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!


Florida!



I am still in vacation mode over here!

Everyone I know is back to school at this point, but we've been spending this week recovering from our trip to Florida!  We had a wonderful time overall, aside from a few hiccups, and I wanted to record a few of the places we went and the things that happened before I forget.  To keep this post manageable, I'm going to try to do it in bullet points and limit the photos.  Here we go!

Miami

-We got a manageable flight that left around 6:30 AM, but the girls still fell asleep on the flight, so it was perfect!  The boys watched movies and read books the whole way.

-We stopped at Delray Beach on the way down to Miami to look at the ocean before sunset.  I personally love East coast beaches at sunset, the colors are so soft and pretty!

-Finally arrived in Miami at 11 PM, and realized that I'm pretty sure I booked us a night in a gang hotel, basically.  That is if the gang tags in the stairwell, marijuana, and sketchy area were any indication.  Plus the room wasn't clean - ah!  Clearly I am not allowed to book bargain hotels anymore.

-Booked another hotel straightaway the next morning.







Everglades

-We went on an airboat tour with Coopertown Airboats, and we saw the Everglades!  We all learned so much and saw quite a bit of wildlife and interesting plants - so fun!  The Everglades are one of a kind, for sure.







Bill Baggs Cape State Park

-We checked out a state park that an old blog friend recommended to me, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  It was wonderful!  It had a lighthouse, iguanas were running everywhere and the kids were fascinated, and the beach there was probably the most beautiful beach I've ever seen!  It was seriously a tropical paradise. I wish we could have spent more time there!













Boynton Beach

-Stayed the night in Boynton Beach, and then checked out the beach there the next day!  The waves were not as calm as at Bill Baggs beach, but it was still beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves!  After the beach we started the drive to Orlando.

-Car tire started losing air on the way up to Orlando.  We called the rental car company so we could switch it out that evening.  The whole process took three hours, and we were bummed that we didn't have time to relax at the hotel!



Seaworld

-We went to Seaworld the next day!  I haven't been to Seaworld since I was a kid, and we all enjoyed it so much.  We saw a bunch of see creatures (orcas, dolphins, seat turtles, manatees, parrots, a pilot whale...), and we really loved the shows!

-We got the meal deal at Seaworld, so we each got to order an entree, drink, dessert, and side every hour.  We didn't actually eat every hour, but we could have.  Mostly it was just nice not to have to worry about what we were spending!

-The kids rode their first roller coaster, and it also just so happened to be National Roller Coaster Day!  How fun is that?

-They were having an extended hours day at Seaworld, so we got to see the Shamu Lights The Night show.  They were trying to get everyone to dance for the "dance cam" (I'm glad I didn't end up on it, ha!), and all the big kids were dancing, but Georgie also really got into it.  It was adorable!  I'll always remember her little baby rhythm and dance moves!

-Realized the car tire was losing pressure again!  We didn't want to spend another three hours of our vacation returning the car, so we just filled it with air every day for the rest of the trip.  But I will never use that company again.  Two cars with flat tires from the same rental car company is a bit much.






Kennedy Space Center

-We slept in the next day, had breakfast at IHOP, and then drove out to Kennedy Space Center.  We figured we could see it in a half day, but we were wrong.  I wish we had spent more time there, it was so cool!  More to come in another post on that.

-We saw the building where rockets are built, which was huge.

-We saw the Saturn V rocket and the space shuttle Atlantis (both so huge!).

-We did a rocket launch simulator!

-We absolutely loved the whole experience, and I hope to go back someday!

-Saw a crocodile in the "wild" on the way home!  Also saw a man lying on the shoulder of the road and flailing about, which was freaky.  We called the Florida State Police so they could check on him, but it was really weird.










Cocoa Beach

-Beach Day!  We did nothing but eat snacks and relax on the beach, and it was perfect.

-Saw a ton of brown pelicans catching fish!

-Back at the hotel, we watched Swiss Family Robinson with the kids as a movie night.  I loved it as a kid too, but I am still surprised how entranced they were!






Disney - Magic Kingdom

-We decided to do one day at Disney, and the Magic Kingdom seemed like the most exciting park, so that's where we went.  Oh my word, it was so busy!  I don't know what I was expecting as far as crowds go, but my expectation was less people than...that.

-We met Rapunzel and Tiana, we saw Pooh Bear and Tigger wandering about.  Pooh jumped in a water puddle right in front of the kids, and I tell you, that was a major highlight for them!  And for me, because I loved to see them happy!

-Rode Dumbo, Teacups, Magic Carpets, the Barn Stormer roller coaster, and the Winnie the Pooh and Little Mermaid movie-themed rides.  Saw the Monsters, Inc. show, and visited the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse!

-Lost various children three different times, once during the fireworks. Yikes!








Down Day

-After a slightly traumatizing Disney experience, we just took it easy the nest day.

-We visited an orange grove and fruit stand, and ate some pretty great barbecue for lunch!

-We went to see Dora The Explorer in the movie theater.  I think the movie is a bit mature for our kids' age group, and it had some rather gross potty humor and magic/mystical stuff in it.  We just glossed over all that, and most of it went over my kids' heads, so it was okay.  We enjoyed just relaxing for a movie though!  The kids watched the actual Dora cartoon later though, and I think we have a new favorite.

-Went back to the hotel and enjoyed the pool for the rest of the day!








Last Day

-We managed to squeeze a little bit more fun out of our trip before our flight, and we visited this huge McDonald's we kept passing in Orlando.  That place was amazing!  There were twice as many menu options as any other McD's I've been to, with alot of things that could be customized by their chefs.  The play place was huge (largest in the world), and the service was amazing!  They even had an arcade too.  Can we get one of those McDonald's here, please?





We had such a nice time overall, and I'm so glad we got to go!  Florida is not a trip we will be able to afford every year, so this was definitely a special trip.  We got to visit the big theme parks, but I think our favorite parts were being out in nature in habitats that we usually don't get to see.  There were hiccups, but I think we made good memories overall, and I think the kids will remember everything fondly!  And that's really the whole point of vacation to me, just to make those memories together.

More photos (with better explanations) of all of us on Instagram, including really cute pictures of my kids, so if you missed it last week you can hop over there for more info about specific things we did!

Have you been to Florida?  What were your favorite things to do there?  This was just a small portion of all the options of things to see!




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