Can you smell that? It’s the season of new crayons, big pink erasers, and freshly sharpened pencils.
It’s mid-July, which means homeschool moms everywhere are taking advantage of the back to school sales, ordering curriculum online, and organizing supplies.
As we get ready to gear up for our eighth year of homeschooling, I’ve been reflecting on how much we’ve learned this past school year. Not just the academics, but other practical things too. For example, this was our first year using Sonlight with all the kids.
Over this past year, I have learned several things that I wish I had known in the beginning. Here are my top tips for first time Sonlighters.
Take advantage of the help
Sonlight’s customer service is always super helpful, but they don’t stop there; they offer Sonlight Homeschool Advisors. The Advisors are experienced Sonlight moms and are there for you every step of the way.
They help you pick the right curriculum for children as well as address specific learning needs. They are also available to answer questions about Sonlight in general or program specifics. They are there for YOU.
They’ve got webinars and workshops on a variety of subjects like . . .
- Exploring Your Child’s Learning Style
- What About Socialization
- Organize Your Home for Success
- High School Transcripts
- To Test or Not to Test
Schedule your weeks
I’m not talking about lesson plans. I’m talking about your school year.
When we first started Sonlight, I just jumped into the lesson plans instead of scheduling our year. After a few weeks, I realized my mistake when burnout started to set in because we’d been going for eight weeks straight!!
Every other year of homeschool had been six weeks on and one week off. I can’t believe it took me that long to realize I hadn’t picked a schedule!
Picking a schedule and deciding when you’ll have breaks is so important. When you’re planning, consider family vacations, birthdays, and holidays.
Don’t think you have to do it all
All of the different levels have suggested age groups. So it would stand to reason that not every child in that level would be able to do every assignment.
When we first started, I tried to have both of my kids doing Level B do all the same assignments in the lessons. It just didn’t work.
Feel free to tailor the lessons to your children. You know them best. You know what they’re capable and where they need to stretch.
Also, it’s okay to skip parts of a lesson if you don’t find it necessary, applicable to your children, or just don’t have the time. There is an amazing amount of freedom built into the lessons. Accept that freedom and give yourself grace when lessons don’t go exactly as they are written in the guide.
Break up your day
The subjects of Sonlight naturally fall into two types of lessons.
- Couch Lessons – History, Bible, Read Alouds, Readers, and Science
- Table Lessons – Language Arts, Spelling, Math
We do our Couch Lessons in the morning right after breakfast. Math, Science projects, Spelling and other Language Arts get done in the afternoon when baby brother is down for a nap.
(Check out Developing a Read Aloud Culture in Your Homeschool to get ideas for Couch Time.)
Establish a routine
When I say routine, I don’t mean a schedule that dictates our days. A routine is the natural flow of events by which your day is lead.
Keep the kids’ hands busy while you read
There are many ways to keep their hands busy (and mouths shut) while reading aloud, but it can take some training. Check out Activities Your Kids Can Do While You Read Aloud for some popular options and ideas.
Use the labels
When we got our first box, I was blown away by the number of books. I figured if I kept them all on the same shelf, they would be safe.
I was wrong.
When books went missing, I had to double check the book list to see what was missing, what belonged, and what didn’t. Shortly after the second incident, I ordered the labels.
I now order the labels at the same I’m ordering books. They’re incredibly convenient and only $2.49. Totally worth it!