3 Simple Strategies for Planning Your Best Homeschool Year

3 Simple Strategies for Planning Your Best Homeschool Year

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.

How to Plan Your Homeschool Year

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE or SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES or ON STITCHER

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.

 

read more
The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

You spent so much time organizing the books, supplies, and notebooks at back-to-school time and now…they’re a mess.

The kids can’t find their notebook, binder, or workbox that you knew would solve all your organizing problems. And for that matter, they can’t even find a pencil!

Your toddler has gotten into the art supplies because your older child left the cabinet unlocked. To top it off, your preschooler has mixed up all the pieces for those 40 great learning kits you created.

Or maybe that was just me. I would tell myself that I’d find the hacks I needed to fix everything over Christmas break, when I would have so much extra time. Ha ha ha. I don’t have to tell you how that worked out, do I? As winter turned into spring, I would give myself the same pep talk. Come summer, I would figure out how to get and keep my homeschool organized. No matter how determined I was, the cycle kept repeating.
The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

 

If you’ve struggled to get your homeschool organized and keep it that way, one explanation is because you think organizing is a once-a-year event. After 16 years of homeschooling, I’ve learned that it isn’t. In fact, I’ve learned that the best homeschool hack is to organize all year. Here are three reasons why:

1. You’re Not Just Organizing Your Homeschool; You’re Organizing Your Life

As a homeschooling mother, you know you’re more than a teacher. You’re the cook, janitor, technology director, homeroom mom, field trip chaperone, and much, much more. Yet we often approach organizing our homeschools as though we were only a teacher. Once the classroom and lesson plans are organized, we think we’re done. Wrong!

In order to have the peaceful, organized homeschool we desire, we have to organize our entire homeschool life: meal planning, housekeeping, computers, parties, and trips. There is more to do than you could possibly finish in a summer organizing session.

Because you’re organizing your whole life, you will also have tasks that must be done in season. Holiday planning, outdoor activities, and purchasing items at their lowest price are examples of to-do’s that can’t be completed in one organizing session in the summer. Not being prepared for seasonal activities is a source of stress that none of us needs.

The Organized Homeschool Life

2. Organizing Isn’t a Skill; It’s a Habit

We say we didn’t get the organizing gift and we don’t know how to make our school rooms and homes look Pinterest-beautiful. But the pretty bins and baskets we ogle are primarily the result of the skill of decorating–not organizing.

We can definitely be overwhelmed and need help from an experienced homeschooler in scheduling our days, planning lessons, and arranging our space. But that skill (that honestly comes primarily from experience and not genetics) is a very small part of homeschool organization. Organization that lasts is because of the habits you have. 

As a psychologist, I’ve been exposed to the let’s-analyze-why-you-don’t-have-good-habits philosophy and I can tell you it doesn’t get you the organization you want. Maybe your home was a very disorganized place and you didn’t learn good housekeeping habits. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn them. Keep doing the same small things in exactly the same way every day (as I did with flossing my teeth) and in short order, you will have developed a habit. If we try to organize once a year, we will not develop the habit that will keep our homeschools and lives organized.

3. Organizing Isn’t Static; It’s Responsive

We started homeschooling in part because we wanted an education that fit our student’s needs. In fact, learning how to teach to our child’s strengths and interests can be one of the most rewarding aspects of homeschooling. It’s tempting to sigh with relief that we’ve found the curriculum, the environment, and the activities that work for our child. We got organized and now we’re done.

But then things change. A new baby is born. A learning challenge is uncovered. Puberty happens. Our homeschool has to respond to these changes. A once-a-year organizing session can’t address your family’s needs in a timely fashion. Waiting to address them can threaten your and your family’s commitment to continue homeschooling.

Static, once-a-year organizing can also lead to perfectionism and procrastination. We wait to address a problem until we have lots of time (summer?) and the perfect solution. Procrastination can lead to disappointment, frustration, and discouragement. In contrast, organizing all year means we find practical, if not perfect, solutions to the challenges we have in our homeschools and families now.

But How Can We Organize All Year Long?

Perhaps you agree with me that you should organize all year long so you can organize your whole life, develop the habit of organizing, and be responsive to your family’s changing needs. Your next question may be, “How do I do that?”

That was honestly my question. Over the years, I learned many of the things that I should do to make my homeschool and home more peaceful and effective, but I didn’t know where to start. So I started brainstorming. I made a list of everything I thought would lead to more sanity and put it on the calendar for the week it made sense to do it. I broke each of those organizing challenges into daily missions that took about 15 minutes. Then I looked for ideas and resources that would help me complete those challenges.

It made organizing all year long seem so simple! And it specifically addressed my unique needs as a homeschooler. But I didn’t want to be selfish with it. I knew this simplified approach to homeschool life organization could help other homeschoolers, whether they were new or experienced. So I put it in book form. The Organized Homeschool Life will take you to homeschool sanity week by week. You can have a more organized life no matter what time of year it is. It’s available now.

