Not sure how far in advance to make plans for your homeschool? Today we’re talking about weekly and monthly homeschool planning and how to know which one is the best fit for your family.
*Post contains affiliate links; see disclosure for details.*
Before we jump into our comparison of weekly and monthly homeschool planning approaches, I want to share how I used to handle homeschool planning and what I learned along the way about realistic planning and setting myself (and my kids) up for success.
Does It Really Matter How Far in Advance You Plan Your Homeschool Routine?
The short answer is yes.
Maybe it shouldn’t matter how far in advance you plan for your homeschool, but it does. Here’s why.
My Old Approach to Planning
In our early years of homeschooling, I would tell my family it was planning day and enlist their help to give me the time needed to tackle my planning sessions. In a lot of ways it was like a teacher in-service day that public school teachers use for preparation.
I would gather my copy of Home Learning Year by Year, a notebook, a planner, and a pen. Then I would hunker down and plan our next six months of homeschool.
I would chip away subject by subject, referencing Home Learning Year by Year as I went along, and fill up my homeschool planner with plans I looked forward to executing. When I finished I walked away excited about the months to come and ready get started with them.
Then life happened.
A week or two into the new plans, one of us would get a stomach virus. A sickness like that could easily throw off our homeschool by a week or so.
When it wasn’t a stomach virus, an unexpected trip to the grocery store would pop up or someone in our congregation needed help walking through something difficult.
Why It Didn’t Work
My homeschool plans were fine until life happened. And the thing about life happening is that it can’t be scheduled, controlled, or avoided. Life happens all around and, ready or not, our homeschools must adjust.
Sometimes homeschool life is simply paused, whether for an hour, a day, or a week. While these changes aren’t necessarily a big deal, day by day and subject by subject, six months of homeschool plans get shifted, crossed out, and scribbled over.
Before you know it, there’s so much writing in the margins the actual assignments are barely legible. And the worst part is that all of this is from the ripple effect that happens on your homeschool schedule when a few things or days don’t go as planned.
There are even times when your homeschool is interrupted indefinitely and you can’t carry on as planned. Yet again, six months of homeschool plans yields scribbles, writing in margins, and lessons reconfigured for the unexpected season.
Again, the well-meant planning session yields a barely legible plan with confusion and a dreadful feeling of being so far behind schedule you think you’ll never catch up.
Thankfully there’s a better way.
Have you seen my homeschool planning worksheets?
This worksheet packet is a free download with pages to help you map out your weekly and monthly homeschooling plans.
Weekly vs. Monthly Homeschool Planning
Years of six-month planning sessions taught me that interrupted homeschool plans aren’t a one-time thing. Every time I planned that far in advance, I had to adjust somewhere in the first month. Even the smallest adjustment caused changes that trickled into all the other months.
Because of that, I tried quarterly homeschool planning sessions. Unfortunately, planning three months at a time left me with the same frustrations. So then I knocked it down to planning only a month in advance.
My Approach to Monthly Homeschool Planning
My approach to monthly homeschool planning doesn’t look all that different from the six-month sessions from my early homeschooling years.
The main differences are that I do my planning online now and I use our chosen curricula to decide what we’ll cover and when instead of Home Learning Year by Year. Other than that, things are basically the same.
Between my two kids, it still takes me about a day to plan for a full month. My kids are five years apart and they cover most subjects separately. Because of that, I go through the process twice — once per kid — and am not in a position to kill two birds with one stone.
Curious about our homeschool curriculum selections? Take a look at my 9th grade curriculum plans and my 3rd grade plans to see what we're currently using.
The fact that I have to spend a whole day reviewing curricula, entering assignments, requesting library books, and ordering supplies may seem overwhelming, but this works well for us in this season. I don’t mind sacrificing a day each month since it handles all of my planning needs for 30 days.
I also don’t mind planning one month at a time because it allows me to see the overall picture without setting us up for failure by planning too far out. Since I’m planning online, anything that needs to move to another day can simply be swiped to another day or carried over to the next month.
Pros & Cons of Monthly Homeschool Planning
- Pro – It takes approximately a day a month. Once it’s done, it’s done for 30 days.
- Pro – It’s easy to work into your normal routine. (I always set aside the last week each month for next month’s planning.)
- Pro – Monthly planning gives plenty of time to gather supplies and extra resources needed for lessons.
- Pro – Monthly planning provides a good overview of overarching and recurring themes that come up from subject to subject. In turn, it’s easy to coordinate these subjects and bring them together cohesively.
- Con – It could be a lengthier process if you’re homeschooling multiple ages that can’t be frequently combined.
- Con – Unless you’re using an online planning option, you’ll still have a messy planner due to unfinished lessons or interruptions earlier in the month.
