President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
He may have been referring to military plans, but the benefits of planning for many homeschoolers are no less important.
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that it can be designed to cater to the needs of any specific family, and within the family, to the specific needs of each individual student.
Some families will want to have a comprehensive plan and strategy laid out in great detail. Other families will want to wing it all year, allowing their children’s interests to guide them. Still, other families will fall somewhere in the middle.
The preference for the degree of advanced planning largely comes down to differences in personality. My preference is to plan. I’m a planner. I enjoy planning. I am much more confident and comfortable having a plan in place. I feel prepared with a plan and I feel anxious without one.
That said, I also feel free to completely disregard my plan at any time during the year, or to alter the plan to better suit the needs of my children as we go. I’m not beholden to the plan but it is what I fall back on. When life throws curveballs or when no better course presents itself, we simply follow the plan.
For those like me, who prefer to have a plan in place, here are five steps I’ve found effective in planning an entire homeschool year before it begins.
Consult the Calendar
The first step is to view the year at a glance. Make sure your calendar is marked with any obligations you’re committed to, activities you’ve already signed up for, holidays and birthdays, and the vacation time you want to take. This will define the parameters for going forward.
Number Your Weeks
Second, assign each week of the school year a number. Depending on where you’re homeschooling, you may be legally compelled to be “in school” for a defined number of weeks. Perhaps you’re using curriculum that will influence the number of weeks to attribute to the school year. Whatever the case, decide how many weeks you’ll school and then identify each of them from week 1 to the last week.
Set Up File Folders
The third step is inspired by homeschooling expert Kristi Clover and her YouTube video, “How to Organize Your Homeschool Curriculum: 5 Simple Systems.” Clover sets up hanging files for each week of the school year. Then, for each week, she inserts a folder for each child. This is perhaps the best piece of homeschooling advice I’ve ever come across. This system, along with the next step, is the backbone of our homeschool.
Use a Spreadsheet
Step four is inspired by YouTuber Megan Phillips. (Thank goodness for homeschool moms who share their wisdom online!) Her video, “How to Plan Your Homeschool Year,” walks the viewer through creating a spreadsheet where she inputs every lesson for every subject.
Put simply, the spreadsheet should consist of a header column that lists the numbered weeks, beginning with week one. The header rows should enumerate each subject that will be taught. Then the detailed lessons are filled in. For example, perhaps you’ll teach “Lesson 1” of whatever curriculum you’re using in week 1 for Math. You continue filling in the spreadsheet until you have a plan to reach your goals for each subject.
Once you know what you’re teaching each week, you can fill your children’s folders with the corresponding materials. I break up workbooks, print out information, and even add fun surprises to my kids’ folders. During the school year, they begin each week with a new folder stocked with exactly what they need.
With full folders and a spreadsheet full of carefully chosen ideas, you’ve got a plan for the entire year. Will it be perfect? No. Will you accomplish everything? Probably not. Will you alter your plans numerous times throughout the year? I wouldn’t be surprised.
However, you can rest easy knowing where you’re headed—you’ve got a map and directions—and if an unbeaten path or two call out to you, you can ditch the plan and wander. Knowing you can always find your way back to a well-paved trail is the peace of mind that will sustain you throughout the year.