My 3 step process for homeschool planning

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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:

3 step process for planning homeschool year

1. Outline the year

First, I outline the year using a tip I learned from Melissa of Waldorf Essentials. She’s got a detailed video about it here, but in a nutshell the process goes like this:

  1. Divide a piece of paper into twelve sections, one for each month of the year
  2. Make a note in each month of any
    • birthdays
    • holidays
    • vacations
    • 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.

    KaraFleckIndividualplanningpagesSH

    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.

    KaraFleckDITL_assignmentnotebook

    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!

Originally posted on March 31, 2016.

About Kara

Kara is mother of four, a caregiver, and a small town girl. She keeps a lifestyle blog and YouTube channel for creatives, fiber artists, and other nerds at Knit Vlog.

Comments

  1. My planning is a bit simpler mainly because I am homeschooling nine kids and would drive myself crazy getting too detailed. Using unit studies has made things so much easier because, although I have three kids doing FIAR and three kids doing Konos, that is only two main lesson plans, rather than six. As for their individual subjects, I just generally write in the days that their unit study will not cover math or Language Arts, and we simply do the next page or two in that particular curriculum. I don’t write down page numbers. My 14 yr. old handles all of her own planning, and I take things day by day with my 15 and 16 yr. olds. I usually divide how many pages are in their books by 180 days and will use that number to know how many pages to assign each Sunday when I write down their work for the week. Our calendar is also very simple. The younger kids do 6 weeks on, 1 week off, and 6 weeks at Christmas and summer break, so I draw a line through their weeks off in black. My older kids prefer to use the September-May schedule, so I draw a red line through their Christmas, Easter, and summer breaks. That’s about it!

  2. Great ideas. We took December off this year and loved it. We will do that again.
    Blessings, Dawn

  3. Your planning sounds very similar to ours, haha. Besides that I do not have to color code for my kids as I only have two of them. I use A3 paper and I also add those details you mention under number 2. in the calendar.
    I love Melissa’s planning set up too! We have used this style of planning now for 5 years here. 🙂
    After, I write out a separate lesson plan for each child what to cover and when during the year.
    Unfortunately, the one thing that does not seem to work too well is the spiral notebook system with my older child here. I still get too distracted with other household things and do not regularly check everything, so he gets away with “murder’, …well not really. Something I definitely have to work on this coming year!

  4. I love the idea of color coding per kid and using sticky notes. I always try to keep notes sorted by each child, but this is much less time consuming!
    sarah’s latest post: What I am loving and reading in March

  5. I love this idea! I thought I was a simple/efficient planner but I’ve picked up a few tips here that I think will really work for me. Thank you for sharing!
    Sarah M

  6. This is great! I’m in my second year of homeschooling and do some things very similarly. One thing, I do want to start is writing daily plans in a notebook. Thanks for this… I love to be organized! 😊👍🏻

  7. I love the three months off but will likely choose more atypical ones. We just moved to NC and might take off may, October, December as july and August have the potential to be super hot and miserable and October and December have double sets of birthdays. I will also do the 12 month grid so I can get a better feel for holidays and events. I am feeling the need for more planning next year and will likely pick up at arrow guide or two to accompany read alouds. I hope my boys are more able to listen to chapter books without interruption (they will be 5.9 and almost 4, while my daughter will be 8; throw a toddler in the mix too) – then we can do more all together. I still am a minimalist homeschooler for now though.
    June’s latest post: Cheap Useful Wedding Gifts: 16 Ideas for $20 or less!

  8. I think we also do something similar, too, although I’ve found my choice of curriculum makes a HUGE difference in planning. I love a curriculum that’s a loose guide, that allows a ton of space for creativity, BUT (and this is a huge BUT) when I used that sort of curriculum I could easily spend 5-6 HOURS/WEEK just on planning.

    Switching to a pre-planned curriculum saved my sanity AND gave me the freedom to add in fun, creative things as we have time. And I LOVE my Happy Planner for keeping track of goals. I even made my own printable (and pretty because hello, it’s a HAPPY planner) planning sheets where I can plan monthly goals for ALL of life, not just school, all in one place. Revolutionary!
    Rebecca Grabill’s latest post: The Secret the Gluten Free Community Doesn’t Want You to Know

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