Although I wrote this article in 2009, it is still applicable for this year. (The dates for no-tax shopping will be different this coming year.) Enjoy!
It’s that back-to-school time of year again, when Walmart’s aisles are stocked full of notebook paper, pens, pencils, gluesticks, scissors, Tinkerbell backpacks and lunchboxes, and so much more. And if you’re a homeschooling parent, it’s time to decide on the curriculum for the coming year and make other preparations. Whether you use the classical approach, Charlotte Mason’s methods, a boxed curriculum, an eclectic or the unschooling approach, it’s your job to get your hearts and home ready for the new school year. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:
1. The best preparation is prayer. We began homeschooling our oldest daughter Heather when she was in the tenth grade, and she graduated from our homeschool in 2000. Her sister Leah has always homeschooled, but every year I pray and ask God if this is still His will for her life. Once He confirms it to mine and my husband Ray’s heart, I then dedicate the year to God and ask for His liberal wisdom and guidance for the coming year. (James 1: 5) Proverbs 3: 5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” God is the one who knows what is best for your child. He’s only given them to us as stewards for a season, and we need to take our role as educator and facilitator seriously.
2. Strategic planning. Write all your goals down for this year. Make specific goals, and plan strategically for your child to have an excellent education this year. If you’ve been homeschooling for some time now, you should know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If your child is not strong in the area of math, plan to focus on improving his math skills this year. Tap into friends as resources for advice. What curriculum have they used with their children that they liked and that worked well? Do research on the internet. Browse used and new book stores. Pore over homeschool curriculum catalogs. Talk to your child and find out what she would like to study this year.
Let studies be interest-led because then she will be pursuing her passion and you won’t have to fight him or her to do the work necessary each day. The books you buy are one of the most important decisions you will make for the homeschool year. You don’t want your children hating homeschooling because it’s “boring”! Make the homeschool schedule in advance, including daily chores, doctor and dentist appointments, field trips, and homeschool support group meetings. Make sure you have not over-scheduled activities so your children will have free time to play, to daydream, and to rest.
3. Start your homeschool nest egg early. It’s a lot easier to start saving a little bit of money each month than to take a large chunk out of your husband’s paycheck each August. Set aside $5, $10, or $20 each month (or more) beginning each new school year, so that by the next year of school, you will have your nest egg for buying school supplies and curriculum. You may have to dip into this during the year to purchase more books, but at least you will have some money toward new purchases – which will keep you and your husband from stressing out about the provision for homeschool books. Proverbs 6:6-8 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”
4. Find support now. If you live in a rural area like I do, or if you don’t have a lot of emotional support from family or friends in your decision to homeschool your kids, it’s best to find a homeschool support group or co-op now before the school year starts. You can find a local support group by going to http://localhs.com/ or your state’s Christian homeschool organization at http://www.beginninghomeschooling.com/achel.cfm. You can also search Home School Legal Defense Association’s site for a listing of national, state and local homeschool organizations for every state at http://www.hslda.org/orgs/.
5. Take advantage of the sales tax holiday to stock up. If your state is participating, stock up on school supplies, clothes, computers, and other items during the sales tax holiday on Friday, August 7, through Sunday, August 9. This article offers tips on how to get the most out of your tax-free shopping. http://couponing.about.com/od/bargainshoppingtips/a/taxfreeshop.htm. You don’t want your child to be in the middle of an assignment, and be unable to find pencils, pens, and notebook paper. Sam’s Club, Costco, and other warehouse clubs offer merchandise you can buy in bulk, saving money in the long run. CVS Pharmacy also offers discounts and even free school supplies with purchases you make each week.
6. Get your kids a back-to-school new wardrobe. Why let the public school kids have all the fun? Let your kids go with you to buy their school supplies, a backpack and lunchbox (for field trips, visits to family or friends), and new school clothes. You don’t have to go crazy shopping, permanently damaging your family budget, but there’s nothing like some new clothes to make everyone feel a little better. Make sure your kids’ shoes fit, and they have underwear, socks, sweaters, and jackets. You can scout out thrift stores, garage sales, Ebay, and Craigslists for good deals on gently used clothing, winter coats and jackets. One place for discount shopping online is Christian Book.com.
7. Say cheese. Schedule an appointment to have your children’s photos taken each year for family relatives at Walmart, a professional studio, or even with a family member who has a good Nikon or Canon camera (our daughter Heather is the family professional photographer). Don’t forget to stock up on photo albums and scrapbooks to record your family’s sweet memories this year. Photos also make great Christmas and other holiday cards, and are fun for digital scrapbooking.
8. Organize your home now. Don’t wait until school starts to begin organizing books, supplies, closets, pantries, cabinets, drawers, shelves, and rooms in general. It’s so true that having a place for everything, and everything in its place makes your home management easier. For excellent ideas on home organization, visit The Fly Lady. She is also now on Blog Talk Radio, where you can listen to her show.
I have found this wonderful secret to effective home organization: THROW STUFF OUT. Of course, you don’t want to pitch your mother-in-law’s precious antique hand-me-down china, but go through all those papers, receipts, files, magazines, newspapers, half-used candles, lotions and bath products you don’t really like, cleaning supplies, toys, cds, records, tapes, and whatever else you have squirreled away for overly-sentimental reasons or out of laziness.
Begin sorting into piles of keep, store, give away, and throw away. Why do you keep socks without a mate? Receipts from clothes you bought five years ago? 30 various homeschool magazines that have collected dust after you read them? Be merciless. If you haven’t used it in three years, you will NOT someday need it.
9. Find good homeschool blogs and resources online. These will encourage you throughout the year on those hard days. Cindy Rushton is my role model as a wife, homeschooling mom, writer, and speaker. Any of Cindy’s resources are wonderful, and she has a wealth of information on her website. Some other examples are Donna Jean Breckenridge’s blog Liberty and Lily, Mary Pride’s Homeschool World, Simply Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason Basics, and Top 50 Homeschool Blogs.
101 Most of all, praise God for homeschooling freedom and continue to pray He will preserve it in the U.S. If you are not already a member of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, I encourage you to join here. Even if you do not homeschool or your children are grown, stand with others who are in the homeschooling trenches now. It is our constitutional right to teach our children at home. Dedicate the year to God, and ask for His help each day to do the best of your ability to help provide an excellent, godly education. Learn to disciple your children, like Jesus discipled the men who turned the world upside down. Get your free ebook on discipleship at Disciple Like Jesus.
And most of all, have FUN homeschooling this year with your precious children!
“Let the child grow up aware of the constant, immediate, joy-giving, joy-taking Presence in the midst of them.”
“Let them grow up too with the shout of a King in the midst of them.” – Charlotte Mason