For those who know me you will probably ask why is she writing about back to school? She is a homeschool mom.
Being a mom of 11, homeschooler or not, means getting organized this time of year for my brood to get back on schedule with academic activities, as well as sports, clubs and family time.
I have a few simple suggestions to help any family get prepared for the next month of winding down to gearing up for a year of typical activities that keep any family on their toes.
Let us start with the kids' schedules/classes/teachers:
Look at your child's schedule for his/her day. What time does the school day start? How long does it take to get to school? Is there a bus, carpool or walking plan? Start thinking now about how and when or who is getting your kids to school. Walk through the "plan" with your little guys and explain to the older ones what you expect during their comings and goings - being on time, being polite, not talking to strangers and a back-up plan in case you are late. As a homeschooler, talk about your goals for the year and the type of schedule you are planning for the year.
Once you have a schedule (be flexible), look into a planner/calendar/chart or something for your personal use and for the family to see when they want to make plans. There are tons to buy … think about size, durability and visibility. There are many free ones to download online as well as many at office supply stores. Don't spend lots of money on this at first; it is likely you will try many before you find one that meets your family's needs. This is my family's way of survival.
If your child is in a program that you get a class schedule, then look it over and make sure you and your child know the expectations for that class. Make sure if you don't know about the class, you find out as soon as possible. As a homeschooler you have the flexibility to try some new classes, look at your child's interests and see what you can find during the quietness of the day while most of the kids are in school.
The make-or-break of many school years is the teacher. I really recommend talking to your child about respecting their teacher(s). One of life's biggest lessons is learning that some years you get nice teachers, some years mean, some years hard and some years easy. No matter what kind they get … respect is very important. Meet your child's teachers. Keep in touch with them, check in on your child's progress. Don't bother the teacher, just let them know you are interested about your child's progress and want to keep in touch. Volunteering is huge. It can make a C student an A student. That is a huge difference. Take advantage of PTA meetings and open houses.
If your child wears a uniform, then thank your lucky stars. If not it is time to set some standards. Check your budget and see what can be spent. This is a great lesson for kids to use their money wisely. You are doing no one a favor by giving a child a credit card and saying go have fun. Set limits and you will be surprised how well your child can stick to a budget. Let's say you offer $200 for everything. The child needs to decide if they want $120 shoes and a shirt or two, or if they want to buy three pairs of pants and a cute hoodie and some shoes from Payless. The real creative kids will hit the local thrift shop and come home with an entire new wardrobe. I used to hit the local thrift shops and get tons of compliments on my creative wardrobe. The same goes for school supplies, make a budget or you will spend unnecessary money on supplies you can find on sale.
OK, sit down for this one - activities. This is what can make or break a year, a kid, a family, as well as your wallet. Now is the time to really sit and discuss the year ahead. What's in store? A new baby, job, move, family reunion, graduation? What months or seasons don't work for your family? Is your family dedicated to sports, music, gymnastics, drama, dance, Scouts or church programs? Some families I know let a child pick one activity per season. Depending on your family and income size this could be a huge decision. Talk with your children and see if they would like to try something new or want to concentrate on a new skill. Again, you may be surprised how mature your child can be when making these big decisions. I know in our family our kids have had to sacrifice playing for a special team because of fees or time constraints. Some years we are more flexible if more than one kid can do the same activity. Like having multiple kids on the same soccer team or a piano teacher who will come to the house to teach three at a time.
Most importantly on my list is family time. Again, each family needs to decide what is best for their family, but you would be surprised how fast your year will go if you don't schedule in family time. It doesn't have to be a trip to Disney to make family time. It is really important for each family to have down time. This can be just free time to have fun, read and read some more. Most importantly make time for family dinners, not only is it healthier for children, but it is a great time to share about their day - homeschoolers as well as children away from home during the day. Game nights have become popular in our generation, and neighborhood pickup games can't be beat. Make sure to schedule lots of little day trips; take advantage of all the free stuff in your area. I can't stress the importance of visiting relatives that don't live locally. It is important for kids to know their cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as grandparents. This is a good time to start some fun family traditions or share with them what you did when you were young.
Any time spent preparing for your school year will be time well spent.