I gave myself until July to start thinking about planning our next school year. It’s July. I’m not really quite sure how that happened.
Since that means it’s time for me to starting thinking about homeschool planning, I thought it’s probably about that time for you, too. So, I wanted to share with you 10 lessons I’ve learned about homeschooling in the last 14 years. (I’m also not quite sure how that happened.)
1. Write in pencil. Trust me on this one. Write in pencil (or my favorite erasable pens) and buy a pack of those nifty clickable erasers. Or do your lesson plans on the computer so you can copy and paste because the biggest thing I’ve learned about homeschool planning is that plans will change. Scratched-out pen is messy looking and Wite Out can be time-consuming (and expensive if you opt for the snazzy Wite Out pens).
2. Planning too far in advance is a waste of time. You want to know a secret? There was a time, when my younger two were in early elementary school, when I had science and history planned out through high school. True story.
I mean, I didn’t have all the lesson plans written out, but I did know what materials I was using each year and what topics the kids would be learning. Nope, that’s not even close to what we’re doing now.
I do like Amy Knepper’s ideas for planning out your homeschool year, but I primary do that with just math since we’re using workbooks.
Before we started using workbooks, I typically planned 2-3 weeks out. Any more than that proved to be a waste to time most of the time because life happens. Rewriting weeks’ worth of lesson plans? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
3. Failing to plan may not be planning to fail, but it does mean forgetting important things. I’ve had some moms tell me they don’t need a planner. That’s fine. Some people don’t. (I’d hazard to guess that most of those people are probably under the age of 40 because, y’all, senior moments are no joke.)
I’m not one of those people. If I don’t write down a general outline, I forget important things – like reading or math. I am not a detailed planner by any means, but I do like to list out what lesson the kids should be on in math or what chapter they should be reading.
Yes, they’re teens and are responsible for their own work, but I like to have it written down so I can make sure it’s getting done. Because they’re teens.
And, really, some days your lesson plans may look like this:
4. Find a planning method you love. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pen-and-paper gal or if you prefer the latest planning app with all the bells and whistles. Just find a planning method you love (or can live with) so that planning is just something you do, not a worse-than-pulling-nails chore.
I’ll be working my way through my shiny new homeschool teacher planner from A Plan in Place over the next week or two.
5. Leave a day for catching up. I didn’t do this for the first several years that we homeschooled. It’s no wonder I was stressed! I can’t emphasis enough the benefits of a homeschool catch-up day.
These days, I leave Fridays fairly open for catch-up, enrichment, or outside activities. My kids plan their reading assignments based on a four-day week so that they can use Fridays to get caught up if needed.
6. Don’t let your lesson plans dictate your life. There may or may not have been a time in our homeschooling journey when I would turn down play dates and impromptu learning opportunities because they didn’t fit in with that day’s lesson plans.
School must be a priority. I don’t ever want the fact that we homeschooled to be a disservice to my kids. However, there are times when you can and should dump the lesson plans in favor of a unique learning or socializing opportunity. (We don’t really want them to be weird and unsocialized, right?)
Also, there will be times when you realize that you’ve planned too much or your kids are struggling in an area. When they’ve been working hard, but not getting everything completed, it may be time to adjust the lesson plans and cut you and your kids some slack.
7. Meal planning is important. You may not consider meal planning part of homeschooling planning, but unless you like eating out a lot or dealing with a stressed, hungry family (including yourself), it really should be. I like to keep meal planning as simple as possible.
One of my best tips is to consider your weekly schedule when planning. If you know it’s going to be a busy day, plan a crock pot or freezer meal. Save the more time-consuming family favorites for the days when your schedule is a bit more open.
Try these simple meal ideas:
- My 10 Favorite Staple Meals
- 10 Quick and Healthy Lunches
- 10 Homeschool Lunch Ideas
- My 10 Favorite Soup Recipes
8. Do not overlook the blessing of same-day activities. If you have more than one child (or one child and multiple outside-the-house activities) and the majority of their outside classes and activities fall on the same day, consider yourself blessed!
When my kids were much younger, Josh and Megan had a music class on Wednesdays. Brianna’s art class fell on the same day and was just down the road.
We would eat lunch out and schedule other appointments (like the orthodontist, who as in the same area) and activities (such as nature study at a nearby nature preserve) for the same day. We didn’t get any regular schoolwork done on Wednesdays, but we were able to be home the rest of the week.
It wasn’t until the kids were older that I realized how spoiled I’d been. If you find yourself in that position, embrace it!
9. Include field trips. Like I said, if I don’t write things down, I tend to forget them. That includes field trips. Sometimes it’s helpful to plan one day a month for field trips so you remember to include them. Need some ideas?
- 5 Tips for Planning a Successful Field Trip
- 10 Fabulous Homeschool Field Trip Ideas
- Field Trip Ideas for Middle and High School Students
10. Leave lots of white space. It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to cram your schedule full of the all fun things you want to do, but that can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed. Fill out the basics and jot down some great ideas that you don’t want to forget, but leave room for rabbit trails, impromptu activities, and the inevitable interruptions.
It’s much less stressful to fill in those white spaces with spontaneous activities than to stress over unchecked boxes.
How long have you been homeschooling? What lessons related to homeschool planning have you learned over the years?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.