Note: I currently use the free Trello app for homeschool planning, but I acknowledge it may not work for everyone since I customized it to fit my homeschool and my kids’ needs. If you need an online planner that doesn’t require any DIY from you, I recommend Homeschool Planet.
My Approach to Weekly Homeschool Planning
While I’ve used a monthly approach for the last couple of years, I’ve also had success with weekly homeschool planning. It, however, differed quite a bit from the monthly process.
In a nutshell, it was quick, efficient, and allowed for easy shifting. It still involved pulling out curricula and opening my planner or laptop (I’ve used paper and online planners both for weekly planning).
The biggest difference is that it provided more of a do the next thing perspective to planning and sometimes left me unsure of where we were headed. I was only able to gain clarity when I took additional time to look ahead in our curricula, which still involved an investment of time and focus.
Pros and Cons of Weekly Homeschool Planning
- Pro – Weekly planning can be accomplished in about an hour each week.
- Pro – It complements interest-led learning; lessons can be easily adapted or shifted for rabbit trails and curiosities that come up the week before.
- Pro – Anything unfinished from the week before can roll to a new week without causing the ripple effect mentioned with long-term planning.
- Pro – It’s almost impossible to get behind schedule and stay that way.
- Pro – Planning one week in advance keeps a physical planner looking nice and tidy. Every new week is a clean slate and contains nothing scratched through or jotted in margins weeks before.
- Con – Weekly homeschool planning can cause a disjointed framework if there’s no extra time invested to study big-picture plans or homeschool goals.
- Con – A week’s notice may not be enough to gather resources or extra supplies for lessons and activities.
- Con – Accomplishing one week of planning at a time may not seem worth the effort of pulling out lots of resources, consulting them, and forming a plan.
How to Know Which Planning Approach Will Work for Your Homeschool
Both of these homeschool planning approaches have pros and cons and both can legitimately work well. So, how can you determine which is the best fit for your family? Here are some factors that will help you decide.
1. Curriculum Choices
Using a highly structured curriculum can save you lots of time with planning. With certain publishers, planning is pretty much covered for you.
For example, I’m using BookShark Science with my daughter right now. There’s very little preparation involved on my end because each week is already planned for me.
I open my binder and follow the simple instructions each day; I never have to determine how much to cover and when. If I were using BookShark for all subjects, I could easily get by with weekly planning.
On the other hand, if your chosen curriculum varies from subject to subject or child to child, monthly planning will probably serve you well.
This is also the case for any curriculum options that aren’t open-and-go. You may need a considerable time frame for planning and gathering resources that weekly planning simply can’t provide.
2. Homeschool Method or Philosophy
Do you borrow from several homeschool methods to customize education in your home? If so, planning and gathering resources probably isn’t quick process for you.
That’s also the case if one educational philosophy guides your homeschool, but you use a variety of resources to implement that philosophy.
Put simply, any time you regularly pull from several curriculum selections or materials to teach, planning and organizing it all takes more time. In cases like these, weekly planning may serve as a temporary fix more than a way to keep things running smoothly.
3. Current Season
If you‘re in a fairly steady season, either homeschool planning approach can work nicely for you.
Unfortunately the steady seasons don’t last forever and it’s possible that you know that all too well. Some seasons require extra flexibility and grace when it comes to homeschool plans and executing those plans.
Whether you’ve got little ones, loved ones dealing with chronic illness, or other factors that make for unpredictable days, a short term planning approach may be your best bet. If that’s the case for you, embrace the flexibility that comes with week-to-week homeschool planning.
4. Your Planning Personality
I’m one of those folks who gets into psychology, personality, and motivations. If you’re not into that, no worries, but these things do factor in to your planning style.
In my experience as a Type A and ISTJ personality, I feel out of sorts and stressed without a plan for my homeschool. Nothing makes me crankier than unpredictability and lack of structure. I don’t lead or function well in that kind of environment.
I would even go as far as saying I feel the same way when I don’t have enough of a plan. I need to see past this week and know how tomorrow’s homeschool lineup fits into my goals for the year and the end we have in mind. That’s why monthly planning is my sweet spot.
Maybe you’re the opposite of me. If your sanity doesn’t depend on having a plan in place, short term planning may provide all the structure you need. If so, a weekly planning sessions are worth trying.
In closing, remember that it may take trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your family. Don’t stress if you try a planning method and it bombs. The right fit is out there. Keep experimenting until you find what meets your needs and helps you lead well.
What about you? Do you have a preference between weekly and monthly homeschool planning? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Need more help with homeschool planning?
Our Homeschool Planning That Works Series has strategies and tips to help you THRIVE (and not just survive) while you navigate daily homeschool life.