Hey Homeschool Mommas!
It’s planning time!
Do you love the planning aspect of the homeschool year? Or do you 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 necessary for a successful year.
Don’t stress! I have some planning tips to help you get started.
I happen to love planning, and 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 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 off so much that I simply quit trying to keep daily plans. Now I just write down things as we go, keeping an eye on our targeted number of lessons or chapters to cover each week.
And if you need some help evaluating your homeschool, choosing priorities, creating a mission statement, and planning for future school years, be sure to download my free workbook to walk you through the steps to creating your best homeschool year yet!
And if you’re looking for more planning and scheduling help, check out the posts below!
Linked with the Ultimate Back to Homeschool Link Up
Linked with the Back to Homeschool Linky Party