Planning: This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to mapping out the flow of your homeschool year. There is no one right way but there are numerous options. I'm just giving you an overview.
If I were fortunate enough to be sitting across the table from you right now I would ask you to raise your right hand and repeat after me:
"I promise to be nice to myself and offer myself plenty of grace while developing a schedule for my children's education. I will take breaks when I feel overwhelmed and will not continue in a method that doesn't work for my family. I am uniquely qualified for the task and trust that God will equip me and provide the resources needed to be successful"
I hope you meant all that because this part isn't especially difficult but it can be time-consuming. For me, it is very time consuming, especially when there are interruptions and distractions.
Planning out my school year is so much easier when I can sit alone with everything spread out in front of me at one time and THIS is the only thing I have to do until the job is done. That's just me. You may be a phenomenal multi-tasker. It just makes me grumpy because I lose my place and make mistakes. I should probably start with our little pledge and maybe repeat it every little bit. The piece that takes the most concentration on my part is deciding which planning option to choose for each subject and how to pace it all out throughout the year. Holding my plans loosely and being flexible is something else I'm learning is necessary.
Do I use a set scheduled every day, block, loop, buy pre-planned? Pick one planning option for EVERYTHING? Pick one planning option for EACH thing?
If you aren't piecemealing all of your subjects from scratch, you will likely buy some curricula that comes pre-paced or scheduled. I find this both a blessing and a burden. My Type-A-self appreciates that it is all done for me but is frustrated by the fact that each subject is in a different place. And the curriculum says that we do Lesson 2 on Tuesday but we have dentist appointments on Tuesday. There isn't enough time for both. How important is oral hygiene, anyway? Surely not as important as following the schedule made by the experts, right?? I get that that seems a bit extreme but this isn't too far-fetched from where I was when we started homeschooling. Now I either follow the schedule provided with the curriculum and transfer it over to my schedule, or I may just use it as a general guide.
If you want a very strict schedule and you never plan to deviate from it, well Godspeed, Mama, I tried that and almost killed us all. Seriously though, I know people who use this method and it works great for them! They school for a set number of weeks much like public or private schools do and build in some wiggle room for sick days or whatever comes up.
You may choose to use or create instructor's guides or lesson plans that include detailed instructions on what will be covered for every subject, for every child, every day (or every day that it will be taught) and they map out the entire school year. I learned a lot about mapping out our schedule the year we used Sonlight's Instructor Guides! They generously let you download a sample so you can check it out before you buy. I love that each week /day is in one place and loosely model what I do off of their IGs.
Loop or Block Scheduling
We school year round so we can keep a very loose schedule. If you need more flexibility, loop or block scheduling may be a great option. I map out each subject individually and list on a planner what subjects will be covered each day. This may be done by the day, week, month, quarter, semester, or year. This is what I do, even if I use curricula that is already scheduled. I transfer everything over to the planners and agendas I mention here so I know what was covered each day of each week but can we still be flexible when life happens.
Loop Scheduling is helpful if you are covering multiple subjects each week but not necessarily every day. Or you may create a loop for the month so you can cover one subject each week. You may want to create a morning loop and an afternoon loop. Maybe you loop through Bible, Name of God, and Hymn Study during your morning and Poetry, Art Study, and Composer Study during your afternoon loop. If you miss your afternoon loop for, lets say a dentist appointment, no worries, you just skip your loop time that afternoon and pick up where you left off during your next afternoon loop time.
We also implement block scheduling so we aren't doing every subject at the same time all year. With block scheduling, blocks of time are designated for each subject. This may be weeks, months, terms, semesters, etc. You would simply block off however much time you need to cover the material and pace out the material over that amount of time. We have done this Unit Studies as well as with specific subjects. We blocked off October and November to complete a unit study on government and the electoral process during the year of a presidential election. We also block History and Science. I usually don't teach these subjects at the same time. We cover History during one half of the year and Science the other.
Do what works for you!
There are so many options for mapping out your school year. I have only covered a few. I'm not even sure that every scheduling option I use has a name. Like everything else, you will need to experiment with different options to find what works best for you and your family. If you try something and it doesn't work, move on. Even any money that was spent is not as valuable as the time you will spend using a tool that isn't a good fit for you and your family.
I hope to share more as I begin preparing for next school year. Seeing how someone planned out their year would have been helpful for me when we first transitioned to homeschooling. Be sure to subscribe below to see the method to my madness and get any freebies we offer like the simple Parent Planner above!