Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
When it comes to planning your homeschool year, it can easily be the most daunting part of homeschooling…especially if this is your first year.
People often fall into two camps…the over-planners….and the under-planners. But the sweet spot in homeschool planning is right in the middle…where you have a plan that is flexible enough to work even if your life gets crazy, you have a baby, your older kids need shuttled around a lot etc.
Table of Contents
Lets look at the simple steps to planning your homeschool.
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1. Set Goals For Your Child and Family
Before you ever decide to buy curriculum…or map out your year, it is so important as a homeschool parent that you take time to set goals for your family and children this year….and also for you! The workload often falls on homeschool moms and it is so important that moms set goals for themselves apart from educating the kids.
Because there are an endless amounts of awesome opportunities, knowing your goals will help create focus and minimize signing up for extras that don’t support your goals.
I wish I would have done this at the beginning of our homeschool journey. Instead, I let my people-pleasing tendencies get in the way and found myself saying “yes” to things that I didn’t really want to do and that didn’t support our family goals.
Here is Info on Making a 4 Year High School Plan!
Every homeschool year looks different. You don’t need to do everything or every opportunity in one school year!
2. Choosing & Purchasing Homeschool Curriculum & Resources
Once you know what goals you will be using to direct your education this year, it’s time to collect the books, curriculum, and resources you will use in planning your homeschool lessons.
Of course, if you are unschooling, you may not use curriculum, which is fine, but you will likely use other resources and want some kind of a plan for your days.
I purchase most of my curriculum through Christianbook.com as it is usually a one-stop-shop. If you don’t know how to shop for curriculum
If you don’t know how to shop for curriculum, I”ve written up 7 Steps to Buying Homeschool Curriculum to help you make smart buying decisions and eliminate the overwhelm!
It walks you through learning your children’s learning style, reading curriculum reviews and looking at your budget as factors in buying. You will also want to look at different homeschool methods like Charlotte Mason or Classical Homeschooling to determine what your education philosophy is BEFORE you buy curriculum!
In addition to choosing curriculum, you will want to make note of any field trip ideas that you have for the upcoming school year. I often base our field trips on what they are studying in history or science.
Before you buy any curriculum, decide if you would like to join a homeschool co-op. If you join a co-op that has academic classes, their curriculum choices may be what you use for the entire year. Or you may use their choices for some subjects but not others.
My Favorite Homeschool Books!
3. Use a Homeschool Planner!
There are many different types of homeschool planners. When planning your homeschool, a homeschool planner will become your 2nd brain! You must use one! Or at the very least, use a regular planner for the current school year…July to June. A spiral notebook can be used to plan your day to day lessons.
Having some kind of planner will help you maintain a big picture of your schooling for the year.
If you have never used a planner and don’t think it will be helpful…think again. The process of writing things down…even if you rarely look at it afterward…will help create structure and consistency in your homeschool day.
Ideally, a homeschool planner will have a place for you to record your curriculum for the year, as well as the books and resources you use throughout the year.
I have used a LOT of different homeschool planners in the past 16 years. The BEST homeschool planner is the one you will use…whatever that is. It doesn’t need to be fancy to get the job done.
2 Sample Homeschool Daily Schedules
|Johnny’s Monday Work
|Johnny’s Monday Work
|Saxon pg 67 #1-18
|Read Ch 3 “Hatchet”
|Read 1 Ch of Book
|Listen to Ch 8 SOTW
|Listen to SOTW
|Write Spelling Words p.21
|Write Spelling Words
Our Undated Homeschool Planner can be used for many years to map out your homeschool goals for up to 4 kids (although it is easy to print extra pages to extend this planner for as many children as you have).
Digital Planners are another Option. Homeschool Tracker has an online record-keeping and planning system that has been around for 15 years and works great for many families!
Homeschool Student Planner
Just like parents can benefit from using a planner, students can too. If you are trying to help your student become independent, I recommend finding a paper or digital planner that works best for your child. We have used different products in different seasons. If most of your students work is paper and pencil, then a paper planner is probably better. But if most of it is on the computer, some kind of digital planner will make it easier for them to link all their work in one place.
For our middle school son who is homeschooled, we use the toolbar on his Google account to keep him organized. He has all his subjects, tutoring Zoom link and Google classrooms all linked on that toolbar so he can easily access his work all in one place. That makes sense for him because of his school work this year. But each family should evaluate based on their specific needs.
Planners Prepare for Evaluations
A planner can be a valuable part of record keeping as well. If you have a portfolio evaluated by an assessor, a planner can help you remember everything you did, the different subjects you covered, book lists, unit studies and so much more.
Whatever you choose for your own planner, it should have a place to map out your weekly plan for your kids. That plan can then be as detailed or minimalist as you want.
4. Print Out Calendars & Supply Lists
Ok…this part of the planning is the part that keeps me sane. I print out ALL the calendars that I can get my hands on.
