It's been a great week on the Raising Arrows Facebook page discussing our next homeschool year. We have talked through one chapter of the Planning the Homeschool Year Journal each day and had so many great conversations.
Today we wanted to give you the entire Planning the Homeschool Year Journal in one handy dandy PDF so you can print this journal at home. If you are unable to print at home and would like a paper copy of the journal, it is available for purchase. The cost is $9 for the 95 page document, color and bound and $3 for shipping. This is Raising Arrows at cost price to print and bind and we are making no profit off the sale of the journal - we do this purposefully. Ben and I committed when we started Raising Arrows that this is our ministry - you are our ministry. Raising Arrows is not a job and we are not trying to replace income with Raising Arrows. Our heart for Raising Arrows have always been and will always be to encourage you in your walk with the Lord as you disciple your children in your home and homeschool. There are NO affiliate links, no Amazon kick backs, no advertising on our site - this is done with purpose and intentionality and I want to be clear we are not making any profit from the Planning the Homeschool Year Journal - I wrote this as a tool for you to use as you prepare for your homeschool year.
Please share this post and the journal with anyone you know who is starting homeschool or you feel would benefit from Planning the Homeschool Year Journal.
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It is our joy to walk along side you as we homeschool our children together in the Lord. We pray Planning the Homeschool Year Journal is a great tool for you as you prepare for next year!
In His Service
Ben and Jenny
Let me encourage you to look up from time to time and remind yourself of your goals. Goals may be simple or elaborate, but they are our focal point. Goals are the place towards which we aim.
- Debbie Strayer
You have reached the final chapter in planning your homeschool year. Now I know what you are thinking, why are we talking about planning the summer? Summer is the time for NO homeschooling and enjoying a break. And though I do agree with you, I’ve found the homeschool year runs much better if I use my summer well. There are several great ways you can use your summer break. Let's dive in and talk about a few of them.
First, you can use your summer for yourself. As a mom and homeschool mom you pour out a lot of yourself during the course of the year. Use the summer as a time to fill yourself. I want to be clear here, the world has skewed “me time” into something vain and pompous. This is NOT what I am talking about when I ask you to take some time and fill yourself. I’m talking about things that fill your soul, your spirit, and your relationship with Christ. Take some time to think about things that actually leave you emotionally, spiritually, and mentally full. Some ideas could be journaling, a bath, a walk, gardening, reading the Bible or a book, a nap, a cup of coffee with another Christian homeschool mom, a date with your husband, or maybe a couple hours alone. The following questions will help you think and plan through the summer for yourself
What things fill you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally?
How can you add these filling things to your schedule this summer?
Make a plan and talk with your spouse about how to fit in a bit of filling time for you in these summer months. Make yourself a priority, it’s hard to do and easy to excuse why you don’t make time for yourself. It’s important. That old saying “if mama ain’t happy no body is happy” is true. You need to value yourself enough to make sure your spirit is full and able to pour out into your family.
Another activity I encourage you to do this summer is to pick a homeschool book to read. Consider your summer as your teacher-in-service days. This is a great opportunity for you to learn and grow in your skills as a homeschool mom. If you aren’t a big reader, try an audio book. Also, there are many homeschool speakers who offer speaking sessions online that you could watch. Add something homeschool-related that will grow you as a teacher. Homeschooling is one of many hats you wear. It’s your full time job and you need to treat it as such. Grow in your skills. A few books I love and have read in the summer are:
The book I’m reading this summer is:
The reading schedule I’m going to follow to finish this book this summer is:
Next let's talk about our kids and summers. Summers are such a sweet time to relax and enjoy each other without all the homeschool work. Enjoy this time together. Summers are also a great time to help a struggling child. If you have a child who is struggling with times tables, reading, or just isn’t grasping those grammar diagrams, then this is the time to get them caught up. When you have no subjects to accomplish, then you can really take extra time and care with an individual child to work through the bad handwriting practices or those addition facts. Prayerfully consider if there is something you need to work on with each child. There might not be anything for any of your children, that’s great. Maybe for some of us it’s a child that has fallen behind and needs some extra attention. Don’t miss the opportunity to use these summer months for catch up.
Summers are also a great time to work on a consistent chore schedule. If chores have been lacking in your home, then this is the time to fix it! Plan out a manageable chore schedule that won’t be altered for the school year. Since you are able to devote more time to making sure chores get done and get done right (you know what I mean! haha), then summers make the skill of chores the perfect time for training.
