Ah, summer. It’s been a long school year, Mom, but now the summer sun is shining, and it’s finally time to kick back, relax…
…and start planning for next year?!
Yep! Whether you’re brand new to homeschooling, or just tend to procrastinate a bit when it comes to the task of planning out your school year (which, let’s face it, can be pretty overwhelming sometimes!), taking the summer to plan gives you the chance to break the process up into manageable chunks.
So let’s take a closer look at what some of those chunks might be, and how you can use this summer to get organized and make next year your best homeschool year ever!
Step 1: Ask God for help.
And no, I’m not talking about sending up one of those despairing “God help me!” prayers you whisper when you find out your kids baked something without telling you and your entire kitchen is coated in a fine layer of flour. No, what I mean is, take a minute to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance during the process of planning out your year. God knows exactly what each member of your family will need next year to continue growing into their best selves, so ask Him to take the lead.
Step 2: Look at what has worked in the past and at what you will need for the future.
Before you jump into the details of the actual planning process, it’s important to get a feel for the general direction you want to be heading, both as a family and with each individual child. Think about what has worked well in the past for your family:
- Do your children do well with textbooks and worksheets? Or do they prefer learning through projects? What about online learning?
- Do your children do better and learn more in a group setting, or alone? With you as their teacher, or with someone else holding them accountable?
- How much independent work can your kids handle?
- What are your children’s learning styles? Any special needs that must be considered?
- What was the most effective and most fun learning experience your children have ever had?
The answers to these questions will guide you as you look for the right overall approach to homeschooling your kids. Next, look to the future:
- What career plans and life goals do your children have? Is college in their future? Will they need certain skills in order to pursue a certain career?
- Do your children have any special interests or talents they want to focus on?
- What homeschooling requirements do you need to fulfill in your state? Which credits does your child need to graduate from high school? What classes will your child’s chosen colleges look for on their transcript?
These answers will help you determine areas to focus on during the upcoming year and beyond.
Step 3: Assess your situation and your schedule.
Now it’s time to take a good, hard, realistic look at how your homeschooling plans will fit into the rest of your family life. Think about the following:
- What’s your financial situation?
- Are lessons, classes, or other activities a possibility this year? If not, is there a co-op nearby where you could volunteer in exchange for free classes? Do you have time and transportation for that?
- Do you or your kids have jobs or volunteer positions you’ll need to schedule things around?
- Do you have younger children whose needs will affect the amount of time you can spend teaching each older child?
Think about a typical day for you right now, in the summer, without school. How would you fit homeschooling into that schedule? Depending on your situation, you may find you have plenty of time to spend on homeschooling, or you may want to take advantage of resources like online classes or co-ops, or you may even want to plan time for your child to do independent work.
Step 4: Ask for advice and do your research.
Once you’ve figured out the general direction you want to go and know how you’ll be structuring your homeschool day, it’s time to start diving into the nitty-gritty. Which homeschooling approach fits your family best—classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, or unschooling? Which curriculum will work best for your children’s needs, goals, and interests? Don’t choose without doing some serious research into each one.
Check out the many curriculum review sites online, and read some of the amazing books available on homeschooling approaches. Join some homeschooling groups, both in-person and online, and ask away—homeschooling moms love sharing their experiences! You’ll be able to find out how the different approaches you’ve been reading up on work in the real world and how others’ children have fared with various curricula.
Step 5: Choose your homeschooling approach and your curriculum.
This step’s pretty self-explanatory, but it may be the one that takes the longest as you weigh your options and decide what will work best for your family. Don’t panic—just remember that nothing is set in stone. You can always change your mind next year, next semester, or even after just a few days if your choice doesn’t work out as planned.
Step 6: Get out that planner.
OK, Mama, take a deep breath. This is where you finally put pen to paper and start mapping things out. But don’t worry—it’s not as daunting as it may seem.
- First, take a look at everything you want to accomplish this coming year. Then, chop that in half. If you want to finish all 16 chapters of a textbook, you’ll need to get 8 done in the first semester, and 8 more in the second. If you want to get 12 unit studies done this year, you’ll do 6 per semester. If you want to finish an online class, you’ll need to get half of it done by Christmas...and so on.
- Next, break those semesters down into quarters by chopping that amount in half again. The first 4 chapters of that book and those first 3 unit studies will need to be done by the end of October.
- Continue chopping—break your chapters and lessons up by month, by week, and finally, by day. Make a note of each day’s work in your planner to keep yourself on track.
Once you know what needs to get done each day and each week, you can look at how exactly you’ll incorporate those lessons into your daily and weekly family schedule. You can look at ways to consolidate multiple children’s lessons or get one working on a project while you teach another a new skill. You can have kids read chapters in the car on the way to an activity, or give them a list of work to get done independently while you’re at work.
Don’t feel you have to get to this level of daily detail for the entire year in advance – start with one week, then try one month. As long as you stay a week or so ahead, you’ll be able to stay on track.
Step 7: Tweak, tweak, and tweak some more.
What? You thought you were done planning? Oh no, this was just the beginning!
As you move through each week of the school year, you’ll spend more time than you planned for on some lessons, and less time on others. You’ll need to adjust for sicknesses and unexpected events. You may find that a book or an approach just isn’t working and decide to scrap it in favor of something else. You may find an amazing resource you want to add into the mix.
Planning is an ongoing process—and that’s the beauty of homeschooling. Rather than being forced to try and finish things by a certain date, or being stuck in an approach or a curriculum that’s not working, you’re free to do whatever it takes to make sure your children get the very best education for them. And once you’ve gotten through the year, and found out what worked and what didn’t...it’ll be time to start the planning process all over again!