By Melissa; Co-Director of CHE
I know that a lot homeschool families hate this subject! But then, there are some of us that absolutely LOVE this part of homeschooling; It’s taking time to plan out your school year. Yes! The whole year!
Why plan out the whole year? I am in our eighth year homeschooling our five children and have found more reasons to plan the whole year rather than a little at a time.
1)Allows you to see the big picture: knowing dates you can take off, points to stop and make sure your children are on track.
2)Gives you a goal or goals to achieve: it’s so easy to allow time to pass away with every little thing a homeschool family has going on. Having the goals ahead of time allows you to stay on track and gives you a great feeling of accomplishment when the goals are achieved.
3)Flexibility throughout the year: Once your planning is completed your free to focus on the learning aspect of homeschooling. You have your calendars, curriculum and lesson plans to look at as guides, with the hard work of planning (telling you when and what to do) is done. You simply are just following! It also lets you know if you’re able to take that extra field trip or an extra elective class in the community without getting behind in the core academics.
Now that you know why I like to plan yearly, here are my TOP 10 Best Reasons on how to plan out your whole homeschooling year.
#1 Find your favorite calendar or planner! For the last two years, I have been using the Plum
Paper planner. It is awesome! Organizes my family, home AND homeschool!. You customize the pages, from the calendar, daily outlook to special pages for lesson planning, menu planning, organizing your bills and more! I usually pay $35 to $50 but it’s the only calendar and planning pages I use! No
need to make more lists elsewhere or going out to make copies. To get a closer look, here is their website: www.plumpaper.com
#2 Number two is the hardest part about planning! Finding those hours or day with quiet to sit and plan. While I love planning, I find it so hard to put everything aside to get it done. You really need that block of time to just be able to think. How hard is that when your running your home and family. Most years, I have to break down to three different sessions: Purchasing the curriculum and my planner, taking care of #3 on my list and then the actual sitting down to plan. If you can accomplish #1 and definitely #2, you’re ready to move on!
#3 Clean out your school area and/or room! Yes, taking time to clean out all things school is a part of planning. How can you bring in the new year when the old year that has tired you out is still lingering in the air? Decide first, what stays? Supplies that are still good, make an inventory list on them. Curriculum that will be passed on to younger children sort out and place in their crates/files/shelves, etc.
#4 Pack up old school work. If you’re required to keep or want to keep, put them in a storage
container and take them to storage. If you’re not, consider keeping a couple of special pieces (art or writings) that you think your children would love to see later in life. Than, dispose the rest! I met a family that has a bon fire at the end of each year to burn their school work. It was fun for them to end the school year that way. And of course, don’t forget to donate! Consider passing on to other homeschool families or selling to make extra money for your new school year. Now you’re ready for the new year!
#5 Evaluate your children and their learning levels (grades) to determine what curriculum you need for the upcoming year. This all depends if your a family that purchases their curriculum all in one set or do you piece it together from a couple or few companies. It really took me a couple years to get comfortable in this area. It surely helps to know the learning style of your children; independent workers, visual learners, slow or face paced, etc. What works for one child, may not work for another. Once you have your list for each child; go ahead and place your order!
#6 While you’re waiting for your curriculum to arrive, you can do this step. Get your new
calender/planner and start mapping out your year.
*When do you want to start and end your school year?
*How many days a week do you want to school?
*How many days a year do you want or are required to school?
*Consider holidays, vacations, sport schedules, co-op’s, and other special events?
*When you set up your calendar make sure you allot for sick days, tired days and ‘life takes
over days’! We all have them! So why not plan for them? This allows you to adjust your schedule
and life without having to redo your whole calendar when these days do arrive.
Now that your year is planned out you’re still not done! Go back and include ‘fun days or fun events’ you know your children would love. Like. . . celebrating National Donut Day by making homemade donuts with your kids or Dr. Seuss Week by creating a little Dr. Seuss fun each day that goes along with one of his books. These fun days can be a surprise or posted for your children to see. My children are motivated by these days because they know they need all their work done to participate in them. Gives them motivation and breaks up the monotonous of the regular schedule.
#7 When you have your year calendar done think of how you want to structure the daily schedule. Believe it or not, mine has changed every year! Whether it’s because your moving into a new home, welcoming a new baby, making a transition into middle school, adding a new kindergartner, etc. it seems like the old daily schedule won’t work for the new school year. So this is the point where I look at our new big calendar and see how many hours I have to have to complete the core subjects to create the schedule.
When does your family operate best? Get up in the morning and get right at school? Spend your morning in play and completing chores? Once you decide this, you can determine your daily schedule. In the past we were able to get all of our work done in a 3-4 hour period in the morning but, other years it has been broken up by 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. Either way, you have to decide what will work best for your family.
#8 Organization! Organizing our school files and school books has also changed each year. The older and more responsible my children get the easier the organization is on me. They have learned how to organize themselves. Younger children require more organization oversight. Do you prefer to organize all your teacher papers in a binder or filing system? Do you have room for school desks and mailboxes? If not, what room in your home can be the central location for organizing books and papers? Would crates work? Or a file cabinet? Determine this and then set it up. On the first day of school, walk your children through your expectations of keeping their school organized.
#9 Supplies! When you cleaned out your old supplies you should have taken inventory on what was left and can be used in the school year. Make another list on what supplies you need to have this year based on your curriculum and calendar. Then create a new supply list of all that is needed. I try to buy all the supplies we need for the whole year. This prevents from having to run out at the last minute to get an item you need for a project or report. Plus, all school savings are at the end of summer.
#10 Your curriculum arrived! Now it’s time to break it down by grade and by subject. Determine all that topics/pages/projects you want to cover with your children. Then determine how much time you need for each. Last, break down by how much needs to be completed each week. This is how you create your lesson plans (unless you purchased a ‘box kit’ and this is done for you). I create 34 weekly lesson plans broken day by what each child needs to complete each week. This gives me a ‘checklist’ that I just do through and check off when completed. But I also give us room to take off an item and add it to the next week, etc. make adjustments throughout the year. But at least, I don’t have to stop and start from scratch. I’m also much more disciplined to follow a lesson plan I already created than to try and create a new one every Sunday night. It keeps the process moving and eliminates non-work days.
I hope this helps you as you start planning your homeschool year. I would love to hear your favorite homeschool planning tips! Comment or email us and let us know!!
Melissa is Co-Director for CHE. She is the mom to six children (one in Heaven). She has been homeschooling for eight years and is beginning her third year at CHE. Melissa has been Catholic all her life and attended Catholic schools. Before marrying her husband and starting their family, she was the Business Manager and Compliance Director for a charter school management company.