Our Best Homeschool Planning Tips
It’s Back to School time, and we’ve been getting a lot of requests for planning ideas and advice. Homeschool planning is often one of the most challenging yet essential steps of donning the teacher hat for your child. We like to think of July and August as “Back to Homeschool” as a reminder that the year can be full of creativity!
However, because I am a homeschool mom, what we do each year is down to me. Whether I plan or not…whether we learn certain concepts or not…whether we use different curricula or not. To be honest, sometimes it can feel overwhelming.
But, over the last 15 years of homeschooling, I have learned one important thing: I absolutely have to make a plan! If we don’t have a plan, we are sunk!
Yes, planning takes time.
No, homeschool planning is not easy… But, it can be simplified.
Here’s how I create our yearly homeschool plans. You’ll learn about:
- Tried & True Homeschool Planning Tips
- 5 Simple Steps to Homeschool Planning
- The Best Resources for Homeschool Planning
Tried & True Homeschool Planning Tips
In this video, I’m going to share with you my process for making my yearly calendar overview. This overview includes my BIG yearly goals down to my weekly plans.
My process is pretty simple, but one thing I found makes it easier is using these Sanity Saver Planner pages. They are simple and straightforward as well and will focus on what needs to be accomplished.
If I could only give you one tip, it’d be to keep your homeschool plan simple. A basic plan leaves room for exploration!
Those “blank spaces” on your planner will always fill up, trust me!
If you’re interested in grabbing the Sanity Saver planner to help with creating your goals and, of course, ultimately your yearly plan, you can download the printable planner for FREE here. As far as the best homeschool planners go, this one is my favorite homeschool organizer! And, since it’s a PDF, you can print as many copies of any page as needed! You know this comes in handy for my large homeschooling family!
Before you start your homeschool planning, there are a few things you need to know. Here are my top tips from personal experience with homeschooling six kiddos!
- Write down the “absolute must” subjects. These are the courses you’ll need to make sure get done even if nothing else is. In states without many regulations, this may not be as much of a concern. However, with states requiring attendance and portfolio review, have a backup plan for those off-days when homeschooling is a struggle. My suggestions? Free math worksheets, free vocabulary and spelling games, and read-alouds from the year’s literature list (these links will take you away from HS.com).
- Ask your kids what they want to learn. Involving your children is a great way to inspire motivation and engagement! Ask what topics they are interested in, where do they want to visit for field trips, what they liked best about their schoolwork the year before, and so on. Do they want to learn about space? Learn how to play the guitar? Learn sign language? Visit an aquarium? Try to consider their preferences as much as possible.
- Create a curriculum list by subject. In your planner or even just a notebook, notate which curriculum you’ll be using to teach each subject. This is just a guide so you have everything in one place. Sometimes you’ll be using a different curriculum for each subject, or different programs per student, so this will keep it all straight!
- Include electives or “extras.” When you’re focusing on the requirements and creating a manageable schedule, it can be easy to forget those “extras” that inject extra joy into your homeschool. So, here’s your reminder to include arts & crafts, music, celebrations/holidays, nature studies, and fun days for field trips, swimming, movie marathons, fort-building, gameschooling, and so on. Another important option to consider is whether you’ll want to do any unit studies.
- Take the curriculum for a test drive. You’ll have to try a curriculum to know if it works for your family! Ask for a free trial, free samples, free downloads, or a free return period when trying a new curriculum. These options will let you try out programs risk-free!
5 Simple Steps to Homeschool Planning
In my homeschooling experience, just as I’ve learned we must have a plan for the year, I’ve also learned not to over-plan. Over-planning made us miserable with its complete lack of flexibility. Beyond that, over-planning personally made it more difficult for me because I constantly had to change our daily, weekly, and monthly plans when “life” happened. (Spoiler: it always does!)
So, my #1 tip for homeschool planning? Leave a buffer for flexibility.
