Homeschool Planning, a year at a time: Create the Plans

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Homeschool Planning Series, introduction & index

This is my third year of planning out, preparing, and organizing our entire year of school all in one big shebang at the beginning of the year. I just can’t count on getting to a regular weekly teacher preparation time, much less a daily one, so this is what works for me.

Yearly Homeschool Planning: Laying it Out

So now, you have the basic overview of the year, the terms, and the weeks. Now its time to make that overview specific and practical.

1. Preliminaries

First, you’ll want to have a place — a document or a notebook or an app — where you keep a running task list. As you work out what you need for the year, put every single to-do item on one list. For example, right now my list has such tasks as

  • Find composer, artist, and history books at the library & add them to the lists.
  • Make or find a book report form or template
  • Put color-coded labels on the spines of school books
  • Label desk & bookshelves
  • Redo Circle Time binders to make them more durable
  • Upload audio books into iTunes playlists from CDs

Anytime as you are making charts, lists, or checklists you think, “Oh, I’ll need to _____,” write it down.

In addition to a running task list, keep a running “to buy” list. I like to keep mine on a spreadsheet, to make price checking easier. I write down every single thing I think might be nice as I go along, but I always give myself two or three weeks after completing the list before buying to make sure I really do what or need them. Plus, with a spreadsheet, I can keep a running tally, and the total-amount shock is often enough for me to go over it and eliminate.

I like to keep three columns of “to-buy” items: one for school books and materials, one for extra reading material, and one for school supplies.

With these lists ready to go, we can proceed.

2. Create each student’s plan, plus a together plan

More charts! This one will evolve into the student’s daily or weekly checklist.

First, the “together” plan: This is Circle Time & any other lessons or read alouds you do as a group. List out what happens during these times and try to estimate the time it will take.

Next, a plan for each student. What does each student need to do daily or weekly with you and on his own?

Finally, make that plan into a checklist for the student. Determine what he will be responsible for completing independently, and what sort of chart will work for you. A daily page? A weekly page? One page per term?

Now, the goal is to make all the checklists for the whole year at once! There are two options to make that workable:

  1. No dates or days-of-the-week on the checklist, only “days” of school. With this sort of chart, you can include page numbers and such, but the student works from where he left off, not from today’s date or what day of the week it happens to be.
  2. Assign general, not specific, work. Instead of including page numbers, say, “Read a chapter” or “Read a section,” and other such generalized assignments. This is the option I am going for this year, because it gives an element of autonomy to the students, which my sons thrive on.

Here’s my prototype so far for Hans’ daily list:

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays

  • Practice piano.
  • Fill out a declension/conjugation chart for 1 Latin noun & verb from last week’s chapter.
  • Write and illustrate one original Latin sentence.
  • Fill out a notebooking page about a person or event from ancient history.
  • Work on the week’s blank map to label

Fridays

  • Practice piano.
  • Read Ilse & Knox a fairy tale picture book.
  • Complete your Latin quiz.
  • Complete a notebooking page about something you read about in science this week.
  • Write a book report about a book from your school list you’ve finished.

Because it’s the same almost every day, I’m not even printing out pages at all. It will go up on the whiteboard and he can refer to it. Then it will be on my master list for us to go over (and for me to mark off) during our daily accountability time. He will also have a book list to work through and at least an hour of reading time in the afternoons.

3. Create your master lesson plan & record

Combine the students’ and together plans into the format you like for planning sheets and record-keeping.

Last year my sheets were one-week-per-page tables and check bubbles like this:

weekly homeschool checklist

This year I’m moving to paperless systems, so I am working on creating a checklist that will reside on my computer. I am still playing with Evernote, Numbers, and Google Documents; I haven’t decided which I will use. Right now I’m leaning toward creating a form in Google Documents, because I can make it look nice and be easy to fill in, but it will save the information in a spreadsheet so I (or my husband) can see at a glance how we’ve been doing.

When I’ve made the final decision and the template, I will share it.

4. Create a per-term book list

This is a list that makes preparing for each term much faster and easier. I, of course, make a chart. I put the terms across the top and a row for each category of books:

  • library books to check out
  • read-alouds (I usually merge all the terms for this one, as I don’t schedule these out. We just move on to the next when we’re done with one)
  • independent-reading books that we already own
  • all other books we own that need to be pulled (that is, located)
  • playlists to be synced to the portable devices (includes memory work & audio books & composer)

Rejoice! You now have (almost) all the lists you will need!

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And now, from you:

  1. Some of my kids are older than yours (15.5 down to 9mths – 8 in total), so I have some high school ‘lists’ made out, too. For example, in Year 8 (our first year of high school where child turns 13), for science we do Apologia’s General Science. So I have a General Science Checklist in my Family Curriculum file/binder where I have listed all the tasks I have to do/things I need to buy for that subject. Eg, textbook and answer guide (locate), buy index cards and card file, print out Student Assignment sheet (helps them to break up the Modules over the year with dates), A4 binder book for lab notes, buy first term’s experiment requirements, put remaining 3 terms’ experiment purchase reminders in calendar (so I don’t forget), etc, etc.

    I’ve found these checklists help me a great deal; I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, expending unnecessary energy trying to come up with what is required every other year in each subject, always wondering if I have ‘missed something.’

    One day I’ll write it all up on my much-neglected blog. Ha!

    In Him

    Meredith

    • That’s great to have some lists you don’t have to redo! I’m definitely hoping I’ll be able to reuse some of mine, but I’m still at the point where it’s all new. :) This is our first year into ancient history. I hope to be able to reuse a lot of the planning I’m putting in now — particularly if it stays on the computer rather than get lost or destroyed on paper. :)

  2. Mystie,
    In all of my years of homeschooling, your recent posts have been the most detailed and helpful regarding planning a year at a time. Thank you for sharing your organizational skills with the rest of us!

  3. You do playlists too!
    I really appreciate how they work in our house, but boy, they’d taking time each term/week! (I’m taking time to do it properly as I put them in though, so that next time I have a child at that stage, it’s easy:-) )