One last thought on your summers. I encourage you to not stop spending time in the Word of God or reading books, both as a family and personally. If we only spend time in the Word of God during the school year but not during the summer, then what does this communicate to our children about the value of being in God’s Word daily? The same is true for reading. What do we communicate about how important reading is if we are only willing to take the time to read during the school year? Pick the fun chapter books to read as a family during the summer. We laughed ourselves sick reading The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall one summer. We read the entire book in one week while we had company staying with us. My kids still talk about what a fun activity that was with friends. Reading books connects to a season in our mind. There is such sweet bonding that happens over reading books together. Don’t stop this sweet habit in the summer. I also challenge my kids to pick a few personal chapter books to read in the summer. When their schedule is light and they can read by the pool is the perfect time to encourage some extra reading. Help them make a goal for the summer and reward with an ice cream sundae party at the end of the season for all the books that have been read.
Summer is certainly a time for relaxing and resting, but use this time wisely and you will walk into the homeschool year filled up and ready.
I pray these pages will encourage you, give you some ideas on planning for your homeschool year, and above all give you some excitement as you look forward to the next year.
Homeschooling our children is no small task, it is a long road with many bumps along the way. Some years feel like you took two steps back and other years feel like you leap ten feet. Be patient, enjoy the journey, and take your homeschool days before the Lord often. I love all you sweet mamas and I’m praying this is your best homeschool year yet!
To a genuine lover of books no home is completely furnished which has not a good many of them, not arranged formally in one room, but scattered all over the house.
- Margaret E. Sangster
Curriculum for the year is purchased, your year is planned, and now it’s time to start thinking about how the homeschool year will play out in your home. A few simple steps can make your homeschool year run smoothly. Gathering or purchasing any supplies you will need for science experiments, art projects, or hands on history lessons will help guarantee that you will actually do those activities. Making sure you are well stocked on binder paper, pencils and pens, and other school supplies is an added bonus.
Before you jump ahead too far into planning supplies and space, you need to take a bit of time to reflect on what worked and what did not work last school year. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more frustrating than sitting down to start the school day only to have someone say “wait I don’t have my binder” or “wait this pen isn’t working” or taking an extra five minutes searching for the “missing” spelling book. Having a good system in place where everything is kept at the end of each school day sets you up for successful school days everyday. There is less frustration and wasted time during the day.
Answer the questions below to reflect on what was and what wasn’t working last year. You will make plans based on these answers.
If you didn’t homeschool last year, then just skip these questions and move on. I’ll give plenty of tips and thoughts later.
What worked well in your homeschool space last year:
What didn’t work well in your homeschool space last year:
How well were your supplies organized for the school day: ______________________________________________________
What was the biggest time waster with materials, supplies and books in your school day:
When thinking about your homeschool space or spaces - what adjustments could be made to make these places better, more organized, or breath life into your homeschool
Knowing your child’s learning style what could you add to your school space or materials that could aid them in a better learning experience this year?
Hopefully, thinking through some of these problem spaces or organization issues will help you as you envision how the upcoming year might go.
Homeschooling will certainly present some extra challenges and messes to your home. You will add the mess of school to the normal mess of life. At the end of most days I have text books laying on the couch, a cold cup of coffee still sitting on an end table, paint from the art project plus the art project itself drying on the counter. These “messes” of homeschooling are part of the experience and everyone’s homeschool home looks different. Some don’t mind if their home looks more like a school than a home. Some have a designated homeschool room where all school work and mess is contained. Others store and keep things all over their home for homeschooling. Homeschool spaces and supplies are much like homeschool planners. As you gain experience through the years, your home and method for storing things will change.
Over the years my methods have changed drastically. Again, I do not share my experience to say I’ve found the best or right ways. I’m simply sharing my experiences, in hopes you will find an idea or two that might work for you. I started with a homeschool room. All supplies, school books, and mess were supposed to stay in that space. However, for me homeschooling didn’t fit into that organized space nearly as well as my type A would have liked. My kids wanted to take their literature reading books to a blanket in the yard. If it was raining, they would setup on a couch or their bed. I needed to cook dinner and the kids would need to ask questions. Before I knew it, my kitchen counter was covered in spelling books and pencils and science lessons. I would answer questions and give spelling tests all while standing over a pot of soup simmering on the stove.
