At Demme Learning, we trust parents to know their child best and make individualized decisions for education that are appropriate for both their child and their family at a particular point in time. We hope to provide you with helpful, unbiased information so you can evaluate how a homeschool option could work for you, your child, and your family.
Choosing an appropriate method for your child’s education is a monumental decision. We understand that deciding whether or not to homeschool can be difficult, and the goal of this blog post and ebook (see below) is to share over 25 years’ worth of experience and resources with you as you consider this journey for your family. Homeschooling is a highly personalized option that makes sense for a wide variety of families for a wide variety of reasons, and we encourage you to take this information and transform and customize it to provide your children with an incredible educational experience.
Keep in mind that when you make a decision to homeschool, you are not committing to any specific amount of time; you’re simply making a decision that is right for this point in your lives. It is a big decision, and it will impact your daily life (hopefully making it wonderful!), but you are making a choice for your child. You are not required to continue with any educational choice for one second longer than it makes sense for your child and family—there are myriad options available.
How to Plan Your Homeschool
Written by Lisa Shumate
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.
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? We’ll cover this more in the section on organization with 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, including your children. 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!
How to Organize Your Homeschool
Written by Linda Fugleberg
Establish your routines, modify them according to your unique family’s needs, and enjoy less agonizing over homeschool organization.
So, you are not a born organizer? Organizationally challenged, even? Are you feeling overwhelmed just by daily life? And now, to add to that, you plan to be a homeschooler? Maybe you already homeschool, or even have been for a long time, and you know you need help! If any of this describes you and you’re feeling overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to start with the basics. Take a deep breath and read on for some helpful suggestions.
1) Start with a Daily Routine
No, not a rigid, detailed schedule that will drive you to tears and set you up for failure. Rather, think this way: what has to get done in your house in a typical week? What can’t afford to be dropped—Meals? Bedtimes? Basic housekeeping? Make sure you are covering at least these basics by planning a regular, daily routine.
Morning start-up time, mealtimes, and bedtimes make a great framework for a routine. Then plug everything else in around those times. Some families divide their day by general broad zones: morning routine, school routine, afternoon routine, and evening routine.
Viewing sample homeschooling routines/schedules is a good way to come up with ideas for your own. Here is just one of many links that may be helpful.
Once you’ve determined your routine, write it up. Get it all off your mind and on paper. For many visual people, anything that is out of sight is out of mind, so make sure to have the routine in a couple places for each member of the family to see.
2) Have a Spot for School Stuff
One of the biggest hindrances to a smooth school day is wasting time looking for school books and supplies. The trick? Have a specific spot for school stuff. Here is a link with some ideas that can help organize an unorganized learner and benefit a disorganized mom.
3) Have a Housework Routine
Do you need a weekly chore schedule and some help figuring out how to get and keep a house clean? The website Home-Ec 101 teaches us it’s just a matter of dividing the chores into manageable chunks. Each day has one major chore and a minor chore to keep the routine simple. This link will help you. Effort spent teaching young children to do small chores will pay off as they develop the skills to be a bigger help later. Invest the time.
Try organizing kids’ chores with Kanban. What is Kanban? It’s a system for organizing kids’ chores with sticky notes. A typical Kanban board (you can use any kind of board) has room for the sticky notes to be removed and then stuck into place AFTER the chore has been accomplished. Since sticky notes are so easy to stick and re-stick, you can change it around and tweak it if you need to. So much fun!
4) Have a Meal Routine
Meal planning can be simplified with a menu rotation. Plan out 10–20 complete meals, including family favorites, and then rotate them, serving a different one every day. It limits variety, but there are no surprises, and prep will go more quickly because you’re doing what’s familiar. Make your freezer your friend: make and freeze several batches at once to reduce overall kitchen time. For variety, you may want to try out a new recipe once or twice a month. Do you have leftovers? Try using them up each Sunday before the next week starts; you won’t have to cook, and you won’t be wasting food.
How to Schedule Your Homeschool
Written by Gretchen Roe
There are so many things about homeschooling that lead to creativity—how you “do it” is truly reflective of your personality. However, I want to emphasize that scheduling will greatly affect the outcome of your homeschooling efforts.
