Planning is something that comes easily to me. Its the follow through and procrastination that gets me. But, what if you’re not a planner? What if you just don’t know where to start?
I remember our first year of homeschooling, I had nearly every minute planned and a pocket schedule was posted on the wall. That worked great…until my oldest learned to tell time and read. Then it was like living with Rainman. “Mom, lunch is in 5 minutes. Have you started it yet? What are we having?” “Mom, we should be done with Science right now. We’re not done.” I quickly realized a detailed schedule was not for us – at least not if I wanted to keep my sanity.
But how was I supposed to make sure we completed everything we needed to in a year, if we didn’t have a set, detailed schedule? It took me several years to work out the kinks and be comfortable with not having a schedule, but eventually I got away from planning almost altogether. So how do I do it? How do I not plan our homeschool year and days, yet stay on task?
- Determine your goals for the year. If you homeschool in a state that has strict guidelines or requirements, you will need to make sure you follow those first and foremost. Then, you can determine your own personal goals for the year. Our state does not require reporting, but there is a suggested number of days (180), so we start there. What do you want to accomplish in math, science, history, language arts, etc. If you have little ones, what is your goal for reading this year? To improve reading skills? Help them learn to enjoy reading? Knowing your goals will help determine your course of action and possibly even what curriculum you will need.
- Break them down into 2 halves. Even though we homeschool year round, we still take a break from Thanksgiving to the New Year due to holidays and family visits. Since I know what I want to accomplish by the end of the year, I can then figure out where we need to be at the half-way point. If we’re not there, I know where we need to make things up, speed up a little or we can relax a little if we’re a little ahead.
- Break them down monthly. After I have determined our half-way goals, it makes it easier to set monthly goals. Setting monthly goals really helps with my oldest, as he does most of his work online and can set his own pace. He knows where he needs to be at the end of the month and can do as much as little as he wants each day, so long as it is done by the end of the month. It gives him a sense of independence, yet also teaches him responsibility and accountability, as he has a monthly goal to meet. This system has worked well for him so far.
- Break them down weekly. If you need more guidance, such as with younger children, I recommend breaking down your monthly goals into weekly ones. Until this year, we had weekly goals for our oldest. He had certain math lessons to finish by the end of the week, which averaged to two a day. But if he chose to do only one on a particular day, then he had to do three another day or make it up on Saturday. It was his choice and he was accountable. This was a great way to begin teaching him responsibility. He still has weekly goals for his guitar lessons, however, so he practices each day. Weekly goals are a great place to start with younger children, so that it gives them some freedom yet teaches responsibility and accountability. If they have 5 math lessons due by Friday, they can complete one a day or all on Monday. Its their choice. I have one of each in my middles – my son would rather do one a day and my daughter wants to just get it done. The end result is the same, so I don’t mind.
- Be flexible. This is probably the most important point – Be Flexible. This was something I couldn’t do with a rigid daily plan. I felt like a failure and that my children were going to be constantly behind and never learn anything if we didn’t stick to our schedule. Regardless of whether they grasped everything the day before or not, didn’t matter – we had a schedule to keep. That’s when I knew the schedule had to go! Now, if you have really young ones or a daily schedule works better for you, continue to break down your weekly schedule into daily tasks. This, was a little too rigid for us and left no room for flexibility, so we tossed this option out for our family.
With this set-up, we have not only completed everything on our goals for the year, but we also have a much happier school day. My kids are happier, I’m not as stressed about not finishing a project or assignments and we are thriving. This set-up may not work for everyone, but that’s the beauty of homeschooling. You need to do what works for you and that may take you a few years to figure it out, so don’t give up!
Are you a scheduler or more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants homeschooler?