I found that learning happened just as well, if not better, at the kitchen table, couch, or on a blanket outside. The homeschool room sat empty. It became the place that collected all our homeschool materials, but was never used. What I did love about having a homeschool room was that I had a place to put all the homeschool materials at the end of the day. We’ve moved a few times in our homeschool journey (okay, a lot of times - my husband says its a hobby). In our 11 years of homeschooling we moved six times! Some of our homes have had homeschool rooms and some have not. We spent four months crowded into an apartment for one move. I learned how to simplify materials and organize well in that homeschool space.
Another thing that changes homeschool spaces is the ages of our children. When my children were younger most if not all school work was done together and in a homeschool room. As they age, they do more independent school work. They need a desk of their own and a space of their own for schooling. I’m starting over again with my littles and have all new piles of art supplies and fat pencils. It’s a wild season for homeschool spaces and materials as I’m balancing middle and high schoolers with pre-schoolers.
In our home right now, each of my 3 older children have a desk in their room with a book shelf where they can keep all current homeschool books they need. Their desk is where they do all their individual work during the day. For some subjects they don’t sit at their desk, instead they sprawl on a bed or on the porch (or even on the roof!) and that’s okay too. I make sure their desks are well supplied with basics - pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, highlighters, post it notes, a timer, index cards, and those cheap spiral notebooks (you can never have too many of these!). I also made sure they each have a desk light for a well lit space. My thirteen year old son still needs help at times organizing or keeping this space clean, but for the most part he does a great job. My daughters who are 15 and 17 need no help with the space and just let me know when a supply is running low. Do they all need a pencil sharpener at their own desk? No, they could come to my desk each time they need to sharpen a pencil. However, I’ve found though a trip to my desk for supply often leads to distraction and lost time. My goal is to make things as simple for them as I can to help them succeed in their school day.
School work we do together is most often done in the living room or at the kitchen table. I’m not a huge fan of clutter and try to keep things hidden and clean. I’ve done without a broom closet and made it our homeschool closet instead. It’s filled with all the supplies we could need to have a successful day. I have a box for each: pencils, pens, markers, crayons, and highlighters. Again we don’t need twenty pencils in a day but having them all together means when the inevitable tip of a pencil breaks, rather than another distraction of trying to find a pencil sharpener and sharpen a broken tip pencil, they can instead simply grab another pencil from the bucket. All of our school books, Bibles, read a-loud books, spiral notebooks, and various coloring books for the little girls are also in this closet. The materials from the closet end up spread out all over the kitchen table or living room throughout the day, but for me the important part is we have a place to put it all away that is out of sight and clean. It also means we can start the next homeschool day with little to no effort as everything is where it needs to be.
Other supplies I keep around are an easel. Diagraming sentences needs a good white board to work on and my littles play with the easel all the time so it’s a multi-functioning tool. I have a chalkboard that hangs on the wall for my little's Bible verse, letter of the week, and other things I need to refer to often. I found a beautiful world and United States map that I keep hung up all the time for ease of history or geography lessons. I’m always amazed how many times a day these end up being looked at. With those exceptions and lots of reading books and picture books stacked all over my house, it doesn’t look like I do school at home with my children. I like simple and function better with less clutter around the house. Not everyone is like this which is one of my favorite parts about homeschooling.
No two homeschool spaces or days will ever look the same. We each bring our uniquenesses, personalities, OCD’s or free thinking to our homeschools. Please NEVER guilt yourself over not having a Pinterest-worthy homeschool space or for having that kitchen table with the dings and the pen scratches all over. Homeschooling is a season, a long season, but none the less it is a season and someday you can have that perfect and clean home. For now, embrace the mess and enjoy the ride!
Brainstorm your spaces and figure out if there are things you can do to simplify your homeschool day. Remember clean up at the end of the day. Also take a look at the supplies you will need for the curriculum you’ve chosen. Science experiments need materials, art projects need materials, or other materials needed for subjects you will be teaching.
I’ve found two ways that work great on materials. The first is simply to purchase everything you need before the school year begins to help you know you are ready. The second, and what I do, is make a list of all the supplies I will need and in which lessons I will need these supplies ready. I plan my homeschool schedule on a monthly basis, so I consult with my list of supplies needed and make a shopping list for the upcoming month. When I plan the upcoming month I’ll also plan any other needs or fun items I might need. Silly holidays like national ice cream sundae day will result in me adding sundae supplies to my shopping list (we all need silly reasons to celebrate!). Upcoming birthday or holiday gifts will also get added to this shopping list. I shop once a month for all of the supplies and know I’m ready for the month both for homeschooling and for life! I’ve found the less times I am at the store the less money I spend and the less time I’m waisting and interrupting a school day. For some, this might be too broad a plan. Work with whatever plan is best for your brain.
