Planning is one of those tasks that we know we need to do, but we often overlook. When it comes to Homeschooling it is absolutely necessary to have a plan. Whether or not you stick to that exact plan is another story, but having a plan starts you off down a path that otherwise would not have been defined. In this post, we'll discuss some strategies for planning our upcoming homeschool year.
1. Evaluate Last Year
Before diving into the upcoming year, it’s a great idea to take a look back at last year. Start by asking yourself a few questions about the previous year and write down your responses. Putting these in writing helps to process and formalize your thoughts vs. keeping them inside your head. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Did you have a plan last year that worked well?
- Did you change that plan throughout the year?
- How do you feel you could improve in the organization or scheduling of your weeks?
- Did your students accomplish all that you had planned?
- Did you over-schedule or under-schedule?
- Did you build in enough breaks, vacations, or fun family activities throughout the year?
- What could be done better this year?
2. Set Goals for This Year
Now that you have a solid idea of what worked and didn’t work from last year, it is important to set goals for the upcoming year. You’ll want to set goals for your students and for yourself. When it comes to academic or productivity goals, using the SMART framework can be helpful. SMART stands for:
This framework is great for academic or productivity goals like “Read at a 9th grade level by December 1st and complete 10 novels”. However, this framework is not so great for other goals like “Learn how to manage conflict better” or “Practice good eating habits”. The important thing is to establish goals, write them down, and share them with your family so that everyone is on the same page and has clear expectations.
3. Plan Your Yearly Calendar
Next, take a big-picture view of the entire year. Plan your vacations, breaks, holidays - anything that falls on the calendar and can’t be easily moved. I like to set up my school year with two terms, with a break for the holidays in between. If your state requires a specific number of school days that you need to complete in a year, you’ll want to set specific start and end dates for your school year and terms. It’s also a good idea to include a week or two of additional days just in case. Homeschool Tracker has some great tools to help you set up your school year and calculate the number of days you’ll have available.
4. Draft Your Ideal Weekly Routine
Establishing a regular routine for your week will help keep you sane, and aide in staying organized and productive. My ideal weekly routine looks something like this:
Sunday night: Spend an hour or so going over the week, scheduling my lesson plans to the agenda, and making sure I have all the resources and supplies I need.
Monday-Friday: Execute the plan by following the agenda and make necessary modifications along the way.
Friday night: Spend an hour or so looking at our progress, recording grades, and getting ready to relax for the weekend!
5. Start Lesson Planning
This step can often times take the longest when planning out your year. If you are using an off-the-shelf curriculum it can go much faster as many of them have lesson plans already created for you, or Homeschool Tracker may have a shared lesson plan available. However, if you like to combine curriculum or create your own, you may need to spend a decent amount of time planning out how you would like to structure your courses for the year. It's okay to take your time, this step is crucial.
I like to start my lesson planning with note cards so that I can move things around easily on a big table. Once I have a plan that I like, I start entering it into Homeschool Tracker’s lesson plan tool. This allows me to get more specific with the individual assignments for each lesson plan. All of this work pays off as I can reuse these lesson plans when my younger students are ready for them.
6. Schedule the First Week
Even if the first day of school is still a few weeks away, it can be helpful to schedule that first week far in advance. This process helps you get a feel for how the week will look. Is it over-scheduled, under-scheduled, or just right? This is also a good time to schedule the weekly household duties and chores for your students. I also like to schedule in breaks as well as times to hang out or play with friends.
I don't recommend scheduling the entire year up front. Start with just a week or two at a time so that it is easy if you need to make adjustments.
Phew! That’s a lot, I know. It can definitely feel a bit overwhelming, but that’s why it is so important to tackle a lot of this planning during the summer before things get really busy with school.
If you're looking for a solid tool to help with your lesson planning and scheduling, please check out Homeschool Tracker. We've helped over 150,000 homeschooling families with lesson planning and scheduling since 2002.
Have any planning tips or techniques you wish to share? Leave a comment below!
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