Do I have to plan?
For some homeschoolers, the best part of the year comes when they are surrounded by books, instructor’s guides, notebooks, and planners – both digital and paper, because, hey, it’s planners!
Then there are those who feel claustrophobic at the mere mention of a plan. “Is it really necessary to plan, especially when we know we won’t stick to the plan?” I hate to say it, but yes, it is.
But I have good news! Planning for you does not have to look like planning for a Type A personality who never gets enough of planners, calendars, to-do lists, and schedules! Planning is less about those specific resources and more about creating a framework that keeps you on track, allowing you to ensure that your children are right where they need to be.
Points to Ponder
Here are some thoughts that might help put your mind at ease and get you started on the “not-a-planner” planning road.
The first step to planning is to realize its purpose. Planning, when done properly, provides a flexible structure that gives you breathing room while keeping you on track. It provides a goal – finish this subject or this section by this date – then allows you to then create a rhythm of life between now and that date. You have a goal in mind, and setting dates helps you stay accountable as you proceed toward that goal.
For some, this means creating a schedule and checking off boxes. For others, it simply means setting goals to ensure progress.
Break It Down
One key to planning is to take it in small blocks. A typical school year runs 36 weeks. Many homeschool resources match this.
So, your first goal is to take the overall number of units, lessons, activities, pages, etc. and divide by six. You might have to do some shifting to make sure that your blocks hit natural breaks in the material. It doesn’t have to be perfect – you just want a general idea of what you need to accomplish in a six-week period providing yourself goals and mile-markers to help you keep track of where you are and how you are progressing through the year.
Block by Block
Now, look at the first set of six-week activities. If you work steadily on the subject four to five times per week, about how much will you need to invest each day to get done in six weeks? Jot down that length of time and repeat for each subject, being sure to leave yourself some wiggle room for interruptions, field trip days, etc.
Once you have an approximate amount of time needed to keep yourself on track and a general idea of how much flexibility you have, you don’t have to worry about how much specific progress you make each day. Just focus on making sure you spend the necessary time. Some days you will make more progress than others. That is to be expected. More than likely, though, it will balance out over the course of the next six weeks.
A Daily Record
At the end of each day, use your Well Planned Day planner or a notebook to jot down what you accomplished in each subject. What activities did you do for science? What new math concept did your child learn? How many pages did your child read independently? What chapter did you read in a living book for history? If there was an assignment that needed a grade, jot down that grade.
Recording as you go will give you a tangible view of the progress you are making and will help you as you wrap up the six-week block and prepare for a new one.
You made it to the end of your first six weeks! Congratulations! Compare your progress to the original six-week goal. If you reached your goal, great! Repeat the process for your second six-week block.
If you didn’t reach your goal, don’t panic! Because you have recorded your progress along the way, you can see exactly what you need to consider as you prepare for the next six-week block. Is the work taking a little more time that you anticipated? Does your child need extra practice in math or reading concepts? Make those adjustments for your next six weeks, even if that means you won’t finish the whole book or subject in a single year. It’s okay to slow down if your child needs you to. This is especially true in the early learning and elementary years. Your goals are meant to keep you on track, not rush you or your child.
A Few More Thoughts
The most important reason to form some sort of plan for your school year is to hold you accountable for the progress your child is making. A great way to help with this is by assessing your child each year using an assessment like Well Planned Start that allows you to see what he or she did or did not learn and gives suggestions for filling in gaps. Was progress made? Even if you didn’t finish a course, did you progress through a majority of it with good retention? Can you show that you did due diligence during the school year?
Planning is not about entrapping you or your child in a rigid schedule or a tight box. Instead, it is about helping you stay on track and giving you the freedom to truly enjoy the school year!