I never trained as a teacher. When I see a lesson plan, I want to run away (and I usually do). I never buy the teacher’s book of anything: I know I won’t have the patience to go through it.
When I started off with my 3 year old, I used to overplan and overthink. I expected myself to create every single resource from scratch for it to be adequately tailored to my child (madness). I would write down everything in a lot of detail, including reflections on what the benefits of each detail would be.
After having poured my heart and soul into writing that in depth, lesson “plan” (more like a big long essay), my son would do the activity in 40 seconds and move on. I would then proceed to torture myself with self doubt (Am I hopelessly inept at this? Is there something wrong with this kid?).
After that, I resorted to “winging it”. Not so much by choice, but rather because the idea of a homeschool plan scared me:
What if I don’t stick with it?
How do I even write a homeschool plan?
As for the first question, I can only promise that, should you decide that total spontaneity works best for your family, I won’t rat you out to the planning police.
As for “How” you plan your homeschooling, I shall give you some simple principles to get it done in a minimal, doable, not overwhelming fashion.
Despite an innate tendency to bite off more than I can chew, I have to say that – alhamdulillah – if the last 8 years of homeschooling have taught me anything, it is the importance of keeping it simple.
So, here are some steps to create a simple plan for your homeschool: not too rigid or too detailed, but an amazing tool for the day to run much more smoothly!
I can write this post with all my heart, especially after having attempted to homeschool for one week without a planner. It It was an experiment and it turned out to be – how shall I put it? – the opposite of fun.
How to plan your homeschool year
It may seem a very big task to the novice but, generally speaking, it all boils down to answering the following:
- What will you use?
- How many weeks will you homeschool in the year?
- How many units/lessons does each subject have?
This way of planning will NOT tell you from now what exactly you will be doing at precisely 10.27 on the second Wednesday of June. However, it will help you visualise how long it is likely to take you to complete the resources you have chosen and, on a weekly basis, it will make it easier for you to be productive and to take in how much you actually do.
So, let’s get started!
1. Lists are your friends
I love lists. Not only because they give you a chance to use that awesome adult stationary that you hide from the children. The way I see it, making lists is the first step to organize ideas and come up with new ones too! What should you list? For each child make a list of:
- Core subject (keep it minimal!);
- Extra subjects (you might rotate them through the year);
- Topics or subjects your child wants to learn about;
- Resources you will use for each subject (books, websites, subscription sites, videos, activities, tutors, clubs, coops etc…). List ONLY what you actually plan to use!
- If you have a small child, you may want to list activities rather than subjects (such as book bags, sensory play, tray activities, life skills activities, games etc…). For each activity, list the materials you will need. Tick off the ones you already have.
- List books you want to read aloud with your children or include in your morning basket (or, if you are like us, in your Evening Basket)
Later you will divide and allocate everything you have listed in a portion of your homeschool year, but first, what exactly is your “homeschool year”?
2. Define your homeschooling time
This task will help you take stock of what your “school year/week/day” will look like. You need to know this in order to know what you can fit in them.
- Your year: Have a year at a glance calendar in front of you for this (you can find many free printable ones online, this one for 2019 and 2020 is pretty too).
Cross out all holidays/celebrations/trips you know you are going to take and all days you already know you will not be homeschooling.
See how many weeks of homeschooling you have left. TA DA! there’s your homeschool year.
- Your week: How many days a week do you plan to homeschool? Which day(s) will you have as days off?
- Your typical day: While I do not recommend using a schedule as such, it might help to know roughly what is your time block for homeschooling (only morning? Morning and afternoon? Whenever we feel like it as long as we do at least x hours? Or as long as it takes to do x amount of work?…)
The point of this exercise is to see how much time you have each week to fill with what you would like to study with your children.
Remember that life happens: setbacks are encountered, ideas change and opportunities arise. Let this be a helpful tool and a source of peace of mind for you, rather than something you must achieve at all costs and will cause you a sense of failure if you don’t. The planner is not the boss of you!
3. Distribute your resources through your year
Do this part of the planning with your resources opened in front of you. See in how many lessons/chapters each resource breaks down into and make a note of it.
Assign each of those portions to a time chunk (a chapter a week/ a lesson a day/ etc.).
This is not to become something that you must abide by, but rather a general indication of where you could be in the maths book in 6 months and how long it could take to complete that science book you do twice a week.
With the passing of the days and weeks, you will see what works and what you may need to adjust.
4. A week at a time
This is the part I find most beneficial and that I actually stick to the most.
While I was writing this post, I did have a go at designing my own weekly planner (which you can download and print for free to your heart’s content); however, until this moment I very happily used one of the pages from the beautiful and super useful planner by A Muslim Homeschool to plan my children’s weekly lessons (or most of them).
Click here to DOWNLOAD my FREE HOMESCHOOL WEEKLY PLANNER in 43 colours (+ a monochrome option) and print as many copies as you will need.
In the top row of boxes I write the days of the week (in my house, we usually start on Saturday and end on Wednesday, but that’s entirely up to you). In the first column to the left I fill in the boxes with the subject names. Typically I use one sheet for both my older kids, split horizontally and colour coded in their respective favourite colour.
I fill in the row for each subject by opening the book or other resource I am using and allocating portions of it to each day I intend to teach that subject. How big a portion depends on various factors such as how hard the child would find that task and how much work you intend to assign for the other topics that day.
Not everything needs to be planned, there are non-core subjects that I consider ok for my children to do as they feel like it.
I think of this weekly plan as something that – if for some reason I was not available – my children (or husband) could pick up and follow to complete an adequate day of “school” work.
I rarely plan our lessons for more than a week at a time because, if you don’t complete everything and something needs to roll over, I would find it too much of a mess to amend everything (the domino effect! I don’t know how some people lesson plan for a whole year).
5. Apply wisdom
- Be moderate in your expectation: If you want your child to study 10 different subjects as well as train as a gourmet chef, be a professional athlete and maybe sometimes eat, sleep and play, do not expect her to do an hour of each per day.
- If you have never homeschooled or taught (or learned) in a 1:1 setting before, know that, what takes an hour to accomplish in a class of 20 children, only takes a small fraction of that time with 1 or 2.
- How much work should you plan per day? Consider what the child in question is able to achieve and how much it is appropriate to “push” him.
- Don’t forget to facture in any other scheduled activity outside the home (don’t fill her days excessively).
- Be mindful of his emotional state. Children sometimes go through particularly sensitive patches; they might have a lot in their head. You must take that into account and to go easy on him at times. On the other hand, they can also get complacent, bored or a little lazy and therefore need a fresh challenge.
- Observe and adjust accordingly: If your child consistently cannot go through the amount of work you set for her, it might very well mean your expectation are excessive.
Having this kind of planning in place has massively improved our homeschool: We are more productive, there is a lot less stress and frustration (usually generated by not knowing what is going on!) and – last but not least – going through all the pages of completed weekly plans gives the frazzled, insecure, guilt-ridden homeschooling mom a well deserved boost of confidence!
What about you?
How do you make planning work for you?