How I Planned for Our Homeschool Year

Hey Homeschool Mommas,
It’s planning time!  Many homeschool mamas just love the planning aspect of the homeschool year.  Other moms want to run screaming in the opposite direction.  No matter whether you have a love or hate relationship with planning, homeschool planning can be relatively simple and it is effective and necessary for a successful year!

I happen to love planning but I’ve found a way to streamline my planning while keeping our schedule organized.

Here are my planning steps for our homeschool year:

  • I choose our curriculum.

This is a huge step!  It takes me months of research to decide on what we’re using.  After much angst, I place my order and wait for my boxes to arrive.

  • I create a master list of curriculum.

I have a list of curriculum for each child for the year.  This list is broken down by subject with each curriculum option listed under the subject headings.

  • I compile a purchase and prep list.

I go through all our curriculum and our books and I make a list of what we need to purchase for our next year after reviewing our curriculum list.  I also make a separate list of what I would need to print out, cut out, or prep for the upcoming year.

  • I make a master list of read alouds.

I have a list of read alouds for each child.  I go through my list and enter them into a table in a Word document.  This table has 50 rows.  We read aloud even during holidays and all through the summer.  So this table accounts for 50 weeks of the year – giving me a couple of weeks in case we get behind.  I then put the books into the table.  I try to schedule the longer books with shorter books scattered in the weeks in between.  So, I plan two weeks for a long book, 1 week for a short book next, and then a week where we will read 2 or 3 picture books.  I like a large variety in our reading list during the year and I don’t enjoy reading extremely long read alouds back-to-back so I schedule our year to make sure the short books are placed carefully.

  • I make a list of goals.

During the summer I write down a list of goals for our school year.  Sometimes these are subjects I want to make sure to add in and sometimes they are skill-based goals like teaching my children how to take good notes.  Other goals are more academic such as having my kids memorize the presidents in order.  These goals help guide my school year and make sure that I don’t get lost in a sea of curriculum or other activities – I know my year is successful if we’re working toward each of those goals.  Plus, it helps me see progress as we start meeting some of the goals.

  • I choose our calendar year. 

We school year-round but we have 3 semesters: Sept-Dec, Jan-April, and May-August.
The first two semesters are our true school year.  The summer semester is for extras and anything that didn’t quite get finished.
This schedule has worked well for us – we start after the schools here and we end our year long before they are finished.  But I know that we won’t be short any days because we will be doing art, science, and read alouds in the summer and those days will count toward school as well.

  • I print off a blank calendar for our school year and plan our weeks.

I use the free printable templates found here.  Then I go through the months of each semester and count the number of weeks.  I aim for 12-14 weeks of school each semester.  I plan for 3-4 weeks off in each semester to account for holidays and sick days (or days that we just need a break).

  • I mark off holidays.

On these blank calendars I mark off the weeks that I know we will not be doing school (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc).  This still gives me several “floating” off weeks that I can use as I need them.

  • I go through our curriculum and record the number of lessons or chapters.

I look through each book that we plan to use and I write down the number of lessons or chapters.  Then I compare these numbers to the total number or weeks that we will be doing school in our main two semesters.
This gives me an idea of how many lessons or chapters will need to be covered each week in order for the book to be complete by the end of April.  I write this number out to the side of each curriculum on our master curriculum list.
I know some weeks we will cover more chapters and some weeks will be less.  But if I have a ballpark number to aim for each week, I know that we’ll come close to hitting our deadline.

  • I make a schedule for our days.

This has been the most helpful tool for our homeschool days.  I create a schedule that is divided into 30 minute time segments.  I lay out the curriculum lists and start placing all the subjects for each child into my schedule.  Yes, it is very hard to fit everything in!  I usually make multiple drafts of this schedule and it takes several weeks to find a schedule that works for our semester.
I have a slot for each child and myself on the schedule spreadsheet.  Each person has their own color so I can quickly see who I’m supposed to be teaching at any given time.  I plot out what each person will be doing every 30 minutes during an ideal school day.  This helps me insure that each subject does fit into the schedule and nothing is left out or overlooked.

  • I keep a simple calendar.

