Homeschool planning can be one of the most daunting aspects of homeschooling.
Not only do we have to determine what and how to teach our kids, we have to order all that learning into some sort of organized plan that makes sense; fits into the overall family rhythm (naps, chores, lessons, sports); and we still have to keep everyone clothed, fed (and, some days, from wanting to drive each other crazy).
How is this possible when no one day is the same, no child is the same and no curriculum is the same?
Can a homeschool planner help?
Finding Sanity in Homeschool Planning
If you’ve read my book Plan to Be Flexible then you know that I am a planner, perfectionist type that discovered rather quickly that it is virtually impossible to live out the perfect homeschool schedule.
In fact, as a homeschooler, it’s probably the quickest method of sending you on a one-way ticket to homeschool burnout (not to mention a trip to the looney bin).
No doubt about it: We need some structure to our learning if we want to meet certain learning objectives. But a rigid schedule is not the way to make it happen.
Instead of a schedule, what if we thought of creating a rhythm for our homeschool days? What if we instilled some key pillars in our day, along with some general learning “backbone” times for each day, and some learning goals for a certain period of time, and then allowed things to play out naturally?
This is what I call rhythm-based homeschooling, and it is the essential key to creating a homeschool plan that not only works but that keeps you sane.
Using an Online Homeschool Planner As A Backbone for Daily Homeschool Planning
I’m super excited about Homeschool Planet—an awesome online homeschool planner—because it allows homeschool moms to create a backbone outline of a typical homeschool rhythm in a powerful and effective manner.
Because Homeschool Planet is digital and daily assignments can be arranged and re-scheduled automatically, homeschool planning can have both a loose structure and a flexibility necessary for the uncertainties of life, which is key to rhythm-based homeschooling.
How does Homeschool Planet work? In a nutshell, you create your homeschool plan/calendar (for the week, for the month, or for the year—whatever works best for you) in your own online portal within the Homeschool Planet site.
(Since I don’t share my children’s names on the blog, I’m sharing sample screen shots from the site, not my personal account).
After adding in yourself and your students as users, you create and assign learning tasks to be completed on specific days. You can choose to assign these to a specific timeslot or just as a task to be completed that day (the latter option better supports rhythm-based homeschooling because it offers flexibility instead of rigidity).
Tasks can be printed, sent to students (or yourself) in a daily or weekly “digest” form, and students can also access the information via their own login.
You or your students check off the assignments as they are completed. If an assignment isn’t completed for some reason, you’re alerted each day by Homeschool Planet’s re-scheduling feature and can decide whether to eliminate the task or to schedule it for a future time.
8 Reasons Why I Love Homeschool Planet for Homeschool Planning
1) It works for all kinds of homeschoolers.
Homeschool Planet works whether you are specific or general in your planning. Here are some examples:
- You can keep track of assignments that you plan for the future (how I’d imagine most people would use it); or you can write in completed assignments for each subject after the event happened. This would be ideal for unschoolers who want to keep records of the types of learning happening for their students in each subject.
- You can choose to give a specific time for an assignment; or you can just list that assignment as a requirement for the day. I appreciate this because we choose to build our homeschool day around key “pillars” for each day instead of at specific times (more on that in a minute when I get to essential tips to homeschool planning).
This of course is the best part of having an online planner like Homeschool Planet. I love that I can adjust assignments as needed. The problem I’d found in the past with other scheduling systems (and of course the main issue with paper scheduling systems) is that it was very difficult to move assignments around. This is essential in homeschooling because our schedule will never, ever turn out like we expect it (I wrote an entire book on this!).
3) The freedom to choose.
I love that you make the final decision about what to do with the assignments. For example, if you mark yesterday as a sick day, you can decide if you want to eliminate those assignments or add them today, or add them to a future date. And you can make that decision for each of the assignments (if you want to just keep one or two, for example).
It’s quite convenient to have access to assignments both on my phone and on my computer. It’s also amazing that my kids can access all their necessary data from their iPods and Chromebooks too.
As a homeschooler, I constantly feel like I’m swimming in a sea of paper, so the option to have one more aspect of homeschooling paperless makes me downright giddy.
6) Lots of online help available.
7) This is not a static product.
Homeschool Planet is constantly being updated, and not only can you view recent additions to the planner (which you can have as one of your widgets), you can also see which updates are planned for the upcoming future.
8) You can try it for free!
Homeschool Planet offers a free 30-day trial so you can test out the homeschool planning system for yourself and see what you think. After the trial period ends, Homeschool Planet costs $65 per year or $6.95 per month. You can hear what others are saying about Homeschool Planet on their social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus.
Links to Free Printed Homeschool Planners
Maybe the online calendar isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s a little out of your homeschooling budget right now. Or maybe you’ve been using a printed calendar system for years and don’t want to switch.
I do have to say that even though these printed homeschool planners are free, there really is no contest between a digital homeschool planner and a printed homeschool planner, in terms of the ability to automatically reschedule.
7 Essential Secrets for Successful Homeschool Planning
1) Adopt the idea of a rhythm instead of a schedule.
Your homeschool schedule will not work out as planned. I’m telling you right now that no matter how perfectly you plan it, it will get messed up.
This is because, as I say in my homeschooling course “bloom”: “We are imperfect teachers teaching imperfect people with imperfect curriculums in an imperfect world!” I love the word “rhythm” because it implies regularity without rigidity. We can have a flow and a structure to our days, without being choked to death by the ever-changing details!
If you’d like to learn more about this concept, here are some excellent posts and resources I’ve put together:
2) Create a homeschool “backbone.”
Instead of an hour-by-hour schedule, create specific pillars in your day and let the learning flow around those.
Yes, have specific learning objectives for your week, but instead of saying “Math will be from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.,” consider having math as one of the morning learning objectives between the pillars of eating breakfast and eating lunch.
Maybe math will take from 8:00-9:30 one day, and 11:00-12:00 another. Each day is unique. Each day has it’s challenges. And that’s OK!
3) Include regular times for rest.
I cannot stress this enough. In our home, rest is as important a “subject” as time spent each day on math, science or reading. We create it as one of our daily pillars, and our subjects work around it.
I learned a long time ago that I cannot be a peaceful, contented homeschool mom without time in my day (usually time spent writing, reading or just being silent) to balance the chaos, noise and potential overwhelm of teaching four children all day. And, I’ve learned that my kids learn better when they too have a chance to step away from the books into a time of quiet and silence (spent reading, drawing or working on a craft).
We are more than just workers: We are souls who need time for reflection, rejuvenation and beauty. That is what rest brings.
4) Include times for cleaning and chores.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we get to introduce our kids to all kinds of learning (and only some of it being “book learning.”) We get to teach our children about how to run a household and how to learn responsibility.
And these things take a ton of time—not only because a heap-load of training is required to teach them, but because the tasks themselves take time. Do yourself a favor and include blocks of time in your daily homeschool rhythm (for both you and your children) that includes this type of real-world learning. This time needs to be allocated and considered when determining how much learning is really possible in a given day. And speaking of knowing your time limits…
5) Make space. Period.
It’s so easy to overbook our days, and especially when we’re using a homeschool planner, it’s very tempting to fall into the trap of filling every moment with an activity or an assignment.
However, one advantage to using a homeschool planner is that you can see all the activities in a day. Once everything is written down, it can help explain why you or one of your students suddenly feels frazzled.
6) Let relationships guide the rhythm.
As homeschoolers, we have the privilege of not only imparting our kids book and real-world learning, but we have to opportunity to build deep relationships with them that connect eternal truths to their hearts.
These connections are vital (just talk to a mom who’s navigated the teen years) and the ultimate true treasure in homeschooling our children.
Rhythm-based homeschooling allows for the time and space to let these natural conversations and circumstances occur without feeling like you’re “off schedule.” You can have those unexpected teachable moments and go on those rabbit trails of learning and still feel like there is order.
7) You are in charge of your rhythm.
If you don’t like how things are working, change it! If you find that there’s too much happening, remove something! If a child seems to be more attentive when working on a certain subject in the morning verses the afternoon (like you’d originally planned) then change it up!
You are the boss (no matter how perfect your plan may seem in theory).
Disclosure: I received Homeschool Planet for free and was compensated for my time. However, all opinions stated here are 100 percent mine, and I was not required to post a positive review.
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Speaking of planning… here’s a GREAT way to keep those school papers organized!