Planning your School Year:: Some Ideas and Tips

Planning your school year


I have been seeing the school supplies at the store and the parents scrambling to stock up on back packs and small bags of chips, and bright yellow pencils.  Oh, how I love the back to school time.  The newness of the year stretching out in front of me and the kids.  The new supplies. I love school supplies- bright folders, happy spirals, fresh pens and reams and reams of notebook paper.  I have also been thinking about some tips for planning for the school year.  Although I homeschooled and did private school, I think these tips are for us all, whatever schooling you choose for your kids.  So check out the ideas below and be encouraged.

One Year At a Time

Yep.  One year, gal.  Plan for one year and let the Lord help you see what will happen after.  You don’t have to plan all the way to the end photo op with Grad caps and diplomas.  It is much easier to gear up when you tell yourself, I can do it this year. You and your hubby can decide later, like next spring, how it is working out for your family.  But for today, you are Homeschooling This Year.  A good mantra. A nice answer when the family member or neighbor asks with that LOOK, “How long are you going to Homeschool?” You confidently respond, “This year.”  Done.

Every Mom is a Homeschool Mom

Yep.  We are all homeschool moms, whether you do it all day at home or you do it when they hit the door at 3:00 pm.  Trust me.  We all homeschool. We are all given the care of our kids’ education whether you do it full time or when they come home in the afternoon.  You matter, mom.

Which leads me to my next point.

Have a verse for the school year

Ask the Lord for a verse.  Discuss with your husband and decide on one.  Write it out on your planner.  On your wall. Memorize with your family.  This will be a guide for you this whole year.  This verse will be an encouragement to you when the days are long.  It will be a framework for you when you lose heart because you probably will lose heart; we all do.  God’s word is a strong hand rail to hold onto when the going gets tough.

Decide Your Family Values

Decide with your husband what you value as a family. It won’t look like anyone else’s family. Be strong and stick to your values.  Not what you think should matter, but what matters to y’all.   For us, one of our family values was music.  We already valued that.  We listened to music all the time. Loved all kinds of music. So when I planned the year, I included musical events and  field trips that involved music and we listened to all kinds of music in the car and at home. Our most important investment of our homeschool was years of piano lessons.  Deciding on your values will color your school and family time.  You don’t have to be a homeschooler to discuss your values.   We should all have goals for when the kids launch.  A target to aim shoot our arrows toward. Bam.

August Planning Time is Super Importanto

Every August I had a planning session at my dining room table.  I would write down on big sheets of art paper everything I wanted to accomplish that year in school.  Then I circled like ideas or drew arrows connecting the similar ideas.  This will give you a visual of what is going on in your brain.  This brainstorming is so good for us and helps us see relationships that we might not see.  It also helps unload our little brain and give it a place to think, instead of trying to hold onto all the information, schedules, and plans.

This brainstorming also helps when you are teaching mulit-levels of kids.  You can see like ideas themes and categories that you could teach together.  This simplifies your day when you can teach all the kids together multiple subjects.

Field trips

Think through all the field trips you want to take in the fall and spring during your brainstorming time.  It helps to list them all and then start loading them into the calendar year.

Vary the Schedule: Six weeks on—One week off and other patterns

Scheduling is important.  Make it work for you family, your goals.  I liked having the discipline of six weeks of teaching and one week off to refresh me and the kids.

I often took the whole month of December off so that we could do A Christmas Around the World Unit or just do Christmas stuff.  I knew there was a lot of adventure and fun to be had in December, and I wanted to be foot loose and fancy free to grab hold of it.  I would still do a few core subjects- you decide what those are, and I always did my read aloud because we all loved that and reading was one of our core family values.

I also did Four days on, Fridays off and I would use the Friday for field trips or catch-up.

Join up with some other families to plan

Make your plans and then join up with some other families to create some weeks when your kids do a Unit Study together.  Or start a Mini Co-op where each mom teaches a subject in her own strength.  Sometimes I did this with one other mom,  on one day a week.  She would teach  a unit to the kids, and I would have the day off.  Then the next unit I would teach all the kids at my house and she would have a break.  The kids loved it and friend and I did, too.

Once I started a small co-op with several families and we each taught what we were passionate about and had lunch together up at our church.  It was a no cost way to get some excellent teachers and community learning for the kids.  A caveat: I didn’t do this co-op until my oldest son was in upper elementary. You just don’t need to be running around when your kids are in Pre-K and 1st grade.  Enjoy those quiet years at home and switch babysitting with a friends and do some fun field trips to get out.

Block out your week

Spend some time blocking out your weeks from the Brainstorming Sheet you made.  Once you have your brain dump down on the paper and you have organized like ideas that fit into your family values, start putting things down on days of the week.  Start with the non-negotiable.  I also looked at the fall and tried to block out when the field trips and special events like the State Fair or a Fall Break vacation occurred.  I wrote out the week days and started stacking the subjects according to our family values and my curriculum needs.  Each day was a column and I would write in how many days each week we would spend on Math or Writing according to my values.

I would try to not have all the hard subjects all stacked on one day.  The brainstorming was very important as I dumped things into days because I knew that writing was important to me and I would have it 3 days a week.  Science wasn’t my strength so I tried to have one day that we did that.  And I didn’t worry about that, knowing that science would come through some other form.  I always checked out loads of sciencey books and bought funky tapes to listen to and did experiments with the boys.

I didn’t sweat science knowing that they would catch up in that area later because I was raising Learners.  And they did catch up.

Buy a calendar or a planner and put your final ideas in it

My last step was to fill in a planner that I bought at a school supply store.  All the field trips, breaks, units were all written in pencil on the monthly calendar pages.  Big broad brush strokes, with my detailed daily calendar fleshing out the daily week calendars.

Tweaking of the calendar and schedule was allowed after 2 weeks of school and more tweaking occurred in January as I saw what was working and was realistic.

I hope this helps as you plan out your school year. Remember this is just one way and this is what worked for us.  No matter if you are a homeschooler, university model family, private school parent or public school mom,  I hope this has encouraged you.  I still try to use these principles as an Empty Nester as I plan out my fall.

If you know a homeschooler or a mom who needs a little encouragement in this area, could you pass this on to them?  Do you have any tips for how you plan out your fall?  Do tell in the comments.  We can all use the encouragement.





  1. Anne Fickel says:

    This is our first year homeschooling…and I haven’t even told the school they are enrolled in. I’m trying to figure out what curriculum to get before I start planning. Thanks so much for the tips. Now, could you just TELL me what to pick. 😉 I’m sure I’ll figure it out!

  2. Hey Anne,
    You will figure it out. Ask around. Do some research. Then just pick! SonLight Curriculum is an awesome one stop shop place when you are just starting out. Check them out. xoxo

  3. Maureen Benke says:

    Thanks, SURSEE Gal!
    I needed this!

  4. Dawn Manley says:

    Leslie you are amazing and so inspirational. I love you dearly. Thank you for your guidance and ideas.

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