Planning an entire academic year can be overwhelming. Which is exactly why I have broken it down into smaller tasks that I can complete throughout the year. This is how I do it.
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The key to reducing the overwhelm with planning is to break it down in to small, manageable tasks that you spread out. There are many ways to plan and you may find that you change your method over the years as you find what works for you. This is how I currently tackle the job.
In this post:
- Why I ditched yearly planning and think you should too
- How not to plan your homeschool year
- My homeschool planning method
- What ongoing planning looks like
- A summary of my yearly planning if you want to jump ahead and get started!
Why I ditched yearly planning and you should to!
Planning a homeschool year is a daunting task. This can be particularly true if you are using a Waldorf inspired model in your homeschool. There are just so many factors that come in to play. There’s a lot for us parent educators to learn…
And not enough hours in the day!
Combine this with the added headache of trying to teach multiple children at very different learning stages and attempting to stay on budget. It’s easy to see why planning becomes stressful for many parents.
And don’t even get me started on the feelings of disappointment when you have planned out a lesson, spent months looking forward to bringing it to your child… and then it falls flat.
I know. I’ve been there.
Which is why this year I have moved to a new model of planning. Actually, I switched over about half way through last year when I realised the plans I had made weren’t working.
And it’s not because the plans were bad.
It’s just because of the way I had planned! I had planned too much, too far in advance.
The child in front of me in November is not the same child I planned a lesson for in January.
So much growth happens through the year that I couldn’t possibly be teaching to the child in front of me if I am teaching to a plan I made 12, 6 or even 3 months ago! And that is the goal here; to teach to the child before us.
But there is no way I am going in to a year completely unprepared.
This year I have didn’t waste weeks of my time planning out the perfect year that we all know won’t happen anyway. Instead I used my new planning method.
I know there will be some of you who have planned this way all along. Why didn’t you tell me?!
It is has reduced my planning stress so much and helped me deliver more targeted lessons to my kids.
So what is this fab new method?
How Not To Plan Your Homeschool Year
This is how I used to plan.
Read everything I could get my hands on about the upcoming year. Look at all of the available curricula and buy whichever one looked ok that I could afford at the time. Read over the curriculum and completely pull it apart.
Put it back together so that it matched up with Australian seasons. Add in Australian resources and themes. Buy a lot of books and art supplies. Add in a maths curriculum. Search high and low for art, music and handwork resources that could work for us. Spend more money to add those in.
Start the year. Tweak the schedule. Discard half the resources because they just weren’t a good fit. Madly try to find the list of other possible resources in amongst my collection of notebooks. Purchase more resources. Get upset that I couldn’t find or afford some other resource that I thought would be just right.
Deliver the lessons. Feel elated when February’s lessons were a huge hit. Feel flat when June’s lessons weren’t. Or July’s. Want to give up. Buy more resources instead.
Can anyone say curriculum junkie?
(Or maybe, book addict? Let’s go with bibliophile shall we. It sounds much more sophisticated)
What I realised is that I was spending all of my time and money chasing not the perfect curriculum, but reassurance.
And it wasn’t working because I know my kid better than a curriculum writer on the other side of the world. Which is why I messed with the curriculum so much it was unrecognisable by the time I came to deliver a lesson to my son.
And the real reason the lesson’s weren’t as well received in July as they were in February wasn’t really to do with the dreaded homeschool burnout. It was because I had planned the lessons too far in advance and they weren’t speaking to the child I had before me now.
But what do I do now instead?
My Homeschool Planning Method
The way I plan now is a lot simpler.
To start with, I don’t buy a boxed curriculum anymore. If you use one and love it, that’s great. Keep going with it. I just don’t find them useful when I have to put in so much work to Australian-ise it (and there are no complete Australian Steiner homeschool curricula available. Don’t you wish there were?!)
I also don’t hunt around for alternatives. If something is working (like our maths curriculum), I stick with it. This saves so much time. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What I do still do is read all about the year ahead.
What do I mean by this?
I find out about the developmental stage my child is heading in to. I read up about the themes of the year we are going in to and the purpose behind the stories that are told. I check out various resources to get a handle on what to be aiming for in an academic sense. You can check out my fourth grade summary to see what this looks like.
I do this for both children, although I only have my eldest in the grades and my little on is just 3. I still find it helpful and a good way to remind myself that I shouldn’t be expecting anything of them that they aren’t developmentally ready for.
If you have two in the grades look for areas of overlap while you are doing your background reading. This will help you find areas you can combine to make your life easier later on.
After I’ve done this background reading I have a quick look at the yearly overviews of the available curricula, as well as blogs and various books, to get a handle on what blocks should be taught and roughly how much time should be devoted to them. I write these out as a list with the primary academic area, the story content and the duration. Then I put the list to the side while I check my calendar.
