Homeschool Planning: Back to Homeschool

Many of you have asked how I plan our homeschool year. Before I share my methods I want to encourage you to do what works best for your family. In the beginning I tried to be like all the other homeschoolers I knew, using the same curriculum, planning the same way.

Over time I realized I needed to do what was best for me and my family. Of course I’ve learned a ton from my homeschool friends, but I don’t do everything just like they do.

Usually I start planning the school year a few months before we begin. This year that didn’t happen and I found myself planning our year less than ten days before our start date. While this works, it is not ideal. I’m still waiting on curriculum to arrive and schedules to be finalized. Since I’m a planner this is definitely stressful for me. I much prefer to have our year planned out in July if we are starting in August.

Homeschool Planning

Create Our Yearly Calendar

Over the years we’ve done everything from homeschooling four days a week, homeschooling year round, to taking our summer break in October. Depending on our family’s schedule I create a calendar for the school year. This year we are following a traditional school calendar because our oldest is graduating and needs to finish by mid-May. I’m using a free downloadable calendar from Five J’s which I color-code for each nine weeks and holidays.

List Children/ Subjects

For my younger children I fill out a curriculum form for each child. I list the subject and the curriculum we will be using. I have to submit this information to our umbrella school anyway, so having a record for myself keeps me from forgetting about a class. (Trust me with six kids doing different things it is easy to forget something)

For my high school kids I use my high school credit planner to track their subjects and curriculum.

You can download a free copy of the high school credit planner here.

Choose/ Purchase Curriculum

Since I have been homeschooling for eleven years I usually know what curriculum we are using but occasionally I change it up. I have a fairly large collection of used curriculum so I’ve found that over the years I need to purchase less and less for my younger children. This year I switched our history and math so I researched a few different options during my planning time.

I order almost all of my curriculum online from either ChristianBook.com, Amazon, or Rainbow Resource. I usually qualify for free shipping and it is easier than dragging a luggage cart around a homeschool convention.

Make Schedules

After I’ve decided what curriculum each child is using I draft a rough schedule. For many years I made up a complex schedule with half-hour time blocks for each activity. This type of schedule worked well for me for exactly two years. They were the years I had a newborn, toddler, four year-old, and two elementary students.

Once I had more school aged children this schedule fell apart. My older kids didn’t like being told what to do every half-hour of their day until 5pm. I found that some of my younger kids simply couldn’t finish their entire lesson in 30 minutes. Throughout the year children would go through phases of needing to spend significantly more or less time with me.

I finally got tired of revamping our schedule every few weeks and I stopped using such a structured schedule. We still have a schedule, my older children have “milestones” they need to reach by the end of each week and my younger children work together around the table and I am available to help.

Everyone takes turns watching Cora when I’m working one-on-one when she isn’t sitting with me. I have one child who needs isolated (quiet) time with me to learn so that happens while the other kids are fixing lunch.

My older children each receive weekly schedules on Monday that detail what they need to complete by the end of the week and my little kids have blank schedules that we fill out as we go. I’ve found that my little kids often enjoy doing extra lessons so a blank schedule allows us to be flexible with our school day.

Make Copies

I do not like making copies right before our lesson. If I get up and leave the table to mess with the copier one child will disappear, one will start doing something else, one will get a snack and it takes 15 minutes to get everyone focused again. Every nine weeks I print out all the copies before we begin. It helps keep me organized and on track once we begin our lessons. Oh, and I almost never run out of printer ink or paper in the middle of a lesson!

Review the Curriculum

I am pretty well acquainted with most of our curriculum but if we are using something new I take time to thoroughly look through the books and familiarize myself with the program. Looking over the curriculum helps me gauge how many lessons we need to complete in a week to finish on time and how long I expect my child to spend on the lessons. After reviewing the curriculum I make a basic outline of how long it will take to complete each subject.

Create a Supply List

I don’t like to be surprised when I open the book and realize I need a batch of salt dough, four cardboard boxes, and a 9 volt battery for our next project. I try to create a supply list at the beginning of each nine weeks so I’m not stuck paying for overnight shipping or running to Target at 9:30 pm to pick up needed items. My older children are responsible for creating their own supply lists and giving them to me before the nine weeks begin.

Create Hour Sheets and Gradebooks

For some high school classes hours are logged to make sure the course fulfills the credit requirement. I create google docs that can be shared between myself and my high school kids that they use to log their hours.

In the past I’ve created my own gradebooks, but this year I’m using Gradebook which is a free program for either Excel or OpenOffice. So far I like the program, but we haven’t officially started yet. :)

I create a simple table in a word document to log my younger children’s grades. I don’t start giving formal tests until my children are in 3rd grade so recording keeping is minimal during the early years.

Pray For Our School Year

Homeschooling is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. I truly love spending time with my kids, but being together 24 hours a day, seven days a week gives more opportunities for sanctification than I can list in this article. I know there will be challenges throughout the year, I know we will fall behind then race to catch up. I pray for grace and patience for me and a heart to learn for my children. I pray for cheerful attitudes for everyone.

I pray that I will make the most of my time with each child and that our relationship will strengthen throughout the year. Finally I pray that we will all survive Cora’s toddler years.

