I’m a busy homeschool mom of 6 very active children. It’s important for me to have a plan in place in order for me to have very productive school days. I have a problem though. I don’t like to take the time to plan. I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl. I think I drive my organized friends crazy! While I often do have a general idea of what I want to do throughout the school day, many weeks, I’m not planned. If I don’t have a plan in place then I am not putting my best foot forward.
My oldest child is 15 years old and since I’ve been homeschooling from the beginning, I have lots of varying experiences under my belt. I have educated myself on the differing methods of homeschooling and I know what will work well for us and what won’t.
Since I’m a naturally disorganized person, I have to work really hard at getting a doable plan together for our homeschool. One that directs me as the “teacher”, but doesn’t limit my free spirit too much. In order to accomplish this, let me share about a few things that I’ve learned through the years that are super important.
Understand Why You’re Homeschooling
Are you homeschooling for religious reasons, academic reasons or for some other reason altogether? We have many reasons why we choose to homeschool. One of the biggest is to give our children a Godly education. Also, it’s because we want our children to know how to learn. We want them to be able to solve the problems they’re presented with, on their own if they need to. Since we focus on problem solving skills, conceptual learning and analytical thinking skills are high on our list. Even if your reasons for homeschooling are different than mine, if you know why you homeschool, it will help you to narrow down your homeschooling schedule. For instance, since I know that having a Godly education is one of my big reasons for homeschooling, one of my biggest goals in our school day is to make sure that we are studying our Bibles and getting to know what His word has to say about life. Lest you think I’m perfect, some years we do much better at this than others.
Real Life Application Assignment: Write down your top 5 reasons that you choose to homeschool. Write down goals that will help you to accomplish those reasons.
God Will Lead You
When I’m not sure where to begin, if I just take a minute and ask God what He thinks, He always pulls through for me. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. He really cares what you are teaching your children! He has a plan for your family and He would like to see you on board with His plan.
Real Life Application Assignment: Take a few minutes to pray over your children and your planning time so that your heart is open to the direction that the Lord is sending you.
Get Your Husband Involved
Don’t forget about your husband’s loving leadership! Our husbands are in this homeschool thing with us and they need to be in the decision making process if at all possible. Not only do they bring a different perspective to the table, they often make our lives easier when we let them take part in the school decisions. Take a few moments to ask him what he thinks about the choices you’re making. You may be leaving something out that he thinks is really important or you may be overwhelming yourself over this stringent schedule that he totally disagrees with. You both need to be in agreement and on the same page.
Real Life Application Assignment: Take a few minutes to disccuss with your husband what it is he thinks is important in your homeschool. Don’t forget to take notes so that you don’t forget it later when you’re all alone.
Keep it Simple
Planning your homeschool day doesn’t have to be complicated. What are the 3 things you want to walk away with your kids being good at? Writing, Reading & ‘Rithmetic, right? The 3 R’s. You can start there. Of course, we want them to be good in other subjects, too but if they know how to read well, write well and if they can calculate math formulas pretty well, too, they can learn almost anything without much help.
Real Life Application Assignment: Write down what you want to accomplish during a week of doing the 3 R’s.
Plan Your Day in Bite Sized Pieces
I’ve been reading through Crystal Paine’s new e-book on time management. In it, she tells about how she takes a project and breaks it down into smaller, easier to handle tasks. I get completely overwhelmed when I think about trying to plan out a whole year. Instead of a year at a time, just do a week, or even a month. Don’t stress yourself out. There’s no written rule that says you have to know what you’re going to do all year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll plan the whole year and then change it all after a couple of months anyway. You don’t need to waste your time on it if you may change it soon anyway.
Real Life Application Assignment: Write down each subject that you want to plan out for each child. Take 5-10 minutes per subject to write down what you want to do each day that week (or longer if you’re planning for a month).
Keep a Weekly Checklist or Journal
Since I’m a girl who doesn’t like to be restricted by a schedule, when I’m on top of my game, I have a printed checklist for the week that gives us a rhythm for our day. Here’s an example:
If you don’t like the checklist idea, take a little bit of time at the end of the day to write down all that you accomplished. You may be amazed at how much actual learning you’re getting done without even trying!
Here’s some printable journal pages to get you started:
Real Life Application Assignment: Write a list of each subject and/or chore that you’d like you and/or your children to do in a day. Put it in the computer and print it out each week for a weekly checklist.
Set Aside Some Alone Time for Planning
Being the mother of 6 children, some days, there’s just no way I can plan what I want to plan in school with 6 little mouths walking around talking to me, interrupting my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I do love talking to them, but it’s hard to talk while you’re thinking through a big project. I strongly encourage you to set aside a little time where you can be alone. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Or you could just lock yourself in the bathroom. Of course, your books aren’t in there…so it may be hard to get your plan written out without looking in the books. You’d also risk the little hands and voices coming under the door…..so do this option at your own risk! At least think about putting a notebook & pen in the bathroom on the back of the toilet so that when you’re in there and an idea hits you, you can write it down. You don’t want to miss out on some great ideas!
Along the same lines, you could get together with another mom or group of moms to all plan your own home schools. That way, you could easily discuss ideas and concerns with others who are in the same boat as you. Of course, this could also lead to getting nothing done, because homeschool moms tend to just talk a lot when they’re together. So only do this if you’re OK with not getting anything done.
Real Life Application Assignment: Set aside some planning time either alone or with some other homeschool moms.
Let the Children Lead the Way
My kids are so much happier in their learning environment when they’re learning things that they’re interested in. I used to keep a piece of paper in my purse with a list of questions that my then 6 year old would ask me. We’d be driving down the road and he would ask me things like, “What are teeth made of” and “How are guns made”. I had fun knowing that we were teaching him things that he wanted to know. If they’re not asking you questions, ask them what they want to know about. I’m sure they have loves and interests that you can tackle. Remember though, each child learns differently. Some may do better with a hands on approach and others with a literature approach and then, still yet some may do better with text books. Pay attention to how your kids learn best and let them help you decide what they’re going to be learning and you’ll all be much happier!
Real Life Application Assignment: Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they want to learn about. Do this regularly and don’t forget to write it down. You will forget if you don’t write it down!
Use Free Online Resources
Sometimes it can be overwhelming thinking about purchasing new curriculum. There’s so many different choices, it can be hard to know what you want to spend your money on, because it may not be a right fit for your family. Did you know that you can get a pretty decent education with free resources that you can find online? Here’s some of my favorites:
Free Unit Study Resources here on Sidetracked Sarah
iHomeschool Network Ultimate Guides to Homeschooling
I hope you’re enjoying reading more about how I get school scheduled as a busy, sidetracked mom. If you still feel that you’ll never add up to those “perfect” homeschoolers, here’s a few more hints to keep you feeling good about yourselves:
- Remember, It’s a marathon, not a walk around the block.
- Each child learns differently, so don’t expect the same results from every child.
- Your friends’ homeschool is not perfect.
- All educational institutions have gaps in their programs, so keep in mind that it’s alright if your school has occasional gaps as well.
- The luxury of homeschooling is being able to tailor your own curriculum.
Homeschooling is a constantly evolving, ever intensifying challenge. There is no greater cause for a mom. I pray that you draw closer to God in this experience and you get to know your family even better. God bless you!
For more ideas on planning your homeschool, visit iHomeschool Network’s Planning Guides.