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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How to "Soft Open" the Homeschool Year

The first few weeks of homeschool don't have to be marked by chaos. A "soft open" provides the grace that you need to launch well.

Transition can be rough, especially for kids. It seems that just as soon as a household settles into a comfortable summertime rhythm...BAM!...it's time to start school again. Downshifting to a more structured, intentional schedule can wreak havoc on one's emotional and physical constitution. Tantrums, meltdowns, and bad attitudes are often the byproducts of drastic change. And that's just how we, mommas, respond. Don't even get me started on the kids' reactions!


As summer gives way to fall, we all gear up to transition from the NOW to the NEXT. We all hurl headlong into the school year. The beauty of homeschooling, however, provides freedom to transition at our own pace. Although the public school's play is to just rip the bandaid of summer right off, fast and furious, that doesn't have to be our plan of attack. We can start a little softer. We can tiptoe into the shallow end and slowly work our way to the deeper side.

Here are a few quick tips for creating a "soft open" to the homeschool year.

Focus on habits for at least a week

Nothing will derail your homeschool year quite like allowing summertime habits to spill into the fall. In the summertime, kids go to bed later, get up later, and just generally have an eat-sleep-and-be-merry kind of a schedule. While a homeschool day should never be manhandled by a ticking clock, it does go so much smoother with a little more intentional cadence. Begin a few weeks before your planned first day of school and start establishing some good morning habits that you can carry over to the busy school days. Get the kids up 15 minutes earlier every few days until they are getting up at your preferred up-and-at-em time for fall. Also, begin transitioning to a more rigid chore schedule. With the exception of the actual "school" stuff like worksheets and textbooks, begin to walk through the school day enforcing a more organized rhythm. This will help realign your daily schedule, making it easier to just plug learning into it when the time comes.


Prepare big-batch meals

Two to three weeks before the beginning of the school year, start squirreling away fully or partially prepared meals so that dinner time can be more of a brown-and-serve situation...at least for the first week of school. That way, you can have one TO DO already done before the school day even starts. You can find all my best tips for making mealtime more manageable here>>>

Plan a week of first days

I've never started the school year with a full load of kids and classes. Not ever. In the same way that a juggler tosses one new ball into his act at a time lest he drop the entire armload before he even begins, I always get one grade launched before I add in the next one. I let each of my kids have their own first day of school. I usually start with my youngest kiddo on a Monday. He does his core subjects like math, language, and handwriting, and the rest of the family celebrates him with all the typical fan fair that comes with a special FIRST. And then he gets to take the rest of the week off while I move on to my next-oldest child. By the end of the week, each of my kids have had a chance to be celebrated and I've slowly ramped up to a more difficult school load. The following Monday, we are all a bit more prepared to spin the plates of a full day. 

Ease into the subjects with a transitional schedule

Don't expect yourself or your kids to go from 0 to 60 on that first day...or even that first week. Give yourself grace. Plan for it. Require it. Create a first week (or even a first month) schedule that helps you transition into the full school day. Some mommas like to start with only one subject on the first day and then slowly add in another one with each subsequent day. Others like to do half days the first few weeks, leaving the afternoons a bit freer and summer-like. Still others only focus on the two core subjects, math and language, the first month of school and add in all the rest by month two. No matter how you do it, be sure you let GRACE steer your first week of the new school year.


Don't forget traditions

FIRSTS of any kind deserve to be celebrated. FIRSTS are milestones. Your kids will only have 12 first days of school under your roof (13 if you count kindergarten), so be sure to make them memorable by planning some fun first-day-of-school traditions. Years from now, they won't remember the worksheets they completed on Day 1, but your kids will probably never forget the scavenger hunts, the celebratory trips to the ice cream shop, and the annual first-day-of-school photos. 

What other moms are saying

A "soft open" has always helped me ease into school mode while also allowing me to keep my sanity in tact. That's not to say that I've never begged for a first day do-over. There have been plenty of THOSE kinds of first days. But more often than not, I've been able to transition from summer schedule to school day schedule successfully because I've launched with a soft open.

Apparently, I'm not the only one.

