We are counting down to the start of a brand new homeschool year.
This year, my oldest will be taking classes at the local community college. My middle son will attend the local high school for his junior year. And, I’ll be homeschooling my daughter who is going into the 6th grade. This will be my 14th year of homeschooling.
None of us want summer to end. I don’t look forward to my sons going back to school. I enjoy having them home. However, I do look forward to the structure that the school year brings to my house.
This summer, we have had no structure. We’ve done quite a bit of traveling. We’ve spent some time at Kings Island making memories. My boys have worked, and my girl has danced. We haven’t had routine bedtimes or wake-up times. We haven’t had regular meal times, because we’re all just going with the flow.
So, as we approach the start of school, I have to make tiny steps toward our new routine.
Moving up bedtime
I don’t let my tween stay up super late – even in the summer. She tends to have major sass and attitude when she’s tired so I try to keep her bedtime pretty consistent. However, I do let her stay up later than I would during the school year. The same goes for my teen. He doesn’t have a bedtime in the summer since he’s old enough to know what he needs to do. When he has to work, he goes to bed earlier.
We do have school-night bedtimes, though. Em has to be in bed at 9:30 with lights out at 10:00. She, like me, enjoys reading before she goes to sleep. Isaac has to be in his room at 11:00 on school nights. When he goes to sleep is up to him, but since he has no TV in his room, he usually goes to sleep about that time.
Both kids must turn in their phones in the kitchen an hour before bedtime so they aren’t a bedtime distraction. It’s also very important for me to start going to bed earlier in the weeks leading up to a new school year so I’m able to function with an early wake time.
Moving up wake-up times
Even more important than transitioning bedtimes is moving up our wake-up times. I started setting my alarm for 6:30 a few weeks ago. Next week, I’ll start getting up at 6:00. Hopefully, that will make it a bit easier to get up at 5:30 on school days so I can prepare breakfast and pack a lunch for my son before he heads out the door.
The kids will also start getting up earlier and earlier each day as we get closer to the first day of school. Isaac’s used to sleeping until 11 or 12 if he doesn’t have to work. It’s going to be hard for him to get up at 6:00 if we don’t slowly work our way back to that time.
Updating the family calendar
This summer, I posted a calendar on the fridge of all of our upcoming plans. Typically, I just keep up with stuff on the calendar on my computer, but Isaac wanted a list of everything we had planned so he knew when he could hang with his buddies this summer. It was very handy to have, so I will make a new one each month for the school year as well.
The boys will mark their work schedules, because I plan dinner differently based upon who’s home to eat. I’ll add Em’s auditions, classes, and performances as well as Isaac’s debate team conventions. This allows everyone to know what’s going on with everyone else since our schedules get hectic as soon as school and dance are back in session.
Back to meal-planning
Since summer is so unstructured for us, I rarely follow a strict meal plan. We wing it a lot. We eat lots of $5 pizzas from Little Caesars when the kids have friends over. However, with everyone going in so many different directions after school starts, I really have to buckle down with the meal planning.
Because I like to feed my high schooler a hot breakfast before he heads out the door, I plan all three meals each day. Two or three days each week, I prepare lunch for him as well. The other days, he eats sandwiches. I use this editable weekly menu planner. I also rely heavily on eMeals for simple meal planning. They send me a weekly menu. I pick the things we like to eat and add them to my menu planner page. Then, I round out our menu plan with family favorites, and I’m good to go for the next week.
Doubling some meals and freezing them for busy nights
I try to double a few recipes a month, and I freeze the extra meal. These come in handy on super-busy days. I can pull a pan of enchiladas out of the freezer in the morning before we head out to co-op, and by the time we get home it’s thawed and ready for the oven.
Some of the things we like to double include baked ziti, chili, and soups. I also double and/or triple muffin recipes and pancakes/waffles. These are great for busy mornings. I like to brown and season ground beef in bulk to make easy tacos or casseroles. When I buy big bags of frozen chicken breasts, it’s nice to divide them into meal-sized portions and freeze them in a marinade. Then, they marinate as they thaw.
Putting the house back in order
We spend the last week or two of summer getting the house back in order. We straighten closets and clean out under the beds. I pack up all the beach bags and pool toys. I put all the leftover sunscreen and aloe in a basket in the laundry room. We dust and vacuum, and we straighten bookshelves. We purge old school supplies – tiny pencils, broken crayons, spiral notebooks that are full.
Reassigning chores based on the new schedule
As the kids get older, we have to accept a shift in responsibilities. Now that my oldest, now 20, works full time and takes college classes, he has less time to do chores around the house. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t pitch in, but it does mean that I require less of him since his hours in the house are fewer.
My middle one, 16, is in high school. He’s the president of his JSA club, and he works part time. He’s also taking a pretty heavy course load in school. I try to be very mindful of his load while still expecting him to pitch in when he’s available.
My daughter, 11, is the only one left at home with me during the day. So, she pitches in to tidy the kitchen and help with laundry. The kids alternate kitchen duty in the evenings based on who’s home. Saturday afternoons will be our “catch-up” days this year since our weeknights will be so busy.
I work the last few weeks of summer to check our calendar and assign chores based on availability. Everyone pitches in around here, because I just can’t do it all. We’re all busy, but if everyone lends a hand we can keep the house tidy.
Buying a handful of new school supplies – just because I like them!
New three-ring binders. New packs of notebook paper. New pencils. Spiral notebooks that haven’t been written in yet. Brand new boxes of crayons. Glue sticks that are not all gunked up yet. We don’t need much, but I sure do love buying new school supplies at the start of a new homeschool year. There’s just something about cracking open a new notebook and writing with a new pencil that says, “It’s time for a fresh start” to me.
What do you do to make the transition to a new school year a little smoother?