“This year I’m going to stop eating junk food, give up soda, and exercise an hour a day.” This (or something like it) is said by millions of people around the world at the end of every December. Without fail, about 90% of these people will have given up within a month. Why? Because they tried to do too much, too fast. Most experts will tell you that small changes made over time are more effective and sustainable. We all know this, but we tend to forget that it can apply to areas outside of diet and exercise. You should apply the same principle to your new homeschool year. Choosing a slow start to your new homeschool year can set you up for success!
Prioritize and Plan
It’s tempting to try to add in all of the amazing things you see other families doing. Don’t fall into that trap! You need to set time aside to evaluate what works best for your family and set your priorities.
- Routines: Take time before the year begins to figure out which routines would best serve your family this year. You might keep some from last year while changing others that may not have worked so well. Remember, your routines to serve you, not the other way around!
- Academics: You’re not always going to have time to get to every subject. That’s why you want to make a priority list for your academics. Which subjects are non-negotiable? Choose others that you can let slide sometimes. If you’re not quite sure where to start, read my post on preventing overwhelm.
- Review: Plan a day about 4-6 weeks in to your school year to review how things have gone. What has gone well? Does anything need to be changed? Don’t change everything at once, though. Prioritize to find which changes should happen first.
Dream big for your homeschool. Have a vision for your child’s education that gives them all the possibilities in the world. Do not try to cram all those dreams into the first week of school, though. It will blow up in your face! Instead, start with your top priorities and build slowly over time.
- Priority 1: Set the tone. Start the year off on a happy note with special traditions. It could be a special treat for breakfast, first day pictures, or pancakes for dinner. Find a fun way to ring in the new year!
- Priority 2: Establish routines. Routines set the foundation for a solid homeschool experience. When kids know what to expect, and what’s expected of them, it’s easier for them to succeed. Establishing routines should be a key focus during your first few weeks. Just remember, these routines are there to serve you, not for you to serve them. Stay flexible!
- Priority 3: Introduce Academics. Did you notice how I said ‘introduce‘? The first week you should just dip your toes in the academic waters. Start with 1 or 2 subjects and do only those during your first week. Keep your days light and short.
Build Up Slowly
You don’t want your first week to be great and then jump right in full force the next. That would just delay your stress by a week instead of preventing it. Instead, you should take the slow road to your full schedule!
- One at a Time: Add one new subject each week. Just one. I know you’re going to be tempted to jump in with both feet, but that doesn’t always lead to a smooth homeschool year.
- Remember Your Priorities: Choosing which subject to introduce first isn’t just throwing darts at a board and going with whatever it hits. Remember your priorities here. Start with the subjects that are most important to your family. Go down the list, one at a time, until you’re doing everything you planned to do.
- Don’t Compare: You’re going to see posts and comments from other homeschool families who are doing all the things. Don’t compare your work with theirs. Put your blinders on and avoid the comparison trap! Just keep doing what feels right for your family.
Start Your Homeschool Year Off Peacefully
When you teach a kid to swim, do you start them off in the deep end? Of course not! You start in the shallow water, getting them comfortable. As their confidence and skills increase, you gradually increase the difficulty. The same principle applies to the beginning of a new homeschool year. As they adjust over the first few weeks, gradually increase the expectations and responsibilities. Start your year off right by starting slow!