With 2015 right around the corner, I usually like to take some time to reflect over my past homeschool year to decide what worked, what didn’t, and see where I might need to make some changes. While I normally like to create goals at the beginning of each homeschool year, I still keep my curriculum flexible and let my child break up our routine if I think we need a change.

I’m also always on the lookout for homeschooling tips and advice from around the web to help spark some creativity in my curriculum, keep my kids on their toes, as well as help me save some time and energy.

With that in mind, here’s some tips and ideas I used to kick off my 2015 homeschool year:

Begin each day in prayer

Set aside five to ten minutes for prayer every morning before school begins. I keep a book filled with some of my children’s favorite prayers, but let them change it up and create their own prayers if there’s something they’re especially thankful for.

“Dear Lord, I pray that you would give me strength to be strong for You in the world today. Lord, you know the struggles that I will face today. Be with me as I go through them. Carry me if I am too weak to move. If I stumble in them, forgive me Father. When I succeed in them, I will praise You! You are worthy of all praise and honor. Amen.”

Give 2015 some structure, but not too much

Review last year’s lessons with your kids, and gauge their interests for each one. Go in-depth about what they would like to learn more of this year, and create a tentative schedule. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule up mid-year! Right now you’re just making broad strokes. This will help you organize lesson plans, materials, and other resources required for the year.

Add a little repetition with assessments

Maintain your children’s progress consistently throughout the year with regular assessments. It doesn’t have to be every week, but at least often enough so that you’re keeping track of their academic growth.

Have your kids sit down and take a math assessment to evaluate their overall status on fractions, after they have learned an entire unit on the topic. For language arts, assess their spelling and grammar to make sure they are up to speed with everything they have been learning over the past few weeks. However, don’t get too formulaic. You want to gauge how well your child’s doing, but not bore them with repetitive tests. Try varying the format of each one to keep them engaged.

But remember to mix it up

Keep the atmosphere of your homeschool classroom light and adaptable. On days where I can tell my kids don’t seem as engaged, I let them decide where we’ll have class today. When the weather is nice out, teach outdoors. Or if you’re part of a local co-op, or just happened to have a homeschooling neighbor, invite them over for a combined lesson.

Perhaps your child is having trouble focusing or functioning at a specific part of the day. Let them exercise, run around and play for half an hour before or after doing their work. Try squeezing snack time into the late morning or afternoon. Maybe let them play with Play-Doh or chew gum to help stimulate their ideas and brain energy. Get away from the table and paper, have the kids do their work on the floor, or even on the fridge, practice spelling with magnetic letters.

Incorporate errands into the curriculum

It’s already tough as a parent to balance teaching and completing your own daily agenda. So why not make tasks such as grocery shopping and runs to the bank part of the learning experience? You only need a few hours in the morning to teach your children a variety of lessons that apply to real life.
Take them with you to fill up your gas tank, grab some groceries, or include them in your next home renovation project. Be sure to walk them through each step and explain why it’s important. And lessons can happen on the go! Young readers can read the grocery list and help find items, older children can do the math to ensure you’re on budget. You can even get into some real world budgeting by showing them how to deposit and withdraw money from an ATM.

Less time in the kitchen means more time to homeschool!

Homeschooling already takes up a huge chunk of the day, and then there’s extracurricular activities and household chores. So when dinner time rolls around, I’m ready to get a pizza delivered. Here’s a super easy way to save some time and money, while also letting your kids help in the kitchen. I’m sure each mom has their own version, but my kids and I find it fun to call it freezer cooking.

It seems like a simple enough, but it’s a great way to keep your children eating healthy, regularly, and with minimal impact on your daily routine. I like to take a few hours on a Saturday morning to cook and prepare enough meals for a week, or sometimes even a month. Looking for some inspiration? Go more in depth about the art of freezer cooking, and get the creative juices flowing with recipes like these that will allow you to accomplish more in and out of the classroom each day.

Add some excitement with field trips!

Who doesn’t like getting out to explore!? After all, learning is so much more than sitting inside doing assignments out of a text book. That’s why you got into homeschooling to begin with! Here is a great list of ideas applicable to your homeschooling classroom no matter where you live. Perhaps take Fridays off or even just use the afternoon to spice things up each week.

Start a journal

This isn’t just an idea for your children. Mom or Dad, this one’s for you too! Write for 30 minutes every day after lunch, and then come together as a group to share your thoughts. This will give your child the opportunity to hone their writing skills, and offer them the freedom to share a story they’re writing, or interests them. I like to give my children themes for each day or week, like giving them a biblical story to explore and write about, or asking them about their personal aspirations. Perhaps choose a topic or theme each day to write about.

Find the advantages of screen time

Netflix isn’t just for entertainment and binge watching. If you have visual or auditory learners, Netflix is a way to keep your children engaged. Schedule one or two days a week to watch an educational documentary. Follow up with a quiz or some kind of comprehensive review. Create your own work sheet for the kids to follow along during the documentary. Or allow them to draw the main points and explain their illustrations. Get outside the books more often and explore what Netflix has to offer.

Planning for 2015 at this point might feel impossible, but just remember one of the advantages of homeschooling is you’re never alone! You can always seek out local support networks, co-ops and a trusted homeschool provider like Bridgway. We’ll always here to help guide you through the year with tips and advice. Stay positive, and let’s make 2015 a great year!