Each year, about this time, I start thinking (i.e. planning) about next year. Big picture planning. Shopping for curriculum options. Scouring Pinterest. Dreaming big. The fun stuff.
However, at the end of each week, I do a different type of planning. I grab my pencil and and a big eraser, and go to work making adjustments to next week’s plan. In the past, I used computerized forms that I created on MS Word, however the past two years, I have preferred hand written plans. It is easier for me to look ahead and pencil in notes, ideas, and make changes. Believe it or not, I find planning motivational.
My planner this year is the “2020-2021 A Simple Plan for the Homeschooling Family” planner from Mardel. The planner is extensive, and I made some modifications to fit my needs better, but I will save the cover-to-cover review for another post. Today, I just want to share how I tweaked this planner to fit our schedule and make my planning task easier.
The weekly pages are six sections of blank lines for Monday through Friday, complete with dates. My eyes and brain need help compartmentalizing in order to find subject plans for three different kids quickly. So I add colored blocks using highlighters.
Purple is Bible, which we do first, so it is first on the page. Next, the green section is for science and history, which we alternate. Math is blue, with individual sections for different kiddos. Same individual sections for ELA, which is pink. Finally, the rotation of electives is in the orange section. The yellow section is labeled “appointments”, but basically its where I add notes about places we are going that day, such as homeschool group, 4-H events, etc.
On Fridays, I grab the pencil and eraser and make changes to next week’s plans. Sometimes we get behind, or a kid does two ELA lessons instead of just one, or we add an activity that rearranges our schedule a bit. I make changes, add needed items to the errands list, and add books needed to the library list.
That is pretty much it. I am trying to keep it simple yet organized. We do most subjects as a group, so this method allows me to plan those group lessons as well as plan individual lessons for math and ELA.
Answers to common questions:
Is the entire year written in there before the start of the school year? No way. Last summer, I planned out the weekly topics for each subject into tables and printed them out. I keep these “lesson blueprints” in the front pocket of the planner. Towards the end of each month, I start filling in the lesson plans for the next month. Too many changes may occur for me to try to fill out the entire planner at the beginning of the year. Monthly works better for us.
What happens if things do not go to plan? Grab that big eraser and start making adjustments.
Why make plans if my state does not require them? Because I find the old saying true: if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
Why not just fill in the planner afterwards to make note of what we did instead of worrying so much about what we will do next week? Because, for me, that is not planning, it is just record keeping. It does not help me to look ahead to where I want to be and help me get there. Lesson planning does. It does not keep us accountable for reaching our educational goals. Lesson planning does. It does not help me stay organized and prepared to provide my kids with quality lessons, fun activities, and helpful resources. Lesson planning does.
Can you be an effective homeschool teacher without keeping a similar planner? Of course you can. Each homeschool teacher has to find the right method for managing her homeschool plans, lessons, and records. In the past, I have used small planners, computerized planners, made a planner from a composition book, and planners that combined homeschool with my personal planner. Next year, when I have a student in high school, one in middle school, and one still in elementary, I may use a completely different planning system.
If you have fallen off the planning wagon during the course of this year, I encourage you to pick your planner back up! Start by looking ahead to next week and plan one fun thing to do for each subject area. Grab a board game that practices math skills. Pull out a geography puzzle for the region in the history lesson. Select some art supplies to go along with a science lesson. Find some Mad Libs online to practice grammar in ELA next week. Set a timer if you need to, to keep yourself focused and motivated to get those items down and dated in your planner quickly. You can do this. And if it is written (or typed) in your planner, you are all the more likely to get it done.