Homeschool Planning, a year at a time: Create the Support Systems

Homeschool Planning Series, introduction & index

Because I am just not one to regularly and faithfully set aside time daily or weekly or monthly to get things in order, I do my best to set things up all at once at the beginning of our year so they can flow with minimal effort on my part.

I’ll always be tweaking, and bins and desks and shelves always need attention, but the question of “what to do” has already been decided and prepared, with the materials near at hand. That is the key.

Now we turn our attentions to some of the tasks that are not exactly “school” planning, but things that help school days run more smoothly.

1. Create playlists in iTunes

I rely heavily on audio. So organized playlists make my life much easier. Many of our memory chants or songs are MP3s, a number of our “read-alouds” are audio books, we use the audio Bible daily, and I have accompaniment to play when we sing because I can’t stay on key without help. We also record our Bible and catechism memory (most of them recorded by my husband) so we can have audio review in the car or individually with an iPod. Audio materials save my voice and my sanity; my kids, also, enjoy getting a respite from always hearing mom’s voice all day long. Plus, it means I can whisper threats or deal discipline to toddlers without interrupting the flow; it helps the toddler or preschooler not get the chance to become an center-stage tyrant.

Here’s how I organize my playlists:

I have a folder for “school” which within has playlists for each subject or audio CD, such as “Geography Songs,” “Timeline Song,” “Shurley Grammar Chants,” “Bible Memory Songs,” and “LFC A.”

I also have a folder for each term, with internal folders for each day of the week as well as term playlists for composer, hymns, listening time, and review. Inside each day’s folder are playlists for memory time.


I made a folder for children’s audio books, with a playlist for each audio book we have. My favorite is probably Pooh read by Peter Dennis, because before I heard him read it, I honestly was terribly confused trying to read it aloud myself. We often listen to Pooh in the car. I also borrow audio books fromt the library, our favorite being Cherry Jones reading Little House; we listen to these in the car or during lunch.

2. Determine your processes

Next, it’s time to work out the details. I find writing this all out and envisioning it beforehand helps the daily flow tremendously. I usually work day-to-day from an outline rather than this detailed list, but I like having it on hand to go over it when I have a brain-freeze or when my improvision has gotten out of hand and needs to be brought back to the plan again.

As you write it out, you will likely come up with ideas that will help the days run smoother, like “the math blocks must be put away before moving on to the next thing” or “put all the books away before lunch” or “the daily checklist needs to be signed by mom before the student is done for the day.”

As you come up with those ideas, add them not only to the plan, but also to a separate “cheat sheet” you can go over during with everyone during Circle Time as needed. Some of the essential ones I add directly to the students’ checklists or on a sign at their desk, too, so they have no excuse, and may not be allowed to “forget.”

3. Create the daily and weekly flowchart/routine/schedule

Whatever you call it, it’s good to have a plan of action for each day. I like to have times assigned on ours, because it helps me be realistic. If I don’t, I end up with a long list of things we will do in the “morning,” only to find that the morning is not nearly so long as I had thought. I no longer plan out by 15-minute increments, however. Instead, I simply give each hour a broad category like “breakfast & chores,” “Circle Time” and “independent work.” That works better for us.

Look at your student and master plans and figure out when the best time of day would be to do what. Do you have too much you’re trying to cram into not enough time? Is there still time in the day for outdoor and free play? Is there time for putting school stuff away and having an afternoon house tidy? Is it realistic for your family to start at 8, or would 9 suit you better?

Think through it all, and do your best to be realistic. This is the document I do tweak and reprint every term, because I often find I miscalculate how long things will take in the beginning, and with children as young as ours, stages change rapidly and require frequent revisiting and tweaking of the plan.

This is also the time to try to examine the plan for the day and have a strategy for the toddlers and preschoolers. Should you take advantage of naptime with the olders (if you get naptimes)? Will your toddler sit and do table activities for 30 minutes (if so, blessed are you)? Will your toddler stay in a pack-and-play without screaming his lungs out or breaking it while trying to escape?

It’s good to have some strategies at hand, but toddlers and preschoolers often require responsiveness and playing-by-ear. I’ve browsed my fair share of “what to do with toddlers during school time” posts, and pretty much all the ideas seem to be for docile, meticulous toddlers, not energetic, impish ones. Only my daughter ever cared to sort things by color, and none of mine felt it necessary to follow instructions on — or want instructions for — preschool worksheets.

4. Create household support systems and homeschool documents

Ok, look over your “to do” list. What documents and forms and sheets do you have to create or find? Now’s the time to do it! Here are some of the things I am working on:

  • Worksheet with tables for declining nouns and conjugating verbs
  • Book report template
  • Handwriting practice sheets with Startwrite
  • Term progress analysis sheet

And some of the documents I have that I will be printing:

Now is also the time to make the related support systems for your day:

  • a chore chart or checklist
  • add all school dates to your calendar
  • file papers with state, or at least prepare them
  • add “order achievement tests” to your task list in April or May, if necessary for your state

And never fear: Next Tuesday we will move on to the tangibles.

Weekly Homeschool 
Planner

4 Responses

  1. Meredith_in_Aus
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    Interesting idea with playlists organised by day of the week. Hmm… Will have to ponder how I can use that. So far, I have only arranged our school playlists by student name. Eg. Josiah’s playlist. He’s 3. I always make his playlist 30 mins long (and try to change it up regularly). When his playlist finishes, then he knows it’s time to pack up. (Although his play buddy for the morning definitely has to help him, both with set up and pack up, as I am tutoring during this time).

    Do you put things like times tables on the playlists? I found that this made sure that my kids were getting the practise they needed ’cause I ran out of time to regularly do it with them. I just ‘test’ them once a week.

    This whole post is so helpful. Well done.

    In Him

    Meredith

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I sometimes have individual playlists for quiet times; that’s something I haven’t done in awhile and want to return to (doing it similarly to what you outlined for the youngers) this year. The daily playlists are the songs we end Circle Time with — geography songs, books of the Bible, grammar chants, Latin chants, etc. I do have skip counting and addition songs that came with MUS, but I haven’t included them in awhile. I didn’t find them making much difference in my boys’ math comprehension, and I tend to favor memory of the facts by repetition of working them out (on the same principle I don’t teach any sight words). I include a page of addition facts and/or xtramath.org most days, in addition to their math lesson. And I plan to continue that at least until they hit algebra. My oldest is just barely getting into multiplication now.

      Thank you for your feedback throughout this series! It’s fun to talk about with other moms. :)

  2. kyle suzanne
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    Mystie, Did I miss the Create Lists & Schedule post or are you going to do these posts in a slighlty different order. I understand once you start writing the order may change in a way that makes more sense to you. But I want to make sure I didn’t miss it because I am printing them out so I can plan while I’m in bed.I’ve really enjoyed reading this series. Blessings, Kyle

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Oops, nope, you didn’t miss anything. I moved some of the content around and eliminated that as a seperate post. But I didn’t edit the intro to reflect that. Thanks for catching it! :)