Depending on your personality, planning may be a four letter word or a cause for excitement and celebration. I personally love planning. In fact, I have to be careful I don’t spend more time planning than actually doing. Whether you love to plan or loathe it, there are four areas you should plan for homeschool success.
Plan Goals and Objectives
Begin by planning goals and objectives. Consider goals for your homeschool, your business or blog, and your personal goals. Be realistic. Setting too many goals will be a recipe for failure. Focus on the ones you can accomplish and do well. Don’t forget to plan goals for the whole person—heart, mind, and soul.
Once you have defined goals for your homeschool, plan the academics for the year. Whether you use a boxed curriculum or plan your own, decide on your course of study and resources you will use. Make any purchases or lists of books to borrow from the library so you don’t run into the “Ooops! I needed that book today but never requested it” dilemma. Here are some practical planning tips I keep in mind when planning our school year.
It is easy to want to cram more into the day. How many times have you said, “If only I had more hours in the day”? Accepting that we have to prioritize is difficult. How do you say no to something good? Craig Groeschel talks about this in his book, Weird. Sometimes we have to say no to something good in order to say yes to something better. Take a look at why your schedule is so busy and ask if you can cut something out. See if you believe one of these lies that keeps your schedule overwhelmed. Melissa Camara Wilkins reminds us to design the life we want to live.
You remove what you don’t need (in your home, in your thoughts, in your schedule) to make room for the life you want to live.
It is difficult to widen the margins in our schedules so we are not running from activity to activity, but it can be done. How? Here are some guidelines I try to follow when planning our schedule for the upcoming year.
- Don’t leave the house before 2:00 p.m. Yes, you homeschool, but you have to be home to homeschool (at least most of the time). You also need downtime (see the next section) and time to complete housework. We do make an exception to this and have one day we leave the house before lunch for the girls to assist with younger ballet classes, but we are generally home the rest of the afternoon to make up for it.
- Stay home one day per week. I need time to catch up on all those tasks that get swept aside because I have more pressing matters that need my attention. It seems I can accomplish more in this one day than all the rest combined.
- Each child is allowed to choose one music and one extracurricular activity. If we have more commitments our schedule would be unmanageable. Thankfully, I have two girls and we have been able to steer them both to the same activity.
- Be brutal. I assess our schedule and ask if we really need to participate in each activity we have scheduled. I have our schedule pared down to the bare minimum right now and it is still full. Since I know that we have a full schedule it is easy for me to say no to adding anything else. For example, I took a yoga class this summer and loved it but I cannot figure out how to add it in to the schedule this fall so I will have to settle for a YouTube video or treadmill workout at home.
- Ask if the activity benefits most members of the family or only one. It is okay to sometimes participate in an activity that is only for one individual, but generally I make sure that every member of the family receives some benefit even if it is just one-on-one time with mom while the other child participates.
We all need downtime. Downtime is when we think, process, and create. If we are always on the go, we have no time to just be. Kids need time to process what they are learning and experiencing. Charlotte Mason called this “masterly inactivity.” I try to have several hours each day, that are not scheduled, for the girls to have free time. They can play and pretend massive stories that involve a huge mess (that’s a whole different post about dealing with the mess and encouraging creativity!), read or listen to audio books, or create (write a story, paint a picture, or play with kinetic sand). The point is that they can choose how to spend the time.
It is much more difficult for me to make time for masterly inactivity. There is always something that demands my attention—homeschool planning, household tasks, reading to a child, blogging activities. I try to read something every day. Ideally I would like to read for learning most afternoons and read for pleasure just before bed. This doesn’t always happen, but it is a goal.
This fall we are trying a new activity to help us have masterly inactivity together. After lunch we will listen to an audio book and all work independently on a handicraft. I am really looking forward to this since I haven’t consistently worked on a handicraft of my own for years! There are also times I just sit and watch the girls play. It allows my mind to wander and clear away the clutter.