Gearing up for Back-to-School: Ward Family

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Although my son Joel and I have been reading and doing math facts practice all summer, along with golf and swim lessons, August 6th will be our “official” back-to-school start date. That means back into (um… or beginning) a routine: bedtime, awake, chores, breakfast, devotionals, no cartoons, and a full school schedule starting at 9am and stopping at 3pm.


Does this mean I make my 7-year-old boy sit at a desk for that time period? Like that’s even possible! No, this year I am planning “centers” (kind of like a Montessori thing, I guess). He will have a lesson plan with assignments in Horizons workbooks for each subject, but because he usually finishes each assignment in less than 15 minutes, each center will have other activities to do.

For example, we will start off the day with math. Joel will do a math facts practice sheet (5 minutes), followed by his Horizons assignment (15 minutes). Then he will have 20 minutes or so to enjoy a math “center” activity, such as a math game on the computer or iPad, math bingo or the math dice game, or some other activities I have. I found a great Web site for creating math facts worksheets called Math Fact Cafe.

After math, we move on to reading, then English, all with the same concept — an assignment followed by some time in a “center” activity. After lunch and a short break, Joel will do science and history the same way. I am hoping this will solve the “starting at 9am, done at 11am, and bored the rest of the day” problem we experienced before.

I have also put together “center” ideas for my toddler. He now has a “town” rug with all of his cars and floor toys, as well as a table and chair for his art, play dough, and small manipulative activities. I am doing all of this in our home office space this year, hoping to contain the mess.

Something I started last year that I plan to maintain is the Prize Bucket. (See my previous post about how to set up a prize bucket.)It worked great as a motivation tool and also helped me be able to say “no” when I take the boys to the store and they want me to buy them things.  I recently refilled the Prize Bucket with Matchbox cars, airplanes, flashlights, fans, gum, Toy Story figures, candy bars, stickers, trading cards, Angry Birds toys, etc. I really need to get in the habit of picking up clearance toys for this, because those little $1 to $2 items can add up quickly. However, it really seems to motivate Joel to focus on getting things done.

Everything in the Prize Bucket has a points value, and once a month, Joel can take the points he has earned and buy things from the bucket. Last year I kept track of his points with a punch card: For some reason, it was hard to keep track of the points this way, so I may try something new this year.

I plan to award points for meeting different 2nd grade standards, such as reading a certain amount of pages. Last year I awarded points per book, but we are moving from short, easy-read picture books to “chapter” books this year. I will also award points for doing math facts in a certain amount of time. Our goal this year is to get addition and subtraction facts to 3 minutes or less. We are also going to work on writing skills. Points will be awarded for good spelling, vocabulary tests, and creative sentence writing, as well as copy work and some dictation.

All of these subjects have pretty objective standards, but one of the bigger areas we will be working on this year is attitude.  We are trying to eliminate the “whine” —  I am still coming up with a way to award points for this.

I bought the Well Planned Day Planner at the Tulsa homeschooling convention this spring, and I am trying to be better at filling it in this year. My goal is to stick to a plan and a routine a little better than last year. Next up in the planning stage is field trip and outside activity scheduling.

What are your strategies for getting ready for a new homeschool year? How do you save money on curriculum and tools? Do you reorganize your school area? Do you re-evaluate your curriculum? Tell us about your homeschool prep in the comments below.