Summer has finally arrived! Your kids are running around the backyard throwing water balloons at each other. The dog is curled up in a sunny spot on the deck. The birds are chirping, and you can’t wait to go sit on your porch swing with some iced tea and a good book. There’s just one problem. You haven’t done your homeschool planning for next year yet! Ugh!
Does homeschool planning make you cringe? Do you have no idea where to begin? Would you rather get a tooth pulled than do it? If this is you, let me help! I’m actually weird and enjoy it. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Let’s get your year planned so you can go relax on the swing that’s calling your name.
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Homeschool Evaluation of Last Year
A critical first step in planning, even if you don’t take a summer break, is to evaluate your year. Without stopping and assessing, it’s hard to get a clear plan to move forward. There are several things you should take into consideration when doing this.
What Worked or Didn’t Work?
Did you have curricula that worked or didn’t work? Ask yourself why. Is there something that can easily be tweaked to make it better or do you need to scrap it and find something new?
It’s vital that you determine why something didn’t work so you don’t go out and spend money on another curriculum that may cause the same problems.
Did You Like It?
We all have a specific teaching style or method we gravitate towards. If you choose a curriculum that is not your style, you are going to dread teaching it. I can remember in years past hating to teach certain subjects because of the materials I chose.
This will come through at some point and affect your child’s attitude. It’s hard to get your child excited about something you can’t stand to look at. After all, you have to face this curriculum for 180 days! You better be sure you like it.
Did Your Children Like It?
No, your children aren’t going to love every subject in school, but it is important that we at least try to find a program that fits their learning style to make it more enjoyable. Check out my article on learning styles if you are unsure of your child’s. This is very important!
Does It Fit Your Family’s Goals?
Some families are relaxed and like a curriculum that fits into their daily life. Others are more rigid and put their sole focus on academics. Neither of these is right or wrong, you just need to think about what’s important to you when choosing your materials.
Do You Have the Extra Money for New Homeschool Materials?
Some years you may have more money than others for curricula. If it’s really not in the budget to get something else, you are going to have to get creative with something you already own.
There are lots of ways to tweak a program to make it work. Some suggestions are:
- If it’s boring and not keeping your child’s attention– Do some research and find hands-on activities to go along with the topic.
- If it’s too writing intensive– Cut back on what’s required, have your child dictate to you, or let him narrate his answers instead. You can even let your child record his answers on your phone.
- If it’s too advanced– Adjust the lessons to your child’s level.
- If it’s for a younger grade and you need to use it for an older child– You can always add in some extra activities like writing a paper, doing some research, or completing a project.
If it’s the wrong style- Think about the favorite aspects of your homeschooling method and try to incorporate those. For example, if you like the Charlotte Mason style, add some nature study, narration, or living books.
- If it takes too long– Do you really need to do everything listed in the teacher’s manual? A lot of times, an author will list a ton of activities not because they are all meant to be done, but to give you options. Pick and choose your favorites and forget the rest.
After you determine what you are keeping, make a list of these so you know what you still need to look for. I have a curriculum planning sheet in my homeschool planning pages where you can make your list.
Evaluate Extracurricular Activities
Homeschoolers are famous for doing a lot of extracurricular activities. And while that’s great, we need to stop and examine our schedules once in a while to make sure they are still working for us.
Another factor is that as our kids grow, their interests change. What was fun the year before, may not be something they want to continue. Also, as they take on a bigger workload in school, they may not have as much free time during the week to go to so many places.
Co-ops are great because you can cover several subjects that you may not have room for in your regular school schedule. These usually include electives, but often can be subjects such as science and history as well.
List all of the activities you will be involved in during the year and what days and times they will happen. You will need this list when you get to the yearly planning part.
Taming Your Schedule
An overscheduled mom or kids can make for a long and miserable year! I have been there. I was taking my kids to homeschool gym on Wednesday afternoons, drum lessons on Fridays every other week, dance lessons in the evening once a week, dentist appointments, eye appointments, my own part-time job in the evenings five days a week, all while squeezing school in during our free hours. It felt like we were always on the run, and school was just an afterthought. Not fun! And I was exhausted by the end of the year and still wasn’t in a good frame of mind to start again when fall rolled around.
When you are doing your homeschool planning, you need to consider how many days a week you want to homeschool, the activities you want to participate in, and if you want to run around like a chicken with your head cut off.
If there are activities that can involve all the kids instead of individual ones, that may be the best way to go. Our homeschool gym class was great because all of my children could participate at once.
Both of my girls have taken dance lessons before, but they are in different age groups, which means two different classes. When I registered them, there was a section for requests. I asked if it was possible to have both girls scheduled on the same night and if not at the same time, at least back to back. The owner was wonderful about this, and it made it so much easier. It doesn’t hurt to ask when you are in a situation like this.
