This is the time of year when we homeschoolers consider what worked and what didn’t in our homeschools. We want to plan to have the best homeschool year possible. There are three simple strategies for homeschool planning.
Ask yourself why and why not
The first step isn’t purchasing a new planner or learning a new program. Instead, it is to ask yourself why and why not. First, consider your best homeschool day. By that I mean to choose a typical homeschool day that went really, really well. Envision it as clearly as you can and then try to determine what it was that made it so good. Was it scheduled? Did everyone go to bed on time the night before? Did you exercise before you started your day? Did you do devotions first thing? What were your children’s attitudes? What material were you studying? How were you learning it? Were you working as a family? Were you doing individual tutoring? Were you going with the flow and learning as you felt led? Perhaps you included a field trip or spent some time outside.
Our natural tendency when something out of the ordinary goes well is to think that we can’t do it on a regular basis. Allow me to explain. If you had an amazing homeschool day because your children begged you to keep reading a book they love and you did it, you may think that doing this on a regular basis isn’t realistic. If you took an unschooling approach to the day, you may think that you cannot meet your homeschool goals that way. Or perhaps you relaxed the rules and ended up having a great day. Ask yourself why not. Why can’t you continue to do the things that work? I find it helpful to actually say ‘why not’ out loud. Perhaps your answer is someone wouldn’t approve. Whose approval do you need to homeschool your children in a way that works? Perhaps you have very real regulations that you have to abide by. Is there a way that you could continue to have great homeschool days and still meet those rules? I encourage you to ask a veteran homeschooler who knows you and knows the laws of your state about your homeschooling practices. Ask how you can continue to have more great homeschool days.
In the same way, consider one of your worst homeschool days. Really picture it in your mind. What was it that led to this disastrous day? Did you have cranky kids because they hadn’t gotten enough sleep? Were you cranky for the same reason? Were you pushing your children to do something because you were worried about what someone else was going to think? Did you continue to insist that your child complete a certain curriculum or use a certain approach that ended badly? If you aren’t sure what led to that no good, very bad day, ask your children if they can remember. Our children are often very good at being able to tell us what isn’t working. We just have to be willing to listen.
After you have considered all of the aspects of the day that led to its demise, ask yourself if you have to do things the same way in the future. If you believe that you have to keep using the same curriculum or completing the same classes or keeping the same schedule, ask yourself why do I have to? Whose expectation are you trying to meet? Is it truly a rule that you must keep? Are there activities that you absolutely must engage in, or are there activities that you could let go of in this season? By asking ourselves why not when it comes to activities that work and why for activities that don’t work, we can come up with an excellent homeschool plan. The truth is there are many homeschoolers who would not approve of how I homeschool my children. But I no longer care! Homeschooling the way that we do it works for us. And with God’s blessing and obedience to the law of my state, I don’t have anything to apologize for.
Establish routines that work
The second step to take when planning your homeschool year is to establish routines that work. Most likely the homeschool day that was ideal for you involved healthy routines. You got enough sleep, you didn’t have a meal at 10 o’clock at night, and you felt in control. The best way to realize the goals that you have for your homeschool this year is to establish routines. I had FLYLady (a.k.a. Marla Cilley) on my podcast talking about the power of routines. The lack of routine is what threatened to destroy my homeschooling when I had barely begun. No one had ever told me about the power of unloading the dishwasher at the same time every day, the power of insisting children do chores every morning, or the power of having a consistent bedtime. All of those things and more made homeschooling possible for me and even made having more children possible.
A routine change you should consider, if you haven’t already, is doing family school time together in the morning. I have done this for years. Some of our family time activities include prayer, Bible time, history, vocabulary, and read alouds. The content has varied over the years, but the routine of beginning our school day together has been a part of o our ideal homeschool days for years. When we are finished, my kids do individual work and I can help with individual subjects.
A second routine change to consider is cleaning up after every subject. When your schoolroom and your home are in order, you feel better about what you’re doing. FLYLady discussed this in a podcast episode on getting organized.
A third routine to add is scheduling time for the weekly organizing challenge of the week from The Organized Homeschool Life. Last year I tried to do my organizing challenge during our regular chore time. I usually got so into the challenge that I wasn’t supervising the kids’ chores. Let me tell you, the kids need supervising! This year I will be spending an hour per challenge on Saturdays.
Plan the quarter
The final step in planning your homeschool year is to plan the quarter. What we often try to do in our perfectionism and desire for control is plan the entire year. I’ve spoken before about the recipe for frustration this is. Listen to the podcast episode I did with the creators of A Plan in Place planners for more on that. I have also spoken before about how motivating it is for my children to have a short list of assignments to complete before they can earn a break. Planning quarterly has allowed me to give my children that motivation all school year. I created a quarterly homeschool planner that you can find in the show notes. I recently began using Trello to plan my children’s quarter. I created a Periscope broadcast where I showed how I set it up. Things change so often. Kids get sick, the unexpected comes up, and planning an entire year is not wise.
With a new homeschool plan, 2017 can be a very blessed year. What’s on your new homeschool plan? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.