One of the things I struggled the most with when I began homeschooling was what one would have thought was the simplest - planning. I honestly thought that that would be the easy part - that I would basically just start each book at the beginning and continue throughout each day til the end of the school year. Ooh how naive I was!!
We are in our third year of homeschooling and if I want to be completely honest with you, it was only since January of this year that I actually learned how to plan ahead of time and keep those plans organized. Most importantly, it's taken me those three years (actually, four if you count how miserably I failed teaching my son Kindergarten and decided to hold him back!!) to actually follow that schedule and now have it completely thrown out the window in the first week.
These are a few tricks that I have learned over the last few years that can hopefully help you with your planning as well.
#1 Don't Wait Til the Last Minute
There's nothing more unnerving then to spend your Sunday night frantically trying to figure out a lesson plan for the next morning, or figure out how your going to do a certain activity without a necessary ingredient that you just realized you need. I've been there, I know how it is.
I try to schedule my school weeks at least 3 weeks in advanced, sometimes more. By scheduling a few weeks in advance, it allows me to make sure I have all materials needed for special projects or to allow time to get those materials before I need them.
#2 Allow for Uninterrupted Time for Planning
Sometimes, this one is easier said than done... But it is very hard to make a lesson plan with three kids
screaming "MOM!! She's looking at meeeeee!!" every 5 minutes. Because I do plan lessons a few weeks in advance, that allows me to only need to spend about 30 minutes each week to schedule for the following week. Typically, I can accomplish this while catching up on TV shows once the kids are asleep but there are times I can get my husband to watch the kids for 30 minutes so I can sit at the Starbucks nearby, enjoy a latte macchiato or a white chocolate mocha and knock out my planning while enjoying some me time without the stress of interruptions. While my initial planning might take me a few days to schedule out, once I have the backbone of my planning done, 30 minutes is more than enough time to knock out what I need and be done with it.
#3 Research and then Purchase a Good Planner
There are MANY planners on the market right now, from the luxury of the Erin Condren style planner to a simple Walmart special and even a print your own planner, and no two people use any of these planners in the same way. To complicate it even more, there are many various digital planners available online. Some of these various planners are generally designed for classroom teachers while others are very specifically designed for the needs of a homeschool class. Before purchasing a planner sight unseen from a website, be sure to read reviews and look at their sample pages to see which style you like, sign up for the free trials for the digital programs and check out how they work. Once you find the planner that fits your style, it will make things so much easier.
#4 Create You Planner's Backbone
In almost every planner, there are weekly scheduling pages that have a column on the top and another column on the side. I call the side column my planner's "backbone" and this is where I line up the subjects that I plan on teaching each week. As these subjects do not change and they stay consistent, they help me to make sure I have scheduled all necessary courses each week. My current "backbone" schedules as : 1.Spelling/Phonics/Reading and Poetry, 2. Math 3. Handwriting, Copywork and Foreign Language 4. Natural History/Science/Nature/Bible 5. History and Tales 6. Literature and Tales and 7. Geography/Music/Art . By having this backbone, I am able to see if I have too much planned for one day or not enough planned on the next day. It also allows me to quickly fill in the next week by following the same format each time I plan.
#5 Keep Two Planners
I keep two planners at all times - my "ugly" planner and my official planner. The "ugly" planner is basically my rough draft planning. In it, I write down all that I want to do each week, the projects I hope to fit in, ect. The Official planner is what I use to write down what we actually did at the end of each day. Typically, I use a printable planner (I got mine as part of my membership from SchoolhouseTeachers.com) and I will just print out a few weeks at a time and I save my store bought planner as my official planner. The "ugly" planner allows for me to make spur of the moment adjustments while avoiding having to mark out or make corrections in the other planner. That way, if I am ever asked to show documentation as to what the kids worked on throughout the school year, I have a planner that shows EXACTLY what was accomplished on each day.
#6 Keep On Track By Checking Off Things As You Go
Once I have my weeks scheduled out, I do my best to follow what I've scheduled. As we complete each task, I always put a check mark next to the assignment in my planner to know that it's completed. This keeps me from accidentally skipping over something absentmindedly. At the end of the day, I double check to make sure everything either has a check next to it, a circle indicating that I need to fill it in elsewhere during the week, or boxed to show that we started it but I need to allow for a few minutes the following day to allow for completion.
Everyone finds their own way of doing things when it comes to planning, but hopefully a few of these tips will help make planning your homeschool year less of a chore. And be sure to check out many of the other postings from the Crew today as they each give their own suggestions, recommendations and helpful tips on Planning as well.