Are you overwhelmed with knowing how to effectively plan your homeschool year? Follow this guide to help you plan your homeschool year step by step.
Planning is my favorite.
I love to write to-do lists. I’ll write things I’ve already done on my to-do list just to have more things to cross off. It’s ok to roll your eyes–my teenager does it all the time. 😉
What I love best about planning is that anything is possible. I can choose any curriculum I want. However, the endless possibilities are invigorating, yet they are also overwhelming. Too many choices can lead to decision fatigue. But by giving myself time to thoroughly plan out my school year, I am able to start the year confident that we will be productive.
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What are the first steps necessary to plan your homeschool year?
- Decide what you would like, or need, to teach this year.
- Gather homeschool catalogs and jot notes about books that appeal to you.
- Start purchasing materials.
- Separate materials by term and child.
Decide what to teach this year.
If you are brand-new to homeschooling, write down what you would like to teach and how your kids learn (or how you think they might like learning), then try to connect the curriculum to that. You may find my post on choosing the best teaching methods useful.
If you homeschooled this past year, write down what worked well, what you know you need to change, and what worked ok.
Bonus Tip #1: Ask your kids what they liked about the last year, if you homeschooled. Or ask them what they’d like to learn if you are brand new. You may be surprised at their answers.
Last year, one of my sons said Spelling was his favorite part of the day and that he wished we spent more time doing Phonics. I expected to hear art or history. He also said his most frustrating subject was Handwriting because writing neatly made his hand hurt. So this year, I shortened the amount to write per day as long as it was his best work.
Bonus Tip #2: Along with making a list of what worked well, also write down times of the day that worked well or were more stressful.
For example, when my youngest was 1, our most stressful time was before lunch. Everyone was getting hungry, baby was getting tired, and it was a time that caused a lot of fighting and stress. Therefore, the following year we had a mid-morning break for a protein-filled snack. This staved off the lunchtime hangries so that we could work more productively before lunch.
Gather homeschool catalogs.
As the catalogs start rolling in during the spring months, keep them all together. Then peruse them with a Sharpie, circling all the books that appeal to you. Make a rough draft of what you think you’ll use this coming year.
I like to divide my list by subject. I first see what I can combine the kids for and decide on that curriculum. Then I search for material for each child/grade. Check out this post for a review of our favorite homeschool curriculum.
Bonus Tip: As I order a book, I will put a checkmark next to that book on my list. Then I know what I have and what I still need to buy.
Start buying books.
Once you know what books you plan to use for the upcoming year, it’s time to start buying them. Some sites offer flat rate shipping or sales, so check before buying.
For example, I use The Story of Civilization and The Story of the Bible by TAN books for History and Bible History. They offer 40% off several times a year, so I’ll buy those books at the discounted price. Catholic Heritage Curricula, or CHC, used to offer flat rate shipping 2-3 times a year, so I would make sure I decided what books to buy from them to order with the less expensive shipping.
Separate books by term and child.
You’re about ready to start planning, and it’s easiest to plan one subject at a time. In order to do that, separate your curriculum as the books arrive.
I like to start piles of schoolbooks on the boys’ table as they arrive. When they were younger, I separated by subject, then by child, within each pile. So I’d have a history pile and a science pile, etc. This was especially nice when I combined them for some subjects.
However, now that they’re older it’s harder to combine them. So I separate by child. My high schooler has his own pile, as well as my middle schooler and kindergartener having their own piles too. The anticipation for the school year is so exciting when looking at those piles of curriculum!
Well, it is to me anyway. I don’t think the boys share the same level of enthusiasm.
Now you’re ready to plan! Let the fun begin!
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How to Plan the Entire School Year at a Glance
- Gather your materials.
- Fill in your school calendar.
- Create a monthly plan.
- Decide on your homeschool routine.
- Plan weekly.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials.
- Planning Guide
- Curriculum (all of your children’s books and teacher manuals)
- Writing Utensils (my favorite is the Paper Mate Flair Pens and Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens)
Step 2: Fill in your School Calendar.
After you have gathered your materials, the very first thing you’ll want to do is decide your school days. I like to grab my Year at a Glance calendar and a pencil. You’ll first go through and cross off all holidays and any vacations you have planned. Then you can figure out what days you’ll have school.
How do you decide what days to have school?
First, check your state laws. For example, in my state we must keep an attendance record of 180 school days. Some states require a certain amount of hours. Know what your state requires and keep a record to show if needed.
Next, decide what days of the week will be school days. Many homeschoolers choose Monday through Friday, while others only school 3 or 4 days a week. Some choose to school on Saturdays due to Dad’s work schedule. We’ve had years that we didn’t have school on Fridays, and years we’ve used all 5 weekdays. Do what works for your family.
Step 3: Plan by Month.
Once you have your calendar filled out, you can plan what you’ll cover each month. Now, this is just a rough sketch, but it will give you an idea of how much you’d like to get through each month.
How do you plan by month?
A typical school year is around 36 weeks long. I use that as my guide when I determine how much work to schedule each week.
