The pace of life in our culture can be frantic. Homeschooling gives us the precious gift of time with our children
- Zan Tyler
Let's take some time now to plan our homeschool year. The curriculum has been purchased and now it’s time for the details.
When planning my homeschool year, I like to take a broad look at the entire year first. For each month of the school year I make a list of things that will be happening - birthdays, vacations, field trips, sports seasons, holidays, or even a baby being born. Taking an overview look at each month gives me an idea of what months are already crazy busy and which months have some wiggle room. The months that aren’t too busy are great months for catching up on school work that we might have fallen behind in. These months are also good times to plan a few fun field trips. If you have a curriculum that won’t take the entire year, perhaps it’s a 3 month curriculum, consider adding it to the months that are calmer. These are a few ideas that can really simplify the year.
Don’t forget to factor in the weather when listing things out by month. I’ll happily homeschool in August when it’s miserably hot outside but come April when the weather is just getting beautiful and everything is blooming, then the last place I want to be is inside and schooling. It’s also so much easier to get homeschool days done when its winter and cold outside. I try to push hard in the winter and relax in the spring or fall. This often means we don’t take more than a few days off for Christmas to save the time off for a better season.
Taking the time for an overview look at the year can save you a lot of stress and heartache as the school year progresses. Cut yourself a bit of slack knowing the month of October is slammed due to a vacation, a couple birthdays, and a sports season. You will also have peace of mind in knowing your November is calm and you can make up for the crazy October.
This overview is also helpful to make sure you are compliant if your state requires a number of days for your homeschool year. You will be able to see right away if your schedule is already too full to manage the 180 (or however many it is in your state) days required. Adjust the start of your school year earlier or figure out what needs to get cut out now before you are in too deep and the schedule is out of control.
Often we forget we have the power to say “NO”. It can be hard saying no to good and sometimes really fun things, but for the sake of not stressing your family and being able to successfully school your children it’s worth making the hard decisions now.
Another thing I have done through my years of homeschooling is keep 2 or ideally 3 days of the homeschool week at home. No co-ops, no field trips, no errands, no piano lessons. Nothing but a stay home day. My kids often refer to these as “pj days” and it has been our saving grace in more than one year. These “pj days” can be days to make up extra school work missed on the other days. They can be days to just slow down and enjoy your family. They can be days to take the time to participate in an art project or craft. These are some ideas that on other days you don’t have the time to accomplish.
For my family our “pj days” are usually on Mondays and Thursdays and if our schedule is really calm, then Tuesdays too. I love making Monday a “pj day” after the business of the weekend having a day to reset at home seems to be what everyone needs. Fridays tend to be a co-op or field trip. Making Thursdays our other “pj day” helps us prepare for a busy weekend. My oldest is a senior this year and she still talks about how much she loves “pj days” and in fact she’s wondering how a “pj day” could possibly happen in this next year of college. She even asked if once a month we could plan a Saturday “pj day” so she can have an uninterrupted day with the family at home! Can I tell you how much I love this request!!!
In the next few pages you will find a page for each month of the year where you can plan your own overview of the year. I pray you find this exercise helpful in planning the year. (Please see attachment images for monthly overview exercise)
Homeschool planners have become big business in the world of homeschooling. You can find countless blog posts on how to plan out your year and opinions on which homeschool planner is best. There are many types of homeschool planners. I know moms who use a simple college bound spiral notebook as their planner. I know moms who use online planners. I know moms who use blank journals and make their own bullet homeschool planners. I know moms who use planners they print from the internet. I know moms who buy beautiful preprinted homeschool planners. My point here is that there are many options and you are going to have to figure out what style of planner is best for you.
Furthermore, you are going to need to figure out how detailed you want to plan and how far in advance you want to make them. Some people plan out every lesson of every day of every hour. Some people plan a week at a time or a month at a time. These are things you will just have to figure out on your own.
I will share with you my experience on planning and planners, not because I believe I have the best method or there is one right way, but simply so you can hear an example. There is no right way!
I purchased the beautiful pre-printed planners my first few years of homeschooling. I am extremely OCD and about as Type A as they come. I would plan the entire year in this planner with each lesson written on each day of the week. Three months into each year I’d be spending more time erasing the lesson numbers to adjust for life and I’d wear a hole right through the page (haha - this is a true story). After 3 years of all my plans being dashed because life happens, or we moved, or we had a baby - I knew this plan was not working for me.
For the next few years I would only plan out a month at a time. This was much more manageable. I would take each subject and divide the number of lessons with the number of months we were planning on homeschooling. Whatever that number determined how many lessons we tried to accomplish each month. This plan kept us pretty much on track and I used a number of different planners through these years.
However, something happened in these years that again made me shift what I was doing with planners. My children grew up. I no longer needed to keep this detailed schedule that I had been keeping. They needed their own lesson planners and I only needed to keep track of the subjects we were doing together. They took my simple math equation of number of months of school divided by number of lessons and planned their year accordingly. I would check in at the beginning of each month and make sure we were on track, but I let them keep their own plans. Rather than needing a lesson planner, I needed a detailed weekly calendar to keep up on the co-ops, volleyball schedules, choir practice, piano lessons, art classes and various other things each child was participating in.
For the past couple of years I’ve purchased not a homeschool planner but just a simple weekly schedule journal to keep track of life. In addition to this I use a simple print out of each subject for each child with a check box system. The method is simple the page says Algebra 1 and then it lists lessons 1 - 147. Each month I sit with the child doing Algebra 1 and ask “what lessons did you make it through last month?” Then I simply check the box next to each lesson. It became so simple! We look at how many lessons are left and how many months they still have and decide how many lessons they need to get through in the coming month. The next month comes and we follow up again. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone can see the end goal. Everyone is working together to get the homeschool year done. It’s beautifully simple and I love it.
Let me say that this never would have worked when I had younger kids. Truthfully, I would have hated this idea in my early years of homeschooling. I loved the pretty printed planners! In my older and wiser years I’ve learned less fix it work and less pretty sometimes is better. All this to say - try them. Try all the lesson plans. If half way through the year it isn’t working don’t beat a dead horse. Toss it and start over with a new plan that works better.
The ultimate goal of a homeschool lesson planner is to help keep you on track, less stressed, and accomplishing your school year. If you are frustrated, can’t keep up, and feeling discouraged about your planner then it isn’t working.
One other thing I would like to add on the topic of lesson planning is that as soon as your children are old enough to keep their own lesson plans, please let them make a lesson plan where they get to check the boxes as they accomplish subjects or chores throughout the day. Remember our goal is to be raising functioning adults. You are doing them no favor if they are a freshman in high school and they still can’t come up with what they should do on any given day without you writing it down. You can’t lesson plan for them in college and time management is something they must learn in order to succeed in the real world. Let them make these mistakes now while young and in your home when the stakes are small. Don’t make them learn these lessons in college.
Last thought on homeschool lesson plans - ask other homeschool moms for their experience using the various homeschool planners. You will hear the good the bad and the ugly on each type. You might save yourself a lot of frustration simply from learning from another homeschool mom.
Additional Notes or Thoughts: