I’ve developed a process for planning my homeschool year that’s working really well. If you’re just looking for a way to organize your homeschooling records, you may find these tips helpful. Each of the topics below comprises a separate tabbed section in my homeschool planner, a crisp white binder which I update annually:
1. LONG-TERM GOALS:
For my oldest child, who is entering high school this year, I’ve created a long-term goals chart that outlines what he’ll be studying each year in each subject area until he graduates high school. It’s just a simple grid chart with school year going down the left side and subject areas spanning across the top. I change the chart every year because quite frankly I change my mind every year about what we’ll be doing! Aidan’s opinions and talents have a great influence on these plans and these factors of course change over time. I don’t have this kind of detailed long-term plan for my younger children, but some parents might find comfort in doing so.
2. CURRICULUM LISTS:
For each child, I create a list of the curriculum I’m using in each subject area, including a literature list whether family read-aloud or silent reading. These lists are especially useful in July & August when my curriculum orders start coming in from multi-various vendors and I need to ensure I have everything I need for each child. I also record the book selections for my family learning blocks on these lists.
These curriculum lists are like anchors when I become lost in the chaos and busy-ness during the year and forget the beautiful & inspiring books I hoped to share with my babies. You can also refer to these lists in later years when you’re making plans for younger siblings.
3. YEAR AT A GLANCE:
Armed with my curriculum lists, I can begin to fill in my Year-at-a-Glance planner on which I record 1) liturgical feasts and saints days that I want to include in my learning plan, 2) birthdays and anniversaries, 3) holidays, and 4) any learning blocks that I’m planning with the children in my family study areas of history, faith, and science.
As Catholic Christians, liturgical feasts and celebrations are the most important entry on our calendars. Catholic devotions and holy observances can become part of our family identity if we incorporate them into our daily living plans. In this way, our Catholic Faith becomes not just what our children do, but it becomes who they are. So grab your Catholic calendar and plug in any dates that you want to share with your kids. Note: I don’t write in all the feasts and saints days; just the ones I am planning to highlight in our home.
In the same section, I keep the following planning chart in my homeschool planning binder right behind the Year at a Glance sheet:
It contains the major liturgical feasts and any secular holidays for each month in snapshot format, so I can see quickly what is coming up. I refer frequently to this handy chart all year as I’m thinking about the few months ahead. I update movable dates every year. Here is the chart for 2013-2014: free pdf planning reference chart annual 2013-2014
Learning blocks are topics I’m covering with at least two of my children together. I might be teaching 4 weeks on the Civil War or 6 weeks on Beatrice Potter books. So in my Year-at-a-Glance planner I’ll pencil in these blocks in the month I’m planning to begin them along with a notation regarding the number of weeks we’ll be spending on the learning block.
Here’s a copy of my Year at a Glance planner. Note: I never know everything I would need to know to fill in this planner for the entire year. I tend to fill in the liturgical feasts we celebrate every year and the learning blocks I have planned for the first semester, then as the year progresses I’ll fill in the Year-at-a -Glance 3 to 4 months ahead of time.
4. WEEKLY SCHEDULE:
In my home, we only do science and history 2 days a week, spelling 3 days a week, handwriting 2 days a week (except for Aidan who doesn’t do handwriting but does composition 5 days a week), literature and math 5 days a week (except a kindergartner in my home who only does math 2 days a week), plus the complexities of individual co-ops, music lessons, gymnastics, etc. Well, it could become maddening.
So every year I create a separate weekly schedule for each child that lists which subject they should work on each day and what sort of extra-curricular activities they’re committed to each day. I hang these lists in my kitchen (next to each child’s chore chart) and keep a copy in my homeschool binder. Here’s Claire’s schedule from Fall 2011:
With their own weekly charts, the kids can just look at their chart and know which subjects they need to work on that day. A step toward independent learning!
5. WEEKLY PLANNER
One of the best things about homeschooling is that we can dive into a new project when the mood strikes, stay with an idea or question for weeks at a time if we want, and we can create our own reading lists suited to our family’s interests and needs. For me, having all these choices and opportunities could also stress me out if I didn’t have some way to keep track of what we were doing! I create a lot of learning bocks in the areas of history, literature, and religion, so I created the below weekly planner. The subjects on the top box of the planner are for family learning topics — stuff we’re doing all together. I also have boxes for each of the children and enter the books or topics they’re using. I have been filling out the sheets in 4 to 6 weeks chunks to plan ahead. I love this format! I can see everything in one spot:
Feel free to copy and adapt this idea for your family! You can download copies of my chart with 1, 2, 3, and 4 bottom boxes (blank), depending on how many children you are planning lessons for:
UPDATE: Here’s my weekly planner for 2012 with links to free pdf copies!
And for those of you with bunches of babies, here’s a supplement that’ll let you have as many boxes as you need: Kim’s wkly planner supplement
6. LEARNING LOGS:
Some families like to keep track of what their kids do every day or week in each subject. This is too much detail for me. However, because I homeschool my younger kids through a charter school I’m required to turn in summaries of what they’ve learned each month and an attendance sheet. So I create summaries every month. I have master charts that I use each month and just fill in as I go along. Each summary is obviously customized and coordinated with what the particular child is studying. I usually make messy notes in pencil all month then retype everything before our charter’s learning coordinator comes.
My eldest son Aidan is in high school this year, so I’ll probably keep very detailed notes for him too but I’m still in shock!
As I said, each of these six tools comprises a separate tabbed section in my homeschool binder. I keep them in this order from front to back:
- Learning logs
- Weekly schedules
- Blank weekly planners (the ones I’m working with are stapled together and kept with the current week facing out in the see-through pocket on the back of my binder so that I can see it quickly throughout the day).
- Curriculum lists
- Year at a Glance; Planning Chart
- Long-Term Planning
I also keep copies of the children’s old curriculum lists in a pocket in my binder so that I can recall what I’ve read to them in previous years, but this is also in my computer so if my binder ever gets too bulky I can get rid of these.
I’ve seen very elaborate homeschool planners that have just about everything you can imagine in them, including menu planning, chore charts, and medical appointments. I can definitely see the appeal of these systems to busy homeschooling parents, but I seem to dislike some element of each one and they’re often hefty things! I prefer to have a separate resource to keep track of these other things.
I use a small commercial planner in which I enter family medical appointments, playdates, and my menu plans every week. I use this one published by family-centered.com; I like it because it includes the Church feasts and saints days and it’s small enough to fit in my purse. Chore charts are hung on the kitchen wall next to the kids’ daily school schedules.
All of this helps me feel like I know what’s going on, but I drop it all in a moment if there’s a birds nest to view, a beautiful day calling us lake side, or if we’re all too tuckered out to do much but sit around talking and listening to piano music!