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 monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Organizing Your Homeschool Year: A Confession

Standing by Old Faithful

Written by Krista Smith.

If you’ve been homeschooling longer than 2 minutes, it’s safe to say you may, at some point, have had picturesque visions of what your school year could be like...should be like. 

For most of us, these raptures typically occur in June when we’re all eagerly unwrapping the beautiful new curriculums which arrive in the mailbox at regular intervals throughout the summer. We tear open the shrink wrap like sugar addicts unwrapping Twinkies. We become starry-eyed as we flip through the pages, imagining how amazingly this year is going to go, all while trying to forget the dumpster fire that was last year…

…Please, Lord…

But this year! This year will be different. We secretly proclaim to ourselves.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

And yet by September 15, there are tears (ours) and snot (also ours), and we begin to question whether anybody who makes homeschool curriculums has ever even tried to homeschool a child before…let alone three...or more.

Organizing Your Homeschool Year: A Confession

This frustrating scene always makes me think of the old adage, “If everyone around you is perpetually the problem, it’s more likely that you are the problem." That short little maxim can be applied to many of life's tricky spots, including homeschooling. Ouch, that stings! Doesn't it?

Most likely the irritation and disappointment you've been feeling stem not from the curriculum, nor your children (hmm), nor even the teacher's ability to teach (amen). It might just be the fallout from how you are approaching your school year in general--your organization or lack thereof at the very beginning. 

Just a few short years into homeschooling my oldest two children, I realized something needed to change with the way I was walking through the long, grueling days of rookie homeschooling. I am naturally a fairly orderly/organized/well-planned-out person, but even my best efforts up until then had left me and my well-thought-out plans in a puddle of tears under the kitchen table.

Science experiment

Confession time: 

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I had grand intentions of doing an experiment I saw in our science curriculum. On the day of said project, I'd turn to that section of the book, wax eloquent on how “AMAZING and fun” this was all going to be, and use all my jazz hands to build excitement and anticipation into my children only to realize that I didn’t have pipe cleaners (I must have missed that bit, but no worries, we can probably improvise?)…or, apparently, sufficient baking soda (Spoiler alert: Google says, you can’t improvise with baking soda.)

It wasn’t that I hadn’t read through that experiment! I had. I had seen it and made a mental note that of the seventeen listed experiments, this ONE felt doable and that when we got to that page in the book, we would for sure do it. At the time I looked through the materials list, I noted that we truly did have pipe cleaners and baking soda in the house. Pinky swear. The problem is, of course, that this moment of good intentions and diligent study of the teacher’s guide happened months before we ever actually got to that experiment in the book.

Needless to say, every time this type of fun-failure happened, I'd waste approximately 20 minutes of our precious school day rethinking, googling, and redirecting. I'd apologize to my children and promise that we would get to it “sometime soon" when I could get my act together and be prepared.  Except "soon" rarely came.

This same scenario played out in various forms in differing subjects for several years leaving me feeling like a “hero to zero” multiple times a month.

Also…and this is painful to admit...my kids naturally became wary of my, "I have something fun for us to do today!" announcements. They had learned to hold their excitement to a minimum because they had been disappointed far too often. 

Curriculum in a basket

A plan of action:

After slogging along like this for a few years, I decided that something had to change. My homeschool approach had to change. That summer, I spent the better part of my waking hours researching what other homeschool moms found helpful for rounding up the thousand or so stray cats that make up a homeschool…and I learned to herd them. 

Over the next few days, I will be sharing what I learned and what has worked for homeschool organizing and planning. Consider this series, my magnum opus of sanity hacks. I fully and humbly realize that these ideas WILL NOT work for every mom or every family. I admit to you right now that if you try to put on the Smith family’s particular shoes, they WILL pinch your bunions.

But the wonderful thing about the ideas that I'll be passing your way is that they are less like rules to be followed or structures to put in place, and more like fully customizable handrails that will not only give you something sturdy to hold onto when you feel completely out to sea but will also point you comfortingly in the general direction of helpful order. I have taught these simple strategies for years at homeschool conferences to hundreds of parents and I’ve sat across kitchen tables with just one mama at a time staring back at me and thanking me for giving her a successful way forward.

Like her, you may not know how to get to where you'd like your homeschool day to go, but Jesus most certainly does. May His guidance prevail and may anything I have to say point you back to His perfection, His order, His plan, but also His grace and mercy when plans fail, and “life” happens.

You don’t have to be a natural at organization and planning to benefit from a well-laid plan. Not everyone gravitates toward these skills, but even if it’s “Greek” to you, stay tuned because, in the coming days, I will share a few of my favorite, cheap, simple hacks that can make your homeschool year so much easier. Whether you implement all of these tricks or find one diamond in the rough, I pray you will walk away feeling a little more prepared for the upcoming school year than when you first started reading--and feeling prepared is half the battle!

Boy and mom at a river

Coming up:

In post 2 of this series, I will share the top three essentials that began to turn the ship around in our homeschool. Without these, I would be truly sunk.

You’ll get a crash course on:

1.) The benefits of taking the necessary time to schedule your homeschool year,

2.) Using the Brave Homeschool Planner to its fullest capabilities, and

3.) The Overlapping 4-step method (It may sound scary and complicated, but this method is actually the one piece that mamas [almost] unanimously tell me made the most difference in their homeschools!)

I can’t wait to dive in with you!

Organizing Your Homeschool Year Series


Krista Smith is blessed to be the mother of three beautiful children and is privileged to homeschool them using an eclectic variety of methods. She has a deep and abiding love for tan-colored coffee, spending time with her family, and seeing children find their forever homes through adoption. But above all of these things, Krista is, first and foremost, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. So, may the Lord and His Gospel get every ounce of honor, glory, and credit for anything she writes, says, or does.

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