Consider your homeschool schedule like a framework–it’s a strong guide but you can still fill it in however you like!
Through the years, I’ve tried to pull out all the fluff and get down to exactly what I need to succeed in my homeschool planning.
I guess you could call it the “Homeschool Planning – Lite Version.”
In any case, I’ve ditched everything that I didn’t absolutely need to make a solid plan, and to my pleasant surprise, it seems to work well!
Here are my five simple steps to creating a homeschool plan. The best part about these steps is that they can be adapted to your family however needed!
- Consider your state requirements. This needs to be one of your first steps. Check your laws to make sure you are clear on attendance days, minimum school hours per day, required subjects, testing, etc.
- Think about your preferences.
- What is your child’s learning style? What motivates them? How do they learn best? Do they love technology? Are they bookworms? Knowing your child’s learning preference will help you choose learning formats most suitable for their success. Discover their learning style here.
- What kind of homeschooler will you be? Which homeschool method fits your existing lifestyle best? You can take this free quiz to find out. Knowing your ideal method will help you find a successful curriculum!
- Choose your curricula. At its core, homeschooling is about what works for your child. Mix and match the curriculum as needed. You could choose one curriculum for every subject or a different program for each–whichever works best for your family! For example, one program may work just fine with your child for math but may not work for history. That’s okay! Remember, you can switch curricula, even mid-year. You’re not married to a curriculum.
- To narrow down your options, once you know your ideal homeschool method and your child’s learning style, take this curriculum finder quiz for a quick answer!
- Divide the coursework and make a framework for the year.
- Create a year-long calendar. I do this by choosing what days we will “school” and what days we will have off. I do try to include 180 days of instruction since that is one of the regulations of my state.
- Create quarterly goals with the curriculum “scope and sequence.” I divide the content for each subject into four quarters and then align those quarters with the calendar I just created. Trying to make sure each quarter has about the same number of homeschool days and weeks in each, approximately 9 weeks in each quarter.
- Create weekly goals. I will usually have about 4 or 5 big goals for the week, and then I create my daily plans from those goals. But, I use the “KISS” method. Keep it Simple, Sweetheart!
- Create SIMPLE daily plans. I don’t create too many daily plans in advance. I find that if I plan a month in advance I spend more time erasing! Sometimes my daily plans will simply list a book for our read aloud, list page numbers for the Language Arts workbook, a book name for their personal silent reading, a lesson number for the online class, and an episode name for the YouTube history channel we are using. Simple works to keep me stress-free.
- Establish a simple daily routine or schedule. Yes, my friend, the daily routine is also part of your homeschool plan. Establishing what you do and a process for creating daily habits is part of establishing a good foundation for homeschooling. I am not one for time constraints on our schedule. In fact, in the early years I did that and every time I couldn’t meet our scheduled times, I felt like a failure. Now, we simply set down a routine or order of business for each day, and we get to it as diligently as we can. (Veteran tip!)
- Create a daily routine or schedule that suits your whole family!
The Best Resources for Homeschool Planning
You can have all the ideas in the world but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t sit down and create your plan. Even after all these years of homeschooling, I still procrastinate the physical step of opening my curriculum to start homeschool planning for the year.
No matter how much we simplify the process, it’s a big deal to create a plan for the year. It can be intimidating, despite repeating the planning process each year. It does get easier, but just know that you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed at the start. We’ve all been there. It’s okay. You can do this!
To help, here are my top favorite tools for homeschool planning. A few of these are actual homeschool schedule examples while others are advice, life hacks, or resource sites. All of these have been personally helpful to me in my homeschooling process. (Some of these links will take you away from Homeschool.com.)
Welcome to the homeschool community, by the way! It’s an amazing journey. The homeschool life is full of discovery, fun, and bonding. We are so excited to have you here and are happy to help however we can. Be sure to take a look at our How to Start Homeschooling article, subscribe to our podcast, and join our Facebook page for updates or to send us a message!
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]