Planning out your homeschool year can seem overwhelming. Especially the first year. Take a deep breath. You've got this!
First things first. Research your options and take your time. Don't be afraid to try and it not work out perfectly. This is a great opportunity for your kids to see you try, and gracefully try, try again. It's likely that you won't map out a perfect schedule right out of the gate. That's okay. Chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.
Now decide how you're going to keep track of everything and get a planner.
There are some great options for planners and many ways to plan your homeschool year. I have gone from buying curricula that planned out our entire year for us, to planning out the entire year myself, to having a general list of things I want to accomplish and mapping it out week by week. I have used planners from Pam Barnhill, Not Consumed, Debra Bell, and the $1 bargain bin at a local store.
Your planner doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. Just find something you like that is easy for you to use. Seriously, it doesn't have to be fancy unless that's your jam. This $3 job keeps me sane but it's nothing pretty to look at!
I'm going to break this part up a bit over two posts discussing:
Group Work vs Independent Work & Planning Options
You may be asking "Don't you kids do Math or Language Arts? Where are your other academic subjects?" This is my planner for the subjects that we do as a family. You may hear this called a Morning Basket or Family Studies. We just call it group work, I don't even know why. Someone must have said it and it stuck.
Whatever you call it, this is the time our family spends together each day to go over subjects that the whole family does. We consider some of these the most important subjects! You can make this time work for kiddos from toddlers to teens. We also review the previous day's work if needed at this time. This is when we teach any subjects that are the same for everyone. Then we teach to our kids individually if needed and on to the next phase.
This is where things may get a bit hairy at first. You turn your kids loose to do their own work without direct supervision if they are old enough. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you get to shift your focus from teaching your kids content to teaching them to be lifelong learners, which requires some independence.
My role here is to make sure that the expectations for each subject are clear and available. From there the information gets transferred into each child's personal agenda. Our children are responsible for keeping this agenda that documents what they did each day in each subject.
I fill out each week for our youngest, or help him do it, but he is responsible for keeping up with it and checking off completed work. Our teen is responsible for filling hers out each week and she helps pace out her year or each subject. This gives them some ownership over the order of subjects and keeping a planner is a #lifeskill that we all need. My teen also keeps track of her time for each subject to help develop her high school transcript. From this she is also learning time management.
We have our tween son do this from time to time, too, when his days start running extra long. He can more easily see how he stretched a 10 task assignment into 3 hours of misery and problem solve to use his time more wisely the next day. I almost consider their agenda a "subject" in and of itself because they are learning a so much from developing this habit. I will likely end up working this into some type of time management/scheduling high school credit because why not. I'll keep you posted on how that shakes out.
Why This Works for Us
I like this method because we are a military family so I have established a habit of keeping good records. This makes it easy to see what each kid did throughout the year. Keeping good records is important regardless, but this is especially true for us as we change states, as homeschool laws vary from state to state. You can read more about that here or hop over to HSLDA's website. I work in a shameless plug for them every chance I get. Go join!
I'm a recovering control freak. It was hard for me to turn loose of the reins and let the kids have some say and take part in planning their schedules. This is so important though. I have had to learn to reconsider my expectations, how to correct with love and grace, and how to lovingly hold them accountable when they don't work with integrity. It was a battle at our house and still is some days. But it is worth it. I am already seeing the fruits of relinquishing some control and being okay if their way isn't exactly my way. I still expect them do everything as if unto the Lord, but...
The places I mentioned above have great student planners or agendas. I have also created and printed my own. At some point, I'll get those ready to share. I'll also share an overview of planning options on my next homeschool post.