When we realize just how much conflict there is between our nice on-paper plan and the challenges of real life, it sometimes feels like it’s impossible to have a Well Planned Day, even with our pretty planners and brand new lesson plans. Success seems to hinge on everything going just so, and we all know that life rarely fits that description!
Seeing our planning turn into a successful day is possible. And yes, it requires a bit of effort and energy on our part. While that can seem overwhelming on the front end, those who make the investment quickly see the investment pay off as one successful day rolls into another. A little extra input on the front end can make an enormous difference as the days, weeks, and months roll out smoothly, even with the ups and downs of life.
Tips for Success
Many years of parenting and homeschooling—including a good deal of trial and error!—have taught me several important planning tips. As I’ve implemented these tips in my own life, I have enjoyed the reward of successful Well Planned Days. Here are the first four tips to help you join me in that success.
1. Right Thinking
Juggling the priorities of home and children can keep any mom busy, but add homeschooling in the mix, and it becomes necessary to schedule well. Over the many years of our homeschooling journey, though, I have learned that success doesn’t start with a plan or even with keeping to a schedule; instead, successful homeschooling begins with the right thinking!
People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world-view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.
– Francis Schaeffer
Most of us come into the world of homeschooling with an idea of what the “perfect” homeschool day looks like. Some of us even dream about being Suzy, our homeschooling neighbor who seems to have it all together. However, when it comes to your own success, it’s wise to remember that we are very unique individuals and families. Setting a plan into place based on an idea from a book or observation of others can be detrimental if you do not take into consideration your own family dynamic.
2. Family Uniqueness
When developing a plan, consider some of these unique circumstances that you might find yourself in:
Father’s Work Schedule or Occupation
When my children were young, their father worked third shift. This made it very difficult for the kids to spend time with him, but the freedom of homeschooling allowed us to rearrange our days in order to get the maximum daddy time that young ones need. We might not have kept to mainstream schooling hours or main meal, but our adjustments met the immediate need of our family. Remember to consider your spouse’s work schedule and plan to make the most of it!
At different stages of our children’s lives, I have had different responsibilities that ate up my time. From pregnancies and nursing during those early years to church and work obligations, be sure to consider other responsibilities in planning so that you do not overestimate your abilities.
Married or Singleness
There are a growing number of single moms homeschooling. If you are a part of that number, it’s good to remember that married homeschool moms do have the added support of a spouse. Be careful not to compare yourself, as you might be doing the job of two!
Age of Children
When planning a school year, consider the ages of your children. When my children were young, I rarely left the house, as there were always naps to schedule, diapers to change, nursing schedules to maintain, and lots of laundry to keep up with. As the kids grew older, I was able to add more to our homeschooling plans. If you are a mother of young children, it can seem tempting to try to add all those field trips, but remember, it’s a lot easier to add in electives when they get older. Cherish your time with the little ones.
Season of Life
Life changes for all of us. Whether it’s parents moving in, dealing with a sickness, or experiencing difficulties in relationships, it’s important to consider special circumstances when planning your homeschooling schedule. Schooling is important, but there are times when the Lord has other plans for our schedule.
The bottom line is that we are all different and in different circumstances. Planning your homeschool year with a realistic view of these differences will result in more success.
There is nothing more futile than to act on the assumption that all Christians are identical in every respect. They are not, and they are not even meant to be.
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure
3. Begin with Stepping Stones
Now that you have realized that your journey into homeschooling each year will be unique, and you have realistically evaluated your circumstances, it’s time to plan! Planning begins with goals, and as simplistic as this sounds, goals will be an important part of the day-to-day planning process.
Because we want to be successful in all areas, it’s important to remember that goal-setting should also include home management, finances, personal development, and relationships.
When setting goals for your students, be realistic. If a student struggles in an area, be careful not to apply undue pressure by having pie-in-the-sky dreams and setting a goal of getting three grades ahead in that subject. Whether a student excels or struggles, realistic expectations will encourage students as they achieve their goal, developing a lifelong love of learning.
4. Scheduling 101
With goals in place, it’s time to set a schedule. In the front of your Well Planned Day planner is a Teacher Schedule worksheet. Go ahead and make a copy and fill out how you would like a typical week to run. (By making a copy to work with now, you give yourself the automatic ability to revise and make changes as the need arises, both in the first few weeks and later in the year if changes are needed.) Be sure to include meals, school subjects, church times, and extracurricular activities. This can be very instrumental in assessing if you are scheduling too much in any given day.
Below is a sample of the schedule I used when my children were in the five to twelve age range. **Warning: this is only a sample, and not to be confused with an expectation!
- Early AM – Personal Devotion Time
- 8:00 Breakfast, Morning Chores, Bible Time
My children were trained to do five tasks before breakfast: make bed, clean room, get dressed, wash face, and brush teeth. These are simple chores that I began when our oldest was about 3 years old to establish a routine.
While the kids got going, I set out the meat to thaw for dinner, started a load of laundry, set out the school books, popped a dessert in the oven, and checked e-mails. (It is important to avoid getting on Facebook or other social media during this time, as time can quickly get away from us!)
While the kids ate breakfast, I read out loud a missionary biography or devotional book.
- 9:00 – 11:30 Homeschool
We began our school time with the subject that required the most brain power: math. Then we continued on with English or phonics and more reading out loud. Oh, and we remembered switch the laundry, too!
- 11:30 – 1:00 Lunch, Playtime, and Enrichment Activities
After lunch, I folded a load of clothes, cleaned a bathroom, or found another household chore to accomplish. During this time, the kids were allowed to read quietly, play outside, or continue working on developing their own interests. From cake baking to art, allowing dedicated time each day to develop skills is important.
- 1:00 – 3:00 Homeschool
When my children were young, we were able to get all of schoolwork done by lunch. As they grew, it took the afternoon hours to finish science, history, and special projects.
- 3:00 – 5:00 Extracurricular Activities
In our home, we had a rule. No extracurricular activities until after 3:00 in the afternoon! This helped us avoid losing an entire day of school because we were out for piano lessons at 10:00am. With the plethora of options for enrichment these days, it’s easy to go from homeschooling to car-schooling. Be wise when choosing and remember, the best you can give your children—especially in the early years—might just be a time to snuggle on the couch with a good book!
- 5:00 – 7:00 Family Time
This time was set aside for cooking dinner and enjoying a lengthy meal around the table. Your children will appreciate both the routine and the relationship that is developed over spaghetti and meatballs! After dinner, we typically enjoyed a movie, games, or a family read-aloud.
- 7:00 – 9:00 Quiet Time
Even as the kids grew older, around 7pm was the time for the house to become quiet. Kids would read in their room or work on school projects while I finished up laundry, cleaned the kitchen, or answered e-mails.
In “Well Planned Day: Yes, It’s Possible! Part 2,” I will share six more tips for joining me in success. So, be sure to come back and read more!
Do you enjoy creating a schedule, or is it a struggle? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to discover your planner personality type and find tips and resources to help you create a schedule that meets your unique needs.