A few basic items you might want to purchase for your homeschool year:
I’m going to give you the lists of months again where you can add supplies you will need for each month, birthdays, celebrations, and various other supplies you might need. Don’t forget to add in a few fun holidays too. You homeschool so you can make up our own homeschool holidays. Before I give you the list of months, here are a few of our favorite “homeschool holidays” we celebrate!
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:
You have looked into all the curriculums and have a plan for what to purchase for your next homeschool year. It is such a relief when you get to this point and can clearly see how the homeschool year is going to look. I want to encourage you to do just a couple more things before you purchase.
First, consult with your husband to make sure he agrees with the decisions you have made. My husband, Ben, on more than one occasion has seen my high and lofty ideas for curriculum and had to bring me back to reality (thank the Lord for a husband who is willing to speak this kind of truth to me - glory knows I need it!)
Second, take time to pray. Both you and your husband need to take this decision to the Lord in prayer before you invest a year of your time and finances into this choice. Ask the Lord to bring you peace if the choice you are making in curriculum is right and ask Him not to bring you peace if something is off. More than one time I have changed plans in curriculum simply due to a lack of peace from the Lord. In looking back, fixing my plan until I had peace made all the difference. When the homeschool year gets tough, and it will, you want to have complete confidence that the decision you made was the right one. Taking this extra time to seek the Lord can make all the difference.
Third, consult with other homeschool moms. The Raising Arrows facebook page is a great place to ask other moms their opinion of the curriculum you are considering. Having the resource of other experienced homeschool moms who can share their likes, dislikes, and wisdom on using the curriculum can be priceless information. Use the wisdom of others who have been on this journey. Be humble enough to accept their advice and then prayerfully consider the wisdom that you have been given before making a final decision.
Forth and finally, see if any homeschool families you know have the curriculum and would let you borrow it to take a good look. Better yet, they may even let you borrow it for the homeschool year. There are also many used curriculum facebook pages where you can find the curriculum you are looking for. Ebay is another place I have found the exact curriculum I was looking for at a fraction of the price. Being able to save your family money on the purchase of these curriculums can be such a blessing. This money saved can be used for other things like field trips instead.
At this point you should be ready to purchase curriculum with confidence knowing the plan you have made has not been rash, has been prayerfully considered, and is the best decision for your family.
Congratulations and what a relief! I tend to think the decision making process on curriculum is one of the most time consuming and stressful parts of the year. Next comes the easy part - join me in the next chapter for thoughts on scheduling your year
Finally, the time has arrived to actually start planning the homeschool year. There are a few things you should do each year before planning out curriculum. I’ll give you a checklist to follow in a little bit but, let me talk about these steps first.
Every year before planning the next homeschool year you should check in on the state that you live in to see if any requirements have changed. One of the simplest ways to stay in the know on your state laws is to be a member of HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association) They do an excellent job keeping you informed of state laws that are changing and can be your legal defense for a homeschool situation if one were to arise. You want to make sure you are complying with any and all state laws for homeschooling - this would include numbers of days, required teachings, and any other laws your state requires.
If you have a child near or in middle or high school it is also very helpful to keep a list of required credits for graduating from high school. I’ve found considering high school requirements helpful as I plan the middle school years. It helps me decide what I don’t want to include in middle school to keep from repeating subjects in high school.
Next, write out a basic list of subjects you want to accomplish with each child in the school year. If you have children close together in age, then decide if any of these subjects can be combined. As a general rule of thumb, math and language arts should not be combined as they need to be geared to each individual child’s level. However, subjects like science, history, geography, and Bible are wonderful subjects to combine and participate in together. Simply gear assignments for these subjects to each child’s level. Not having to teach separate lessons to each child is a way to keep your homeschool year simple and sweet while maximizing your time. I have loved keeping everyone together for these subjects which keeps the dinner table lively with discussions on what we are learning as a side benefit.
If you have young children, then keep the list of subjects short, simple and to the point. I know it’s exciting to think about all the things we want to teach our children, but your little children also need time to be children. You want them to enjoy learning. Let them discover, play, touch, and feel. Life is learning and most of it happens through play and reading great books in the younger years.
