Last year when I was planning for our first year of homeschool there were so many questions swirling through my head and so much noise telling me that I needed to do this and that I should really be doing that. Oh wait, have you thought about this? If you’re in the same spot, you’re definitely not alone. When you’re first walking into this unfamiliar territory it can be incredibly intimidating. You might be asking questions like Where do I begin? Am I doing enough? What if I totally mess this up? Are my kids going to be behind? What curriculum is the best? How do I juggle 3 kids at the same time?
With only one year under my belt, I am by no means a homeschool expert. I’m still a newbie but, I would love to share a bit about what has worked and what hasn’t worked for our family and hopefully encourage you along the way. Please know it’s not my heart to add to the noise or tell you to do XYZ.
The beauty and sometimes the overwhelm of homeschool is that it’s not one size fits all. While we both might have a morning time or loop schedule woven into the rhythms of our days, your homeschool will look completely different from mine. At the beginning this blank canvas really intimidated me, but over time I’ve come to realize that this truly is the gift of this journey. You have unique children with different passions and interests and the invitation of homeschooling is that you get to come alongside them to paint their very own canvas.
While I will soon share some specifics of how I plan for each week, curriculum we use and love, how we organize our supplies, and our daily rhythm today I want to start at the foundation and share 5 things that I do to prepare my heart and home for an intentional homeschool year. Go grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and let’s dive in!
To help you with your planning, I created a free printable PDF with prompts. You can download that right HERE.
5 Things to Help You Prepare Your Heart & Home For an Intentional Homeschool Year
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1. Renew Vision and Inspiration for Your Family Culture
Before I get into the specifics of homeschooling I like to zoom out a bit and prayerfully start with what makes our family ‘us.’ It’s a great time to assess what things we are doing because we genuinely love them and what things we are doing out of self-imposed obligation. This is a great opportunity to jot down the things your family already loves doing together and decide on what you’d like to do more and less of in the upcoming school year. Use your imagination and get creative!
Every family is unique. You don’t have to celebrate every holiday. What do you really love doing and how can you make those holidays extra special? If you don’t particularly like Halloween or National Donut Day there’s no rule that says you have to celebrate it. Pick a few holidays/traditions/totally made up days that set your heart on fire and celebrate them really well. The same is true for weekly anchors. More isn’t necessarily better. Pick one or two and do them really well. Be sure the anchors you do choose actually mean a lot to your family and you’re not just doing them because everyone else is.
2. Paint Your Homeschool Mission + Lifestyle
It might be easy to skip this and hop right on over to ‘more important things’ like picking curriculum, but please don’t march ahead quite yet. I can’t tell you how many days I came back to my “WHY” last year. I encourage you to jot it down, because just between you and me there are going to be some days that you’ll need to be reminded of it. Last year I read Teaching from Rest and I’m pretty sure it’s going to become a yearly August tradition because I’m reading through it again this year. As you are brainstorming and sketching your homeschool culture, you might want to read a book to help remind you or give you ideas for your big picture “WHY” and cast vision for the year ahead. Some of my favorites are Teaching from Rest, The Call of the Wild and Free, and The Brave Learner. I’m also looking forward to reading Awakening Wonder later this month.
When you’re painting the vision for the culture of your homeschool ask yourself what do you want your days to look like, feel like, be like, and even taste like. Maybe my favorite way to think about the atmosphere of our homeschool is by considering what I hope my children remember when our homeschool journey is all said and done. When you take a moment to think about this it really puts a lot of things into perspective.
3. Reflect on the Previous Year and Look Ahead
Whether it’s your first year homeschooling or your fifth it’s helpful to examine the previous year and write down what worked well and what might have been an obstacle. Even if you didn’t homeschool last year, I encourage you to do this! Then put all of that together and write down your biggest takeaway from the year. When I write down my biggest takeaway from the year, I like to think about if I could go back in time to the beginning of the year, what would I have told myself then?
After you look back at the previous year, you can take some time to look at the year ahead. What are you excited about? What are you nervous about? It helps so much to get this out on paper. Plus, it’s really neat at the end of the year to be able to see what fears you may have had at the beginning of the year and how the Lord helped you work through challenges and overcome obstacles.
Once you have looked back at the previous year and spent some time dreaming about the upcoming year, take a moment to imagine yourself at the end of the year. What’s one rhythm you can focus on this year that you’ll be so glad you did at the end of the year? Maybe it’s grabbing a big pile of books and kicking off your day reading aloud, having a weekly tea time, doing art with your kiddos, going on a nature adventure each week, or smiling at your kids every day. The options are endless. Pick one thing and intentionally focus on it this year.
4. Brainstorm Ideas for the Year
Now that you have your why and the foundation has been laid for the type of atmosphere and culture you would like to create in your home, this is where you get to start brainstorming what things you want to do and explore together. I love to include my girls and ask them what they would like to learn. My only rule is that I write it all down. There aren’t any silly ideas when we are brain dumping together. By the way, this is a really great list to pull from when you are looking for and creating unit studies. I’ll share more about how I put together a unit study soon. So often the ideas they come up with are incredibly simple and that’s why I love to write them all down, because I often need the reminder that simple is better.
5. Tie it All Together and Focus on What Really Matters
Hooray! You’re almost there. The last thing I like to do is tie it all together and make a list of what we are saying yes to this year and what we are saying no to. Again, this list is more for me than anything else. It’s so good to come back to this list when I’m feeling discouraged or attempting to do all the things. I also like to pick a word, quote, or inspirational phrase to write down for the year. This year our word is wonder.
So there you have it! 5 things that I do to prepare my heart and home for an intentional homeschool year. I hope that one or two of these ideas resonated with you and that you can incorporate them into your planning this year.
Be sure to download the PDF by clicking the button below if you’d like to print out the prompts and work through them.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing more about what homeschooling looks like in our home including how I plan our weeks and document our learning, tips for creating a homeschool rhythm, how to put together a morning basket, and how we organize our supplies without a dedicated homeschool room. Until then, I’ll just be over here cheering you on as you plan and prepare for an intentional homeschool year!