I don’t use a homeschool planner!  Did I just say that out loud?  Well, I don’t.  I’ve tried to use them but I’ve found that they were bulky and it was too time consuming to keep up with them.  So, instead I use a cheap calendar that my hubby picked up for me at a local store.  On the monthly overview pages I keep a record of all appts and field trips.  Then on each weekly page, I can write down specific things we do each week.  And I don’t actually write down every page number and every lesson for every day.  I keep it basic and somewhat generic.

  • I create notebooks.

After our curriculum has arrived and I’ve planned the basics, I create notebooks for my kids.  I have one notebook per subject for each child.  Yes, it’s a lot of notebooks but I don’t want to combine subjects and have giant notebooks that are too difficult to carry.  So, I put pretty binder covers onto the front of each and I make sure they are clearly labelled with the child’s name and the subject.  Then I put tabbed dividers in each notebook.  Some notebooks are divided into sections by curriculum – because we are weird and sometimes use multiple things for one subject.  Other notebooks have dividers for the different aspects of a subject like grammar, spelling, handwriting, and composition.

  • I print and print and print ahead of time.

I go through our curriculum and make sure that everything is printed.  I have many digital downloads of workbook pages and notebook pages.  I print off a semester’s worth of work at a time.  I’ve found that it works best if everything is printed and ready to go weeks in advance.  There’s nothing worse than trying to teach a lesson and realizing that you have to wait by the printer.  All of my lovely printed pages get filed away into our notebooks.

Did you notice that I don’t create a daily lesson plan?  It’s true; I don’t.  I’ve found that detailed lesson planning is a huge waste of my time.  I can’t tell you how many times our plans changed and we covered more or less material that week than I had originally planned.  It threw my planning so off that I quit.  Now I just write down things as we go, keeping an eye on our targeted number of lessons or chapters to cover each week.


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12 thoughts on “How I Planned for Our Homeschool Year

  1. I tend to print things out a week or two before. I do a combo of daily lesson plans/ record what we do. But I do NOT use paper to plan out the daily lessons and they are not DATED. I use Homeschool Tracker and create undated, resuable lesson plans and I submit them to the assignment grid a week at a time. It drove me crazy to try to use a real planner with paper and pencil!

  2. I tried printing as we went last year and I got too lazy. So this year I printed everything! I've also tried to use online or app planners and I'm not good at sticking with them. I love paper and pencil! But I only do minimal planning and mostly just record what we do so I don't do much erasing. As my kids get older and I have more detailed things to plan I will probably have to revamp my system. But for now (with elementary school) this has been working. I try to keep it very simple!

  3. Lori, I just loved this post. I am so glad I am not alone. I have never been able to use planners. I have tried, with the best of intentions to use a variety of them. I begin with gusto, but just never can get over the bulk, etc. I also do not use daily lesson plans. That goes so against my training as a teacher, but it really works for us. 🙂 You are SO organized, though. I love all of your steps. Can you come here and help me? 🙂

  4. I appreciate how detailed you are in your steps and how it is clear to follow how and why you do things. It has me thinking I need to get busy printing some things off for this year! Thanks for another helpful post. I'll be back tomorrow! – Lori H

  5. Lisa, I've found it best to simplify and streamline. I've tried more complicated systems and I quickly move away from them because they are too time consuming. Keeping a simple daily planner works well for me. And I love not writing detailed lesson plans. It's so freeing! I'm not always organized but I do try 🙂 Wouldn't it be fun if we were closer? Then we could have a homeschool mom's night!

    Lorie, Good luck with all your planning and printing! I'm glad my steps were clear. How I plan is probably a little different than most but it's been working well here.

  6. I have homeschooled for 5 years. I pretty much follow and bring in RightStart math and Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts. I do create a weekly spreadsheet for each of my boys that breaks out the readings. I print out the schedule to have it ready for them on Monday. By doing this, my 4 kids are able to see what they need to accomplish for the week and it helps keep us all on track. 😉

    My goal is to accomplish all that needs to be done and have a good time doing it! 😉
    Jen B

  7. We use and love Right Start too! I'm hoping to start having weekly assignment sheets for my kids. My goal is to have them work independently on some assignments each week. We are starting off with some student planners this year so we can write in assignments as we do. I'm hoping to be organized enough to have them planned ahead of time another year when they are a little older.

  8. Great post! It sounds like you have figured out what works best for your family. That's great! Personally, after years of homeschooling, I have found that notebooks work best for our family too. We tend to have more notebooks every year – it keeps everything organized and is a great review tool too:)

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