Homeschool Planning - How I Do It

Are you a planner?  I have to admit that I am not.  Oh, every New Year's Day I get sucked in by the pretty new planners, probably like alot of you do too.  I have often bought a planner, only for it to sit on my desk with the cover never cracked.

Planning intimidates me.

My Homeschool Planning History 

The first year that I homeschooled my son, I actually didn't do any planning at all.  I bought the curriculum, counted up the number of lessons so I had an idea of how much we would have to do each week, and went from there.  I even wondered why people spent so much time planning out the homeschool year anyway.  Don't you just open the book each day and go on to the next lesson?  Why does this require planning?

I wasn't totally wrong, but by halfway through that year I realized that we needed to pick up the pace on a few subjects if I wanted to finish the book that year.

So the next year, I decided that I could probably benefit from getting the big picture on paper at the start of the school year, and I planned that year to within an inch of its life.  I followed The Lovely Homeschool Course planning system, mapped out each subject, printed all the papers I would need for the entire year, and labeled them all by weeks.  I felt so organized and in control!  This was going to be the best homeschool year ever!

Except that when we "fell behind" the plan in a few subjects, I had to move all those weekly labels around, and I completely lost track of where we were on a weekly basis.

Do you see why I struggle with planning?

I have to admit, this post has been intimidating for me to write.  I've had a few people ask me to share my homeschool planner, and I haven't exactly known what to share because my planning is a bit of a mess!  I'm still figuring out what kind of planning works for me.

This year I am shooting for somewhere in the middle between no-plan and planned-until-it's-practically-dead.  I am feeling cautiously optimistic that I am figuring out what level of planning is going to be functional for our family, but I want to point out that this is merely how I'm planning our homeschool out this year.  It'll very likely change again by next year.

What I'm Not Doing This Year

This year when I thought about planning out the year, I was hoping for a little more flexibility overall.  I thought my plan last year was flexible, but when we fell behind or got ahead in some subjects, the mislabeled weeks really started to get to me.

So what am I not doing this year?

I am not assigning lessons to each week.  I wrote a post last year about how I only plan weekly for our homeschool, but in my "big picture" plan I still had certain lessons assigned in each subject to certain weeks.  I am not doing that this year.  It's too much to go back and correct things if we get ahead or behind in each subject.

I am not picking read-aloud for the whole year.  Last year I picked out books I wanted to read aloud to the kids and assigned them to different months, but that didn't give us any room to read books that were interesting to us at the moment.  I really should have known better.  I'm a mood reader in my personal reading, and obviously I should have realized that I may be the same way with books I want to read to my kids.

I am not printing out papers for the whole year.  The Lovely Homeschool Course recommended printing out papers and preparing science materials for the whole year.  While I understand the "why" behind this idea, it gets very messy when you end up not using some of the papers that you printed or when your weekly plan gets thrown off.

I am not using a binder.  Last year I put all my planning pages and printed school papers into one huge binder.  That worked okay, but as I said, it got rather messy when we didn't end up using all the papers.  In addition, the binder got so huge that I kind of forgot what was in there.  We ended up not using some of the notebooking papers that really would have added to my kids' lessons, because by the time we got to that particular history lesson (or whatever), I had forgotten that there was a notebooking page to go with it!  It just got too big and unmanageable, so I'm not using a binder this year.

My Current Planning System

This year when I was contemplating how I wanted to arrange my year, I knew I wanted to plan it a little more loosely, and have more frequent check-ins built in for myself.  I wasn't sure quite how to accomplish this, until I revisiting my planning pages from last year and did a little looking at Hobby Lobby.  So this is what I ended up doing for planning this year.

I bought a Happy Planner.  At Hobby Lobby I was browsing the planning section, and I came across this Happy Planner.  Happy Planners are weird in that you can't buy any old Happy Planner and expect it to have everything you want, because each one has different types of pages in it.  It gets very confusing.  But when I was looking through them, this one appealed to me for homeschool planning.

What I like about it?    It has a monthly overview page for looking ahead to major events for the next month, plus a cute little section for recording "currently" things (kind of like I do in these blog posts).  It has a monthly calendar view for me to write down any homeschool-related deadlines or events for each month.  It has a monthly goal layout, with sections for habit trackers, goals for the month, things you want to focus on, etc.  And finally, it has a whole section just for daily to-do's, one list layout for each day of the month.

