Last week I shared how I loosely plan for the homeschool year. If you missed that post, be sure to check it out. Today I’m sharing how I take the pages in my un-fancy spiral notebook and pull them together with my handy dandy Homeschool Planner to create a monthly vision and weekly plan. Here’s how I plan our homeschool week.
Before we get started, here’s the tools I use for planning:
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- Cultivate What Matters Homeschool Planner (I ordered the printed version and had it bound, but you can also download it for free and print it yourself)
- Spiral Notebook
- Pens (these and these are my favorites)
- Sticky Notes (I use regular sticky notes for marking my place in our sticky note subjects and these large sticky notes to plan each week for our loop subjects)
Step 1: Create Our Monthly Vision
Typically somewhere in the last weekend of the month I like to set aside some time to reflect on the previous month and plan for the month ahead. During this time is when I fill out my Powersheets goal planner and during the school year, it’s when I cast vision for our homeschool. I absolutely love my homeschool planner because it makes it really easy to focus on what really matters each month. Here’s the steps I take to reflect and create a vision for the upcoming month. I should note that each of these pages are in my homeschool planner which makes it really easy!
1.) Reflect on the previous month and write down memories —I really appreciate this page because it helps me remember what happened throughout the month. It’s such a special thing to reflect by writing down our favorite memory, someone who helped us, new things we learned, something funny that happened, progress we’re celebrating, and three things we are grateful for. I usually like to ask the girls what they are grateful for at the end of each month and I’ll add their thoughts here as well.
2.) Jot down important dates —Here’s where I’ll add any important outings, activities, or appointments to our monthly calendar.
3.) Fill out the monthly questions —I especially like this page because it truly reminds me of my why each month. The questions include: Books we want to read this month (I use this space for our chapter book read alouds, because there honestly wouldn’t be enough room for the bag loads of picture books we like to check out from the library #homeschoolproblems), character traits we want to grow, something we love about each other, something that feels hard lately, encouraging words for the month, and what we’re celebrating this month.
4.) Write down monthly goals — This is hands down one of my favorite pages in my planner (especially as a Powersheets user — see how I use them right here). It helps me narrow down our top priority for the month and word (or phrase) for the month as well as monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
5.) Make a book list — Finally, on the notes page I like to look through our curriculums (or our ever growing library wish list) and write down any books that we will need for the month. While you’ll soon see, I don’t create a week-by-week plan for the entire month — but this is where I do create a general idea about what topics we will be covering during the month and what extra books we might need to place on hold ahead of time. Throughout the month I’ll also use this space to document any books I hear about when listening to the Read Aloud Revival podcast or perusing Pinterest.
Step 2: Create Our Weekly Plan
Each Sunday night I carve out some time to sit down for a little bit to ‘pray-pare’ (I believe I first heard and loved this phrase from Lara Casey) for the week. Basically it’s my weekly planning time where I first take some time to pray and ask God to lead and guide our home and learning in the week ahead and then jot down some ideas for the week on a sticky note. As I mentioned in my part one blog post, I don’t write down concrete plans for our week because I like to leave lots of margin for wonder and deep dives into things we might encounter and be curios about. BUT I also like to have somewhat of a plan, which is why I create an idea bank on a sticky note each week. This might not be your cup of tea, but it works really well for our family.
At the beginning of the year I like to mentally divide our subjects into two categories, sticky note subjects and loop subjects. I don’t do a lot of extra planning for our sticky note subjects, but I approach our loop subjects with a pull from a variety of resources mentality.
Sticky Note Subjects
You might be asking, what are sticky note subjects? Great question! Basically any subject where I pull out my beloved sticky note and place it where we left off is deemed a sticky note subject.
For sticky note subjects I don’t do much planning during my ‘pray-pare’ session. I will typically look ahead at some of the lessons we might cover for the week so that I can see if there’s anything I need to prep or have on hand, but that really is the extent of my preparation for sticky note subjects. For example, I don’t write down on Monday we are doing lesson 10 and Tuesday we are doing lesson 11. Instead, we simply set a timer and work through the lesson. When the timer goes off I simply place a sticky note where we left off and that’s where we pick up the next day.