Recently, when I asked a fantastic tribe of homeschool moms about how they "soft open" their school year, here's what they had to say...


"We start with one or two subjects and gradually add in the rest over a 3 week period. After our busy summer, I want to ease us back into a routine!" ~Michelle

"[We'll do] handwriting, spelling, and grammar the first week. Math is added the next week. I also have them start going to bed a half an hour earlier than they've been doing and start their chores half an hour earlier." ~ Tamara

"We do a 2 week 'soft start'. Nothing official, no set times. Then [take] 1 week off for any necessary regrouping. The 4th week is a full scheduled start." ~Lori

"[I start with] the basics -- just math and reading. The rest of the time I have the kids decorate a piece of paper with all the things they want to do throughout the school year. We make different decorations to add to our wall calendar for holidays and do some fun Labor Day activities. It makes the first 4-day-week so much easier and less stressful for all of us. Then the next week, we buckle down and add in everything else." ~LeighAnne

"We start with a book study. We spend the first day reading out loud to each other and discussing each chapter. We snack and just plain enjoy each other. The next day we add another subject and end with the book study. We repeat this for the first week as we slowly embrace the new year." ~Lyn

"During the first days, just like I did when I was in the classroom, I focus on the routine and procedures of school more than content so that we can find a rhythm with the new resources, subjects, and ages that my kids are at that time." ~Marla

"I [spend] the first day going over all the ideas, goals, and curriculum that we have for the year." ~Lisa

"I turn [the first few weeks] into an educational month long back-to-school holiday with various resources & materials arriving or being printed out daily, a lot of which is free." ~Leilah

"We start by easing bedtimes back to normal, put a gentle reminder on our door that we're again 'schooling,' review math and whichever period of history and science we left off, and gently start adding things in. While we're doing such a gentle start, I focus on spending some time making freezer meals, meal planning, make ahead breakfasts, and cleaning to get ready for the year. Most of our extra curricular start in August, so it helps to do these things while the school schedule is light!" ~Stephanie

"A few weeks before the actual begin day, we start getting more organized with sleep times, cleaning schedules, etc. and start doing math flash cards and easy worksheets throughout the day. Talking about the start date and mentioning it often also helps to mentally prepare [my kids for the upcoming school year.] ~Heather

"We do a relaxed summer schedule, then slowly add a little more each week during August and September. [This] helps us maintain routine and sanity." ~Courtney

"[The first week], we start with the routine. We play educational games and do free reading or listen to audio books. The second week, we do the extra stuff like science, history, music, art. Then by the third week, we add the rest of the main subjects." ~Rebecca

"I include the kids on the planning. I ask them what they would like to start with and we do that." ~Jennifer

"[In August], we start with short days and only do school until noon. We still have a lot of summer activities and visitors. By September 1st, we start the full schedule." ~Sarah

"I let [my daughter] pick the order of subjects for the first two weeks. She can't choose the same order twice. I do this to see if one order works better [than another]. ~Kristina

"We start with math, reading and history [the first week]. The next week, I add in spelling. A slow start [helps us] avoid bad attitudes." ~Meghan

"We do half our subjects the [first] week and the other half the next week. By the third week, we put it all together." ~Christy

"It's like ripping off a band aid. Just do it. Jump in feet first and float if you must." ~Meredith

"We always start with reading and math a couple weeks early and then add in the other subjects later." ~Amber

"Start with minimal time commitment and increase slowly (or don't increase at all!)." ~Jessica



The first few weeks of the homeschool year don't have to be marked by chaos. A "soft open" provides the grace that you need to launch well.


2 comments:

  1. To avoid the "Back to school" shenanigans, we do year round school. Six weeks on, one week off. It helps us not burn out, but also gives us not too short a break that we get out of the routine. the first few days of the week off the kids are still getting up, checking their inboxes. By mid week they are "hey I think I will sleep in tomorrow". By Friday they remember school starts back on Monday and they get over it.

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    1. I've always wanted to try year-round schooling...or really, Sabbath Schooling. But our weather here in the tundra makes it absolutely impossible. We have such a short window of nice weather for playing outside that I just can't bring myself to having school in the summer.

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