For example, the text for the history curriculum I chose this year contains 33 chapters. That gives us 3 weeks of wiggle room in our year while still fitting in the whole book. I decided not to do a chapter from that book the week before Christmas break, Holy Week, or the last week of school as those are typically hard weeks for us to get a lot of schoolwork done.
You should keep in mind times during the year that are typically busier than usual for your family and plan accordingly as you create your monthly plans. It’s a good idea to write your monthly plans in pencil because there is a lot of maneuvering of the schedule as you fit all of the curriculum into each month. You should try to balance heavier weeks in one subject with lighter weeks in another.
What subject should you start with when you plan out your month?
Personally, I find it easiest to start my monthly plans with the most time-consuming subject. I like to get it out of the way. Plus, doing it first means that it’ll be easier to balance out my weeks. For example, if I’m taking a week off in history, that week might be a good time to do more literature activities or add in a science experiment.
In contrast, you may find it easier to begin with subjects that are easier to plan. Perhaps one of your subjects has lesson plans that come with the text. In that case, it may be easier to start there and quickly check that subject off your to do list.
Again, much of your planning will be specific to your family. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s ok! But I found when I started homeschooling that it was so much easier to at least have an idea of how others planned their year as a starting ground.
Step 4: Decide on your homeschool routine.
You are going to want to decide how many days of each week to do each subject. I find this step easiest to complete as I fill out my monthly plan. For example, do you want to do history 3 or 4 days a week? How often do you want to cover science each week? Your teacher manuals may also mention a recommended schedule you can use as a guideline.
Generally, you’ll want to have math, religion, and reading daily. Grammar and some form of writing or handwriting can be covered most days. Other subjects like history, science, geography, art, and music only need taught 1-3 days a week.
After you decide how often to schedule each subject, then you can decide what time of the day works best and plan it into your homeschool schedule/routine. If you are looking for a way to make sure that your enrichment subjects like art and music fit into your homeschool day, then you may want to try morning baskets.
Step 5: Plan weekly.
This last step will continue throughout the school year. I try not to plan more than a couple of weeks at a time so that I don’t have to cross out and change many plans if something unexpected comes up.
I’ve tried several different types of planners, and my favorite for the last few years has been A Simple Plan Homeschool Planner by Mardel. I prefer using a printed planner over a digital one, and this planner has enough space for all of my kids, as well as a monthly calendar to jot down sports practices and appointments.
How to fill in lessons each week.
Writing weekly plans goes more quickly when you use the monthly overview you created at the beginning of the school year. As I fill in my weekly plans, I look at what I wrote on my monthly plan and assign the work on that subject’s scheduled days.
For example, I schedule history 3 days a week. On the first day, we listen to the chapter on a CD. The second day we complete a map activity, finishing up with a related activity on the third day. When I plan our week, I will glance at the teacher’s manual for that chapter so I can write down the pages we’ll cover in the book and the page of the map. Then I’ll go through the activity choices and decide which activity we’ll do that week and write that down in my weekly planner.
Bonus Tip #1: If you are homeschooling more than 1 child, color coding your planner saves you time and space because you won’t have to write in their names.
You can see in the above picture of my planner that I separate my planner by subject. I write each child’s lessons for the day in each subject’s box. This is why color coding makes planning easier.
Bonus Tip #2: Once I have my weekly lesson plans completed, I use them to write daily assignments for my boys in their assignment notebooks. Since all of the lessons are already organized in my planner, this only takes me a few minutes each afternoon.
Plan to organize your homeschool for a productive year.
Along with planning out what books to use and when to teach each subject, you’ll also want to have a plan for organizing all the stuff that accumulates when homeschooling. Also, you’ll definitely want to plan on keeping your littles busy while you teach. If you have children around ages 3-4, you may want to consider planning preschool activities.
Organize your materials.
Finally, to make your lessons most effective, you need to organize your homeschool. You don’t need to have a special homeschool area to do well, but everything needs to have its place. By having an organized homeschool, you can stay focused on the lessons, not hunting down pens and books everyday.
This is especially important when you are homeschooling multiple children. The more children you teach, the more lessons you will need to write, more papers to grade, and more fights to dissolve. You don’t want to waste precious time looking for a pencil.
Don’t forget about planning for your little ones.
Homeschooling is hard work. Add in little ones and that task can feel downright impossible. Ease the chaos of homeschooling with younger children in the house by planning activities for them as well.
If you have babies, you may want to try to school around their naps. Perhaps using baby carriers to hold them while you teach will keep them pacified.
Toddlers are active and distracting. It’s good to keep a bunch of activities at the ready to use when you are trying to help your school age children. Playdough, puzzles and board books may give you a few minutes of quiet. Keep notebooks and crayons just for the younger ones handy when they want to “do school” with you.
To recap, planning a homeschool year can be overwhelming, especially if you are homeschooling multiple children. By planning ahead and getting your homeschool lessons and materials organized, you can feel confident that you will have a focused and productive year. Even if you aren’t a Type A personality.