How can you plan for your homeschool year?
The answer is not with colorful planners and naïve optimism.
The traditional planning methods used in public schools simply don’t work well in the homeschool environment.
They have to stick to the lesson plan and have a school calendar set years in advance.
We enjoy such wonderful flexibility as homeschoolers. However, this makes it impossibly hard to effectively plan for the school year.
So, here’s what you can do.
Prepare and plan for changes and interruptions. Learn to be flexible.
This is the first step to planning your homeschool year – knowing that many things won’t go as planned. And this is ok. You homeschool to focus on your family and your children. Homeschooling is meant to work with your family rhythm and not against it.
Once you have this mindset, you can make an outline of your yearly plan.
Notice I didn’t say that this is a daily plan. Those don’t work well when faced with all the changes and challenges that come with living life throughout the school year.
I don’t recommend writing daily lesson plans. I find them to be a waste of time. But it is still important to have a plan – just not a daily one.
It is possible to get some plans on paper and know that you won’t have to change and erase them on a weekly basis. You can plan a broad overview of your homeschool year and have general weekly goals.
Are you ready?
Choose your start date
I find that I’m much more successful when I have a start date written on my calendar as a goal to work toward. And then I can build excitement for our new school year.
Count the weeks
In our state, we have to complete 180 days of homeschooling each year. This means that I have 36 weeks of schooling that I plan to complete. It’s important to set your goal of how many weeks you plan to complete.
Add in 2 extra weeks
As a safety net, I plan for two additional weeks of school in case we get behind. These are our buffer weeks where I know we can catch up or just follow interest-led learning and still make our target of 36 weeks.
Write the weeks on the calendar
I look in my calendar and mark off the 36 weeks that I plan to complete school – making sure I take time off around holidays or planned vacations.
Of course, this plan will change slightly. But I find it helpful to map out the year ahead of time, so I can see what weeks are school weeks and what weeks are planned break times.
Number the weeks (don’t date them)
I go through my calendar and number each of the weeks. This will help me stay on track during the year.
Count the lessons in the curriculum
Go through each curriculum and look at how many pages or lessons or chapters are in each book. I use a sticky note to write the number on the front of the book for a quick reference.
Divide by the number of weeks
Now that you know how many lessons or chapters are in each curriculum, divide that number by the number of weeks that you plan to work on that program – whether it’s for an entire school year of 36 weeks or just one semester of 18 weeks.
That number is your weekly goal.
Write how many lessons or chapters need to be completed each week in order to finish that curriculum by your target date.
This goes on your sticky note right under the total number of lessons in that curriculum. My sticky note might read: 175 lessons, 4 lessons per week. This keeps the goal right in front and makes planning simple. And yes, I keep my sticky notes on the front all year.
Use sticky tabs
Grab some sticky tabs or sticky flags and number them 1-36 or 1-18 (or how many weeks you plan to work on that curriculum). Then go through and put a sticky tab at the end goal for each week.
So, if you need to complete two chapters of the curriculum per week, sticky flag number 1 goes at the very beginning of chapter 3. By the end of week 1, you should be at the beginning of chapter 3, ready for next week’s work. This gives you and your children a visual of your weekly goal.
Mark your progress
We use a sticky tab to mark our progress in each book.
My sticky flags go down the side of each book. This means that our progress sticky tab goes across the top of the book.
I also keep another sticky tab of another color in the book to mark where I’ve graded. I leave it in place so I can quickly find the spot where I left off grading in that book. And I know that I need to grade up to my child’s sticky tab.
This helps me stay on top of grading throughout the school year, since I can easily find my place.
At the beginning of each school week, go through your curriculum and glance at your goals and gather any needed supplies. Then you’re ready to jump in without any additional planning.
The great thing about the sticky flags is that they are movable. If you miss a goal you can always move a flag if needed.
But I’ve found that having a visual of each weekly goal is motivating. My kids can see exactly how much work they need to complete in each book every week. This helps them stay on track and make better progress. Many times, they even complete their weekly goal earlier in the week.
And if we get behind, I know that I have built in an extra 2 weeks that we plan to do school even though those weeks are not reflected in our sticky flag planning system. So, I can breathe easy knowing that we can catch up on that curriculum during one of those planned weeks. Or we can even do a little extra schooling during a planned break time if I feel we are falling behind in a certain curriculum.
The best part of this system is that it can all be completed before the beginning of the school year, yet it still allows for great flexibility during the year.
I don’t write lesson plans that I have to erase and rewrite every week.
Instead, I have rainbow-colored flags sticking out of the sides of each book to show us our weekly goals. It’s an easy and fast planning system that helps us stay on track week after week.
Find more organization and planning tips here: