Its the second-most wonderful time of the year! Yep, not Christmas but the last day of school!
We homeschoolers like to do our own thing. We make our own schedules, plan our schooling around trips and work, and adapt our breaks to suit the weather or our family’s needs.
However, even if you school year-round, there is often a time where you schedule a longer break and order new materials for your growing kids. And these are the 5 tasks I think you should consider doing during that time.
If you are new here, welcome! I’m a homeschool, homebirth, homemade mom of 5 boys. Check out my about page to meet me and my family.
1. Assess Your Homeschool Year
It sounds cheesy but one of the homeschool and parenting phrases that turn round and round in my head is, “Always be assessing!”
I think one of the reason that our six-week mini-terms work so well for my homeschool is that I naturally have a couple of times during each season that I assess and refocus myself on what really matters in our homeschool.
Why do I have to do it so often? Probably that’s a personality defect but alas!
Assessing how the homeschool year went is an important step in reflecting on your progress and making adjustments for the future. It is essential for me that I do this right away at the end of the homeschool year, or I will forget! The summer gets busy and how we felt about a certain program might not be at the forefront of my mind in a few weeks.
How to do a homeschool assessment:
If you have already reflected on your “why” for homeschooling, assessing your homeschool year will be super easy! Dig out your “Finding Your Why” printable (I keep mine in the front of my planner!) and read through it. Then compare with your thoughts and feelings about the homeschool year.
If you haven’t sat down and written out your reasons for homeschooling and developed a homeschool or family mission statement, I highly encourage you to do so now. You can start here.
If you don’t have a mission statement, here are some basic steps to take when reflecting on your homeschool year:
How to Assess Your Homeschool Year
- Grab a notebook or your planner and situate yourself near your homeschool shelf or in your homeschool room so you can see all the curriculum and so on. You might want to be able to look at lesson plans, textbooks, workbooks, completed assignments, and any other records you kept. This always helps jog my memory!
- Review curriculum and goals: Take a close look at the curriculum you used and the learning goals you set at the beginning of the year. Consider whether you were able to cover the intended material and if your child made progress toward those goals. Did you plan too much? Were your expectations of your child and of yourself realistic? Did you overbuy?
- Evaluate strengths and weaknesses: What are the strengths and weaknesses for your homeschool as a whole and then also for each individual? Are you playing to your strengths as a homeschool mom? Where did you fall short often?
- Reflect on teaching methods: Evaluate your teaching methods and approaches. Think about what worked well and what didn’t. Remember, your time is a limited resource!
- Review completed work: Look through each child’s completed work. We don’t save everything they do all year (too much clutter!) but we save things they value. I like to select a few pieces from the year to talk about with them – something I feel like they worked really hard on or showed their creativity. I like to have a sample from the start of the year and one from the end of the year.
- Consider extracurricular activities: Assess any extracurricular activities your child participated in during the homeschool year. Were they beneficial to your child and your family as a whole? Did you overcommit yourself?
Remember, assessment is an ongoing process. I find it really helpful to be assessing things and tweaking as we go. Write down anything pertinent (I never remember). Use the information you gather to make adjustments and improvements for the next homeschooling year. Embrace the flexibility that homeschooling offers and adapt your approach to create a life-giving homeschool for the whole family.
2. One-on-Ones With Each Homeschool Member
I love snagging one-on-one time with my kids, but it isn’t always easy to do. I make a point of meeting with each of them at the end of our homeschool year to chat. Then later before school starts we meet and talk about what they want to learn that year! I like to let them have some input in their own education.
Here’s what I do: after I have had a chance to do my own assessment, I do a little one-on-one meeting with each kiddo. I think I will take them each to a local coffee shop or ice cream parlour this year.
I bring a couple samples of their work I feel like they should be really proud of. I show them some work from the beginning of the year and talk about how much they progressed. I like to use this time to really lay on the affirmations!
Every child’s education journey is unique, but one thing I know for sure is that each of them is the result of a thought of God, and they are worthy of love, attention and affirmation.
I ask for the kids feedback and help them with some focus questions. These are the kinds of questions I ask:
- What is one thing that stuck out to you this year?
- Which field trips did you really enjoy and why?
- Which projects did you like best?
- Our main read alouds were (list or show the stack). Can you tell me your favourites?
- What did you think went really well this year?
- Is there a sport or activity you think you’d be interested in trying next year?
- Is there a topic you really want to learn about?
Don’t Forget Your Husband!
My husband and I have ongoing chats about our kids well-being, including their education. However, it is really helpful to touch base at a few specific times during the year as well. It is nice to get feedback from a second set of eyes and of course talk about what is important to him for their education.
3. Declutter and Organize Your Homeschool Space
While I still have some momentum and before the summer stupor sets in, I need to declutter, clean, and organize our homeschool space. I will have to do this again before back-to-school with new supplies and stuff. But I am giving my future self the gift of not leaving all kinds of trash and clutter around for that time!
Before you declutter: Make sure you’ve done at least enough of the “Assessment” step to know you aren’t going to get rid of anything important you need for state or provincial record-keeping requirements. Where we live, there are none, so I am free to declutter as much as my kids let me! (Go to Step 4 if you want to know my life hack for that!).