I have often said to my teenagers, “Failure to hit the target is never the fault of the target.” That is a tremendously true statement with regard to homeschooling. I want to suggest you take a step back and look at the forest for a moment, instead of the trees.
Ask yourself some key questions: what are the ages of my children and what is my greatest goal for them this year? Write down ALL of those fantastic ideas. Include the extracurriculars—piano, dance, soccer, whatever your family desires to do. If you are given to making lists, this may be an easier task, but even if the thought of lists gives you hives, I encourage you to take this one step.
Once you have that list, set it aside for at least a day. When you return to it, select the three most important academic things that you believe you want to accomplish for your child(ren) for the year, and add ONE extracurricular.
ONE, you say? Yes. Because your investment of time multiplies by the amount of children, and you can quickly find yourself without the time to educate if you are scattered getting each child to each activity. Be careful to not impose your adult sense of time and commitment on a child. Remember, your skill at homeschooling increases over time, as does your sense of scheduling. I have heard countless parents say they did not finish a year’s academics, because of their other “involvements.” I realize I am saying something unpopular, but school is your child’s job, and they need the time to be able to focus on it.
With your top three priorities in mind, I encourage you to go back to your calendar. Flip forward to May or June. When do you want to be done with your school year? Do you plan to school year-round? (As a veteran homeschool mom, I will tell you many of those who school year-round do not necessarily accomplish more.) Choose your end date, and then work backwards. How many lessons do you have to accomplish? For example, most levels of Math-U-See provide 30 lessons in a level of work. Generally this results in approximately 30 weeks of school. Therefore, if the goal is to end on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, count back 30 weeks to find the start date. Then you need to decide whether you will take holidays off—perhaps a couple of weeks at Christmas, a week at Easter. The good news is you are in charge—and sometimes the bad news is you are in charge. However, beginning with the end in mind will result in a higher likelihood of accomplishing the goal, even if missed by a week or two.
Once you have your beginning date, plan what your week will look like. Will you school five days a week, or only four? Remember, a clear understanding of your ending date provides a tool to better assess a realistic beginning date and will assist you in making a decision as to how many days a week you will school.
We have had a rule in our household, beginning many years ago with my “paper planner” and continuing to this day with a Google calendar: if you want it to happen, it had better be on the calendar. You might have little ones at home now, but eventually they will be teenagers, and most of us with teenagers have at one time or another received an imperative from our progeny about having to go somewhere and do something right then! My rule has always been—if it is not on the calendar, then it is NOT an emergency on my part. It challenges your children with the responsibility to plan, and it frees you from being the bad guy.
Finally, and most importantly, while I have many more tips about calendar planning, let me say one more for now. Your children need YOU—not activities, not academics, not social enterprises. They need time with their parents to BE. You plan your schedule; their simple pleasure in spending time with their family should be the greatest investment of time. A wonderful homeschool mentor of mine said that the years pass swiftly, but some of those days do last forever. Now with the benefit of looking back, take me at my word when I said you will not believe how swiftly those years pass.
Homeschooling 101 Ebook
No one knows your child better than you. We trust parents, and we want you to have the confidence to make the right decision for your situation.
We have compiled this ebook to help you through your decision. You’ll learn:
- The History of homeschooling
- How to find your state’s homeschool laws
- The different styles of homeschooling
- Tips from both professionals and veterans
- Where to find practical and inspirational resources to improve your homeschool experience
Enter your information below, and we will email the ebook to you right away.
About the Authors
Lisa Shumate serves as a Learning and Development Specialist with Demme Learning. While she holds a B.A. in Legal Studies from the University of Central Florida, she seems to find herself consistently pulled towards education in some capacity. Lisa and her husband Chris have been married for 30+ years and are the parents of three homeschool graduates.
Linda Fugleberg is a homeschooling veteran; she is mom to six amazing grown children. She is grateful for over 40 years of marriage to her loving husband, Jim, and thoroughly enjoys being a grandmother to their beautiful grandchildren.
Gretchen Roe educated her children at home for 21 years. With a degree in child development, she laughingly says it was not necessarily helpful for raising her own six children. She owned her own business for 15 years, as well as being involved in several nonprofit boards. She has spent the last 10 years in positions of homeschool advocacy and comes to Demme Learning as a Placement Specialist. She loves the outdoors, all things furry, and is in the process of learning farming and beekeeping skills.