One of my favorite books that gives a great guide on what Christian homeschooling can look like is written by Clay and Sally Clarkson called “Educating the Whole Hearted Child.” I recommend this book to every homeschool family. New and experienced homeschool parents alike will find great information to apply.
Making a list of life skills, character traits, habits, and memory verses you would like to accomplish with your children throughout their years of homeschooling, along with a running list of what you have taught, is a great idea too. You can add to the list as you think of other skills to teach. There are many life skills you can teach to your children through the years. I try to keep in mind that the long term goal is to grow and nurture children who will, Lord willing, become well rounded adults. That being said, I try to make sure the life skills I’m teaching are things they need to know to be functioning adults someday. Give your children a hobby or creative outlet that they love. Sometimes it takes trying a lot of hobbies to find one that sticks. With time and intentionality you will find something that clicks with each child.
Next, review curriculums you used in the previous year. Which of these curriculums would you like to continue to use next year? Be sure to take a look back in your notes from the previous homeschool year. Ask yourself, what was working and what wasn’t both for you and your children? I would recommend if the curriculum is working, meaning you like it and your children like it and you feel like it is a good fit for your family, THEN DON’T CHANGE IT!!! It’s always tempting to chose the flashy, new, pretty curriculum. Believe me I know. I’ve changed curriculums when I shouldn’t have simply because I wanted to try something new. This became a big mistake that I regretted the entire next school year.
If your curriculum wasn’t working this year try to figure out why before you start looking at new curriculums. One of the biggest issues I seem to come across in homeschool families who aren’t liking their curriculum is that they simply picked a style of curriculum that doesn’t match their “why” or who they are. There are many styles of curriculum available (far more than when I started homeschooling) Understanding these styles of curriculum and which style you want or need for your family helps narrow down what curriculums to look at. I encourage you to look into the different styles or philosophies of curriculum to determine which is best for your family.
You will find that curriculums usually fall into one of the following categories:
1. Online homeschooling: Classes are all taught online (some in a live classroom and others that are prerecorded) A few examples of this would be: Alpha Omega Publications (AOP), Veritas, or Memoria Press. Some families use these classes exclusively while others pick and choose a class or two for their students to do online while the majority of the teaching is done at home. Online classes are an excellent way to handle courses you don't feel confident in teaching yourself or for classes like foreign language!
2. Unit Studies: is a form of learning where your family will learn about a topic of interest and study it from many different angles. For example taking one time period of history and learn about the history that surrounds that time, what scientific discoveries happened around that time period, artists and composers from that time period, and literature written during the time period. The sky is the limit on how far you dig into the interests of study. A few examples of this style of teaching would be Five in a Row, Notgrass History, or Tapestry of Grace
3. Classical: is a form of learning based around the three stages of learning - grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In these three stages of learning, the focus is on the child's cognitive learning development at that stage. Memorization of facts, critical thinking, debate, and studying the greats of the past are just a few things you will find in classical curriculums. A few examples of classical curriculums are Classical Academic Press and Memoria Press.
4. Charlotte Mason: Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the early 1800's. She created her own style of schooling. The Charlotte Mason way includes learning through living books rather than text books, nature study, character habits, studying fine ares in composers, poets, and artists. A few examples of classical curriculums are Simply Charlotte Mason and Sabbath Mood Homeschool.
5. Traditional: is a way of homeschooling at home that uses mostly text books or workbooks and is similar to an education you would be given in a private Christian school. A few examples of these types of curriculums would be Bob Jones, Abeka, and, Accelerated Christian Education.
Narrowing down a style or two that you are drawn to can help you decide what types of curriculums to look at. Remember to look back often at your why as you are looking for curriculum to make sure the curriculum you are choosing matches your why. Try making logical decisions based on what works rather than on what is pretty.
Once you have made your decision - don’t do anything! Don’t purchase - wait for a few days. In the next chapter I’ll talk about when to purchase. For now make sure you’ve gone through this simple check list:
Alright, now we are going to get into the first tangible steps of planning the next school year. If this is your first year homeschooling, then just skip this first evaluation of your current homeschool year. In Evaluate you are going to take a look at your current school year and see what you can glean for next year. You are also going to take some time to evaluate each of your children. Finally, you are going to reevaluate “your why” or write “your why” for the first time if you’ve never done this before.