If you have a high schooler who is working a part-time job, his school schedule will need to be flexible to work around it, especially if the schedule changes all the time. It was a big adjustment when my son started working. A lot of self-discipline is needed when there is less time to get school work done. They also need very independent materials since they will most likely be doing their work at all different times of the day, when you aren’t always available.
Lastly, will you cover all subjects five days a week or will you do some for only three or four? You will want to have that figured out as well for when you start filling in everything on your monthly calendar.
Gaps in Scope and Sequences
If you are planning to change curricula, keep in mind that not all skills are covered or even taught at the same time by companies. You will want to look over what is included to make sure you’re covering everything you want to. There are going to be some gaps, no matter what. Just make sure you are hitting all the critical standards.
For high school students who plan to go to college, there may be specific classes required for college entrance. It’s a good idea to look at this information up before your child begins 8th grade, so he isn’t missing a course when it comes time to apply.
Combine What Subjects and Kids You Can
If you have more than one child, it can be very time consuming trying to have them do all their subjects individually.
Here’s an example: The morning starts off great. You managed to get everyone fed, and now it’s time to start school. The fourth grader goes off to work on math independently while you are teaching the kindergartener how to read. The high schooler decides she wants to work on a project that is due at the end of the week and needs your help to find the materials. While you go find what she needs, the kindergartener disappears from the table and is now bugging the child doing math. You’re frustrated, frazzled, and they’re only on the first subject of the day.
Does this sound familiar to you? There’s just not enough of you to go around, and you can be spread quite thin at times.
One of the ways to help is to combine subjects. If there is a curriculum you like that hits several subjects at once and most or all of the children can do it together, I say “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
If there is a curriculum you like that hits several subjects at once and most or all of the children can do it together, I say, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
This is going to make your life easier and shorten your day. I highly recommend doing this for a few subjects if you haven’t.
Get Your Kids Involved
Believe it or not, your kids are pretty good at picking out materials they will enjoy. They know themselves better than anyone else. They will naturally choose curricula that are geared for their learning style. If they have a say in what is chosen, they are more likely to be excited about using it.
It’s also not surprising that most kids enjoy a 4-day school week instead of five and are willing to put in a little extra work in order to do that. Having an extra day each week to get caught up on schoolwork, housework, or binge-watching Tidying Up on Netflix is always nice!
Talk to your kids and if possible, let them have a say so in some of these decisions.
Put Your Homeschool Planning into Action
Map Out Your Year
Now that you have taken all of the above into consideration, the first step is to bring it all together into a yearly plan.
Here is a video with an excellent method I learned from Melisa Nielsen that is super helpful to get an overall picture of your year.
I have included my own version of this planner in my homeschool planning pages. You will find this very helpful! Be sure to download it at the bottom of the page.
Plan Each Month
Look over what you want to accomplish for each month. Having the yearly planner in front of you will help to see what months are going to be busy and if you need to adjust your school load.
Find and print out a monthly calendar for each month of school, or make multiple copies of the one included in my homeschool planning pages, and fill in the subjects according to your weekly schedule, along with extracurricular activities, birthdays, appointments, days off, and anything else you can think of that will affect your schedule.
I have also included the extra spaces at the bottom for making notes about your individual children such as books you want them to read and skills they need to work on. There is also a section to list materials that will be required for things like science experiments.
Don’t write any specific lesson plans on this calendar. This is just a general schedule to list the subjects, activities, and such for each day of the month.
I like to create a curriculum guide for each of my children’s subjects. This is what you or your child will refer to for specific information on each lesson.
I spend a little time over the summer making the curriculum guide (be sure to check this out for all the details), and it saves me a ton of time during the year. I can use it to refer to myself, or even better, my children can use it to fill out their homeschool assignment charts by themselves each week (which we will talk about below) and learn to do their work independently.
That’s all I do for the summer. Your year is planned, and you can forget about it until school starts again.
Use Assignment Charts for the Weekly Planning
Once school begins, I teach my kids to do the work and learn independence by using assignment charts. All they have to do is pull the information from my curriculum guide and add it to their chart. To learn how we use them and get an editable set for yourself, check out Homeschool Assignment Chart- A Simple but Effective Tool.
Here’s a quick rundown of the steps involved in this process:
Do a Homeschool Evaluation of Last Year
Tame Your Schedule
Check for Gaps If Using a New Curriculum
Combine Any Subjects and Kids You Can
Get Your Kids Involved
Map Out Your Year
Plan Each Month
Use an Assignment Chart for Weekly Schedules (After school starts)
Life will happen, and schedules will get interrupted. By taking the time to do some homeschool planning, you will at least have a framework in place to help you get back on track. You will be able to quickly look at your schedule and pick up right where you left off. And now, go brew some tea and grab your book. Forget about school because that swing is still waiting for you!
You can get the set of homeschool planning pages I use by filling out the form below.