I’m excited to kick off Day 1 of my homeschool planning mini-series! We will be covering everything you need to know for planning your homeschool year so you can relax over summer and start the year with confidence. Here are the topics for each day of the series:
Day 1: Planning Your Homeschool Year
This is also part of a blog hop with the Homeschool Review Crew! Please use the Linky at the bottom of this post to hop on over and check out some of the great info these ladies have to offer!
This article originally appeared on my old blog, Townsley Times. If you came here looking for this particular article but thought you were going to a different site, never fear, you’re actually in the right place. 🙂
You may already have an idea of what your homeschool year will look like based on other years. But what if you’re new to homeschooling, or if you want to try something different? Even if you’ve done this before, maybe I can help make it an easier process for you.
The first thing you always need to do is look at the law in your state. I am a huge advocate of only doing exactly what is necessary to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and nothing more. We need to be sure we are following the letter of the law, but we do NOT need to give even an inch beyond that. Your local district might try to tell you some things are necessary that are actually not, so please do yourself a favor and look up your state’s laws before you start planning anything. Print the statutes out as we will be using them a handful of times. You may also need to check on what your cover school requires, if you use one.
Now, consider what your ideal year would look like. Not what it would be in practice, but what it would be in a perfect world (this will change, but for now, you can dream).
- Do you want to school year-round?
- What start and stop dates would you choose?
- Do you want to break things up into semesters, trimesters or quarters?
- Is the weather more conducive to a lighter school load in summer or winter?
- What about sabbath schooling (six weeks on, one week off) or a variation thereof?
Remember that all this needs to be in accordance with the law.
Example: We are going to start schooling year-round but Florida’s required annual assessment is due by July 31st, so for ease, that will be our end date. We will skip August due to birthdays, and take a lighter load in the cooler months (including time off for Christmas) when we can be outside without melting. And then try for a modified sabbath schooling schedule. (Clear as mud? I was only able to figure that out by doing the exercise below!)
Now get a calendar for this year and next. You need this printed out so you can write on it. Look up and notate any holidays or religious observances you might need to know about. Calendar-12.com has a lot of free printable calendars to choose from and a list of observances.
Circle your desired start date. You can also circle your end date if you have a preference, or pick one or the other and work from there. We start the Tuesday after Labor Day each year, and since we’re moving to Florida, we need to have our portfolio review ready to turn in by July 31, so we’ll officially stop at the beginning of that month.
Cross out any dates you will NOT be doing school. This could be holidays, birthdays, planned vacations, breaks you want to take.
What if you don’t know all that quite yet? I’m glad you asked. Homeschooling is flexible so I would encourage you to mark off the days and weeks you THINK you will take off, and if it gets closer to the time and those dates are a little off, you can move things around to accommodate the new schedule.
Now count up all the weeks you have left. I was left with around 37.
If your state requires a set number of days or hours, you’ll need to configure your homeschool calendar using this info. Say you need to get to 850 hours, and you have 37 weeks; that gives you 23ish hours a week to do school. Does that work, or do you need to add more school days back in?
For my visual or auditory learners, this video might be helpful:
How many days a week do you want to do school? Four, five? Sometimes more, sometimes fewer? You can do school for varying lengths each day to get to that 23 hours, or maybe your state requires a minimum amount of hours to count as a school day. You just have to do the math. Maybe you need to school for 180 days per year. At four days a week, with 37 weeks available, that’ll only get you to 148 days, so you’d be better off doing five-day weeks and/or removing some of your days off.
These are all things to consider as you plan your time off and your school days. And this is why I said to consider your PERFECT WORLD plan. We know life isn’t perfect so now what you’re doing is finding your PRACTICAL plan. Now that you know what your ideal plan would be, you can try to stick as closely to it as possible, which means you’ll be less stressed about your schedule in the long run. Make sense?
There may be considerable crossing out and rewriting and arrows on your calendar before you’re done here! You’ll have to deviate at least somewhat from your perfect plan, most likely.
Here are some pointers to get you on your way to marrying the two:
- Consider taking off half a week instead of a full week.
- Do a mix of four-day weeks and five-day weeks.
- Maybe you’re expecting a new baby next school year and wanted to take time off. Can you plan activities so school can run on autopilot for a week or two (versus just taking that time off)?
- Leave yourself a buffer by scheduling more days than you’ll need. At least be willing to cut into some “vacation” days in case you have an illness make the rounds or otherwise end up missing some school time.
PIN IT FOR LATER! Continued below….
One thing that can be helpful is to set learning outcomes for each child for the school year. What are the things you HAVE to get done? For which subjects do you just do delight-directed learning with little planning ahead? For us, next year we need to have my oldest master reading and continue on with math facts. My second-born will continue with the reading program we are doing and work on her Rod and Staff ABC books. We have a character training book to work through for Bible. Beyond that, we will just go with the flow!
Perhaps you don’t want to be that relaxed, or your state requires that you cover certain subjects so you are more comfortable planning those out. Perfectly fine. Just be sure to write down learning goals for each child in the subjects you want to focus on and that will help you figure out how to schedule your year and also your days, which we will cover more in the next post in this series.
Once you have learning goals written down, you will need to consider what you want to cover each day. This will go hand in hand with tomorrow’s post, so don’t get too bogged down with a weekly plan for now. If your state doesn’t have daily requirements for hours, technically you could do school every day so you can keep your days short and have a routine to stick with. If you know you want to do reading and math each day, and science twice a week and social studies twice a week, that lends itself well to a four-day week. But maybe your highschooler needs more consistency so you have him do a little each day for each subject. You know your kids; do what works for them and for you.
In addition, you probably have an idea of what type of homeschooler you are, or at least generally what styles most suit you and your kids. You should take this into consideration also. A classical homeschooler might want to do four longer days covering each subject while the Charlotte Mason mom might follow a looser schedule where the book work takes a backseat to getting outside with nature. Or an unschooler may not plan days at all! If you’re unsure of what styles you might lean toward, this handy quiz has been a favorite over the years to help me find myself as a homeschool mom.
As I mentioned, we will focus on a daily schedule during Day 2 of the series, but it comes in handy to have an idea of what you want your weeks and days to look like when you’re planning your overall school year. Work on this tonight and then follow along with me tomorrow. It will all start to come together as we progress. It’s like a puzzle we are putting together.
The planning tool for today’s post is a printable year-at-a-glance calendar for 2018-2019, a schedule assessment guide, and a goals planning sheet for your students (two kids per page – print what you need). These are now available (along with each post and ALL the handouts for each day of the series) in my shop – the Plan Your Homeschool in 5 Days e-book!
Want more homeschool goodness? Use the Linky below to find new homeschool bloggers to follow. We are all participating in a blog hop this week and will have new posts for you each day.