Are you in homeschool planning mode this summer? I am. It’s a slow and steady process for me, which is why I love a long summer break so much.
Year after year, I tend to follow the same simple steps to plan our upcoming school year. My exact method might not work for you, but hopefully, you’ll find at least a few things that are useful!
A little here and a little there is my motto when it comes to planning. I can get sucked into hours and hours of thinking, researching, and planning. When I break the tasks into doable chunks and allow myself plenty of time to complete each portion, I’m so much happier in the long run.
While it’s my job to plan and prepare for the great new school year, I want to enjoy my summer, too. This plan has allowed me to do both easily and consistently for years.
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Grab a Notebook
The key to summer homeschool planning is to have one notebook for EVERYTHING. Each new step in the process will require you to make notes of some sort.
A simple spiral notebook is fine. A simple three-ring binder with loose-leaf paper is fine. Fancy notebooks or binders are fine, too. Whatever you know you’ll keep up with from the start of this process to the finish will work.
Summer Homeschool Planning Steps
1. Evaluate last year. Before I ever begin planning a new school year, I ponder the year we just finished. What worked well? What didn’t work? I think about everything – curriculum, the daily rhythm, the extra-curricular activities, and even the family relationships.
I might write these evaluations down in my notebook, but more than anything, just thinking through them helps me a lot when it comes time to make new plans.
2. Tidy the schoolroom. I’m serious, this is a really important step for me. As I sort through curriculum and files, it’s a great opportunity for me to continue evaluating what worked and what didn’t. It also creates a fresh space for me to think better.
3. Start dreaming. In my notebook, I start dreaming. What might the perfect day look like? What subjects do we need to cover? Does any particular child need a significant curriculum overhaul for any subject? Which subjects would be easy to do with everyone together? How many extra-curricular activities do we expect to have and how will those fit into a doable weekly schedule? What chores will each child be able to handle?
If you’re a goal maker, this is a good time to write down some new goals for academics, spirituality, social skills, family relationships, etc. You might even make a list for each child and one for the family.
4. Visit my own curriculum shelves. I keep a lot of curriculum from year to year to potentially use again with another child. Before I even start browsing curriculum catalogs, I always take stock of what I already own that might be useful. I simply write those things down in my notebook – one page per subject.
I might even go ahead and pull a few piles of curriculum off the shelves if I will need to go through any of it to compare to other curricula that I’m considering. (I don’t start pouring through it until step 7.)
5. Browse curriculum catalogs and websites. I love browsing a good curriculum catalog! Summer afternoons were made for a porch swing and a catalog. As I browse, I continue adding to my lists of potential curriculum for each subject as I find things that might be useful. These are just brainstorming lists, so I don’t worry about adding too many things.
Even when homeschooling multiple children, I only create one page in my notebook per subject. If each child will use a different curriculum, I simply add columns to that page to write potential curriculum ideas for each of them.
6. Take a break. Once I’ve done all the initial dreaming and browsing, I let things swirl and settle in my brain for a bit. This break can last a few days or a few weeks.
7. Plan the curriculum. Now, it’s time to settle on what curriculum I’ll actually use for each subject for each child using the lists of potential ideas that I previously wrote.
One subject at a time, I simply review the list of potential curriculum and start making decisions. If I have any curriculum from my shelves (or PDFs on my computer) to browse, I do that first. For others, I spend some time viewing online samples.
As I consider our homeschooling style and my children’s preferences, it’s pretty easy to start removing some of the potential ideas from each list. If I’m still not quite sure which one to choose, I read online reviews. I often ask my older children to weigh in on the decisions, too.
Once a decision is made, I start a new page in the notebook. Here, I write down the final curriculum decisions for each child for each subject.
Making final curriculum decisions goes quickly sometimes. Other times, it may take me days to complete the research and decision-making for a single subject. Either way, it’s okay. A little here and a little there is progress!
8. Order the curriculum. If orders need to be made, I go ahead and get it done so that I’m not scrambling as the new school year begins.
If you have an opportunity to buy directly from a publisher, it’s such a blessing to them. I know we can often find things with free shipping from the bigger stores, but supporting small businesses helps keep them in business.
9. Plan the week and then plan the days. Now that the curriculum is settled in my mind, it’s time to decide on our typical schedule.
I like to have an overall picture of our normal monthly and weekly flow before I plug in anything else. I will often print a generic month-at-a-glance calendar and note the regularly recurring things like co-op classes, sports practices, youth group meetings, and music lessons.
Once I know what the months and weeks will typically look like, I plan a daily schedule for each day of the week. Scroll down on this post to see a sample schedule for one child. Or this one to see a sample schedule for two children.
10. Put together my planner. Now that everything else is ready to go for the school year, it’s time to get my planner set up!
Every year, I tend to use a different style of planner. This one that I created for the elementary years was my all-time favorite. I print off enough planning pages for 36 weeks and add them to a 3-ring binder along with booklists, a field trip bucket list, and any other things that could help me throughout the year.
Bonus. Enjoy the rest of the summer. Once these tasks are done, I’m ready to put aside homeschooling for a while!
Some of you may want to begin planning the actual daily lessons at this point, but I’ve found that to be mostly a waste of time. While it might seem like a great idea on the surface, most of us will find that day-to-day homeschooling never quite works out as we envision.
Some days our children will fly through what we’ve planned. On other days, they will struggle and need to work on a single lesson for multiple days. Sometimes we miss a day of lessons because of a field trip opportunity, a social opportunity, sickness, or simply because we need a break.
In general, it’s much more fruitful to make lesson plans about a week at a time.
Helpful Planning Resources
Here are some other resources you can find here at Our Journey Westward to help with summer homeschool planning.
Happy planning! Feel free to share your awesome tips in the comments!