6 Ways to Start the Homeschool Year Well- Tips from Homeschool Veterans

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Welcome to another featured post in the 2019-2020 Homeschool Curriculum Expo! Today’s featured publisher is Sonlight- and they have some amazing tips for you as well as a freebie and a BIG giveaway! Check it out…

Jonas (7), Finn (5), and Asa (3) just finished their first year with Sonlight.

We’ve invested prayer, time, and money into our curriculum choice for the new school year. A fresh homeschool planner sits on the kitchen table. We’ve chosen goals for each child and have a vision for the larger purpose of our homeschool. Now the question is this—how can we begin the school year well?

To bring you a wealth of options, I quizzed veteran homeschool moms for their tips. (If you’d like to be part of a supportive network of homeschool moms you can tap for advice, join me in the Sonlight Connections group on Facebook).

“The beginning is the most important part of the work” Plato

1. Talk Through Your Lesson Plans with a Friend

Before starting a new school year, Kirstin talks through her plans with a friend. She says, “My friend doesn’t have to say a word, but it helps me to hear my plan through another person’s perspective. It helps me to see if my plans would overwhelm my children. I also spot inconsistencies in my priorities, holes in my schedule, and subjects that I overlooked.”

2. Begin Your School Year Gradually

Susan recommends a rolling start: she slowly eases into the school routine over time, adding one or two additional subjects from her Instructor’s Guide each day until they are operating at a full schedule.

Nicole adds, “Too much too soon is too much. It is all about momentum and gradually building habits. Everything is difficult until it is easy. Give room for that growth.”

3. Begin Your School Year on a Wednesday

Renee begins each school year on a Wednesday so that she can get a few days under her belt, use the weekend to reassess, and begin strong the following Monday. So, Week 1 in her Instructor’s Guide is actually stretched across a week and a half, providing helpful margin for the first few days.

Look inside an Instructor's Guide to see how Sonlight can start your homeschool year strong and keep you going all year long.
Imagine having a personal homeschool mentor who plans and organizes your entire homeschool year. 

4. Do a Tech Run of Equipment and Supplies

A few days before the first day, we run through our schedule to make sure that we have all of our books and supplies on hand and that all technical devices are ready to roll.  We open packaging, review passwords, practice sign-in procedures and verify that everything technical is working. (This is especially helpful for computer-based curriculum like Math-U-See and Rosetta Stone.)

5. Create a First Day of School Tradition

I go all out for the first day of school. When fall is in the air and everyone’s got back-to-school excitement, I make the most of that fresh energy! I choose a theme—like Middle Ages Knights and Castles or Hot Air Balloons, decorate the breakfast table, and plan a fun activity for the kids.

It may take a few years for you to discover a first-day tradition that works for you. That’s okay!

Janet makes a simple cake in the shape of a pencil and gets her kids right down to work. She says that they are always excited to crack open the books at the start of a new year, so she likes to make the most of their enthusiasm.

Shaley writes, “We always have a not-back-to-school celebration the day that all the local schools resume classes in the fall. We go out for breakfast and then to the zoo or the science museum—any place we love but generally avoid all summer because it’s too crowded until school starts.”

6. Begin with the End in Mind

A healthy dose of perspective is always helpful in the excitement of a new school year. I like to ask myself, “Years from now, what do I want my children to remember about homeschooling?” The answer to that question quickly reorients me to focus on the things that are most important.

Nichole encourages us to “Prepare and block your times off, but then lower your expectations and be in the moment. Take it one day at a time. Know that each day is a gift, and together they become a perfect, unique work. Begin with the end in mind.”


Try Sonlight for Free!
Accept the Sonlight Invitation!

Get a free book and schedule to read with your children. Try Sonlight firsthand and see if this way of learning is right for your family. Sign up here.

With this free sample, you’ll experience what it’s like to use Sonlight–the books, the schedule, and the notes.

You will either receive Gooney Bird Greene, from Sonlight’s History / Bible / Literature B program, for students ages 6-8, or A Single Shard, from Sonlight’s History / Bible / Literature G program, for students ages 11-13.

When your book arrives, just follow the schedule. You’ll read the assigned pages, then go through the notes and questions for each assignment.

As you read the book and complete the discussion questions, you’ll talk about what makes an impression on you. Real education takes place in these discussions. This is where you get to share your heart with your children. And this connection is what’s so special about a Sonlight education.

The wonderful books in every Sonlight program can be enjoyed by students from a wide range of ages! So while the books in this free trial may not match your student’s age, they are still a pleasure to read.

Just one more benefit of Sonlight: Your whole family can join in!


