Homeschool Planning

As any homeschooling mama knows it takes a lot of planning, researching, and following through on our part to make sure our children are learning everything they need to know. Multiply that by lots of children and one can be overwhelmed in no time flat!

Here's how I try to manage all the nitty-gritty details. To start I need to explain our school year.

We do what is considered year-round school. When we first started we followed a traditional school schedule but I didn't like all the review we had to do at the beginning of a new school year and felt that time was wasted. So I switched to a year round schedule that works for us. We've used it for the last decade or so. We have three months on, one month off, with a week off in the middle month, all year round. This is the schedule we follow. Our school year officially goes from September to July.

September - November school with a week off in October
December off
January - March school with a week off in February
April off
May - July school with a week off in June
August off

There are a number of reasons I like this schedule. The breaks aren't too long so we don't need to review. The week-long breaks give me time to consider how the last six weeks went and readjust as needed for the next six weeks. The month long breaks are taken during the busiest time of year for us farming wise. April is when most of the spring planting, readying of the fields, etc takes place. We're actually pretty busy all summer long but August seems to be the worst. Our garden also really begins producing during this time so there's a lot of harvesting/canning/freezing we do. December is busy because of the Christmas holiday. It's nice to have that break to take things slower. The month long breaks also provide time for me to reorganize our school supplies, buy new curriculum, plan for the next block of school, etc.

An added benefit for me with this year round schedule - I can rearrange the months off when I have a newborn. Baby #9 is due the end of July. This falls in perfectly with our schedule as August is our month off. When Hershey was born in the middle of October, I planned ahead. We didn't take August off but worked right through it and September. Then we took October off instead. November was a very light load just doing the basics, December we took off as planned in our yearly schedule so when January started we were ready to start back up with a full load. By this time Hershey was three months old and into more of a daily routine. 

This little baby, The Desk Apprentice from Staples,  is what keeps me organized. This gal is loaded with math worksheets, unit study items, lapbook foldables, history pocket copies, etc. I use it for my grade school aged children. I like it because it's the perfect size, even for all my kids. It spins. It's portable. It holds an amazing amount of stuff. I often tease that if the house were on fire I could grab this and the girls would still have to do school! Here's how I've organized it all.

Each season and month has its own hanging file with the months filed behind the appropriate seasons. Each month then has weekly folders. I filed the worksheets and other items in the weeks I wanted them done. Seasonal activities are filed in the season folders. I looked at the calendar to determine which unit studies or lapbooks to do to correlate with the various holidays or special days we want to observe and then filed them in the week leading up to that holiday. Now we won't forget to celebrate Nacho Day (read this hilarious post my cousin wrote about my Mexican grandfather) or National Cocoa Day (December 13)! Each child also has their own hanging file to keep track of papers they want to keep: poems, reports, or pictures. The pockets on the sides hold teacher keys, our current history and science books, dry-erase markers, pencils, lined paper, and other odds and ends.

Every Monday we pull out the file folder for that week, pass out the math, language arts, grammar, and spelling worksheets, and the girls put them in their binders. Any unit study or lapbook copies are kept in the weekly file folder until we need them during the week. We use Sonlight for history and science. Because it already comes with it's own schedule it is kept in a separate binder that I use.

Whew! Still with me? Now we get into even more details. In my teacher binder I have a schedule for the six week learning period for each child for their language, math, spelling, reading. I pair my children up according to similar learning levels for studying history and science. Art and music are taught to everyone together...very sporadically.☺The history and science are already planned, a great feature of Sonlight. I plan the six week period, using the 6-week form found here,while placing all the worksheets into the weekly file folders. I make notes on this 6-week form of when new concepts will be introduced in their math, what phonics rule will be covered, etc. Before a new week of school I write out a weekly schedule for each child according to what's on my 6-week planner. This is their copy so they know what they are to do each day. It is kept in the front of their binder. Writing out the weekly schedules allows me to see what the girls will be learning in the coming week.

Each school day when I spend time with each pair of children I teach new concepts in math or language, we do history or science, and any unit study or lapbook projects. The girls are able to do a lot of math and language on their own, especially as they get older. Many lapbook projects are also done independently after learning the material together. In the evening I have time scheduled (9pm-9:30pm) to grade (check) their school work and prepare any materials we'll need for the next day.

Wow, reading through the post it sounds like a lot. Really it's not. The main planning is done when we don't have school. On the months off I'll take my time, order anything we'll use in the next three month school period and plan the 6-week schedule. Planning the 6-week schedule usually takes three to four days to write out the schedule and file all the worksheets. Once a week I write out the younger kids' schedules for the coming week. This takes about half an hour. Each night I take some time to go over the children's school work and prepare for the next day.

This particular year round school schedule doesn't work for everyone. Find one that works for you. Take advantage of planning forms, many of them free (I like Donna Young's site), and organize using binders or file folders.

Tomorrow's post . . . A Typical Homeschool Day (Find out what a typical day is like at our house. Chaos is guaranteed!)


Heart of the Matter has partnered with 16 of the most inspiring, lovely, and just plain awesome bloggers in the homeschool community to bring you 10 days, 160 posts full of resources for those starting out, burned out or need new ideas.

Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori | Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool | Delightful Learning

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  1. great ideas, thanks! I'm still new at this so I've been kind of floundering around with schedules and planning. Bookmarking this post!

  2. I've already clicked "add to cart" for the desk apprentice. What a fabulous tool! You inspire me! Really you do! I've been reading your blog for about a year and I refer lots of friends to it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Amazing! I love it. Thanks for spelling it out for me. I hate when people just tell me they do things without explaining how. Thanks again.

  4. Wow - you are so organized! Thanks for sharing this

  5. During your month and week breaks do you still have some sort of structure-- do you keep to the same routine-- chores, together time but then just omit the school time or do you let up with the schedule as well?

    This was really helpful thanks!

  6. @Heatherlady,

    During our breaks we keep the same routine but instead of school the kids have free/play time. The older ones usually focus on reading books, piano playing, sewing, and other projects. The younger ones read a few books and play, play, play usually outside as much as possible.

  7. We have decided to go back to year-round as well...and I need one of those spin thingys. I have looked at them with drool at Staples!

  8. Great post. Love the desk apprentice - I'm so getting that! Thanks for the link!

  9. I LOVE your year-round schedule. Why didn't I think of that? Thanks!

  10. I made the above comment accidentally under my son's login.

  11. What a great post! I bought that same organizer after seeing it on The Kelley Eight. I made a file for each week of school (and coincidentally used the same cute font as you did for my file labels). You have given me some great ideas how to better utilize the organizer, like having a section for seasonal activities. Thanks for sharing!

  12. How do work around a child wanting to do more in any given subject than you've planned? I kinda like letting them do more when they are enthusiastic, but that messes up the careful planning!

  13. Does this work with your K12 program for your older children? The K12 in our area is quite strict about timing.

    1. No, this schedule doesn't work with the two oldest who are using K12. I still do the schedule with the younger ones though. Everyone is off this week as k12 in our area is having spring break. It's hasn't been too bad though because my older ones also help on the farm in the summer when they are off from school and we don't have to rearrange school with the younger ones around the crazy farm schedule.

  14. Wow, you are amazing...I wish I had the organization/planning gene, but alas, it is missing from my genetic code. ;) I plan on going through and reading more of your homeschool posts...maybe some of your great ideas will rub off on me!


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