Do you enjoy planning your homeschool days? I generally find two camps of people when it comes to planning.
There are those that love to plan! They spend weeks planning and make even the most seasoned homeschool mother jealous by the intricate details and creative lessons. But often they plan SO much that the implementation doesn't go as they envisioned.
Then there are those that don't enjoy planning or perhaps just don't seem to have enough time to properly plan. I have found that people in this camp often feel like they are barely keeping up and that their homeschool really isn't all they want it to be.
So what's the secret for success in planning?
1. Definitely have a general plan for the year! Know in advance what books or textbooks you are planning to use for each subject. On the "Yearly Plan" pages of my planner (which is free for you!) simply write in your general plan for the year. DO NOT PUT DETAILS HERE!
Here are some examples:
If you are planning to read one novel per month, write in the name of the novel under each month.
For math write in the unit numbers you plan on completing each month.
Unit names or topics would suffice for science.
For Geography or History you may have a specific text book with units or you may be creating your own program. Both options are excellent! If you are using a specific textbook simply write in the unit names or numbers. If you are creating your own program, write in the topics you plan on covering each month.
Of course there are other subjects to be included but the general idea here is that you aren't including tons of details. Just a couple of words per subject so you can easily see what you are covering each month. I recommend working on this during the summer before school starts.
2. During the month before school starts you will want to begin working on your weekly plan. Some of you might be thinking, "But how will I plan an entire year's worth of daily plans in one month?" Breathe out and relax because you definitely don't need to! In fact, if you try to, you'll likely end up scraping your plans after just a few weeks.
Remember, one of the major benefits of homeschooling is flexibility! Being able to move quickly through concepts your child understands and slowing down when necessary. So if you plan your entire year in detail before you even start, I guarantee you will get off schedule fast! Just plan two weeks ahead. That's it!
Before we go any further on weekly planning, you need to understand how my planner differs from most you will see. After struggling for three years with time management and getting everything done, I switched to a time budgeting format in my planner. This was a tremendous blessing and something I wish I had done sooner!
Time budgeting means that you allot a specific amount of time for a specific subject or activity. When the time is up, the subject or activity stops, regardless of how much was accomplished.
For three years I planned out which math pages needed to be done each day and we didn't stop math until they were done. They inevitably took longer than I wanted them to and we would completely miss the next subject because I didn't want to get "off schedule" in math. This led to daily stress for me and my children as I rushed them, grew impatient, and frequently missed subjects that should have been fun and engaging.
Time budgeting has removed ALL that stress I had before! Time budgeting has ensured that we spend time each week in all the planned subject areas. Let me tell you, after making this switch, homeschooling is FINALLY what I envisioned it would be from the beginning!
Okay, back to the weekly plan and what that looks like. First of all you will need to determine how much time you want for each subject and what time of day you are going to do each subject.
Perhaps math is going to be from 9:30-10:30 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday it has to move due to music lessons so it will be from 1:00-2:00 instead.
Plan your daily schedule, which may change from day to day as you work around extracurricular activities and hobbies.
On the weekly planning pages, under each day of the week, there are narrow vertical boxes where you will write in the time you are doing the subject (Math 9:30-10:30) NOT how long you are doing it.
In the narrow horizontal boxes you will write in the subject name. Underneath the subject name is a larger box where you can write in the details for the subject.
Let me give you some examples of those details:
For math, you will include specific page numbers for each day of the week. Though you may have to make adjustments to these page numbers as you go along.
It could include games or activities that you are planning to use on specific days.
There could be specific teaching strategies that you want to remember to use.
For language, you may include chapter numbers of novels you are reading or page numbers in grammar texts you are planning to complete. Again, understanding that based on time budgeting you may have to make adjustments if the pages take longer than you expected.
The most successful method I have experienced for language is time budgeting the language components, such as 10 minutes spelling, 5 minutes phonics, 5 minutes sight words, 20 minutes reading, 30 minutes workbook.
For science you would write in lesson numbers/chapter titles and details for the lesson.
The idea in the weekly plan is that you do include details! How much detail is different from person to person, and even subject to subject, and it will likely change the longer you homeschool.
Starting out you may need to be quite detailed, even writing down how you are planning to teach a new concept. After you've been homeschooling for some time, you may find you don't need to write as much because you've already taught it before or you simply become more comfortable with the material. Do what works for you but don't go crazy writing down every last detail if you don't need to!
On my weekly planning pages (download for free here!) there is also specific space to make a list of supplies that you will need and additional space for notes.
Kids get sick, appointments come up, and those multiplication tables can take longer than the one week you had planned for. By just planning two weeks in advance you can quickly and easily make any changes necessary to your weekly plan.
With that said, having a weekly plan prepared in advance will be the deciding factor in how successful your day is. Your kids will be able to tell if you don't have a plan and they will quickly realize that they can get away with wasting time and distracting themselves, and you, because there isn't really anything to do anyway!
Take time each week to see how things are going and to continue with your planning. I highly recommend 30 minutes every evening to look at how your day went and make changes to the remainder of the week if necessary. Look over the next day and make sure you have everything ready to go - art materials on hand, science worksheets photocopied, math lesson prepared, etc.
At the start of the year I will have week one and two planned. This allows enough time to purchase any needed supplies or get books from the library. At the end of week one I will plan week three. Doing this at the end of each week allows me to always have a plan, to know what's coming, and to have time to get any needed supplies.
Having a general plan for your homeschool year and detailed weekly plans covering the next two weeks of school, will definitely lead to successful days!
If you are new to homeschooling and planning is taking you a really long time, evaluate how you are doing it and see if you can simplify it using these guidelines. Also keep in mind, that like anything, it gets easier the more you do it. Your planning time will become easier and faster as you go along.
Lastly, if you don't yet have a planner you like, give mine a try. It's free, it's simple, and it's easy to follow.