This year I spent two full days alone working through my homeschool planning. For the first time in eleven years of homeschooling my husband was in town and able to take the kids to grandma’s for the weekend so I could plan alone, uninterrupted.

In the past I’ve traded babysitting with friends or set aside a week and planned every evening from 8pm until 11pm. While it is ideal to have uninterrupted time, you can still get all your planning done in spurts if you are focused.

That’s how homeschool planning looks for me. I’d love to hear about your homeschool planning and if you have any specific planning questions leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 


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Comments

  1. Kim says:

    This is such a timely post. I also have been unable to carve out the time ahead to plan our school year. Our curriculum is bought but I still need to file papers and finish up last year before I get out the new stuff. Thanks for walking through your planning. I loved the prayers that you lift up before you get started.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Wow! What an amazing and timely post. I’ve been struggling with my planning for the past…2 years because I didn’t realize how important it was to have uninterrupted time and I didn’t have a good system for staying organized. Piles on my desk don’t count as organization ;) I just had a eureka moment this year when I realized that I work best by planning out one subject at a time rather than each subject week by week. It sounds obvious, but it wasn’t to me.
    I like the idea of having everything copied and printed 9 weeks at a time. That way you won’t be overrun by papers or have to spend tons of time getting it done.
    Toni, thank you very much for this post. It’s given me the courage to dive in and tackle things my way.

  3. Great post-the prayer is the most important part, of course, but making those copies is really important for keeping things running smoothly!

    Thanks for the reminder. :)

  4. Susan says:

    This is our 17th year of homeschooling; I have 9 children at home (2 have graduated and moved out), and I still found this to be a timely post! Last year was very hard, and we did not get much of a summer break, so I can use all the motivation I can get! I love the idea of getting the copies made for 9 weeks at a time. On more occasions than I care to count, I have had to leave the table to copy something or grab something, and it just interrupts the flow of things. It is so hard to get back on track. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Julie H says:

    I really struggle with making copies ahead of time…I’m usually running to the printer right before a lesson. :( In my 3 short years of homeschooling, I have learned to run our school the way that fits our family’s needs and everyone is happier for it. I do love gleaning ideas from others though…homeschoolers rock!

  6. Mrs. O says:

    Wow! THIS is extremely helpful! Really, thank you so much! :O)

  7. Karen in MI says:

    Just a plug – if you order BJU Press material through any consultant, you get FREE SHIPPING – on ANY size order – ANY TIME during the year.

  8. Trina says:

    I’m in the throes planning right now, having just arrived home from Staples with some 10 cent portfolio folders, colour coded for each of my children. This is my 7th year of homeschooling and even though I love choosing the curriculum and planning it all out, I still haven’t figured out how to plan it properly. Every year looks a little different and I’m hoping this is the year we find the ‘system’ that works best for us… at least for a few years.

    My big take-away from your post is the idea of a dedicated (uninterrupted – ha!!!) chunk of time to plan. That part seems nearly impossible, but I’m keen to find a way to make it work. Maybe I could lock myself in my room and spread everything all over the bed to get it sorted.

    Best wishes to you and your family on a great year!

  9. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for the great post. I am the coordinator of a homeschool support group and recently I’ve heard a lot of questions from new homeschoolers about how to plan/organize for the new year. I decided to host a “Teacher’s Planning Day” for our group. We’ll meet this Saturday from 10 am-2pm with no kids allowed . I have lots of tips to share about record keeping, journaling, planning, working with preschooler and older kids at the same time etc. Thanks for sharing all the practical ideas and encouragement on how to make homeschool planning successful.You’ve inspired me with a few new tips too.

  10. Keri says:

    Hi :)
    I loved reading how you do it! It interests how others do it, as I am one of those who just have never been able to plan it all out and be one of those scheduled homes school moms ((blush)). For our family the closest prep and scheduling I do is: I buy stuff like pencils, paper, crayons, glue, etc. I also decide what days of the week we will school. If you are wondering how I do so little, it is because I use a online program ( Time4Learning ). Sometimes I wish I could be better organised and do it all, but like you said, you have to do what works for you ;)
    Hope you have a wonderful Home School Year!
    Keri

  11. shirley says:

    I have a grandson with asperger’s School is just one problem after another. We are considering home schooling him. I am a retaird teacher, so I have the background. I have no ideal as to how to start, what to do or how to set up a program. Help!

  12. Rachel says:

    I have 3 children and will begin schooling my 5 year old this September. This is very helpful and gives me an idea of how to do my planning. I especially like the suggestions of making all the copies and supply lists well in advance.

  13. Lori says:

    Thank you so much for the great ideas. I’ll be homeschooling for the first time starting in August and am absolutely terrified of it. Have 6 and 8 year old boys who are in public school now and I am counting the days till the last day of school. I just ordered my curriculums and had no clue where to go from there. Thanks again!

  14. Krista Probst says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I know it was from years ago, but I have found this to be so helpful for me today. I love how clear and direct it is. Everything else Ive looked at is so full and jumbled that it leaves me overwhelmed. Thanks so much!

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