When I think about staying on track, the first example that comes to mind is from the kitchen!
Have you ever set out to try a new recipe, only to discover that you lacked key ingredients or the right kind of baking dish?
If you have, you learned pretty quickly just how important it is to go through the entire recipe, compare the ingredients with what you have in your refrigerator and pantry, and make sure you have all the necessary tools. Otherwise, at the very least, you’re constantly stopping to go snatch this ingredient or that utensil, making it hard to stay on task and get the meal prepared in a timely fashion.
Or worse, you can’t finish the recipe without sending someone to the grocery store!
I learned a similar lesson early in my homeschooling journey. It wasn’t enough to just have a good idea on hand. I needed to have the right tools for implementing that good idea because if I didn’t, I’d find myself easily thrown off track.
Let’s take a look at three tips for staying on track throughout the school year.
Staying on Track by Setting Benchmarks
Just like with a recipe, setting yourself up for staying on track starts well before the first day of school. It’s important to take the time to think through the school year in advance rather than just diving in and getting started.
Here are a few tips for thinking through the year:
1. Think through the unique characteristics of your family that will impact the coming semester. Now jot them down.
2. What are your top priorities for the school year? Write those down next (and remember to work through the ASPIRE worksheet for each of these areas of focus).
3. Who will carry what responsibilities for this stage in life? How much time will you have each week for schooling, home management, appointments, and other activities? (The SPOT method can help you work through all of this!)
Using these notes, look through your curriculum and see how it matches up with your observations, then set your benchmarks for every six weeks of school. These benchmarks will become your ultimate tool for staying on track throughout the school year.
Staying on Track by Writing Plans Down
We often talk as if having all of the right tools produces a magical, fail-proof solution for staying on track. But, when you look back over your homeschool journey, you can probably identify times when you invested in the tool of a solid plan only to have it fall apart.
We’ve all been there, and it’s frustrating! It leaves us wondering if planning is really worth the time and effort.
Often when I look back at disrupted plans, though, I discover a very important reality: having a plan in place almost always simplified the decisions facing me, even when my plans fell apart. This is one of the reasons that I find it very important to put any plans in writing, so I can go back and evaluate disrupted plans and learn from them.
The reality is that we can’t talk about staying on track without having a track to stay on in the first place. That track is our plan. And, yes, sometimes we find ourselves doing more to get back on the track after skipping off. But if we’re working without a plan in the first place, it’s hard to know what we’re trying to get back to.
Think of a time when your plans fell apart and spend a few minutes considering how your plan helped you make quick adjustments and simplified your decisions for getting back on track.
Even if the plan falls apart, there are so many ways having a plan in the first place can help us pick up and carry on. And by seeing where the plan went wrong, we can learn how to plan better next time.
Staying on Track by Keeping Your Focus on Today
Do you realize just how much we keep in our heads at any given time? It’s amazing we have any brain space left at all! Over the years, that reality has reinforced just how important it is to actually write things down. It’s so easy for my brain to go a hundred different directions at once, keeping me from focusing on what’s right in front of me as I struggle to remember all of the other details of life.
That is why a planner is one of the most important tools we can incorporate into our school year. If it’s not written down, it has to be carried around in our heads. And when we have to carry that much around, we cannot focus on the day before us. Instead, we end up distracted and disoriented, and staying on track becomes a huge challenge.
Well Planned Day, Day by Day, and On the Go are all designed to provide a place for you to set big goals and keep track of long-term projects and plans while also focusing on the needs of each and every day. With a planner in hand, you are free to keep everything in writing and focus on the importance of what’s right in front of you today.
The best way to stay on track throughout the year is to start with a plan. Fortunately, this works at any point throughout the year. Even if you didn’t start with a plan, you can stop right now and create one. You won’t regret it!