August 9, 2016

5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Routine and a FREE Lesson Planning Printable {5 Days of Homeschool 101)

Like most teachers, homeschool parents spend quite a bit of time planning out how everything is going to go. We make lists. We check them twice. We hunt for the best planner. We download printables to make our lives easier. We do so much, that sometimes it's hard to tell a beginning homeschooler WHAT we do. So let's break it down. Today I'm going to share five tips to help you-whether a rookie or a pro just looking for new ideas-plan out your homeschooling experience.

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Every homeschooling parent has their own method that works for them in regards to planning, but that usually doesn't stop them from trying out new things. I know I explore new planning tools all the time. But I have boiled what I do (and what many of my friends do) into five things.

#1 Plan a routine, NOT a schedule

What do I mean? Aren't they the same? No. They are actually very different. A schedule is a day broken down into timed intervals. Say "breakfast at 7:30, Bible at 8:00, Math at 9:15, English at 10:30". It's a more rigid plan for your day. A routine is saying "We are going to start with Bible, then move to math. Once we have finished that we will shift of History." You create a school routine where you follow a guideline to complete subjects, not limited by time. 
Planning by subject for each day without giving it a time
Why is a routine better? 
Well, in my opinion, a routine eliminates the time busters. When you are only allowing a certain time frame for completing work, you have set yourself to have time busters. Little things like--Susie needs more time to finish her math program, but the clock says it's time for English. Or--Paul has discovered he wants to know more about gladiators after listening to Heirloom Audio Productions Beric the Briton, but we HAVE to shift to math now because it's 9:15. What if the toilet overflows during Science time? If you give them time to do these things, your entire schedule has been busted to accommodate it. 

BUT, if you do a routine, than you have freedom to take longer in a subject because you just wrote in the subject for the day--not the time it needed to be started/finished. As long as you hit your routine, you are good--even if it takes a bit longer to get to the next things. More freedom. Less clock watching. And LESS like a traditional school method of following the bells.

#2 Remember that planning is a GUESS

This kind of goes with the last tip. When you are planning your day/week/month/year, remember that you are basing this on the big word IF!

IF no one is sick, we will have school on Tuesday.
IF we are caught up with our Science lesson, we will do our experiment on Friday.
IF we haven't stopped for rabbit trails, we will move on to the next chapter in our literature.
IF the car doesn't break down, we will go to our field trip in March.

So don't freak out when things don't go "according to plan"! Be flexible...which leads us to our next tip.

#3 Plan in PENCIL

Because planning is merely a GUESS at what will happen that any day, write out your plans in PENCIL and keep that eraser near by. It doesn't matter how awesome things are going in my homeschool, I have ALWAYS had to erase SOMETHING on any given week. There is something about writing in pencil that gives me the mental confirmation that it's okay if I need to change something.

My nice sharp pencil with a good eraser...perfect for lesson "guessing"
If we don't get to the planned assignment, I simply erase it and write it on the next day I "guess" it will happen on, and then change the rest of whatever I have laid out.

Friends, there are some weeks I think I have erased almost EVERYTHING because of something happening. And that's okay. It was just a "guess" at what was going to happen to begin with, remember?

#4 Don't forget to "plan" breaks!

It is FAR too easy to get on a roll with planning out your day/week/month/year, and forget to plug in breaks! Give them (and yourself!) the down time you need to relax your brain. Make sure there are "recess" periods in your day. Write down the days you are going on family vacation, and then remember to take them into consideration when you are planning your year. EVERYONE knows how hard it is to get the kids back into school mode on the heels of a vacation, so let your routine show that. Look at your school year and go ahead and block out the days you know for a fact there won't be any school. This will help you in your overall "guessing" of what will be accomplished throughout the year.
Going ahead and marking out the days I KNOW we won't be doing school
Our family always takes a school break when my parents come to visit. We also take school breaks around Thanksgiving and during the last 2 weeks of December. We have abbreviated school during our annual church festival Feast of Tabernacles that we keep every fall--that's 10 days to plug into my schedule as little to no school. All of this helps me in my year of planning, which then helps me determine how my weeks will PROBABLY fall.