- Sports Schedules
- Co-op Schedules
- School Schedules
- Church Schedules
- Supply Lists for Co-op or Hybrid Program
Then after printing out all of these schedules, I go through my planner and fill in the monthly calendar with everything going on for the whole year (for as many of the calendars as I have.) That helps me know what are the days of instruction at home…and which ones are learning days outside our house.
Because I have kids in school and others being homeschooled, My calendar fills up very fast. Between the games after school and the tutoring several days a week for my son, on top of weekly co-op, my planner starts to look messy.
So, to restore order to that monthly planner, I use colorful pens to color code my planner. This helps me see which kid is in different activities. It also helps me see potential transportation conflicts months before they happen….so I can figure out how to get everyone where they need to be.
Next, I take all those school supply sheets and collate them into one master shopping list. You can get your copy of my master shopping list HERE. Simply make a copy of this Google doc and you will be ready to fill in how many of each supply type you need. Once I have my list collated, I’m ready to shop the sales!
5. Set Aside Time for a Planning Session
I cannot state how important this is.
Set aside time for the planning PROCESS. If possible, have the kids go to grandma’s…or set them up to stay occupied for a period of time. This is definitely a process where you will map out an overview of the year but you will revisit your plan many times…even if you do so mentally!
I like to do my planning sessions at home because I don’t want to drag all my curriculum to the library or a coffee shop. But if that seems more manageable to you… definitely do it that way!
I would set up a planning session of at least 2 hours. Even if you don’t get it all done…you will have a great start. Often multiple planning sessions are needed before you start your year.
Making time for a planning session will result in less stress and help you avoid unrealistic expectations!
Things You Need for a Homeschool Planning Session
- To-Do List
- A list of your top priorities for the year.
- Homeschool Lesson Planner or lesson planning pages
- Curriculum and Resources you plan to use
- Colored Pens
- Plenty of Space to spread out!
6. Map Out 2 to 4 weeks of Lessons in Pencil
When I first started homeschooling and planning, I got way into it. I was SURE, we would be able to keep up the pace I imagined and I would map out the WHOLE YEAR!
Oh, my word…this is insane! NEVER DO THIS unless you are using a digital homeschool planner that lets you move your weekly plans around easily!
Make Weekly Lesson Plans
It might seem like a good idea to plan a whole year at once…after all, you might not have time once the year starts…but the reality is, it is much smarter to just map 2 to 4 weeks at a time. Look at your planner and everything coming up in the next month and make a weekly schedule that works for that month. Then next month you can change it up if the schedule changes
This allows you time to adjust after you get started. Maybe you will find that your son moves quicker through Math…and your daughter is slower. Great….you will be able to adjust.
Maybe you had a week in there where life happened…and you didn’t get much done…no problem…you will adjust. Adjusting your lesson plan is just so much easier if you don’t have to do it for the whole year.
Also…if you write your lesson plans in Pencil, it is much easier to edit them as you go…changing page numbers, etc. I have known some moms that would plan a month at a time…and then at the end of the month, schedule a couple of days of no school so they could work on their next month’s plans and gather supplies.
And it totally works. Often kids enjoy those little breaks more than breaks for weeks at a time, so this can be a great way to plan without burning yourself out.
I highly recommend making a Simple Homeschool Schedule when you first begin. To me that means making a plan to get reading, writing and math done. The extra subjects can and should still be done, but they don’t need to be done every day.
7. Decide How You Will Store Your Homeschool Supplies
We have all seen these beautiful homeschool rooms. Maybe you even have one…the room is clean, with tidy cube shelves, color-coded drawers, and dividers. Did I mention the room is clean..and organized! Ah…lovely. Yes…we all want that…especially the clean and organized part!
So, to set yourself up for the option of being clean and organized, start to think about how you will store your supplies! You might need:
- Storage Drawers
- Homeschool Planner
Some families give each child their own shelf to keep current books on. Others give their child a crate or tote. In some families kids keep their books in a central location. In other families, the kids might keep their books in their room.
8. Help Your Kids Get Organized Too
When you are planning your homeschool, it is important to consider how to help your kids be organized. Here are some of my favorite ways to keep students organized:
- Student Planners – Great for Middle & Highschool students
- Workbox System – Color coded picture based system for elementary
Don’t forget, as you think about how to plan homeschool curriculum, it is important that you think about YOUR homeschool routine. If you have a bunch of little kids and don’t have the energy to make sure your kids are doing a lot of extra subjects, then it is OK to focus on the basics.
You can go back to the “good old days” and focus on reading, language arts and math.
Homeschool Planning Leads to Organization & Peace
As you are planning your homeschool, use this time to think and pray over your year. What is the vision you have for your family and for the school year? The hours you spend at the beginning of the year may very well be the ones that decide the trajectory of the whole year. Planning is about setting your intentions and goals. Nothing great ever happens by accident!