Last week I began walking around the house gathering our books from various shelves and piles for the upcoming school year. (Yes, I am admitting there are still piles of books around my house. The grandiose organization overhaul didn’t happen, and yet we are all still alive!) Academic Year ’16-’17- here we come!
Something about sorting the books into piles for each of my learners gets me excited and gives me the little push I need to keep prepping and planning. Quite honestly, this whole homeschooling thing can overwhelm me. I struggle with stress paralysis when there is too much to do. I can get lost in my own to-do list if it remains random thoughts swimming in my head.
Sometimes I play a little game and ask myself “What would Miss Beadle do?” and I parallel our school to the one room school house on Little House on the Prairie. But this is definitely not Walnut Grove. Miss Beadle didn’t also live with her students. Miss Beadle definitely didn’t feel the intensity that comes with my God-given role as their mom. Miss Beadle didn’t have a two year old. Miss Beadle didn’t have to feed them and do all their laundry.
Time for a new game, a new question. This one is called “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: One bite at a time. As the kids get older and we are adding both more subjects and students to our school day, the time that it takes me to prepare for a new school year seems to increase as well. I realized I was naturally dividing my school planning “elephant” up into 5 sections. Labeling these steps, then organizing my thoughts and sorting my tasks has helped me see my progress and kept me from getting overwhelmed.
- Curriculum Choices.
- School Calendar
- School Day
- Curriculum Prep
- Home Prep
Curriculum Choices: I always do this first and begin as the previous school year finishing as I assess how things worked at the end of the year. Getting new books in the mail is the fun part, spending money isn’t. There are some books that we will be recycling from years I have used them with my older kids. I have really rocked the used curriculum sales this year which makes my Dutch heart happy. (I already listed out my curriculum audit from last year here and how I choose curriculum on Raising Arrows.)
School Calendar: This is pretty easy for me, because we have a pretty good rhythm going from years past. We school 6 weeks on, 1 week off beginning in August. It it lovely. It prevents burnout and keeps the house from falling apart. (A lot of projects like seasonal cleaning and clothes swapping get pushed to our week off. ) We have 6 terms to our school year. There are some subjects like science, geography and composer study that we will rotate through the terms rather than rotate through the days of the week.
School Day: Piecing together our schedule for the school day takes me forever. I see myself as a potter and my “clay” is the schedule. I start shaping it, and then notice one side is too thin so I rework it. Then I notice that it is starting to lean to the side and have to correct and straighten it. I literally have been molding our schedule for months. I have last year’s schedule in mind when I begin. I try to pay attention to our natural tendencies. I read Managers of their Home three years ago and found the concepts beneficial. I do not hold to the rigidness that is suggested in the book, but it showed me how to better budget my time.
I have spent a lot of time on the Simply Convivial blog. (Mystie also has 5 children and is a couple of years ahead of me so I find her recommendations helpful.) I also read The Unhurried Homeschooler. At the brink of new year it is easy for me to have unrealistic expectations or feel like I have to find a way to do it all. The Unhurried Homeschooler was gut check reminding me to keep my priorities in line. Don’t sacrifice the eternal for the temporal.
Curriculum Prep: Do we need any extra supplies? All About Reading needs a white board. I need to print off our copy worksheets for language. Does everyone have a 3-ring binder? I need to set up passwords for Veritas history. I need to install Teaching Textbooks onto the computer. Should I make a playlist of songs for memory time? Do we have enough pencils? These are not big decisions, just the details. It is good for me to keep a running list and see how many I can knock off in an afternoon.
Home Prep: This is last on the list because if the things I have planned here don’t get done it’s not the end of the world, but they are good ideas nonetheless. These are the little things that just might make our days a bit easier…freezer meals, home organization, chore charts and routines, decluttering and trips to Goodwill.
I know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” There will inevitably be things that I forget or just won’t get done, but keeping my thoughts organized helps me keep my joy along the journey. This school year is another gift from God. I am priveldged to be able to plan prepare for it.