Learn More

 

read more
The Core Curriculum Prep Challenge: Week 30

The Core Curriculum Prep Challenge: Week 30

The core curriculum prep challenge. Get ready to teach the major subjects in your homeschool.By core curriculum, I mean either a complete curriculum, like My Father’s World, or core subjects like math, language arts, science, and social studies. This could be a busy week or an easy one, depending on what curriculum you are using in the next year. We will go through the same process we went through with special studies, so we are organized early.

#1 Set up system of organization

You may or may not need an organizational system for each subject. If you didn’t do the  planning challenge, you may need to make sure lessons are noted in your child’s planners and books are accessible to him.

#2 Research

This is the day to do research for ideas or materials you need to make your core subjects excellent. For example, I will be researching videos to add to my Mystery of History playlist on YouTube. I have to get busy on Volume II. As with special studies, you may want to see if someone has done the work for you, coming up with crafts, videos, songs, experiments, etc. to go with your chosen core curriculum. Organize your research digitally or using binders / file folders.

#3 Plan

Plan each subject, if necessary. I say “if necessary” because many subjects can be taught as written in the curriculum, with no extra planning necessary. If you need to plan in detail, consider creating an undated plan that you can add to a dated planner one week at a time. Nothing is more frustrating than creating all these dated lessons, only to get off schedule. Again, keep it simple. It’s much easier to add ideas than it is to delete them and still feel like you’re on top of your schooling. Extra time allows for some delight-directed learning, too. I love it when we do history and the kids ask to spend time learning more about a subject.

#4 Shop / List Materials

Purchase what you need for core curriculum now, if you haven’t already. Things lab kits and craft supplies are appropriate here. Be sure to read the Special Study Prep challenge for more on this. You may wish to delay purchasing basic school supplies until they are on sale or have no sales tax (if your area has this weekend).

Here is the July Organized Homeschool Calendar and a list of previous weeks’ challenges:

 

Daily missions to organize your homeschool July 2014

Organized Homeschool Challenge

Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge

Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge

Week 3: To-Do List Challenge

Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge

Week 5: The Decluttering Challenge

Week 6: The Organized Computer Challenge

 Week 7: The Marriage of Your Dreams Challenge

Week 8: The Confident Parent Challenge

Week 9: The Extended Family Challenge

Week 10: The Bring on the Spring Challenge

Week 11: The Spring Cleaning Challenge

Week 12: The Organized Easter Challenge

Week 13: The Serve the Church Challenge

Week 14: The Chore Challenge

Week 15: The Organize Your Finances Challenge

Week 16: The Curriculum Challenge

Week 17: The Friendship Challenge

Week 18: The Family Celebrations Challenge

Week 19: The Organized Clothing Challenge

Week 20: The Organized Vacation Challenge

Week 21: The Organized Summer Challenge

Week 22: The Outdoor Activity Challenge

Week 23: The Used Curriculum Challenge

Week 24: The Homeschool Space Challenge

Week 25: The Goal Setting Challenge

Week 26: The Homeschool Planning Challenge

Week 27: The Bible Time Challenge

Week 28: The Special Study Prep Challenge

read more
The Homeschool Planning Challenge: Week 26

The Homeschool Planning Challenge: Week 26

Start planning now for your best school year ever with these easy missions.

Last week, we planned our goals for the school year. This week, we will begin the rest of our planning so the summer doesn’t get away from us.

#1 Discuss what you want in a planner or system

What worked and didn’t work with the planner or system you used last year? Be sure to get the kids’ input! If they don’t like it, they won’t use it. And actually, that applies to us moms as well. Don’t make assumptions about what your children want in a system. I assumed my high school son would want a new “high school” planner, when what he really wanted was the same planner I set up for the other kids.

As you discuss, keep in mind that you don’t need an optimal system, but the simplest tools for getting the job done. I realized that while a digital record keeping system may be ideal for me, it included many features I didn’t need and took me way too much time. I switched to a paper planner and didn’t look back.

Confused about what kind of records you need to keep? This excellent HSLDA article will help.

#2 Research and purchase supplies

Bearing your discussions in mind, research options. If you want a list of available homeschool planners, including digital,  check out this list. If you want a paper planner, consider my easy record keeping system and A Plan in Place as their planners can be customized (this is my choice this year).  Be sure to check out my podcast on homeschool planning as well. You may also consider a Workbox system which you can learn about at Confessions of a Homeschooler. I simply have my kids’ books in crates. They remove them to work on them and then mark the work completed on their planner.

You will also want to create a system for saving kids’ work. Two options to consider are binders and file folders. Bright Ideas Press has fantastic ideas about what to include in end-of-year binders. I use the file folder approach, keeping this year’s work in files in a school tote and previous year’s work in file boxes stored in my school room. Check out this post for more. Neither option is very expensive, but both are effective.

