Blank Homeschool Planner

Ode to My Planner Book

Homeschool Planning

Life as a junk drawer

Last month’s post was all about the end of summer dread. After 27 years, I still freak out whenever school is about to start again. I may have even mentioned straight jackets. So I owe it to you to say what I love about going back.

The schedule.

That’s right. Now that we are back, the very thing I feared is my best friend. Much as we love vacay, once you go back you’ve got to recommit to the discipline of the school year. You need structure. 

Structure is especially important if you put your own curriculum together as I always have. I handpick my children’s courses one by one, rather than using a boxed curriculum. My friends who use a boxed curriculum love that it arrives all done for you. I get that. But I want to use only the resources I want to use, rather than ones that someone else chose for me, and I want to determine when and how to use them to make the most efficient use of my time. It is more work upfront but less during the year.  It’s like buying bread at the store rather than going to the trouble to bake your own. Whether you think the trouble is worth it comes down to which bread you would rather eat. I want to eat homemade even if it means I have to put in all the ingredients. I’m not knocking anyone who uses a boxed curriculum but I personally prefer to make my own. 

How do you get structure if you assemble your own curriculum? It doesn’t happen by magic. You have to make it yourself. I couldn’t do it without my trusty daily planner.

You can pick up one of these things anywhere – Walmart, the dollar store, you can get fancy ones on Etsy. My current planner is from Seton. I like it because it is plain and serviceable and also has nice Bible verses to keep you going when the chips are down.

Thou shalt not kill. 

In it, I write two schedules – the yearly schedule and the daily schedule.

The Big Picture 

My yearly schedule is on page one of my planner book. It is a list of all the classes my kids are going to take that year. I make sure all the required subjects are covered like English, Math, Science, and History. I specify the classes I am going to teach myself, online classes at Homeschool Connections, co-op classes, classes the kids are going to get elsewhere, and any jobs or activities they have. 

Right now, I just have two kids at home now so I put them both in the same planner book and simply draw a line between their sections. 

The yearly schedule allows me to see the whole year at a glance. It is how I make sure I won’t miss a thing or I am not redundant in some area. (Overloading is just as bad as forgetting something.) Putting the big picture, the year’s overview into my planner book is where I see it all laid out and make sure it is sustainable. Now it is time to turn the page.

The Daily Grind

If the yearly schedule is the meat of homeschooling, the daily one is the bread and butter. This is where the lesson plans for a child, each subject, and each day appear. Since it is so much work, I load the daily lesson plans in chunks weeks ahead. 

While I do so, I am building in flexibility. This is homeschooling. It does not go on without you the way regular school does. Some life events could interfere with it and lessons could get pushed to another day. Like right now, we are about to attend the annual Pilgrimage for Restoration of which my husband is the organizer and my children are dedicated helpers. I plan around it every year – way around it. Even after it is over, my kids are going to be exhausted and ease back into school gradually. Then there are happenings that you cannot predict. This is why I write my planner in pencil. The kids still normally have to do the work but if need be I alone have the power of the eraser. 

Another day we will talk about discipline – yours and your kids’ discipline which is a huge factor in being successful at homeschooling. But for the purposes of this post, let’s just presume you and they have the discipline to follow the daily schedule as closely as life allows.

On a normal day, my kids check the planner book in the morning. They immediately know what they have to accomplish that day. They check it off as they go so that I can see that they have done their work.

Wait a minute! I just realize I made it sound like I simply hand them the planner book and they teach themselves. If only! Sometimes we work together such as when there is a new lesson. Sometimes they work on their own such as when they have homework. Either way, it helps them to know what is expected and then to check off the work. It gives them a sense of accomplishment. 

Finally, One Thing Every Homeschool Planner Needs

Homeschoolers don’t have a bell that rings to say “time for school.” So we accomplish this with the rosary. It is the best way to corral everyone together to get the day started and is no doubt responsible for us lasting as long as we have. Plus, as I learned the hard way, when you say the rosary in the morning, nobody is tired and giggling and prone to standing on their heads.

Immediately after the rosary, we do our read-aloud book. It is on the schedule every bit as much as the textbooks are and possibly has taught the kids more than all the textbooks combined. We started this habit early when the kids were all little and after all these years we’re still doing it. (I’ll post my epic read-aloud list another time.) This little block of time devoted to being together and sharing a book became even more important when the kids got older. That’s when they started going in different directions – this one to an online class, that one to a part-time job. But for one hour of the day, we were all together as a family and as a homeschool. This moment at the beginning of every day doing something fun and meaningful together is the one thing no one is sick of when we wear out later in the year. Which we will. Trust me. Later, months from now, we’ll be tired. We’ll be out of energy. We’ll be running on fumes. The day will come when we’ll be doing our lessons just to get them done. And that epic read-aloud book will help carry us through.

Do you know what else will carry us through those coming days of fatigue? The schedule. Set it up now, form the habit of following it, and it will be there when you need it most.

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