I also figure out how many subjects or assignments a day the boys need to do before they get a "brain break". For us, it is three. Staying on top of these brain breaks, means less interruptions and wiggles during lessons.

And don't forget yourself! Make sure you give YOURSELF a brain break! Don't load your day with 5 subjects in a row that require YOU to be the teacher! Work in periods of independent time. Even at the youngest level (say Preschool) your child should be able to work for a period of time independently in whatever it is they can do. For the younger students, give them a game or a puzzle or a coloring/cutting page. For the elementary students, you could give them the same, or reading time. As your child gets older the amount of independent study SHOULD increase. So make sure of those moments and give YOURSELF a brain break! Drink your coffee. Read a chapter in a novel. Color a picture of your own. Do some housework (psst--this will be something I talk about tomorrow!).

#5 Find yourself the planner that best fits your OWN style

I am so picky when it comes to planners. First, I CANNOT maintain an online planner. It's just NOT me. It takes too long for me to set it up--even when it's the easiest planner there is. I don't like to be tied to my computer or phone or tablet to know what I have on the school "menu" for the day. I have reviewed a few online planners that you can check out if you think this IS your style...several were very good--just not for me:

*Homeschool Planet
*HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage
* (I didn't review this, but the other crew members did)

So since I don't use an online planner, what do I use? Well, I have used printed forms from three or four different blogs/websites and I have used two different printed planners. They all had their high points and LOTS of pros. I love having a paper planner because I can grab it quick, take it with me wherever, and write in pencil (and make changes) anytime I need to. I don't need internet to make it happen. But even with paper planners I am still really picky. I don't want fluffy stuff in my planner. Keep it simple--calendars, weekly lesson planning, attendance, place for notes. Oh and if it's also spiral bound that's a plus too. Here are some reviews on three printed planners I have used and thought were well done:

*Hey Mama! PRINT Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017
*Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia
*My Student Logbook (lays out your daily work for each child for THEM to check off)

Which of these do I like the best? Actually I'm good with all of these! The Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner has a SLIGHT edge, simply because it has attendance forms in the back which I REALLY love having handy. But I have used and enjoyed using all of these.

Now, some homeschooling parents like to have the homeschool stuff mixed in with their daily routine planners. If so, than you might consider more of a planner like the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner. That's not my style, so it's not one that works for me, although it has some great parts. There are some websites that provide FREE planners as part of their membership bonuses. does this. Not only do you get access to their incredible website with lessons for ALL ages for one membership fee, but you can get a free digital planner to download--it's definitely more a WHOLE DAY sort, but it has a very good homeschool planning section, or get an online recordkeeping account (free!). Lots of ideas out there.

Now if you have a homeschool binder for planning (I had one of those when I first got started), there are TONS of great planning forms out there for free to print out. You will find all types of styles. As I discover them, I have saved a LOT of planning paperwork freebies on my pinterest board devoted just to that! Make sure you follow it and then check it out for some freebies:

But if you want to get started with a basic planning form, I created one just for you! It's a weekly lesson planning sheet--2 pages for each week. The file has one set with days labelled and the other without. I also included an extra sheet to start your week with notes, supplies, and the inspirational quote you have for the week (if you do that).

In summary, remember to plan a routine (not a schedule), allow for changes by treating it as your "guess" and using pencil, schedule in breaks for your students and yourself, and find a planning form that works the best for you! I hope that this will give you the encouragement you need to have a successful planning session for the upcoming school year and many more to come!

5 Days of Homeschool 101
Today was the second day in our 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop for the Schoolhouse Review Crew! Yesterday was focused on curriculum, and today was all about planning--so make sure you go and visit the posts of other contributors to our fabulous hop today! Stay tuned the rest of the week as we dive into four other aspects of basic homeschooling stuff.

Here is the list of all my blog posts for this week:

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