#3 Set up system for materials

Once you know how you will set up your children’s school work and you have what you need, organize that today. As soon as I have my children’s books in, I have the kids label them with their names. This is my favorite label maker. If you are using a workbox system, you will need to spend more time labeling the boxes.

#4 Set up system for records

Once you have your binders or folders for storing records, print covers or labels. I love the printables I shared here. Each summer I print file labels for last school year for long-term storage and labels for the new year. I also take time to pull work samples from workbooks and file them at this time. If you choose to keep digital records only (by scanning work), make sure you have a backup system in place.

What’s your favorite planning approach?

You won’t want to miss the great ideas pinned to the Organized Homeschool board!

Here is a list of previous challenges (can you believe the year is half over?) :

 

Organized Homeschool Challenge

Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge

Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge

Week 3: To-Do List Challenge

Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge

Week 5: The Decluttering Challenge

Week 6: The Organized Computer Challenge

 Week 7: The Marriage of Your Dreams Challenge

Week 8: The Confident Parent Challenge

Week 9: The Extended Family Challenge

Week 10: The Bring on the Spring Challenge

Week 11: The Spring Cleaning Challenge

Week 12: The Organized Easter Challenge

Week 13: The Serve the Church Challenge

Week 14: The Chore Challenge

Week 15: The Organize Your Finances Challenge

Week 16: The Curriculum Challenge

Week 17: The Friendship Challenge

Week 18: The Family Celebrations Challenge

Week 19: The Organized Clothing Challenge

Week 20: The Organized Vacation Challenge

Week 21: The Organized Summer Challenge

Week 22: The Outdoor Activity Challenge

Week 23: The Used Curriculum Challenge

Week 24: The Homeschool Space Challenge

Week 25: The Goal Setting Challenge

read more
The Organized Summer Challenge: Week 21

The Organized Summer Challenge: Week 21

Squeeze every precious moment from this summer by getting organized. Part of the 52-Week Organized Homeschool Challenge

If you’re like most homeschoolers I know, you love summer! You have the freedom to be more relaxed about school, many extra-curricular activities are on break, and you can enjoy the outdoors with your family.

The problem is, we imagine we’ll be able to do so many things with our extra time and then the summer seems to fly by. We can end up disappointed. This week we’ll get organized to make the most of this season.

#1 Discuss last summer’s likes and dislikes

Have a family discussion about what worked and what didn’t last year. What was super fun that you want to repeat and what did you miss out on that you need to plan for?

#2 Complete a summer bucket list

Use your discussion to come up with a summer bucket list for your family. I like this list that is broken down by category, expense, and time required. I really love these lists from 3Dinosaurs that can engage our kids in drawing or hand writing their bucket lists.

#3 Plan summer activities with others

We do a lot of entertaining in the summer and it can become overwhelming if we don’t pencil in some dates and extend invitations.

It’s also important to schedule plans with the kids’ friends. If you don’t, “sometime” will become never.

#4 Plan summer school

Even if you take the summers off like we do, you’ll want to spend some time planning educational activities. We don’t want our students to allow their skills to get rusty from disuse. I want to make sure my kids do Summer Bridge activities, practice their instruments, read, and write.

Homeschool Planning made simple. These planners from A Plan in Place make summer and school year planning not only easy, but fun!

I found the perfect tool for this: A Plan in Place Summer Planners. These are part student planner, part memory book, which will ensure that the summer doesn’t disappear unnoticed. I interviewed the two homeschool moms who created the summer planners for The Homeschool Sanity Show. You’ll love their tips for planning the summer AND the school year. I can’t wait to get my hands on a customized teacher and student planner from them for the fall, too. I am not an affiliate for A Plan in Place. I just love that they understand homeschool moms’ planning needs. I think you will, too.

Besides enjoying time with friends and family outside, I am really wanting to finish a first draft of a language arts curriculum I am creating. What are you really wanting to do this summer?

Be sure to follow the Organized Homeschool board on Pinterest so you don’t miss any organizing goodies!

Here is this month’s printable get-organized homeschool calendar and a list of previous challenges.

May 2014 Get Organized Homeschool Calendar

Organized Homeschool Challenge

Week 1: Daily Devotions Challenge

Week 2: Daily Routine Challenge

Week 3: To-Do List Challenge

Week 4: Memory Keeping Challenge

Week 5: The Decluttering Challenge

Week 6: The Organized Computer Challenge

 Week 7: The Marriage of Your Dreams Challenge

Week 8: The Confident Parent Challenge

Week 9: The Extended Family Challenge

Week 10: The Bring on the Spring Challenge

Week 11: The Spring Cleaning Challenge

Week 12: The Organized Easter Challenge

Week 13: The Serve the Church Challenge

Week 14: The Chore Challenge

Week 15: The Organize Your Finances Challenge

Week 16: The Curriculum Challenge

Week 17: The Friendship Challenge

Week 18: The Family Celebrations Challenge

Week 19: The Organized Clothing Challenge

Week 20: The Organized Vacation Challenge

read more

Pin It on Pinterest