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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Okay, this is the third installment of my series on how to start homeschooling. First we talked about Exploring your options, then we discussed Investigating possibilities. Now, we’re going to talk about what Planning will help you get set up.

I’m assuming that you’ve already chosen an approach (anywhere from unschooling to a ‘canned’ program, or somewhere in between). There are several lists that you can make that will help organize your preparation and reduce stress. Here they are (in list format, no less) and then we’ll cover a few details for each.

  • reporting requirements for your geographical area
  • subjects or units being taught
  • books and materials you need to purchase for each subject/unit
  • items that can be borrowed from the library
  • school supplies needed

We’ll also talk about planning you and your child’s work area, as well as what kind of paper management system you want to use.

So. To start: take several blank pieces of paper, and title them according to the items on the list above. There will be times when you’re working on one list and an item that needs to be on a separate list will pop into your head. Write it on the other list asap! 🙂 There are a lot of details in setting up a school program. A calendar with large blocks that you can write on would also be most helpful.

First, make (or better yet, find) a list of your local reporting requirements. If you need to submit information to a school or other governing body, it’s important to have the exact requirements in front of you as you’re planning. Now is a good time to mark any dates on your calendar that apply to this topic.

Next, think about what subjects or units you will teach for the year. List them out.

For each subject/unit, think about what books and materials you will need. Go ahead and set your purchasing list and your library list out in front of you, and write down materials on whichever one is most appropriate. Try to be as detailed as you can, knowing that you’ll probably be making changes to the lists over time. We’re not carving in stone here, just trying to lay a good foundation.

Finally, make a list of any school supplies you and your child may need. Yes, I mean pencils, paper, crayons….that sort of thing. I know I’ve really benefited from getting a new set of dry erase markers each year. Mark it all down, and that way if you buy something you can check it off (thus preventing double and triple purchases).

Take a minute and think about where you plan to actually teach your lessons. Are you going to be in a particular room of your house? Which one? Right now, we do all of our work at the dining room table. For a few years I kept the school books in my bedroom, and supplies in various closets. Last year I added a couple of bookshelves in the dining room area and started keeping supplies there. One lesson I learned: boys behave better if I’m digging out books and materials nearby. Walking away to get things invites wrestling matches, lol.

Wherever you’re going to do your work, you need to have space for books and materials and school supplies nearby. Shelves or cupboard access would be nice. I know of one mom who keeps things in bins by subject and then just pulls them out at the appropriate time. I keep my teacher books in a nice plastic box. It looks like one of those magazine holders you can buy, but this one is several inches wide.

You should also think about chalkboard or marker board options. I’m someone who likes to draw pictures and diagrams while I’m talking, so a marker board is a must. I didn’t use it as much in the early years, but pretty much can’t function without it now. The boys seem to understand concepts better when I both explain and diagram them. A 3-hole punch is often used around here as well.

You may also want to think about making a place to display papers and projects. We have a bulletin board for papers that can hang. Projects display on the kitchen island or dining table for a while, then we take a picture for posterity and toss the actual product. It was a little difficult at first (I’m a reforming pack rat) but honestly, what would we do with all that shtuff after a while?

As to the daily paperwork that is generated, you need to have a plan for dealing with that as well. Otherwise you’re going to get overwhelmed with piles and piles of it. The system I use calls for each child to have six 3-ring binders. Those binders hold 4 years of schoolwork. They’re broken down into spelling, grammar, science, history, writing, and reading. When we’re done with a subject and the paper has been evaluated, it gets filed in the appropriate binder. Yes, at some point I may have 18 binders per child sitting around, but for now the system is working well. The boys really enjoy looking back at earlier work, and the paper is managed and under control. I haven’t finished the 4 year cycle with the older boys, but will after this year. I’ll ponder that one and get back to you. 🙂 I may just pull a few pages from each year and toss the rest.

A friend of mine is having her children pick out 2 pages from each month of the school year for a portfolio. She’s putting the pages into sheet protectors and then into binders. The rest is getting tossed. I’ve also seen families stuff papers in drawers, boxes, and even paper bags but I don’t recommend that. Decide how much you’re going to keep long term and make a plan for that. Then stick with it. If your children are old enough, have them help you with the filing and tossing.

That about does it for my planning plan. Next article, we’ll talk about purchasing items. I’ll list the where’s and the when’s that you need to know.

Earnest Parenting: tips for creating a successful homeschool.