Evaluate Your Current Homeschool Year:
Before moving on to next year it is valuable to take a hard look at this past year by evaluating how it went. It’s hard sometimes to be honest about failures and weaknesses. And for others it’s hard to not always be critical, I’m guilty of this - it’s easier for me to look at what went wrong in the year rather than seeing all the great things that were accomplished. For me, taking a look back helps me see the good and not just see my disappointments.
Take some time to reflect on your current homeschool year. Use the questions below to help you evaluate.
Next you need to spend some time focusing on each of your children. It’s important to take an honest look at where they are at. It’s okay to say they really stink at spelling or maybe attitude and character are more important than those latin lessons. It’s hard during the day in and day out to always see who they are becoming. By taking some time to evaluate, you can get in touch with how they are doing.
It is also important to take some time to consider how each child learns. The 3 main ways a child learns are:
Though you can customize homeschool curriculum for each individual child, it is also important to help your children become more skilled at learning in the various ways that are not their strengths. Sometime in their future they may have to learn in ways that don’t come as natural to them. Help them see how their learning style affects how they process information. This is a great life skill that will aid them in the future.
Finally, take some time to look at the heart of your child. Your “job” as Christian parents is to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. You need to be encouraging their strengths while gently pointing out their weaknesses. Character traits, life skills, and growth with the Lord are the most important parts of your homeschool. These aspects form the foundations of discipleship. Sadly, these are often the areas first overlooked.
By taking the time to evaluate where your children are in their character, life skills, and walk with the Lord shapes your vision for the upcoming school year. Staying on top of these foundations can shift and change throughout the homeschool year. Your plans may require re-focus as a particular character trait needs focus, a life skill opportunity arises, or your child or family has a monumental spiritual experience. I encourage both you and your spouse to take the time to re-evaluate on a monthly basis the spiritual pulse of your children. By taking the time to evaluate you both grasp where encouragement or correction needs to be made, and can adjust schooling focus as the year unfolds.
Scripture memorization is a great tool to use as you help your children grow in the Lord. The planning of memory verses based on your children’s needs is powerful.
On the following pages you will find an evaluation for each child. Take time to pray through and answer these questions. Talk with your spouse about these evaluations and see if they have anything to add. The clearer the picture you have of each child’s wellbeing the more prepared you will be for the coming year.
On a side note, I often take these evaluations to my children and talk through it with them. I’ve learned a lot by talking with my kids about themselves. We can often pinpoint why issues are arising just by taking the time to talk. I also love hearing about their favorite and least favorite part of the homeschool year. It’s another guide in planning the coming homeschool year.
Child #: _______________________________________________
If I have one “hot topic” in homeschooling, Knowing Your Why is it. I’ve been homeschooling for a long time, over a decade now and I have sadly watched countless families start off homeschooling with great intentions but lose sight of why they started homeschooling in the first place. They end up giving up on homeschooling altogether. Homeschooling is full of highs and lows. Knowing Your Why helps you endure the lows and celebrate the highs.
You have no where to set your focus when you aim at nothing. Knowing the Lord has called you to homeschool is not enough. You must deep down intentionally and continually remember why you have chosen this unconventional way of family life. I want to start by making sure we are all on the same page with two crucial statements:
1. Education is NEVER neutral
There is always an agenda behind everything taught. The Bible is clear that you are either for Christ or against Him. There is no middle ground and the same is true with the education of your children. Martin Luther said "I am much afraid that schools will prove the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt." You must realize that the education of your children is to be guarded carefully. Be wise and seek Godly advice on what to teach, which curriculums to use, and what voices you allow in your home.
2. Education is ALWAYS discipleship
Whomever you allow to educate your children has the power to disciple your children. Therefore, Homeschooling puts a large weight on your shoulders. Keep in mind that the Lord has already put this weight on your shoulders. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
As parents you are commanded to teach your children about the Lord when you sit at home, when you are out, when you lie down and when you get up. That covers ALL day. As a homeschool family, you are given the unique opportunity to have your children with you all the time. This means you can follow this scripture to the fullest degree by surrounding your children daily in The Word. In teaching science - God is the Author and Creator of life. Science points to Christ. In teaching history - The Lord has numbered our days and allowed all of history to happen. His finger print is all over history. History points to Christ. In teaching math. God is a God of order and logic. Math points to Christ. All subjects either point to Christ or away from Christ. You need to take up the charge of this passage to be sure that in all ways in all our days with our children you are pointing your family back to your Savior.