On my calendar I mark in anything important that is coming up. Birthdays, co-op days, camping trips, festivals and so on. Now I can see how much time I have available and fit my blocks into our life, instead of trying to fit life in around school time.
Any blocks with content that I don’t think my child is ready for I save for the end of the year.
Or sometimes even for the beginning of the following year! This is one of the big perks of homeschooling, being able to wait until your child is really ready.
I can also move blocks around to match up with the seasons if that works better. For example, we do handwork blocks over winter and gardening blocks in autumn or early spring because that works best for our climate.
Once I’ve put my blocks where I want them, I look at my first two.
That’s right. Just the first two. Out of a typical 8-10 blocks in a year. I don’t worry about the rest at all. There is plenty of time for those later.
I’m looking at two blocks so that I can order books and other resources in advance and know they will be here on time. All I really need to know at this point is what stories I want to tell and what activities I might like to include. This will tell me what resources I need to source.
Because I have been keeping lists with my Mulberry Planner I don’t need to go hunting around on the internet for days. I just pull out my lists and order what I need. If I can’t decide or don’t know what resources to get, I ask other mamas. The online community is great for this and I’m always happy to return the favour.
Now I plan out my first block in more detail. You can find my beginner’s guide to block planning here.
Here is where I want to use the info I found before. I take the story themes and my academic goals and use these to plan my lessons. Instagram is my go-to for lesson inspiration if I am a bit stumped on what it could look like in practice.
Again I use my Mulberry Planner to keep track of this. Their lesson planning page has a spot for me to record our academic aims, list the materials we need, make note of prior knowledge I need to link to and plenty of space for me to write down what I want the actual lesson to look like. A pretty planner helps me feel organised and on top of things 😉
Now my first block is planned, my resources are ordered and I know what the roadmap for our year looks like.
You may notice this all looks pretty similar to how I plan for a combined Charlotte Mason and Waldorf year. The main difference is that I’m not letting fear rule my purchasing choices and even though I have planned out our year, I am only planning the actual lessons for the next month.
The secret to making this work is ongoing planning.
How does ongoing planning work?
What Ongoing Planning Looks Like
If I’m only planning one block at a time, how am I prepared when the next one rolls around?
There are two secrets to this.
Secret number one: I structure our year with breaks between blocks so that I have time for lesson planning.
And secret number two: I plan on an ongoing basis.
Tell me more!
I follow the Australian school calendar- more or less. We start and stop at roughly the same time as schools in our state and take our 3x2wk term breaks at the same time. Those 2 weeks breaks give me time to order in resources or place library holds ready for the next block. Where we differ to the regular school year is our flex weeks.
Around week 5 of each term we take a break from our regular rhythm. We use this week to we catch up on any work from our block that hasn’t been completed. Mostly I assign independent work, usually art, maths and reading. While the kids are occupying themselves, I get the week to plan the lessons for the block ahead.
Remember because I ordered resources for two blocks, I only have the actual lessons to plan for the next 4 weeks. My resources are already sitting there, ready to go. The 10th and last week of the term will be another catch up or project week.
When the two week school holiday break rolls around, I order my resources in the first week, take a break for myself, then spend some time in the second week planning my lessons for the next block.
I simply repeat this throughout the year. I will put a summary of this planning in the next section for you to get a clear overview.
I keep ongoing lists of possible resources and activities as I see them mentioned in groups or as I notice them on my social media feeds. That way I have plenty of ideas to draw from when it comes to planning time. Aside from my lists, I also keep a lot of these ideas organised on my Pinterest page, so check that out if you need some inspiration!
A Schedule for Ongoing Planning
Now all of that may have left you feeling a little bewildered. Trust me, it’s much more straight forward than it seems when I write it out.
Here is my planning schedule so you can see how easy it really is. Just alter the dates to fit in with your homeschool calendar.
Early January – read up on the year ahead
Mid January – decide on blocks, fill out calendar and order resources
End of January – plan block one lessons
1st day of school – celebrate NOT BACK TO SCHOOL DAY
Term 1/Wk 5 – flex week and plan block two lessons
Term 1/Wk 10 – flex week
Autumn Holidays Wk 1 – order resources then take a real break
Autumn Holidays Wk 2 – plan block three lessons
Term 2/Wk 5 – flex week and plan block four lessons
Term 2/Wk10 – flex week
Winter Holidays Wk 1 – order resources then take a real break
Winter Holidays Wk 2 – plan block five lessons
Term 3/Wk 5 – flex week and plan block six lessons
Term 2/Wk10 – flex week
Spring Holidays Wk 1 – order resources then take a real break
Spring Holidays Wk 2 – plan block seven lessons
Term 2/Wk 5 – flex week and plan block eight lessons
Term 2/Wk10 – flex week/start Christmas handwork block
End of school year
Doesn’t that look easy!
Now tell me, what’s your number one difficulty when it comes to homeschool planning?