Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gearing Up for Not-Back-to-School

This year, like every year, I am faced with the question of how do I get started homeschooling this year.  I kind of look at each school year as a separate adventure, although some of it may be similar from year to year.  I think I finally have a system down for figuring it out now though.
Homeschool central in my living room.  The top shelf pictured contains musical instruments and reference books such as dictionaries.  Next down are wooden puzzles for the younger kids (placed up high to discourage dumping, but it doesn't really work since the kids climb), math manipulatives, and other materials such as bean bags and crayons that can be useful for a variety of activities.  Next down is my son's shelf, which contains a variety of puzzle books, magazines, early readers, a binder for loose worksheets, and workbooks.  The bottom pictured is my daughter's shelf which contains a large box of paper for all the kids to use as they would like (reused paper.  The other side has printing on it already.), some high interest books to look at to stimulate her mind and imagination, her binder for loose worksheets (and coloring pages), and a stack of workbooks and coloring books.  Not pictured is the top of the shelf, which contains supplies such as construction paper, software, and "teacher" stuff and the bottom shelf, which is the toddler's and contains a variety of toys to stimulate his cute little brain.  Next to the shelf, you can see a loveseat, perfect for snuggling while studying or just reading together and an alphabet chart for reference by the kids.  This entire area is right next to the kitchen counter, where we usually do "school".
  • Step 1:  Clean and organize the house.  How do I know what I need if I don't know what I have?  I might think I have something and it turns out it is broken or crucial pieces are missing, if everything isn't in its place when figuring out my plan for the year.
  • Step 2:  Figure out what our objectives are.  My main objective for the school year for my 6 year old is to get him reading proficiently and writing comfortably, so most things for him will gear around this.  My main goal for my 4 year old is for her to master the alphabet, to write her name, and be able to count consistently at least to 10, so her materials and lessons will center around these.  For science, social studies, and other such subjects, I will largely be leaving it to their interests this year, so the specific objectives for those subjects will be developed in...
  • Step 3:  Find out what the kids want to do.  I have a ton of books with craft and activities for kids in them, mostly from, so I plan on sitting down with the older kid and figure out what looks fun.  I'll then use those things as a framework to figure out what we'll learn about.
  • Step 4:  Find out what is going on in the community.  We live near a very homeschool friendly city, so I'll be looking into activities at the museums and other places to see what will fit with what we want to do.  I may also use some of these things, like the homeschool science days as the children's museum to figure out more lesson themes.
  • Step 5:  Decide what we are actually going to do.  Being thrifty as I am, I'm not going to be buying a curriculum, so I'll be putting together a loose curriculum based on the things I mentioned before.
  • Step 6:  Figure out what we need to get.  Shortly before the beginning of each school year, I post a list of the things we want or need for supplies, whether it be normal things like construction paper or unusual things like toilet paper tubes or more toy-like things like puzzles on our local Freecycle group.  I also will let friends and relatives know so they can keep their eyes out for freebies or cheapies at yard sales or whatever.  I also watch for them at yard sales, which is part of why I start thinking no later than the end of July, rather than waiting until the beginning of September when schools start up around here.  As a last resort, I'll buy the things we absolutely need, but if I can hold out until after schools start up, I try to so I can cash in on back-to-school clearance sales, rather than paying full- or even regular sale prices for things!
To keep puzzles organized, I labeled each piece and the puzzle with a number and put the pieces in a plastic bag in a bin out of the reach of the toddler, so he can't just knock the puzzle holder with all its puzzle pieces on the floor for an instant mess.
So there you have it, my thrifty guide to not going back to school.  It is not the only way to do things and I don't claim it is "the best" but it works for my family.  That's one of the best things about homeschooling: we can always do what's best for our family.