Once upon a time, I was a semi-experienced homechooler who was downright obsessed with homeschool planning. I would grab my planner along with stacks and stacks of curricula and map out a six-month plan.
There’s technically nothing wrong with any of that. The real issue with these massive planning sessions was that they always ended with me writing these plans in ink.
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Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with my calendar full of good intentions. It was nice to be organized and prepared. I even liked knowing the materials I needed for upcoming projects months in advance.
All the homeschool planning was great. Until life happened.
When Homeschool Planning Becomes a Problem
My planner full of awesome ideas worked well sometimes, but sometimes it didn’t. And unfortunately there was no way to know in advance when the plan would have to be ignored.
One day we would be on track, then the next would be full of distractions and interruptions. One by one, my planner pages full of ink and dreams were riddled with strikethroughs and revised plans in the margins.
The pages were such a mess that I could barely read the page numbers and lesson details I assigned throughout the weeks. Yuck.
The problem with this kind of homeschool planning was that I planned too much for us to do and too far into the future. I didn’t allow space for curiosity and questions or sick days and surprise trips to the grocery store.
Also worth noting, I learned the hard way that this type of planning was a surefire way to set us up for frustration and failure.
When *Not Planning* Becomes a Problem
Despite my Type A preferences, I’ve also had seasons of homeschooling when I stopped planning altogether. I went with a recording approach — jotting down what we did later in the day — versus a planning approach.
I mistakenly bought into the theory that we could simply do the next thing in each of our subjects and that would be enough.
As much as I love Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing and apply this philosophy to most areas of my life, it doesn’t really work for homeschooling. At least not for us.
By not planning — or only planning a little — I also set us up for failure.
Reading the next chapter, completing the next activity, and answering the next set of questions makes sense, but it doesn’t always work. Here’s why.
- It lacked accountability. – Without a plan, we lacked the motivation and direction needed for homeschooling. It turned out we needed a plan to drive our days.
- There was no challenge. – At the very least, a loose plan was necessary to take my kids where they wouldn’t go on their own.
- It was impractical. – It’s hard to follow through with demonstrations and experiments when you don’t have the supplies on hand. You either have to delay lessons until you have everything or keep pressing on, but forget the point by the time you have supplies.
Again, doing the next thing is a great philosophy for almost everything, but it doesn’t produce a homeschool rhythm that keeps things on track and working in sync with your homeschool goals.
That’s where finding balance in your homeschool planning comes into the picture.
Homeschool Planning That Helps You Thrive
Since I know what it’s like to overplan and underplan, I understand the sweet spot between planning too much and coasting along. The key is finding a method for homeschool planning that works for you and your family.
While I can’t say what will best meet your needs, I can share some things to keep in mind as you plan.
1. Preparation and commitment aren’t the same.
You don’t have to be married to your plans! By all means, prepare for homeschooling, but don’t let your preparations dictate what actually happens.
There will be days where you have to deviate from your plans. It’s unavoidable.
If you intertwine preparation and commitment, guilt and overwhelm will take over on the days when life gets in the way of homeschooling. That’s no way to live.
Instead, follow the plans you’ve prepared when it’s possible, but give yourself permission to shift what doesn’t happen to another day or get rid of it altogether.
2. Don’t plan too far in advance.
I’ve already shared my issues with planning too far into the future, but it’s worth repeating here.
It’s simply impossible to know everything that will come up on your calendar five months from now. If you plan this way, you’ll likely have things crossed out and all mixed up within a matter of weeks.
By tackling your plans a little at a time, it’s much easier to make adjustments in your homeschool planner.
Pen and Paper Planning Versus Planning Online
For physical planners where you literally write your plans on paper, I recommend planning no more than two or three weeks in advance. That allows you to easily regroup and roll over any assignments that go untouched.
Online planning is a bit different. If you’ve got the time to spend on it, you can plan a month in advance and simply change due dates as needed for anything unfinished.
For me, it takes a Saturday each month to tackle my online planning process for both of my kids. I have to create two separate plans since they’re five years apart, but this process works better than anything we’ve tried so far.
3. Include margin in your homeschool plans.
Margin makes a world of difference when it comes to pretty much everything, homeschool included. That’s why it’s so important to leave room in your schedule for subjects that need extra time or last-minute errands that may pop up.
In other words, don’t pack your days with homeschool plans.
Planning with no margin makes for a chaotic life, whereas margin means you can tackle the unexpected in your home and family when it occurs, but you can also work ahead if time allows and interest is there.
Not sure how to include margin in your plans? Consider planning a four-day week with an open day for catching up. If there’s no catch-up time needed, no worries. Use that day for self-led learning, field trips, or rest.
Can’t spare a full day each week? Leave a couple of days empty somewhere in your calendar each month. A couple of days will still prove helpful when you get behind.
4. Involve your kids in planning for your homeschool.
Chances are if you’re homeschooling, you care deeply about raising lifelong learners. If you want that to happen, you’ve got to include your children in the planning process. That’s not to say they need control of the plans, but they do deserve some input.
Ask them what seems interesting about upcoming lessons. See what topics make their eyes light up.
By letting them have a say in your homeschool planning, you can allow additional time to cover specific areas of interest when they come along.
In turn, that allows them time to explore a topic without tons of shifting in your homeschool plans.
In closing, remember that it can take time to find your sweet spot with planning for your homeschool. As long as you’re sure to give yourself grace, build margin into your schedule, and include your children in your planning, you’ll not only survive homeschooling, but thrive while doing it!
Need more help with homeschool planning? My friends and I want to help you get a plan in place for your homeschool: