Does the thought of planning your next homeschool school year excite or terrify you? The planning process can be overwhelming. The key to simplify homeschool planning is to break the planning process down into small enough pieces so you can focus on the next task instead of being overwhelmed. Here’s the process I use to plan our homeschool year.
1. The Big Picture
Begin with the big picture of what goals and objectives you want to accomplish for the year. I like using mind maps during this stage of planning to help me stay out of the details and look at the big picture.
Some questions I ask during this stage include:
- Will we have a focus on a particular subject?
- Should I schedule a lighter load due to a lot of changes (such as a move or a new baby)?
- Will we have new activities (such as music lessons or a sport) that will affect our school schedule?
- Are there habits or skills my children need or want to learn?
2. Yearly Overview
Choose which subjects you want to study next year and make a list. Include details such as the time period for history, the focus for science and nature study, and which artists and composers you will study. (Wondering what subjects we cover? It’s all detailed here.) While the list looks daunting, you will not cover every subject every day or even every week. Be sure to include subjects for the whole child—body, soul, spirit.
3. Determine Your School Calendar
Before I start digging into the planning any specifics, I determine our school calendar. We prefer to have a longer break in the summer so we have lessons five days a week for thirty-six weeks. Your family may prefer a four-day week schedule for forty-five weeks. Or plan academics for a four-day week and leave one day to catch up or take field trips. The right choice is the one that works best for your family.
I next break our year up into terms. Charlotte Mason recommended three twelve-week terms for the school year. This schedule works well for many families. But after several years of trying to make this work, I decided it does not work well for us. Instead, we have two twelve-week terms, one week of which is an exam week. The remaining twelve weeks of the school year include a week of teacher work days (often spread out over the year), trips, local field trips, life skills days, and special activities such as Teen Pact. The key is to make the year work for you so you and your children are successful instead of feeling behind.
4. Determine Your Daily Schedule
At this point, I need to step back and look at the big picture again. Sometimes my idea of what I want to cover next year does not line up with the reality of what we can realistically accomplish without causing too much stress. I use sticky notes or a spreadsheet to draft a daily schedule for us.
We rarely stick to this schedule exactly, but it helps me plan our school year in several ways. First, I can see when I have too much scheduled. I then have to decide what is the most important for us to do and what I need to remove from the schedule. Second, I can see when each child needs my assistance and rearrange lessons as needed so I am not scheduled to be in two places at the same time. Finally, I can make sure there is variety in their lessons in both content and brain activity. For example, I try not to schedule two readings in a row.
There are times steps four and five overlap. Sometimes I need to know how many times a week we need to read a book or complete a lesson if I intend to finish it in one year. (And it’s okay to not finish a book!) If we do not have time this year to devote as many days as would be needed to complete the book, I can spread it out over two years.
5. Choose Resources
Choose resources for each subject if you are not using a boxed curriculum. It can be helpful to look through book lists and suggestions from other trusted sources.
Decide how often you will use each resource. Some will be daily, such as Bible reading and scripture memory. Others will be weekly, such as picture study and composer study. For resources such as a history book, divide the number of pages in the book by the number of weeks in your term or year to determine the number of pages you would need to read each week. If the number of pages each week is too long, consider using the book over two years instead of one.
Finally, distribute the resources across the terms.
6. Plan Specifics
If you are using a paper planner, plan only two to six weeks at a time and write your plans in pencil. There will be changes because it takes longer than anticipated to read a book, someone gets sick, or a book is not available at the library. The Practical Planner by Susan Chrisman is an excellent resource if you prefer a paper planner.
If you are using an electronic planner, you can plan the whole year or just one term at a time. I highly recommend Homeschool Planet. It is the BEST online homeschool planner. (Curious if Homeschool Planet would work for you? See my full review here.)
If you like the ease of planning with an electronic planner but prefer to use a paper planner to see what you need to do each day, this post describes how I combined the best of both approaches.
7. Term and Year-End Evaluations
Schedule some time to evaluate your student’s progress at the end of each term and at the end of the school year. What went well? What would you like to change for next year? The ABS’s of Looking Back from Susan Chrisman is helpful in walking you through the evaluation process. I use this resource every year and love how it helps me reflect on so many aspects of our homeschool beyond academics.
Remember that these days count as teacher workdays! If possible, schedule these on your school calendar so you don’t forget to make time to evaluate the term and year
Regain Control Of Your Homeschool
Use this simple strategy to deal with difficult homeschool days.
- Stop feeling overwhelmed and behind on lessons.
- Get back on track and gain control of your homeschool days.
- Learn how to avoid that drowning sensation in the future.
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