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How to Toss Your Homeschool Lesson Plans and Still Get Stuff Done: Practical Tips to Stop Over-Planning

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Written by Adrienne Bolton of The Mommy Mess.

The best first step in tossing your homeschool lesson plans is trying for years to stick to them to little (or no) avail.

I cannot tell you how many different ways I’ve tried to create useful lesson plans over the years. I’ve filled everything from trendy homeschool mom planners to basic spiral notebooks with my good intentions.

stop over-planning homeschool lesson plans

No matter the system I haven’t found anything fool-proof. In nine years of homeschooling, there hasn’t been a single year that has ever gone as planned.

Why I thought this year would be any different shall remain a mystery, but the first few weeks of school have painfully reminded me that homeschool lesson plans are useless.

How to Toss Your Homeschool Lesson Plans

Are you like me in that you let overplanning or start and finish dates set the tone for your school year?

Do you feel defeated when you get off track or worry you’re “behind” when life gets in the way?

You are not alone!

What does tossing the lesson plan look like for me?

Usually, at the end of a long school day, I’m looking down at a list of plans I penciled in weeks earlier, blissfully unaware of whatever future interruptions would get the best of us on this particular day. The assignments are almost never complete, and I’m often left feeling discouraged.


After a long day last week, I set my planner aside out of frustration and decided to jot down some notes on what we had successfully covered that day, highlighting the positives, no matter how small.

It was an “ah-ha” moment for me. We had covered a ton of material, but seeing what we hadn’t gotten to on the lesson (over)plan was keeping me from celebrating our accomplishments that day.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Incomplete tasks on the lesson (over)plan were keeping me from celebrating our accomplishments.” quote=”Seeing what we hadn’t gotten to on the lesson (over)plan was keeping me from celebrating our accomplishments.”]

Keep a record of what you complete instead of a list of what you want to get done.

Because we all know what we wanted to get done isn’t going to happen!

Homeschooling happens at home. It’s not a brick and mortar building designated for one common goal. Plenty of other activity goes on inside a family home. There are daily interruptions, distractions, and challenges. Staying on track feels impossible some days.

Instead of lesson “planning,” think lesson…journaling.

Sit down at the end of the day and make a list of your accomplishments.

  • What subjects did you cover?
  • Where did discussion lead?
  • What sparked interest in your child?
  • Did you go anywhere? (Don’t forget learning happens anywhere!)
  • What worked great?
  • What time of day was most productive?
  • Did you have any nonschool related highlights? Include those too!
  • What subjects did you skip? (Plan to start with those the next day.)

As homeschool moms, we spend a lot of time worrying we haven’t gotten to everything or that we failed to cover this subject or that, but in reality, we’re covering plenty! Take note, moms. Literally.

stop over-planning homeschool lesson plans

Scrap the fancy planner.

Secondly, say goodbye to overwhelming detailed planners. Use a simple spiral notebook to journal your day or make notes about lessons as the day progresses.  Multiple subject spirals are perfect for this! I use a 5-subject spiral with pocket dividers.

Here’s my master plan: Try to cover each subject daily.

The end.

Of course, I have a general idea of where we should be in each subject, but I’m not wasting my time writing it down in two different places or putting a lot of thought into sticking to a specific pace or calendar anymore. We’ll go as fast as we can.

My son’s spiral is similar with a just a list of core subjects that he needs to cover each day. Whatever subjects we don’t get to will be where we pick up tomorrow.

Ignore the publisher’s plan.

Finally, let go of whatever the lesson plan is in your teacher’s edition!

Most homeschool curriculum plans are for a 36-week school year. It could take less or more time to complete depending on the subject. Subjects like reading and literature are relative. I know how much we’re supposed to read according to my TE, but what we can actually accomplish is another story.

Math? You can only go so fast. In a perfect world, we’d complete 5-6 lessons a week. In the real world, it’s more like 3-4 lessons.

What are you going to do? Stressing out about being behind isn’t going to make the work magically disappear or complete itself any faster. Don’t get discouraged if the teacher’s edition says you should be farther along. Work at your own pace!

Isn’t that what this whole homeschooling thing is about anyway? Flexibility? Freedom?

I still forget sometimes.

Have you ever tossed your homeschool lesson plans? Did it turn out to be a good idea or a bad one?

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Adrienne Bolton is a freelance writer and veteran homeschool mom. She began homeschooling in 2009 to meet the needs of her oldest son who struggled with the public school setting. Her boys have had different experiences with homeschooling, but both have thrived in spite of her. Her oldest son transitioned from public school after fourth grade and her youngest is 100% homegrown, having never stepped foot in a traditional classroom. Now with one son in college and one working his way through high school, she is proof anyone can do this. She writes with humor and heart, peppered with occasional snark and sarcasm. When she is not writing or working you can find her with a good book in hand, snuggling her massive Pitbull fur baby, or making something yummy in the kitchen. She loves to cook, bake, and be outdoors in the sunshine. The beach is her happy place and she's a true flip-flop wearing Florida girl. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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