One lucky family will win a complete set of Sonlight’s Read-Alouds: Level A!

Two dozen outstanding books for you to read-aloud to your children. Some, such as Winnie-the-Pooh and My Father’s Dragon, are set in completely imaginary worlds, with charming illustrations and light-hearted adventures. You’ll also read other fiction set in China, in a lighthouse at Christmas, in an apartment house in Florida, and in the streets of Paris.

You’ll enjoy a wonderful variety of fascinating nonfiction as well: two stories set in the ocean off the coast of Florida; a biography of Johnny Appleseed, born in New England in 1774; a book about the nurses who served in Appalachia in the 1920s; the dramatic overthrow of a tyrant in the Alps in 1291; a story set in France during WWII; and one about the unexpected adventures of a very unusual pet.

To enter to win, simply use the Rafflecopter form below! Open to US residents only. All entries will be verified. The giveaway period will close on 7/7/19 at 11:59pm EST and the winner will be announced via email the following day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. All the books and the teacher’s guide!

  2. We are hoping to use Core D this year with my 3rd and 5th grader. This will be our first year with Sonlight.

  3. I’m excited about all the read alouds that go with the lesson.

  4. We love read alouds for learning.

  5. The books are what excite me most about Sonlight. Reading is a huge aspect of our learning.

  6. I love this giveaway, and we’ve read most of these! If I win, I’ll be gifting them them to a family who will put them to good use for their three young book-loving boys!

  7. I would love having books I can trust to hand to my kids to read.

  8. I would love to have the guess work done on good books.

  9. Sunlight always has great booklists. Love how they find living books to teach science and history.

  10. All the wonderful books!

  11. The large selection of books and sources is what we love. There are so many options that allow us to use methods that work for our family!

  12. Love Sonlight! Books!

  13. The great booklist excites me the most about Sonlight.

  14. What a great assortment of books!

  15. We really like My Father’s Dragon

  16. I like the Christian perspective

  17. I love that they are Christian.

  18. All the books

  19. Even though we don’t use Sonlight curriculum (we’re more eclectic), I always use their book lists as a reference for choosing our read alouds & independent reading books. Would love to have these titles added to our library.

  20. I love all the books included. It seems like it would be a gentle beginning to school. I can’t afford Sonlight but I always look at the book lists to find something to captivate my kids attention.

  21. A former SL user looking, praying, and hoping to return with my younger kiddos.

  22. Those look like wonderful read aloud books!

  23. These would be a great help for this school year.

  24. I love Sonlight’s book selections!

  25. The choice of living books.

  26. I love all the reading!

  27. First time homeschooler. The tips on how to start the school year are helpful!

  28. The variety and the Christian perspective excites me!

  29. The books look so fun for little ones!

  30. Wow what a gem for learning! This is a great way to make learning come alive through great read alouds. I hope that I get to win this incredible prize, Thank you, Thank you!

  31. I love the literature-rich approach and this set of read-alouds would be a great way to ease into the homeschool year!

    I also love the “not-back-to-school” day tradition! The school year starts so early around here, and this would be a really fun way to celebrate!

  32. I really want to win this!!!

  33. It would be great to win the Sonlight package.

  34. Books! We love them!

  35. Thanks for offering this giveaway! Live Sonlight!

  36. I get very excited about all the really good books Sonlight uses.

  37. I like the quality Christian reading. We’ve used a few of their books before, and we were even able to share them with family as a great read for non-homsechoolers. Thanks for the giveaway!

  38. My favorite part of Sonlight is the freedom of reading so many great books and still actually doing school.

  39. I really like that Songlight is a literature rich curriculum. I am most excited that through books, family conversations can be sparked about deep, meaningful topics and everyday life.

  40. These books look great!

  41. Would love to add these to our library. My boys read books faster than I can get them books!

  42. I’d love to add more books to my library!

  43. I love the variety of subjects the books offer.

  44. Sonlight has such a fantastic variety of books!

  45. I love the literature based approach. We are voracious readers in my house and my youngest is just learning to read. I love the Christian view as well as how they approach the worldview as well.

  46. I like that it is planned out.

  47. I have been looking at using Sonlight for Bible, History and Literature. I like that it is all planned out for me and uses a lot of wonderful reading books not textbooks.

  48. I love reading to my kids, so a curriculum based on read-alouds sounds awesome to me!

  49. All the books, books books. We love books at our house.

  50. I love that it is a literature based curriculum. I ❤️ 📚

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  52. Our family loves read-aloud! This set looks great!

  53. I’ve that it comes from a Christian perspective and gives you step by step instructions.

  54. I love the choice of books!

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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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