I like that I can sit down with these sheets, make goals for the whole month, and then break down those goals into daily to-do's.  I think that will make it easier to keep track of what I want to accomplish each month and how to get there.  At least in theory, as long as I actually use it.  In a way I feel like I fell for marketing again with purchasing another planner, but I'm really hoping this will end up being functional for me.

I have a yearly overview, but I am only planning out a month in advance.  This biggest thing that didn't work for me last year was trying to plan out the whole year in one go.  I did like having all our main subjects broken down so I knew how many lessons we needed to do each week in each subject, but I did not like having lessons assigned to each week in my planner.  Life just happens, you know?  We ended up moving last fall and completely dropped science and history lessons until after our move, and that threw my weekly lesson planning way off.  Looking at my planning binder ended up being stressful for me because it was so inaccurate.

This year I still used the yearly overview planning sheets from The Lovely Homeschool, but I did not write in which lessons we would be doing each week.  Instead I wrote out which lessons or sections I hope to accomplish each month.  The page looks like this now:

At the beginning of each month, I am going to sit down with my yearly overview sheet and my Happy Planner, look at where we actually are in the curriculum, and make goals for what to accomplish for that specific month, breaking it down further into daily to-do's.  I think this will allow me to be more flexible with my plans and adjust it as we go.  If plans change, it's alot easier to cross out one line in my yearly plan than to have to adjust every single line in the column.

I am only printing papers out one month in advance.  Some of the curricula we are using have printable notebooking pages, but I am only going to print those out one month at a time and keep them all in one folder.  This will require me to sit down and look at where we actually are each month so I can print out our pages, which is a built in check for myself.  I think this will make it easier to actually use those supplementary pages, since there will only be a small folder of them to sort through, instead of a huge yearly binder.

Doing things this way will also allow me the chance to look through the many free worksheets I've been collecting over the years, and print out the ones that I think will be good additions for that month.  I didn't even look at my digital worksheet collection at all last year.  Planning each month will be a good chance to make sure I am using all the resources that I have.

I am not planning out read-alouds at all.  Each month when I sit down with my Happy Planner, I'm planning on picking out our read-aloud for the month at that time.  For our fun read-aloud, I usually want a book that is appealing to us at that moment, so picking books each month will give us that flexibility.  I'm hoping to also request a few library picture books that will be good supplements to the subjects we will already be studying that month, while I have everything right in front of me.

What about my homeschool bullet journal?

Those of you who follow me on Instagram might remember that I was using a bullet journal for some of my homeschool planning a couple years ago.  What happened to that?

Well, I found that even though bullet journals are supposed to be functional and they don't have to be pretty, I still just really wanted mine to be pretty.

I think everything I am doing this year could absolutely be done in a bullet journal, but I found that I am motivated to plan by pages that are pretty, and I didn't have enough time or motivation to make my planning pages pretty myself.  This is why I decided to give the Happy Planner a try this year, because the one I found had pages that I thought would be functional for homeschool planning, and they were already pretty.

However, I am still using my bullet journal in our homeschool, it's function now is just for record-keeping.  My state requires me to keep a record of what we do each day in our homeschool (plus that is just a good idea anyway), and I decided I still liked using my bullet journal for that.  It's compact and easy to store long-term, and I can keep it really basic or get a little fancy with my record-keeping.  I'll share more about that in a different post!

Here is a little video, going through my Happy Planner and planning pages.

And some photos of my pages - if you want to click on them you can get a closer look!

How do you all plan for your homeschool year?
I am obviously still figuring my process out, so I'd love to hear any tips on what has worked for you!

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Elizabeth said...

I guess the short answer is that we are using Sonlight this year, but only because I am forced to plan ahead and get all our books for the year when we're in the U.S. And with a boxed curriculum I hopefully won't forget anything. I feel like if we were in the U.S. I could make more use of the library, used books, etc. Although, for the past several years I have been loading up suitcases with picture book classics even before we started homeschooling. The Sonlight books are all ones we would have read anyway. Hard to go wrong with timeless classics! I do understand what you mean about not planning read-alouds, because sometimes the choices I made in advance aren't as exciting when the time comes. Another issue with that: I carefully selected and purchased books in our second language (Russian) to go along with our curriculum, but my husband and son have been turning up their noses at them. So, the family doesn't always go along with the plan! It's good when you can be flexible with homeschooling and tailor it to your family's needs. Just 10 days in, I think I would do some tweaking right now if I could. However, the boxed curriculum has its benefits and I don't have a lot of time for creativity these days, so open-and-go is about all we can handle.

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