Make Final Decisions About Curriculum
Curriculum decisions were always the biggest pieces needed to solve my homeschool planning puzzle. I always had a running list of the books and supplies I wanted to buy, and would virtually shop all year long, tweaking my list as the new school year approached. My final curriculum decisions were usually made by the beginning of August, and all that’s when all the orders went in. It always felt good to finally commit. Once that happened, the new school year finally felt real, and I was ready to put the rest of the puzzle together.
Set Aside Time to Plan
While waiting for my curriculum to arrive, I would start cleaning and organizing my schoolroom. When the kids were really little, the schoolroom was a corner nook in my kitchen. As my book collection grew, we eventually freed up the entire den and converted it into a classroom. I used this time to go through all of my books and school supplies. Out with the broken crayons, stubby pencils, and warped notebooks, and in with the bargain school supplies purchased at back to school sales.
Then it was time to deep clean the schoolroom, you know…dusting those places that you forgot existed, laundering curtains, and emptying drawers crammed with odds and ends. This might be overkill for some people, but I don’t function well with clutter, so it was important for me to deal with that stuff.
Once the room was clean, I decorated the bulletin board, added a quote to the dry erase board, and put up some kind of wall decoration to celebrate the new year. This made it feel a little festive and fresh for all of us. It also added an element of anticipation for the first day of school.
Rough Plan the School Year
Once the “stuff” was cleaned and organized, I planned my calendar. In the early years, I started with an academic year-at-a-glance planner that I got from donnayoung.org, but as my spreasheet skills increased, I was able to develop something of my own. The first thing I did was plan all of our school days and downtime for the entire year. I know there are a lot of higher-tech ways to do this now, but that one piece page of paper gave me a visual for the year that was super-helpful.
I used that academic calendar to number each week of our school year. Thirty-six weeks is roughly 180 school days, which is the norm in my area. Planning thirty-six weeks of school gave us time to start school in September, take leisurely vacations around the holidays, and finish in the first couple weeks of June. The beauty of homeschooling is that we all get to choose what’s best for us, and many times, my kids would finish certain subjects early and then double up on other things to completely finished in May.
Once the curriculum arrived, I began reverse-engineering what I wanted to accomplish in a school year. I decided how many units or lessons to cover in each book and planned them out by week based on my yearly plan. We always had at least one day of the week that was spent out of the house. That was the day for music lessons, gym classes, and co-op. I didn’t schedule regular school lessons on those days because we learned early on that it was unrealistic for us.
When my weeks were mostly planned, I created an hourly schedule by day for each of my kids. We usually started each day doing all of our read-alouds and “together” subjects. After that, my kids did their independent work and the subjects they had to do with me. With five kids, this part of scheduling always felt like the most complicated part of the puzzle. I’d move things around until I found the best way to choreograph the dance I would perform each day, turning from a math lesson with one child to a phonics lesson with another, while feeding a baby and intermittently switching loads of laundry.
Involving the Kids in Planning
After my scheduling and organizing were done, I invited my kids to set up their space. They would choose new school supplies from the cabinet to put in their desks or supply boxes, organize their new notebooks, and take some time to look at their new books and materials. This was always an exciting time for them, and it provided a way for them to be involved in setting up their learning environment and made them excited about the new school year.
When we were all set with the concrete prep, we made a special plan for how we would spend the last week of our summer vacation. We usually started our homeschool year just after the public school started theirs, so we would enjoy a week or two of having the local parks and beaches to ourselves during the day. We packed our art supplies and went to the zoo or spent the day at the park reading books and exploring. These before-school excursions were always special and make up some of our fondest memories.
Keep Planning in Perspective
As you plan for your new school year, remember that all planning is focused on the ideal. It may seem silly to plan out what you’re going to do 10 months from now, but it really does help to wrap your brain around the huge undertaking of educating your kids at home. I find that it’s always better to have a plan than to leave such an important task up to chance.
When it comes to implementing your plans, don’t get discouraged if it takes a bit to get it down. You may have any number of mishaps on the actual first day, or things may go splendidly, but that isn’t the point. The purpose of planning is to have an ideal to return to when chaos strikes. Your plan is a starting point for the many changes, adjustments, and other life circumstances you will have to be flexible for. Approaching your plan with a rigid attitude will only result in frustration and feelings of failure. No one plans perfectly, but we all manage to have wonderful, successful school years nonetheless.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good! You got this mama!
Author, Jessie Wiegand
Jessie is a mom of five who has been homeschooling since 2000. She loves serving the homeschool community and has been active as a support group leader and co-op teacher in southeast Michigan for over 16 years.