Need help creating a long-term plan for learning at home? Here are 3 simple homeschool planning strategies to help you shape your big-picture and, by default, your daily homeschool rhythm.
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It’s nearly impossible to educate at home without making plans for the day-to-day aspects of homeschooling. However, as important as those logistical plans are, you can’t start there.
Instead, you have to start with the elements that guide your overall goals for homeschooling. That’s why we’re excited to share these simple homeschool planning tips with you.
These tips will help you hone in on your big-picture and use it to shape your daily homeschool life, all while saving your sanity and keeping your kids on task and moving forward.
Our Homeschool Experience
I’ve been homeschooling for seventeen years now, but I remember our first year like it was yesterday. I’ll never forget how freaked out and overwhelmed I felt!
I could just see myself fifteen years down the road, kicking myself for ruining my beautiful children. Fortunately, it didn’t happen that way.
My oldest three graduated our homeschool with associates degrees (our high school program consists of them taking university courses), near-perfect ACT scores and GPA’s. All three are currently attending university on full scholarships.
What’s even more important, all three are studying subjects they love. And all of my kids (I still have five at home) love learning enormously. That’s a weird way to put it, I know, but they do!
Simple and Sanity-Saving Homeschool Planning Tips
My confidence has grown in proportion to my experience, and that’s what I want to share with you today. My hope is that you’ll be able to apply the things I’ve learned to your own homeschool, so you can skip the overwhelm.
My planning process isn’t very fancy, but here is my tried and true method for homeschool planning, along with tips for keeping things simple:
1. Figure out your children’s learning style and the best homeschool method for your family.
Knowing your child’s learning style will make choosing curriculum easier, and it will save you money and time overall by reducing mistakes, but your eternal salvation is not resting on this.
Don’t panic! And don’t procrastinate because it feels scary.
Chances are slim that you’ll stick with what you initially choose for more than a couple of years anyway, because kids have a way of growing and changing.
There are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Most people have a dominant style, in which they learn most effectively and efficiently. Of course they can learn via their non-dominant learning styles, too, but retention will be lower.
Determining Homeschool Methods
Now that you know your children’s learning styles, it’s time to figure our the best homeschool method for your family.
Don’t make this one harder than it needs to be! I let it stump me for the longest time. The intent here is to get you started, not to paralyze you. I studied all the various homeschool methods for months and talked the hubs’ ear off until he kindly asked me to just decide and quit talking. I got the message.
My mistake was thinking there was a best homeschool method, as in the one method that would churn out geniuses every time. Silly me! I’ve since realized that there is only a best homeschool method for your family, because it’s different for everyone!
Some of the more popular homeschool methods include Charlotte Mason, the Classical approach, Unschooling, and Montessori. But you can also take a cafeteria approach to homeschooling by picking and choosing your favorite parts of all of the homeschool methods and creating your own eclectic homeschool.
2. Decide which subjects you want to learn about and choose curriculum.
This is where less is definitely more. As a product of the public school system, I thought it would be fun to start with seven or eight subjects. Heh, heh. It wasn’t!
Currently, we only study four subjects — math, science, history and literature — and we rotate through them, with the exception of math. We do math every single, stinking rotten day. At least that’s what my non-math-loving-son would tell you. (He also secretly loves math, he just won’t admit it.) I’ll tell you more about our schedule below.
Four subjects is very doable. You’ll have to decide what works for you, but I highly advise you to start as small as you possibly can. It will help prevent overspending and overwhelm.
As far as curriculum goes, I believe in interest-led learning, aka delight-directed learning, so I always ask my kids for input. I also keep a running list of their questions in my phone, so I can reserve books from the library and plan unit studies and projects based on their interests. You can get really specific, but I find it helpful to be more general.
With kids, everything just changes so quickly, so don’t plan too far ahead. And don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Once you know (or have a good idea about) what you’re studying, it’s time to figure out how. There are literally hundreds of choices of homeschool curriculum lately.
To narrow your choices down, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you want an all-in-one, pre-packaged curriculum, or do you want to choose all of the components?
- Do you prefer faith-based or secular curriculum?
- How structured do you like things?
- How much time do you want to spend on each subject?
- What’s your budget?
- How much prep work is required?
Where to Find Curriculum
As you begin searching, be specific. For example, if when you took the quizzes above, your results were Auditory learner and Waldorf method, you could search for Waldorf+method+math+curriculum as your parameters, and then search specifically for something suitable for auditory learners.
The reviews are the best place to find whether certain curricula are suitable for different types of learners. I’ve found them extremely helpful.
Looking for homeschool curriculum reviews? I've got reviews on preschool, elementary, and high school resources waiting for you here.
Also, homeschool conferences are a good way to check out different materials, too, but don’t take your credit card!
Once you’ve found what you want, search for a used, inexpensive version. Or check with other local homeschoolers to see if anyone is selling it. I rarely have to purchase new curriculum, and that really cuts costs overall.
As important as curriculum is, it honestly matters a whole lot less than the teacher. I recommend just purchasing minimal curriculum and diving in. Once you get started, you’ll have a better idea of whether you need any additional materials.
3. Build a schedule.
The next step is to build your schedule. By building a schedule, I mean deciding very roughly what your school year will look like and when you’ll cover lessons in different subjects.
For example, our Saxon math books contain about 130 lessons. We do math every day we do school, which my kids insist is every stinking rotten day, but in reality is 4 days a week. (We skip Wednesdays.) We take a long break around the Christmas holidays, another long break in February, but we work through part of the summer.
I figure at 4 lessons per week, it will take us approximately 33 weeks to accomplish our goal of a book a year. So I pencil those weeks into a planner as a sort of semblance of a schedule. I never make it too firm because I don’t want to endure the guilt of getting off schedule.
Plans will help you prioritize your daily goals and keep your homeschool machine running smoothly. But life happens, kids get sick, opportunities come up, and being really flexible with your scheduling makes everything easier.
Be sure to plan in plenty of fun, mental health breaks!
More Sanity-Saving, but Simple Homeschool Planning Tips
- Dedicate a time and space to homeschool planning, so you can focus. I find it takes me about an hour per child, but it used to take much more.
- Online spreadsheets (google sheets) never get lost!
- Involve your kiddos.
- Leave a margin for error.
- Don’t hesitate to switch things up.
- Don’t try to do every subject every day.
- Follow your natural inclinations. Schedule the most important things for your most productive times.
- Make adjustments as often as necessary.
- Remember that planning is focused on the ideal, and life is rarely ideal. Give yourself grace.
Do you have planning tips that have helped you keep your overall educational goals in focus amidst daily homeschool life? If so, we’d love to hear them.
Amy blogs at Orison Orchards (named after the farm/orchards the Saunders family owns) where she helps homeschooling mamas find the confidence to educate their children using a child-led approach, and live life to the fullest without breaking the bank.
She is currently homeschooling five of her eight children. The oldest three were also homeschooled, and are attending university on full scholarship. Her youngest is 6-years old.
Amy advocates sunshine, pinches pennies, and is the Chief Idea Officer of the Saunders family. If she were ever offered a superpower, she would choose ‘Entropy Annihilation.’
Need more help with homeschool planning?
Don’t miss the rest of our Homeschool Planning That Works series. It’s full of strategies and tips to help you THRIVE — not just survive — while homeschooling.