Homeschooling your child actually takes several levels of planning for success. It isn’t enough to just read ahead in your teacher’s guide. There are many things to coordinate. Let me walk you through how to successfully plan each week of your school year.
First, pull out your teacher’s manuals, workbooks, and supplies. Take time to read the intro and teacher’s notes at the beginning of every program you plan to use. Yes, this takes time. However, these notes are there to help you get the most from your program and to help you use it best. The program’s philosophy or teaching tips might not be interesting today, but those can help you teach your child best with this program. While you are reading, take some notes. Write down the class or program, and how many days a week you will be using it (the program may have suggestions for this). Write down supplies you will need and other important details.
I like to lesson plan for about a month at a time at a high level, and in detail for about a week at a time. Pick a time each week where you can spend about 20 minutes reviewing and updating your plan. A longer session may be needed once a month. There are a lot of different ways to keep track of your plan. And none of them is obviously better than the other, you need to do what works for you. Some homeschool teachers find they like to just make a list to keep them on track. Others create bullet journals or use teacher planning books. There are online tools like Trello and Homeschool Planet that can help if that’s more your style. The important thing here is to have something you can reference from week-to-week and update as needed. Remember, this is a guide to help you know where you are, and is adjustable. It isn’t written in stone. If things need to move to the next week because someone was sick this week or whatever, that’s OK.
Some subjects, like math or spelling, are easy to plan because you just do the lessons in order with little prep needed. However, some subjects, like history, science, and art, usually require more supplies to get the most out of them. Even if the program says it is “pick up and go” you’ll want to read the lessons in advance and make sure you have what you need. Is there a video you need to watch or a worksheet to print in advance? Make sure you know what you’ll be doing before your kid sits down to learn. In my experience, any confusion or not knowing what to do next on my part leads to my kids thinking they can get out of school work that day.
In each monthly planning session, make sure you have on hand all the literature books, craft supplies, and other things you will need for that month. Look at your chosen programs and make a list of what you need and figure out how and when you will obtain what you need. Now is the time to decide if you need to make one big Amazon order or if you can pick up things during your normal grocery trips to round out your supply list.
Planning Your Days
Make a daily schedule. If you have multiple children, you will need to think through who you will work with first, second, and third. Will they do some school together or do they each need one-on-one attention? Can you at least do art projects and games together? Lay out a plan for how your days will look, based on what times you will do school and when you will have meals or downtime. Then, look at each child’s time with you, and decide which subjects they will do when. You can decide to do math on Mondays and Wednesdays, your literature program on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have Friday be hands-on time. Or some other version that makes sense to you.
The key here is to have a short list of goals or tasks for your day while letting your schedule be flexible. Stuff happens and you can’t always anticipate how a lesson is going to go. The point isn’t to schedule your time down to the 30-minute intervals but to give you direction and confidence to have a productive day. Make sure to take into account your family’s daily rhythm. When are your kids up for the day and when do they have the best attention span? You want to take advantage of their natural energy and support their need for breaks and snacks. And your need for those things too.
If you have appointments during the week or errands that need run, make sure to account for prep time and drive time. Some folks find it helpful to have a designated day of the week for appointments or errands to reduce the amount of time outside the home.
Figure out where you will store your books, supplies, and teacher guides. While the kids may end up doing school work all over the house, you will have an easier time teaching if you have a single location that you use to keep the supplies you need. Some folks have a designated shelf in the family room. Some have a cart or basket so they can take things to different spaces around the house.
If you are a person who likes to stock up and purchase books and supplies for several months of school projects at once, you may want them to live hidden in a closet. It can be incredibly stressful to find that the clay you bought for next month’s art project has already turned into a mess or that the kids read all the books and don’t want to hear them again. Keeping those supplies and books in order will greatly reduce your stress each week
One of the biggest challenges of homeschooling shouldn’t be feeding them, but it can feel that way. Well-fed kids do better with school work and have fewer meltdowns. Deciding in advance how you will handle meals will make every school day go better.
Add into your schedule a plan for what your kids (and you) get to eat for breakfast and lunch, and make sure your grocery list reflects that. Will you be cooking breakfast or lunch? Or will they? Are you having cereal, sandwiches, and apples each day? How much variety does your family want in their meals? Some kids can eat the same thing every day, others hate having the same thing twice in a row. Being the lunch lady can be exhausting and having to figure out what to feed someone else when you are hungry is added stress you don’t need. So making a plan here is important.
The one thing I have found has not worked great, is assuming my kids will eat leftovers for lunch every day. I like leftovers, but my kids would rather make a sandwich.
Don’t forget the snacks. Kids will want to snack a few times a day and crunchy snacks like carrots and apple slices can help with focus and renew energy.
If you are also stuck cooking dinner, plan ahead on that front too. Can you put dinner in the crockpot twice a week while the kids are eating lunch? Can you plan on at least one easy dinner like frozen pizza for the day when nothing goes well? There are going to be hard days, so make meal plans that you can work with. Some families find that meal planning is more challenging than lesson planning and more important to having a good week.
Putting it Together
Homeschooling is not an easy job, so be kind to yourself. There are a lot of moving parts to keeping your children healthy and well-fed while also trying to educate them and turn them into decent human beings. Block out time in your week for whatever is important to you and your kids. Having time for games, movies, and playing together is also an important part of your week.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.