By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education. She writes regularly for Impaq Education, a curriculum provider for home, tutor and school education.
While the start of a new school year is a readjustment for everyone, it is particularly challenging for families transitioning from mainstream to home education. Whether 2020 is your first year as a homeschool family or whether you are seasoned home education pros, here are some tips to help you ease into the new academic year.
· Get your admin up to date: Take advantage of the slower pace at the start of the year to review all learning material – do you have everything you need to get started? Also, double-check and diarise important dates and complete any outstanding paperwork.
· Take stock: “Back to school” is synonymous with stacks of books, stationery and other resources. Before buying anything new, take a few hours to sort through what you already have.
· Organise your learning space: Will you be conducting classes at the dining room table or do you have a separate room set aside for learning? Do you need additional desks and chairs or some filing cabinets? Perhaps you need some wall space to post schedules, calendars, and completed work? Get organised by assessing your needs, purchasing what you need and creating an inspiring learning space.
· Set some goals: It is important to reflect on why you chose to educate your child at home and what you want to accomplish during the year. While academics are important, there is more to a child’s education than the marks on a report card. When setting goals, in addition to academic outcomes, also think about holistic development, physical activity, socialisation, extracurriculars and so on.
· Plan your schedule: While flexibility is one of the key appeals of home education, creating a daily or weekly schedule of what you intend to cover and where learning will take place will help, especially in the beginning. Consider how you want to break up your learning during the year then create a plan that meets the goals you’ve set. There is no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to home education – the perfect schedule is the one that works for your family.
· Do a test run: Once you’ve created your schedule, use the first week or two as a test run to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Even if you’ve been homeschooling for years, what worked well before may not work now – maybe you have a new baby in the house, or you’ve moved from teaching one child to two or three.
· Have a Plan B: Life happens. So line-up a series of educational shows, keep a secret stash of books or educational toys, have some board games on standby or keep a few basic recipes ready to pull out – it doesn’t matter what it is, just knowing you have something to fall back on when life inevitably derails a perfectly planned day will keep you from panicking.
· Do something fun: A great way to ease into things during the first week or two is to add something fun to the schedule. So why not kick off the new academic year with a field trip? One great benefit for homeschoolers is that during traditional school hours, most attractions will be less crowded.
· Be realistic about your abilities: You are not expected to have all the answers. Most homeschool parents utilise various resources and rely on input from experts and online sources. However, it is important to admit when you can’t effectively teach a certain subject. Luckily, there are subject-specific tutors who can assist. If you know that some subjects may be challenging, start researching support options now.
While the start of the academic year may feel overwhelming, home education is ultimately a worthwhile and rewarding journey and you will learn what suits your family as you go.