I’ll be the first to admit that last year after a couple of google searches on how to plan our first homeschool year I felt incredibly overwhelmed. The planner side of me loved the idea of having a good solid plan in place, but the wild and free side of me wanted the freedom and flexibility for curiosity and wonder to lead and guide our days. In a perfect world, my personality would thrive on an unplanned plan. See my dilemma? After a year of seeing what works and what doesn’t work for our family, I have a much better perspective this year about how to go about planning. Today I wanted to take you behind the scenes of how I loosely plan (emphasis on loosely) our homeschool year.
It probably goes without saying, but before we begin I want to mention that we are not the same person (what a gift!) so this system might not work for you and your unique personality. If there’s any advice I can give you it’s to be yourself. Figure out what works best for you. That’s one of the joys of homeschooling — we can each use our own unique gifts and wirings to create a flourishing homeschool. My hope is that this post will give you some ideas and inspiration to plan your own year. My system (if I can even call it that) is incredibly bare bones and minimal and for some people might not be enough of a plan. Be yourself! If you’re a planner and need a full on plan, then sister go right ahead and make that plan. Alright. Now that we’re on the same page.
Ready to plan a joy-filled school year?! Here’s how I do it.
After I have sat down and worked through the prompts to prepare my heart for an intentional year—the why— next it’s time to get to the how of it all.
How I Loosely Plan Our Homeschool Year
First, I start by grabbing my trusty old spiral notebook. Tip: Grab these when it’s back to school season when they’re incredibly discounted. It’s not fancy, but I really like that I can keep all of my brain dump ideas together for the year in a spiral notebook or two. In the notebook I write down the subjects that I’d like to incorporate into our year as well as the ones that are required in our state. If you aren’t sure what’s required in your state you can find that out right here.
After I write down the subjects, I begin jotting down resources that I would like to use for each subject. If I’m not quite sure yet, then I will leave it blank and come back a little bit later after I’ve done some digging. I’ll share more about what curriculum we are using this year soon. For those of you that have been asking, I don’t really have a tried and true method for picking curriculum. Last year I found most of what we use through Instagram, but this year I used google and Pinterest. Take into account your vision for homeschooling and what’s important to your family and then use that to sift through the resources you find.
While I’m on the topic of curriculum, I love how Sarah Mackenzie puts it,
“Curriculum isn’t something we buy. It’s something we teach. Something we embody. Something we love. It is the form and content of our children’s learning experience. If we started thinking about “school” in terms of encountering certain ideas and mastering certain skills rather than finishing a particular book or “covering” material, we would free ourselves to learn far more than we can by binding ourselves to a set published resource. Of course we will use such resources to reach our goals, but the resource will be our servant, not our master. Instead of focusing on what we need to cover in any given year, it may be helpful to think about what we might uncover and master. After all, if our eyes are so fixed on the finish line that we miss the experience entirely, what have we really gained for our labors?” [Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest}
So freeing, right? Don’t stress out about picking the perfect curriculum, sweet friend.
Remember how I like to ask the girls what they are interested in learning for the year? That’s where that handy dandy printable comes into the planning process! Next, I turn to a new page in my spiral notebook and jot down what the girls would like to learn for the year and make any notes about resources that we have and would like to use or any other resources that I’m aware of.
Alright, so now I have a very big picture idea of what tools will be using for the year. I use this to create a list of any items that I need to purchase or books I’d like to check out from our library. Once I purchase any curriculum that I’d like to use for the year, I then begin making a plan for each of the subjects. I will talk more about this in an upcoming blog post on creating a daily rhythm, but I break up the subjects into everyday subjects and loop subjects. (Sidenote: looping has helped me SO much in so many areas of motherhood—learn more about it here). Just so you can see how you might break it down, our everyday subjects are Bible, Math, Language Arts, and Handwriting. Our loop subjects are Science, Social Studies, and Geography/Culture.
Most of the daily subjects we use don’t require planning on my part. For example, with All About Reading we set the timer for 20 minutes and work through as much as we can. When the timer goes off I put a sticky note where we left off and then we just pick up there the next day. The same is true with Math. We simply work on the lesson and then put a sticky note where we left off. The only planning I will do with our math curriculum is if I notice that the concept isn’t really clicking and I can tell that my daughter would benefit from added practice. In that case I will search for ideas on Pinterest or come up with an idea on my own.
The loop subjects are where I don’t always use a specific curriculum and do a bit of my own planning. Again, I use my spiral notebook and Pinterest to plan loop subject unit studies (I’ll do a more in-depth post on how I plan a unit study). At the end of the month, I simply turn to a new page and write out a few ideas for the upcoming month. I don’t do this all at the beginning of the year because I like to leave the flexibility of things that might come up in our day to day life. For example, this summer there was a monarch caterpillar in our garden and we got to watch the entire process unfold from egg to the epic moment of our little butterfly friend taking flight. It was incredible and led to so much deep and rich learning. We all have been a bit butterfly obsessed ever since. I never could have planned for it, but it will probably go down as one of my favorite learning experiences.
One last thing I should mention is that with the exception of Math and Language Arts, we don’t use a separate curriculum for each of our girls. My youngest is in Preschool and we take a very gentle approach with her, but I don’t plan a separate science lesson for her. We like to do these subjects together family style.
So there you have it! That’s how I loosely plan for the year. For a hardcore planner this might not feel like much of a plan at all, but for me it’s the perfect balance of having an idea bank of what we might like to use on paper while simultaneously leaving margin for wonder, adventure, and curiosity to guide our days. Like this blog post so beautifully reminds us, planning really is just guessing. (Highly recommend you go read that blog post, by the way!)
In part two I’m sharing how I take these pages and pull them together with my handy dandy Homeschool Planner to create a monthly vision and weekly plan as well as a sustainable daily rhythm. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.