It’s that time of the year. The time when Wal-mart clears away the picnic baskets and beach towels and rolls in massive towers of glue sticks and spiral bound notebooks. Ah, the smell of new curriculum and sharpened pencils completely excites me. No really. As a former teacher, I could hardly wait for each new year to start! I loved spending the summer planning, changing, evaluating and even writing new units to study. Absolutely none of that changed when I became a homeschool mom. I still love the start of the new year! There is little more exciting than planning your homeschool year!
While it’s still 1000 degrees and the popsicles are melting before they come out of the package, make good use of your air conditioner and get ready for next year! For as the saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail!
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs (29:18)
Today I’m going to share with you a 10 step plan that will get you totally excited about planning your homeschool year. It’s not gospel or fail proof, by any means. But it has worked for me and many others and adds great potential to your homeschool.
I’m not counting this as official step, because you will likely want to pray before every one of these steps. But, I can’t make suggestions on planning a school year without pointing out how important it is to make sure that you allow God to order your steps. He has great purpose in your homeschool!
Set overall goals
Goals are the SINGLE most important factor of success. Do you have clearly defined goals for your homeschool? Do you know why you are doing this? Where you want your students to be in 10 years? What you want them to leave your home with?
Yes, even if you only have a kindergartener or if you are a seasoned veteran of 20 years, knowing where you are headed is crucial. So don’t neglect this step. I highly recommend writing down your goal(s) and posting them somewhere. When burn-out rears it’s ugly head, you can glance at your goals and remember why you are doing this.
If you need help with this step, check out this great series on homeschool goal setting.
Confirm that your methods meet your goals
I don’t like to put myself in a box and often picking a method feels that way. But a method isn’t the law, it’s more of a backbone, a support system of things that you enjoy doing in your homeschool. Our backbone method is classical mixed Charlotte Mason, but I reserve the right to use any method I like to get a point across! While I imagine you would like that right too, I would still humbly suggest that you consider choosing a “backbone” method. Something that generally defines the methods that you prefer. It just makes selection of curriculum much easier.
Evaluate last year
Jot down the answers to these questions and really pray over what went well this past year and what needs improvement.
How did I MEET these goals?
In what ways did I FAIL to meet these goals?
Is there an activity, curriculum or method that needs to be removed?
Is there something that was lacking?
Is there something that I need to fit in so that I can better meet my goals?
The point of this is not to stress you or the kids out. But it’s great to see how much progress you’ve made. Standardize testing honestly tells you very little about how your child is doing. Informal assessments provide much better information. And they help to identify areas that you might need to improve in. You can find various assessments to meet your specific needs all over the internet. But here are a few ideas to get you started.
This Reading Mama has a great list of reading assessments.
State of North Carolina offers end of the year math assessments.
Assessment Tools by How to Homeschool Today has a great list of available resources.
Pre-K Printable Assessments has several simple printables for those little guys.
After I assess the students, I record it all on one sheet to keep for their records. I love this, because there is ALWAYS progress and it’s so fun to see.
Set your annual schedule
This is not a mandatory step, because you can easily determine this as you go. But many homeschool moms prefer to establish terms and breaks at the start of the year. You can use this Printable School Year Calendar and color code your breaks or holidays.
In my state, I am required to chart 180 days, so this is one way to make sure we get those in without having to do school in July!
Decide on a planner that works for you
You need a planner that works for you. Plain and simple. If you don’t like it, you won’t use it. So, I believe this is a crucial area of research. Find something that you can fall in love with.
I have used every kind of planner out there.
Scholaric was one of my favorites for a very long time. It’s a paper planner…online. There are no lengthy columns or boxes to check and fill out. I simply type in my plans and it records them. Each Monday, I print out a check-off sheet for the kids to complete for the week. The sheet includes lessons and notes for each day. It’s beautiful.
These days, I no longer use a parent planner. I rely more on the weekly checklist.
Schedule a planning day or weekend
If you can get away from it all and devote a day or weekend to planning, you will not regret it. There are lots of details to be worked out and having done some pre-planning will help you move more smoothly into the new year. Use this time to set a daily schedule and plan the course of your year (details below). You can also use this time to decide on unit studies, nature studies, or literature selections for the year. Make a list of what you’d like to cover and plug them in
Set your daily schedule or routine
Don’t be intimidated by a schedule. You can make one to fit your needs. Even if you prefer spontaneity, a routine really will help your kids and your homeschool function more effectively. Believe me, putting a schedule on paper does not tie you down or force you into anything. As mom, you still have complete veto power.
Our homeschool schedule has taken years to perfect. We need flexibility and structure all at the same time.
Need ideas? Amy from Raising Arrows walks you through a To do list- Schedule or Routine to help you set up a schedule or routine. You should also check out these homeschooling moms’ sample schedules… Guide: How to Plan your day by Meet Penny and What’s a typical day like? by Confessions of a Homeschooler.
Plan the course
Open that new curriculum that you got at your favorite homeschool convention and get out the scope and sequence or teacher’s manuals. Decide how much you hope to finish and divide that by the number of days that you will spend on that subject. For example, if I want to complete Math 1 this year and it has 180 lessons, then I will need to do math 4 days a week in order to finish the book by the end of May. If you completed the annual plan above, you will know exactly how many school days you have planned. But even if you don’t you can guess.
Congratulations! Now you know how much to cover each week. For the WHOLE year! This makes planning each week very simple.
Organize the room
One might think that your room should have been organized already, but I like to do this at the end. Every year I change enough in my homeschool that I need to rethink how shelves and other parts of our schooling area are used and organized. So it’s a good idea to do your planning first. I walk you through our entire school set up in my simple homeschool post.
Make a list of needed supplies so you can take advantage of the sales
As you know, the best prices on school supplies are during back to school sales. Take advantage of these sales by making a list of the needed supplies while you are planning for the year and organizing your room. There won’t be any last minute fumbling for glue sticks and rules in March if you stick up now. You can see my top 10 must-haves here.