Let’s return back to the question at hand -
What is Your Why? I challenge all Christian families that THE WHY of homeschooling should not be academic excellence (though there is nothing wrong with an academic education). If at the end of high school your children know more about American History, Chemistry, or Algebra than they know the Word of God, then you have failed. If your children's education is not founded on faith, discipling our children daily in the foundation of the Word of God then what is the point in bringing them home? You need to recognize that you are not just homeschooling your children for a diploma, you are homeschooling your children do be disciples. Your number one goal as parents should be to raise children who love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Why would THE WHY of homeschooling be anything different?
The methods in which you do this will vary from other homeschool families, however the foundations should be the same. How beautiful to be in a community of God fearing families with the same WHY - to grow their children into passionate followers of Christ!
This is your Why and without it your homeschool will crumble. There will come hard days in homeschooling and when they come you need to have the truth of why you are homeschooling to fall back on. Some school days will go horribly wrong, but if you have pointed your children to Christ, have taken the time to read scripture, and discuss together, then you have been an example of what a follower of Christ looks like. Your day is NEVER waisted!
A few other verses for you to ponder as you consider THE WHY for your family and the Lord’s instruction to parents on teaching their children His Word:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
1 My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old--
3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.
The homeschool world is big and there are lots of flashy curriculums, ideas, and concepts. It is so easy to get lost in the maze and not know which way is up or down. Knowing your “Why” is the most important piece of the homeschooling puzzle. It is so easy to be swayed by every flashy curriculum or smooth talking blogger on the internet.
If you have never written a “Why” statement before, don’t worry it’s simple and their are no wrong answers! Your family is uniquely made with no two homeschools alike. You need to decide what you are. Of course being called by the Lord to homeschool your children should be at the top of this list, but what other things will make your homeschool uniquely yours? Is your family passionate about apologetics? Add that to your “Why.” Passionate about the outdoors? Add that to your “Why.” Is science a love in your family? Your homeschool “Why” should have a lot of science in it. Do you love reading living books? Add that to your why. Your homeschool year should be filled with reading living books. This “Why” is your rudder by which you sail your homeschool ship. The directions are made. You stay on course by this “Why.” Take time to figure out what the most important things are for your “Why.” Make sure you and your spouse agree on your “Why.” Write it down on the following page.
If you have already written out your “Why” statement, then take time to re-evaluate it. Did you hold to your “Why” throughout this school year? How will you shape next year based upon your “Why?” Feel free to update your “Why.”
Why We Homeschool:
Time - what a precious commodity, especially for homeschool families. Life is filled with homeschooling, co-ops, cooking, cleaning, sports, and various other extra curricular activities, church, ministries, friendships, fellowship, and the list goes on and on. I realize asking you to use some of your valuable time to prepare for your coming school year is a huge request, but I believe it is worth the time.
Psalm 127:1 says “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Time is precious and God guarantees your preparation for the coming homeschool year will not be in vain if you lean on His direction.
This is why I am starting Planning the Homeschool Year by asking you to take time by yourself and with the Lord. Nothing is more important than spending time with God lifting up the next year of homeschooling, praying over each of your children and asking the Lord to direct you in all decisions you make regarding curriculum, plans, and how the next school year will be spent.
Invite your husband to join you in praying together as you are making these large decisions about the coming homeschool year. Satan loves to divide marriages so we must fight to keep them together at all times. Good communication and prayer together makes a huge difference.
Below you will find some simple bullet point thoughts to help get you started in what to be praying. Use the Prayer Request lines to write in your own prayer concerns. Looking back on these requests will bring much comfort in the months to come as you see how the Lord brings peace and a plan.
I’d love to close with a prayer for you who are starting this planning process.
Father, I thank you for each of these moms and dads who are planning and preparing for another year of homeschooling. Whether this is their first year or their tenth, I pray that they walk into this time of planning with joy and anticipation for all that the year can hold. I pray that their labor in planning not be in vain, that You direct each decision that is made. We acknowledge that without Your guidance and wisdom this planning amounts to nothing and so we ask Holy Spirit that You direct us. And above all, I pray this coming homeschool year is one that each family member will grow in their relationship and knowledge of You. All the knowledge of the world amounts to nothing if we do not know You. Let our homeschool days and our homes be filled with You. - Amen