Every year I look forward with anticipation to planning out our homeschool year. I love to plan. I almost love planning our year more than actually executing the plans themselves. Really, who wouldn’t? Plans are neat, tidy, and perfectly thought out. Then comes the execution; which involves REAL children with REAL emotions and REAL reactions, and those real children and their reactions almost never line up with the imaginary ones you planned on.
In previous years I’ve found that many of my well intentioned plans fell flat on their perfectly thought out faces. I would plan out our whole year only to find it not working and change course a third of the way through. Other times our interests have taken us in other directions. Or I find out about an interesting unit study I think my kids would love, so I decide to dump my original plans. In order to prevent myself from getting carried away and over-planning our year I’ve decided to make some changes in how I plan. Here’s what planning looks like for me this year.
End of the Year Surveys
One of my favorite ways to start planning for next year is to ask my children what they did or did not enjoy about our homeschool year. I found this excellent survey from Tricia at This Life is Ours. Clearly, one child did not enjoy our switch to more formal grammar (specifically sentence diagramming) that we made halfway through the year, so I’ll be making some changes there for the coming year. Math was particularly difficult for both this year, but one child mentioned it on their survey. Therefore, I made some adjustments to our math plan for this year too.
This is also a fantastic way to plan some interest led learning into your new year; focusing on certain topics they would like to further explore and books they would like to read. Involving your children in their education is important, so they become active participants of their education rather than it being something that happens to them.
Leave room for the unexpected
Predicting what you books you may want to read or topics you might want to study in April when you’re planning your year in July can be difficult. Leaving room for the unexpected means that you pencil things in to allow for chasing that spark of interest when it flickers. One way I’m putting this into practice is by only purchasing or planning books that I know I’m going to read in the first month of our year when I can.
Some curriculums include the whole year so I’m not always able to do this, but when ever I’m able I try to adhere to this philosophy. Having a rigid plan means that you may miss out on more learning; being flexible allows room for natural learning to happen.
Plan in Six Week Increments
This principle follows the one above. We homeschool throughout the year which of course looks different seasonally as we tend to take a more relaxed approach in the summer. To read about how we homeschool in the summer check out my post here: Summer Homeschool Routine. Since we try to homeschool year round I plan a six weeks on one week off rhythm.
Doing this also allows me to only plan for the first six weeks and then reassess and adjust what might not be working how I had envisioned. This also takes away some burden of feeling the pressure to have the whole year laid out in the fall. I love leaving space for change and having a week off to plan and add in or take out what might not be working. This only commits you to six weeks of plans rather than feeling so defeated because your plans for a whole year failed.
To figure out what our routine will look like with six weeks on one week off (with the exception of holidays) I print out an academic calendar of the year and pick our start date then count six weeks out and work in the holidays from there. Due to the holidays our terms do not always line up perfectly at six week, sometimes they are eight, but I try not to make them longer than that. After more than six weeks we all start feeling the itch for a break.
Favorite Homeschool Planner
My favorite planner comes from Alicia at Learning Well. You can purchase her updated forever planner here: LWC (FOREVER) HOMESCHOOL LESSON PLANNER PACK. She includes many different layouts and planning pages to accommodate different planning personalities. One of my personal favorites is the monthly planning pages she has created. Planning monthly helps give me a big picture before I get into the nitty gritty details of what each child’s daily work will look like.
I also love the More of This Less of This page she has designed to help you reflect back on your year and make note of what worked and what didn’t. You can also purchase the monthly planning pages separately here: MONTHLY SCHOOL PLANNING PAGES. She also includes pages for book lists, quarterly planning, and unit study planning.
Plans are wonderful. For those of us who love to plan it can be hard not to go over the top! Having a plan definitely makes things go smoother. Other times we can get bogged down by our good intentions of sticking to a plan or feeling like we can’t study something in the moment because; “Hey, that wasn’t in the PLAN!”. You make the plans ergo you CAN change the plan. Truly, our plans are only our best guesses for our year and our children. They can’t and shouldn’t dictate what we direction our homeschool takes over the course of the year. Remember to leave room in your planning for the REAL children for whom all those countless hours spent planning are really for.