For the most part we just stick to the ideas that are found in our lessons, but If I notice that the concept we worked on that day is not making sense or we need more practice, that’s where I will make a note in my homeschool planner to look for other hands on ideas that will help practice and master what is being taught. My daughters absolutely LOVE pretend play, so if a concept isn’t clicking I sometimes will set up a pretend play scene and then we will use that to work on the concept in a play-filled way. They honestly don’t know that we are even working on the concept, which I love!
Setting a visual timer and working slowly each day believing that little by little progress adds up has been a light bulb moment for me. It has required me to break out of the mold of my own education that we have to complete one lesson per day and then move on to the next lesson. With homeschooling we have the freedom to slowly work through the lessons little by little and help our children really understand the material and have fun in the process. If that means that it takes a few days (or weeks) to work through a lesson, then great!
“What most curricular models provide today is a survey of everything and mastery in nothing, so our children get an education that is a mile wide and an inch deep. That’s not true education. We need to lead our children out of the shallows in order to dive in deep.” [Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest]
Remember that curriculum is a tool, you are not ruled by the curriculum. You don’t have to finish it in the school year or at all. It’s merely a resource to assist with learning. Say it with me, “Dear, curriculum — you are not the boss of me.”
“Loop scheduling doesn’t assign a particular subject to a particular day. Instead, you have a list (loop) of work that you do during a certain time period. When it is time to work, you simply move to the next subject on the list and start there.” [Pam Barnhill]
Looping subjects has been such a game changer for our home! I love looping because it allows us to get to our subjects more frequently but also allows wiggle room for real life. Rather than assigning a specific day for each subject we simply work through our loop. This has been especially helpful for days where we have a field trip or unplanned rabbit trail learning. The best way I can describe loop scheduling is that it gives us guilt free flexible structure. See that little yellow dot right there? We just move it to the next subject once we’ve finished for the day and then we easily know what to work on the next time we have our together loop.
You can loop so many different subjects! In fact, we have two separate loops. A together loop which includes Science, Geography/Culture, History, and S.T.E.M. as well as a heart loop which includes Art, Music Appreciation (SQUILT), and Piano (Keyndergarten). I should note that our loop does change throughout the year. It’s so easy to add or subtract things from the loop. Flexibility at it’s finest.
Each week during my ‘pray-pare’ session I will jot down an idea for each subject of our loop on a big sticky note. Yes, I also use a sticky note to plan non-sticky note subjects. What can I say? I love sticky notes.
I pull ideas from the curriculum that we are using, unit study ideas that I have jotted down in my spiral notebook, or the Pinterest board that I add ideas to as I find them. I know that each week we may not get to all of our loop subjects, but we certainly do try. This sticky note serves as a guide throughout the week so I don’t have to sift through the curriculum or try to find ideas on the fly.
I will then gather and prepare any tools, books, or resources we might need for the week. I place anything I’ve printed into a folder and then put all of the resources in our loop bin. I’ve mentioned this before, but the sticky note is my idea bank. This helps me be prepared for the week, but I’m not tied to the plan if another interest is sparked during the week and we follow that rabbit trail.
This year I also am using a sticky note to plan my youngest daughter’s preschool activities. We are doing a very very gentle approach with her because she has begged for her individual lesson time like sissy. I’ll share our daily rhythm soon, but each day during individual time the girls take turns learning with me while the other one plays and then they switch. Since we do our school four days a week (with Friday’s as a catch up and/or adventure day), I simply write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the sticky note and then I will plan out a math activity and a letter activity for each session using Blossom and Root Early Years and The Peaceful Preschool as our guide. Her individual time is usually no more than 15-20 minutes, but she absolutely loves it most likely because it gives us some one-on-one time each day.
Once I have the sticky note filled out, I place it in my homeschool planner and am ready to go for the week.
Throughout the week, if we complete one of the items I will highlight it and then write down what we did that day in my homeschool planner.
It’s funny because I don’t actually use our homeschool planner to plan in the traditional sense, rather I use our homeschool planner to ‘plan from behind’ and document our days. More on that later! In part 3, I will share our daily rhythm and anchors and some tips to create your own sustainable homeschool rhythm.
If you have any questions about anything I shared here, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.