Thursday, March 7, 2013

How I Plan My Homeschool Year

This may seem like a funny time of year to be blogging about planning the homeschool year but I really do start thinking about next year in the middle of the current one.  We are far enough along in our “classes” that I usually have a pretty good idea of whether this or that method or book is working for us and I can start thinking about whether or not we will continue it next year.  This is also a good time to start planning the financial side of the homeschooling experience, in case you need to buy one or two books at a time to help spread out the expense – plus, the suppliers aren’t as busy this time of year and you can get your books faster.  If you wait until July or August they tend to be swamped and you may not get your books in time for the first day of school, let alone in time to plan out the class.

So, down to business.
The first thing I like to do is design my planner pages for the year.  There are several things I need to know before I can do this, however:  1) who I am teaching, 2) what subjects I am teaching, 3) what order I am teaching them in, 4) what books I am using, and 5) what information I need to write down for each assignment.

1) Who am I teaching? 
This seems like kind of a no-brainer, huh?  I’m teaching my kids!  Actually, it’s not so simple – for our family anyway.  Every couple or three years we add a kindergartener to the list so I have to decide whether I will be starting formal lessons with them and in a year or two I will have older kids starting college, so I obviously won’t be teaching them anymore.  Anyway, it’s still a simple question but an important one.  I need to know for whom I am keeping records.

2) What subjects am I teaching?
This question is a little more complicated.  There is always a million more things I’d like to teach than I have time/resources for so I have a system for weeding them out.  Start by brainstorming a list of things you’d like your children to learn this year.  Include things you’d like to teach, things they’d like to learn and things that you think they need to learn.  Make it as long as you want.  You obviously won’t be using all of them.  Include outside classes they are taking, are going to take, or might take this year.  Now, step away from that list for a while and make a list of educational goals for your children for the year.  Once again, include needs and wants.  Try to make them realistic and achievable.  Compare your two lists.  Are there subjects on your first list that will help achieve some of the goals on the second list?  Are some of your subjects seeming a little less important now that you know what your goals are?  See if you can narrow your list of “classes” down a bit.  I keep mine at 10 classes but I break down some of the subjects into sub-subjects (language arts usually covers several).  Keep in mind here that most of my “classes” are only 10-20 minutes long, depending on the subject and the age of the student. 

3) What order am I teaching them in?
Okay, this may not be important to you but I like my planner pages to have the subjects listed in the order I am teaching them.  This is purely a convenience thing for me.  I start with the subjects we all do together.  We try to have short together time first thing that includes singing a hymn, a prayer, reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, memorizing a scripture or house rule, and a fun song practice.  When we’re short on time (which is often), this gets skipped.  Thinking about it now, I realize that I need to make this time more of a priority.  Anyway, then we do history, as we are all working out of the same book but a different level of narration is expected of each of them.  (More on that later.)  Then we do grammar.  My oldest three are working on this together.  After that, I fill out my oldest’s planner so she can go off and do her own thing.  Then I do my second oldest’s planner so she can do her stuff as well.  Next I do science with the next three kids (the youngest two aren’t “in” school yet).  After that’s done, I can fill out their planners and send them on their way to do the rest of their school work independently.  I try to stay available for help on individual lessons.

4) What books am I using?
At this point in my homeschooling career I usually know, for the most part, what books I will be using.  My oldest is still the biggest question mark because she’s learning stuff that no one in our house has and so I usually have to come up with new resources for her.  For most of the other stuff, I can just dig up things I’ve used in previous years.  (I could go into how to choose curriculum here but that is a whole ‘nother set of information that I couldn’t even begin to cover in one blog post.)

5) What other information do I want to include in my planner pages?
Okay, so I have a column for each student and rows for each subject, with spaces for the titles of the books and spaces to write daily assignments.  I also like to include a row or two for “other” stuff that comes up that I may not have thought of at the beginning of the year.  I also want to include a place for the date, as well as the term we’re in and the week number within that term (not terribly important information but it helps me know when there’s a break coming up).  I also need a place to record grades and notes for the day.  You may not need a place for grades (especially for the younger kids) but I have a highschooler and one in junior high and they will need records for college.  The younger kids get them because they feel left out if I don’t do it – and it helps all of us see how well everyone is staying on track.  I keep notes on the back of the previous day’s planner page.  Last but not least, I like to have an idea of what information I will be writing down for each assignment.  Will it be just a page or lesson number? A series of page numbers? A chapter title?  Some sort of instructions?  I need to know these things so I can size my boxes accordingly.

Whew, that’s a lot of information!  Sorry, I tend to err on the side of too much information...  Anyway, hopefully this will help you in getting started with your planning.  The next image gives you an idea of how my pages work (this year anyway).

You can download the editable spreadsheet version of my planner page here.  It includes some of my other pages which I will talk about in a future post.  You can edit any part of the pages but the stuff that I recommend editing is in red.  



  1. Thanks for this post. I have trialled a number of different planner pages and this is by far the best. Day-by-day and child-by child.

    1. I'm so glad you like it! After all the work I put into some of these files, it seemed a shame that I'd be the only one to ever use them.

  2. Awesome planner! Thanks for sharing. I also like to start planning for next year early.

  3. all of the links to your wonderful pages are suspended.... do you have them linked anywere else or would you be willing to email them to me?
    I look forward to hearing from you.