first go through our old (current) supplies and decide which are worth hanging onto and which can be tossed.
Old sets of crayons, colored pencils, and markers that are incomplete or well-used get put into the big box of supplies to be used when the kids are doodling or coloring for fun. Pencil cases that are too small or broken get tossed. Notebooks that are full or close to getting full get put into a box for future projects (to be explained later). And the desk and school area are cleaned up and reorganized.
Honestly, this is something that we like to do on a regular basis. Not just at the rentrée. Each term is the perfect time to do a quick inventory and cleaning to help us get back on track both mentally and physically.
But it is at the rentrée that we do a complete change of supplies. The rest of the year we simply replace the broken or worn out.
Remember when I mentioned that used notebooks and worksheets are put into a box for future projects? This is one of them.
Because space is limited, it is nearly impossible to keep every single drawing, copywork, worksheet, or math page. Not to mention, unnecessary. So though we are not required to create a yearly portfolio of the kids’ work, I find it to be a fun way to showcase their progress and keep a few mementos of their yearly studies.
We create a sort of scrapbook with examples of their favorite (and sometimes not so favorite) work that they can then go back to look at in later years.
And when we decide to move again, it makes it so much easier knowing what to keep.
The bonus is that we do have something to show the inspectors (should they ever decide to pay attention to our actual work).
Project Week Wrap-Up
Lastly, you could take a week to wrap up the previous work. This could be done by creating the portfolio mentioned above.
But it could also be a week to go on field trips. Or do some special art projects. Or maybe just take a week to read books. Something to mark the end of one period of learning before moving onto the next. Even if you are not changing grades like us.
This year, I’ve been playing around with the idea of taking our work to the local library or to the beach during the first week of the rentrée. Something to commemorate our new year while still keeping the summer momentum going.
It could also be a chance to have a back to school party. The sky is the limit.
When we think “back to school”, we often picture shopping from the list given by the school. We think of the end of summer freedom. And the beginning of a new year and new grade level.
But if you have decided to homeschool year-round, can this even apply to you? What are some ways to take advantage of the back-to-school season even though you have technically not finished your year?
Using some of the examples above, you can breathe life back into your routine. And you can help your kids get motivated once again to finish out their own year strong.
And maybe get yourself motivated at the same time.