As the weather starts to warm up, I begin to dream about camping trips and beach days—but with the school year winding down, there are many tasks to be done. By this time of year, my children’s work baskets are usually stuffed with an assortment of drawings, written papers, workbooks, and pencil stubs.
Although I try to gather and sort papers as we go, they invariably stack up until I do my final sorting at the end of the year. Before I can enjoy a summer vacation, there are three projects I must tackle. You’re likely in the same boat. If we get started now, we can help ourselves avoid the end-of-year rush to get it all done.
1. Plan the Coming Year
Curriculum is something that I approach prayerfully and early. Although it may seem backwards to plan next year’s schooling before I have finished up the current year, doing so has been a great tool to allow my family some breathing room during the summer.
When I choose curriculum for the coming year, it is always a progression from what I am using now. For instance, the math I choose will be the next grade level—unless I have a student who is failing at math, and then I will repeat the current year or try a different textbook. In either case, I need to have the current schoolbooks at hand so that I can make these decisions.
History is another subject that is easier to plan during the preceding school year. I plan history based on state high school requirements for the upper grades and on chronology for the younger students. Thus, the curriculum I choose for next year must be chosen with the current year’s schoolbooks nearby, or at least with a list of what we have been using to study. This philosophy of progression extends into every subject area.
Because we homeschool on a budget, my curriculum choices are also dependent on the books I already own. Each year as I am planning, I pull out our stored boxes of curriculum and grab those textbooks which I will need. I have been homeschooling for many years and have a stash that I can simply pass on to my students (keeping in mind that the same curriculum may not be a good fit for every child). I also check used-book sales for curriculum that might be a good fit for the next year’s plan.
2. Prepare Report Cards
The second step is preparing report cards. This is very basic for my elementary students, who receive a simple progress report. (Note: legal requirements vary by state; I’m sharing from my perspective as a homeschooler in California.) Our PSP (Private School Satellite Program) provides a blank form for this, although it would be easy to find online. I send a copy to our cover school and keep one copy for myself, which is stored in a file folder along with samples of their work for the year.
For the middle grades and high schoolers, the report card is more detailed. As I correct my students’ tests and papers throughout the year, I keep a log of their grades in each subject in my three-ring binder, which is also used for chore lists, curriculum plans, and many other resources that I use daily. This ongoing grade log makes assigning a grade very easy. I simply create an average of all their grades and then add points for attendance and completed assignments in order to arrive at a final grade for the semester. Once again, I file one copy of this report with each student’s work samples and send another copy to my PSP.
Fortunately for us, the PSP prepares our high school transcript, but even so, I keep one more copy of the report card in a separate file on my teacher shelf so that I can keep track of what classes my students need in order to fulfill their high school requirements.
3. Out With the Old, In With the New
The last end-of-year task is to shelve the schoolbooks we will not need for the coming year. Books that will be passed directly on to younger students are placed in the student’s basket. Books we no longer need at all are donated or sold to make room for new books. Any remaining books are placed carefully in a cabinet, where they will wait in obscurity for another year.
I also file away schoolwork samples for the year at this time. Instead of keeping every single page of work my children do, I pick several samples from each subject and place them in a file folder for that year along with their report card. When I had fewer students, I kept whole workbooks, but with an accumulation of years and children, I have scaled back on what I keep! It is important to check your home state’s requirements for what you need to store. That information may be found at www.hslda.org.
I love the feeling when these tasks are completed! Each student is left with a tidy basket, needing only a few school supplies to be fully prepared for the coming school year. I am gifted with a summer vacation where I can clear my mind of homeschool-related tasks for a short time and focus on a summer bucket list of special time with my family, camping near a lake, floating in the pool, or simply working in my garden. A few days spent organizing and preparing produce a rejuvenating time of rest.
Here are a few links to good posts on planning and organizing curriculum.
Jennifer Pepito is the homeschooling mom of seven, married to her best friend, Scott. With her husband, she has served as a full- and part-time missionary in Mexico and has worked with children both in orphanage and Sunday school settings, as well as in her homeschool, for over twenty years. She is the author of the book Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget and is passionate about encouraging mothers through her talks at homeschool conferences. She can be found on Instagram @jennpepito or at www.HomeschoolingForTheWholeFamily.com.