The Homeschool Planning PendulumEmily Copeland
There was a time in our homeschool journey where I was obsessive about planning. I would sit down with a pile of books, map out everything we were going to cover for the next six-month period , and jot it in my planner — in ink, no less.
It felt great to be organized and prepared, knowing what materials I needed for upcoming projects months in advance. It felt great to have a calendar full of good intentions. Until life happened.
The Problem With Planning
All of that meticulous homeschool planning was great until life got in the way and predictable days became less predictable. One by one, my calendar pages full of ink and dreams was riddled with strikethroughs and revised plans. It was such a mess.
The problem with planning for our homeschool this way was that I planned too far in advance and didn’t allow margin for interest-led learning, sick days, or unexpected trips to the grocery store. By planning this far out, I set up my son and myself for failure and frustration.
The Problem With Not Planning
Not only have I been obsessive about planning, I’ve been through a season where I stopped planning for our homeschool altogether. I didn’t open my planner at all unless it was to record what we did. I mistakenly bought into the theory that we could simply do the next thing in each of our subjects.
By opting for no planning — or very little planning — I also set us up for failure. Reading the next chapter, completing the next activity, and answering the next set of questions makes sense, but it doesn’t always work. Here’s why.
- There was no accountability. Without a plan, we lacked the motivation and direction needed for our homeschool days.
- There was no challenge. At the very least, a loose plan was necessary to take my son where he wouldn’t go on his own.
- It wasn’t manageable. “Do the next thing” works well enough for book chapters and reviewing material, but not so much for projects or hands-on learning. Without some lesson planning, our experiments and additional activities dwindled down to nothing because I didn’t always have the supplies for them. By the time I added them to our shopping list, interest had faded and we had nothing but wasted time to show for our studies.
“Do the next thing” makes a nice catchphrase, for sure, but it doesn’t make for a nice homeschool routine. Needless to say, I learned pretty quickly that balance in homeschool planning is important.
Homeschool Planning That Works
Since I’ve spent time on both ends of the homeschool planning spectrum, I understand the sweet spot between over-planning and coasting along. The key is finding a method for homeschool planning that works for you and your family. While I can’t say what will best meet your needs, I can share some tips to consider as you plan:
1. Preparing and committing aren’t the same thing. You can know the direction your homeschool will take without writing it down. You can make notes, research ideas, and read the materials without knowing exactly when they will be needed in your homeschool.
2. Don’t plan too far in advance. It’s impossible to know everything that will come up on your calendar five months from now. By entering only a month or a few weeks at a time, it’s much easier to make adjustments in your homeschool planner.
3. Allow margin. Don’t pack your days with homeschool plans. Planning with no margin makes for a chaotic life on those days when interruptions run rampant. Margin means you can tackle the unexpected in your home and family when it occurs, but you can also work ahead if time allows and interest is there.
4. Get the kids involved. Ask them what seems interesting about upcoming lessons. See what projects make their eyes light up. By letting them have a say in your homeschool planning, you can allow additional time to cover specific areas of interest when they come along. In turn, that allows them time to explore a topic without tons of shifting in your homeschool plans.
Hopefully you’ve already found your sweet spot for homeschool planning, but if you haven’t, these tips should help you get on track. What about you? What kind of homeschool planning works best for you?