3 Steps to Set the Tone for a New School Year at HomeBack to school is here, and with it comes our annual homeschool preparations. As the homeschool mom, you really do set the tone for your homeschool! That's not to say that your kids don't get infected with crankiness or apathy from time to time, but your enthusiasm is contagious.

If you are excited to break into that new curriculum package, your children will sense it and likely mirror it. If you approach learning with a curious, light-hearted attitude, they will probably do the same. On the other hand, if you are resentful of the time homeschooling takes or approach it in an overly formal way, your children will model after your darker tone. Here are the three ways that I set the tone positive for a fresh homeschool year.

Set the Tone with Your Homeschool Space

Before you start a new school year, clean up the space you use for school. Whether it is your dining room, a school room, an empty bedroom or somewhere else, starting with a tidy space makes way for coherent learning.

We are fortunate enough that we do have a school room. But because it doubles as our play room, it turns into a huge mess during the summer. Before the school year starts, I enlist my children to help me make our school space clean. This includes wiping down the walls, purging toys, cleaning off book shelves, and scrubbing baseboards and windows. When they are part of the process, they take more pride in the results and tend to be more diligent to keep the area tidy afterwards. 

Besides creating a neat environment, you want an inviting homeschool area. In your effort to be tidy, have you created a sterile and lifeless space? If so, you are setting a dry tone for your homeschool year. Add some warm touches of color and soft textures that comfort: a world map, an inspiring piece of art, a plush bean bag or sofa.

Be sure you have stored books and paperwork from the previous school year. File any paperwork that needs filed, make sure grades are recorded, and clear out anything you will not be using from the prior school year. You are symbolically saying, "This is a fresh start!" If your children faced any particular challenges last year, physically putting those tough books away tells them that they have a new chance to start again with a clean slate. They may even derive great joy from putting that hard math workbook into the recycle bin themselves. Making them part of this "out with the old; in with the new" process gives them a sense of transition into the new school year.

Bring out your new homeschool curriculum, school supplies, science kits, and craft materials that you have purchased for the new school year and let your kids help you organize them in your school area. As the kids go through their new books, they have a chance to anticipate what they will be learning in the new school year. You just built excitement and organized the school room in one fell swoop.

Set the Tone With New School Supplies

There is nothing that says new school year quite like buying new school supplies. And this is one area where we homeschoolers can be just like our public school counterparts. Well, except for those exasperatingly detailed required supply lists! You get to buy what you want instead of following a cookie cutter prescription.

If your stores display school supply lists, it may be fun to take one home and let your children see how public school is different from homeschool. They will likely be surprised at some of the non-school supplies on the list like hand sanitizer, tissues, and wipes. While you don't want to mock other educational choices, looking at the differences between your home and public school can help children see the many perks they experience as homeschoolers. Set a positive, thankful tone as you anticipate your new school year.

As you are tidying up your school area, you will see what you have and what you need. Make a shopping list for the school year, but be sure to let a few unplanned extras end up in the shopping cart just because. Those extras may be a patterned portfolio, fancy pencils, or a mini-whiteboard. Say yes to your kids as much as possible when it comes to school supplies. This sets the tone that education is valuable and something to invest in.

Set the Tone With Your Plan

While the other two steps involved your kids, this step is mostly up to you. Do some planning for the school year by looking at your instructor's guides and curriculum schedules. But keep the bigger picture in mind as you set these plans:

If you want to instill a lifelong love of learning, where have you incorporated opportunities for that into you schedule? If recreational reading is a foundation for your home, does your plan reflect that? Do you leave enough margin so children can be bored enough to activate creativity? Is your plan reasonable or will it require drill sargeant-like discipline to achieve? Which tone do you want to set — joyous exploration or burdened trudge? Now is the time to set that tone before you open a single book.

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