If you’ve been around for any length of time you’ll already know that my sanity as a homeschool mom comes from keeping clutter to a minimum! I have two IKEA shelving units in my dining room where I keep all our homeschool supplies.
I find if I store things elsewhere, it is too “out of sight, out of mind” for me and I’ll forget to use it or forget we even had it!
Here is how I go through it based on my favourite decluttering book:
Before I begin, I grab a black garbage bag, a box for the kids to sort through, a recycle bin and a donate-able donate box.
First I grab trash and easy stuff that just doesn’t belong there (toys that sneak onto the shelves!). Trash in this case usually means crumpled up paper. There is another huge easy stuff category here: loose work and completed workbooks. I put them in the box or bin for the kids to sort through for our bonfire (more on that in the next part).
Pencils and random small supplies I shove into the baskets that I keep for them. I will sort through these with the same steps later. Or more likely get a kid to do it!
Next is the “Duh” Donations – Books we hated, curriculum we are completely done with and will not need again. Straight into my box to donate. Someone else will love them!
For the decluttering questions (go read Dana’s book or check out her blog!) the first one is: “Where would I look for this first?” The answer for everything left on the shelf should be “this homeschool shelf” because I am really trying to keep this our ONLY place for school items. So I need to go to the next step.
If I needed this (book, curriculum, art supply, etc), would it ever occur to me that I already had it? This is where my best decluttering happens! If I would have never thought to look for it because I didn’t remember I had it… I should probably just donate it!
If you’re on a roll, go on to organizing!
Consolidate things, just putting similar items together. Check all the markers and gluesticks… there will be dried up ones! Somehow it was hard to find a pencil sharpener every time you did math all year but now you’ve consolidated them and there are way too many! It happens, guys. Reality!
Be sure to consolidate your things you need to keep for records into a portfolio or memory box.
Container concept: My shelves are overflowing right now and I really need this one! Do I just have too many items here still? If this homeschool shelf is the only space that I have for all our paper, tools, books, curriculum… what should I declutter to make sure my container isn’t overflowing to the point of being cluttered, messy, and stressful?
I have each kid go through their memory box so that they can add new stuff to the container. The container is the bad guy, not me!
Less is more! Here’s the thing with homeschool materials. I have a limited amount of time and energy. I want to give my children a good education without being a stressed-out mom. I need to be able to get things I need without shifting stuff around, searching high and low, etc. The ATMOSPHERE of our education is important to me. More important than having every since great homeschool resource or adorable Montessori tool.
4. Ritual & Celebration
Ritual has always been really important to humanity, and one of the reasons we don’t *officially* school year-round is because I think that its really important to have ritual and celebration around starting and finishing things! I find it to be really encouraging, fun and something to look forward to.
What we do for our end-of-homeschool-year ritual is pretty simple:
- We usually have a field trip.
- We always go to the beach because, why not.
- We make sure to have a family dinner time chat about finishing the year and how proud we are of the kids.
- And we do a bonfire!
What is our End-of-the Year Bonfire?
Our bonfire is not just a fun way to celebrate the end of the year. No, it is a sneaky way of helping the kids let go of the work they did that year! My kids are welcome to save anything special to them (provided it fits in their memory bin). However, once they get burning pages, they get really into it and wind up letting go of more paper clutter than they originally intended. Yay!
For extra fun: My friend Elizabeth from At Home on the Prairie has a great healthy homemade marshmallow recipe that doesn’t make my kids crazy (they don’t do well with corn syrup). Find that here.
Growing up, my parents used to get us a grading gift! It was usually a new book to read over the summer. A lot of the time, it was the new Harry Potter book for me!
In previous years I have put together a summer reading book basket with some new books. A new book paired with our Summer Reading Bingo or Nautical Summer Reading Logbook would be super motivating to some kids!
This year we didn’t go that route, though…
Instead, we did something for outside!
My husband loves to give gifts and he picked out a super-fun surprise for the kids this year. This fun rotating sprinkler for the trampoline! It has been a huge hit so far, especially since we are in a heat wave as we wrapped up school this week.
5. Begin Planning for the Next Homeschool Year
So you’ve done your own assessment, talked with each family member and taken notes. Now its time to make a note on your phone, or write in your planner somewhere you can find it.
Here’s what I write:
- what worked and did not work
- curriculum to ditch vs curriculum to for sure get again
- extracurriculars to ditch/do again/try
- any needs that ought to be filled, for example – find a typing program, pick a foreign language to start, try a new sport.
The hardest part of your planning is already done for you if you have done a solid assessment. Now you can put your blinders on and ignore all the curriculum suggestions unless you think they will fill a gap or need you identified!
It is great to order things or start looking on buy-and-sell groups right away too once you know what you need. Just be sure to write it down! Last year I missed one math book and had to pay shipping twice which is never fun!
Congratulations on Completing Your Homeschool Year!
That’s it! Those are the essentials I think every homeschool parent ought to do at the end of the homeschool year.
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