Over my years of homeschooling, I have found in my personal circle that we were divided into two camps: those of us who are the planners and the list makers, those of us who would prefer to be spontaneous and not plan; we like to just go with the flow.
Which one are you? For those of you who are not fond of calendars, let me ask you to suspend your dislike and walk with me through what might benefit you in using a calendar for planning your academic year. Until I mastered this philosophy, my calendar had me in a strangle hold!
I have been both of those people and I’m here to tell you as much as I like to be present and in the moment, if I don’t do some planning at the beginning of my calendar year, my year never ends. I’d like to share five points with you today to give you a leg up on what it means to be prepared for your academic year.
5 Ways To Improve Your Calendar Management This Year
1) Circle an End Date on Your Calendar
First, I want you to pull out a calendar for next year and circle the date on which you want your academics to end. Over the years our family learned that we hated it when academics rolled over into this summer. (We DID however, do some math games and 30 minutes of reading a day, every day, in the summer months.)
If you circle the date on the calendar that you want school to end, then you can count backwards and see how many weeks you need to plan to do school.
2) Plan How Many Lessons You Will Cover
Look at the academics you are going to cover and how many lessons you have to cover in those subjects. Through most of my homeschooling years I used a curriculum that gave me 160 lessons, so I knew at 80 lessons where that had to be, and then I knew at 45 lessons where that needed to be; I could plug that information into the calendar. I also knew I wanted to take the entire month of December off, because I wanted to do something different and altruistic with my children. All of this meant I needed to count the available days for school, and be ready to apply those days to academics.
3) Weigh How Many Days You Are Going To Do School
I often hear families who say, “We only school four days a week,”; those same families will see me at a conference the next year, and say, “Yeah, we kind of dragged up to the end of school and we didn’t get the last 20 lessons done,” or, “We didn’t get the last 6 weeks of school done.” The truth is the truth, and failure to plan is planning to fail. I have been here – I have the t-shirt to prove it. Hopefully my “wisdom” here can be a guide for you for “what not to do.” If you are going to do school only four days a week, then you need to be engaged at the business of school those four days. Schedule your appointments outside of those four precious days.
4) Decide How Many Subjects Are You Going to Cover
This point is really important to me because I was a very academically-oriented parent. My first graders had reading, math, social studies, history, language arts, and spelling. After 21 years of home academics, and five children who are either in or beyond college, I honestly realize I could have done half as many academics and had an equivalent academic outcome from my children. Let me encourage you, particularly if this is your first year of homeschooling, to think of school this way: Reading is an essential life skill. Mathematics is an equally essential life skill. It is also my belief that you need to teach your children to spell because so much of our society communicates in written form. Those of us who don’t spell well have feelings about that, and those of us who do spell well have feelings about those we see who don’t spell well. You want to give your kids as many advantages as possible.
Beyond that, I think that everything else, particularly for an elementary school student, can come out of a rich reading program. You can create a science program from the books you are reading, a history program from the books you are reading; in short, what you read can frame your studies.
Parents will often say to me, “Well what about language arts and composition?” That really is a topic for a separate conversation. There is merit in teaching your children to write to an audience for an appropriate amount of time, but that doesn’t mean that needs to happen, especially in the early elementary school years. I want my children to enjoy the process of learning. If that means we can do more with less, than that is advantageous.
5) Be at the Business of School
I had an advantage that those of you in this day and age do not. What was that? Cellphones were not part of the equation when I homeschooled my children. Are you subject to the “ding?” I know I am. You hear the phone make a notification and you want to take a look. That is a distraction to the process of homeschooling. Set your phone aside, on silent, and stick to the business of school. If you schedule breaks to check in, you also model for your children their importance and that there is a time for everything – phones are just not part of school time.
Those are my five points. In closing, I want to say one more very important thing – it is not part of my list of five, because I want it to be last and leave you thinking about it! How much attention does your child have for any given task? Let’s say you are working with an eight-year-old child. Child development research indicates an eight-year-old child has their age plus about two minutes of attention span before they need a break. Structure your lessons so that they can take a moment to regroup after 10-15 minutes of good work. As you do this, you will find that their capacity will increase. Happy planning and happy schooling.