Written by Kara Fleck
If the past ten years of homeschooling have taught me anything, it’s that our years go much smoother when I have a plan.
Whether it is a rough outline or a detailed map, I value having a guide to our year – something more meaningful to me as the kids are growing up, the lessons become more advanced, and this mama (and her brain) are getting older.
I’m not a naturally organized person, but I feel planning is a good complement to the rather relaxed and flexible way we approach most of the living and learning in our home. Coffee and my wits will only get me so far, but a plan can help to clarify our daily goals and keep this homeschool machine running smoothly.
So, what does my process look like? It might not be pretty, but here is my real, tried, and true method for homeschool planning:
1. Outline the year
- Divide a piece of paper into twelve sections, one for each month of the year
- Make a note in each month of any
- planned time off (such as a move, a pregnancy due date, or any other event that will affect family and homeschool life)
We’ve gotten into the habit of taking every May, August, and December off. This year we did No Friday February and it worked so well to fight off the doldrums that I want to do it again.
We use June and July as a summer session to finish up any work before moving on to the next grade and year.
After a quick glance at the calendar and a little addition to make sure we’ve got at least 180 days (our state’s attendance requirement), I’m done with my calendar outline.
2. Research and a planning page for each kid
I keep the books I’m using to plan the next year close by. We color code to keep organized at our house and as I’m reading, I use post-it tabs in each child’s assigned color to mark things I want to use or refer to later.
As I’m researching, I keep a planning page for each kid. I write down:
- a general overview and schedule (what we want to cover and how often per week)
- curricula and book lists I’d like to use
- individual sports, clubs, groups, etc and what that commitment entails
- estimated times for each subject OR how many weeks I want to dedicate to a topic (again, just a rough guide)
I use a lot of white out and rewrite this page as I’m refining our plans. This part of the process takes me a few weeks, depending on how early I get started planning.
3. More detailed planning
Now I plan in greater detail. This part of my planning varies each year, with each kid, and even for each subject. I’ve found, for example, that I feel more prepared for the older grades if I do more detailed planning, but with my younger kids I can create a simpler guide.
If we’re using a curriculum that comes with a schedule, and we don’t need to adjust that to match our pace, or if I’m re-using plans I previously wrote for an older sibling, then the planning is done for me. Hooray!
For subjects where I’m creating my own lessons or we’re not going to use materials exactly as the authors outlined, then I need to plan. For some subjects I plan out more detailed day to day lessons and for others perhaps just a book list or general list of goals.
I have tried many different homeschool planners over the years, but now I rely on good old pen and paper and handful of printables. Donna Young’s website is a great resource. I keep my plans in a three ring binder and that’s as fancy as we get at the Fleck Academy.
I used to plan out day by day lessons with every subject to be covered that day, but now I plan each subject separately so we can switch things up if they aren’t working. I don’t want to have to re-do entire pages of written lessons just because we’ve changed our math program, for example.
During the school year, I will fill in each child’s daily assignments for all of their subjects in their notebooks as we go but beforehand each subject is planned separately.
Numbered, not dated plans
One practical tip I want to suggest is don’t date your lessons but number them instead.
Life happens, illness happens, sometimes new opportunities come up we want to be able to take advantage of, or my child’s pace might be faster or slower than I planned.
It’s easier to move a numbered “History lesson 84” wherever we need it rather than a dated “History January 22” that requires erasing, re-writing, or rescheduling all the days following it.
Detailed or super simple, a plan keeps us on task and helps the kids and I to meet our goals each year.
Everyone has their own planning style. How do you plan for the next year? Have you already started?
Note: Kara has created an AWESOME video to show you her planning process up close!