Does the thought of homeschool planning conjure up images of a black, spiral-bound teacher’s book? While lessons may be one aspect of planning, there are numerous others that you need to consider when preparing for your homeschooling experience. Let’s break down the what, how, and when of successful homeschool planning.
What Do You Need To Plan?
The first and foremost consideration should be your goals. Why are you homeschooling, and how does it fit into what you desire to accomplish in your children’s lives? Based on this, what are your priorities for this particular year, month, and day?
Knowing your goals will help you in moving to the next element—subjects. To some degree this may be dictated by homeschooling laws, although there is usually some room for discretion.
Once you have pinned down the subjects, you must decide on materials. Determining your educational philosophy can narrow your search. Would a prepackaged curriculum from a single publisher, free resources from the internet or library, or an eclectic approach best meet your needs? Are there outside opportunities, such as a co-op, online class, or college dual-enrollment that would be beneficial?
Another key consideration is how will these subjects fit into your weekly schedule? Will each subject be completed daily? Keep in mind important obligations (e.g., practices, part-time jobs, volunteer commitments) when determining the best times. Be sure to watch for the next installment in the series, Homeschooling Basics: Scheduling, for tips.
Plan where you will complete your homeschooling activities. Both your curriculum choices and your schedule may help guide your planning here. Will you need room to spread out and leave materials accessible from day to day, or can everything be easily stored? Part 3 of the series, Homeschool Basics: Organization, is sure to provide some helpful suggestions.
Believe it or not, it is also helpful to plan for spontaneity! If you plan ahead to accommodate that last-minute field trip opportunity or an unexpected illness, it will allow you the freedom to enjoy the time or meet the needs of another.
While it may seem a bit discouraging to think about as you embark on your homeschooling journey, you should plan for when you’re ready to quit homeschooling. For the days that just seem too much to handle (and, yes, they WILL happen), keep a list with your top reasons for homeschooling, those goals, passages of scripture, or motivational quotes that will provide encouragement to get you through the valley. If you ultimately discontinue homeschooling, planning ahead for your available options and related procedures will ease the transition.
How Do You Need to Plan?
Talk to all the key players involved: the other parent, your children, God. Do you have supportive friends, relatives, or a homeschool group? Gathering all the insights you can from others may help you to avoid difficulties in the future.
When it comes to the actual lesson planning, there are numerous options. Again, your local laws may impact your choices. Some people use the “fly by the seat of one’s pants” approach. Something as informal as a notebook may suffice. For a more formal alternative, there are numerous print and software planners available. Some features to consider with digital planners include:
• records (transcripts, attendance, etc.)
• ability to adjust dates easily
• availability of lesson plan libraries
• customizable grading options
• ability to create repeating lessons
• ease of access/mobile options
When Do You Need to Plan?
Whew! Are you overwhelmed with all the planning you need to accomplish? The good news is that it doesn’t all have to be completed before you can get started.
Obviously, your goals should be planned in advance of the school year. However, don’t get too hung up on this. They are not written in stone and can be adjusted as circumstances change.
Having your subject and curriculum planning completed in advance is ideal, as it allows you time to develop purchasing strategies and become comfortable with the materials. On the other hand, one of the benefits of homeschooling is having the flexibility to add or change both subjects and curriculum during the school year. If you just haven’t found that perfect writing program yet, rather than make an impulsive decision, wait and add that subject in a bit later. Similarly, while planning and arranging your physical space in advance may be beneficial, your preference may be to try different options and figure out what works as you go.
As far as when actual lesson planning should occur, that is extremely individualized. During my 19 years of homeschooling, I ran the gamut of opening the books, running with it the day of, and logging afterward, to having lesson plans ready a month in advance. Ultimately, what worked best was to have a bigger mental picture, but to have actual lesson plans prepared a week in advance. This easily allowed for adjustments based on appointments, planned field trips, etc.
If you are new to homeschooling, don’t let planning be a source of anxiety. Take a deep breath and just dive in, one thing at a time. If you are a veteran homeschooler, evaluate whether you might be able to find ways to plan more efficiently. Then be sure to share your wisdom with a new member of the homeschooling community!