Homeschooling Planning Angst



Dear Kendra,

I'll try to explain my organizational school dilemma here without rambling.  I am having a hard time pin-pointing my problem.  I just know that I am frustrated with my planning at the beginning of each week.

I needed a feeling for how the school year runs.  So now with a year of schooling K, 1st, and 3rd, I am trying to ask myself some questions.

I think I need to do more of a goals list for each child. I bought the checklist from Cindy Downs and the Tanglewood Corebook. I am hoping they could work for me.

What is the best way to list goals for the kids? Keep them in a binder? One for each child? Same binder? Keep a section of read alouds I read and want to read?

How detailed should I be when I map out our school year? Math book page numbers? Should I put a time limit on our unit studies for science and history? How do I manage farming interruptions and illnesses? I can see our school year calendar with big red X's. Is this just part of the nuttiness of homeschooling? Do I  relax and just go with the flow? But I like a plan!

How much prep do you put in at the beginning of the week? In planning your year?

If I can get my vision/plan mapped out,  I hope then my summer schooling would be more clear to me, i.e. how much math, reading I will do. Plan my read alouds...

I hope that gives you a peek into my head.

Thank you for caring!


Dear Dana-

BREATHE!  Phew.  I felt my blood pressure rising as I was reading what you wrote :)  I'll tell you what I've done/what I'm doing, what has worked when and why, and then maybe you can pull out some things that will be helpful to you.

First, I do have a binder I simply call "School Records".  It contains:

1. A copy of our current schedule which, as you well know, changes fairly often

2. A section for each school-aged child.  Their sections contain:

    A. A goal sheet for the year based on the Trivium- grammar/knowledge stage,    logic/understanding stage, and rhetoric/wisdom stage.

    B. Their "omnibus list" for the year.  These are simply personalized reading lists we create for each child based upon what we want them to read now and/or have read by the time they leave our home.

3. A section called "Books" in which I keep a list of read-alouds and a list of books we want to look into or check out from the library

4. A section for recording the year's field trips.  I only list them here by month and I scrapbook about them in our family scrapbook.  That has worked well for me.

In regards to lesson plans, I have done it many ways:

1. In the beginning, I sat down every Sunday night and planned out the week, page numbers and all.  I quickly learned that was for the birds.  There were just too many variables, and yes, that is the nuttiness of homeschooling.

2. My philosophy has morphed over the years.  While still highly academic, we tend to want to be more relational amongst every member of the family and so I strive to structure our day so that we are all together as much as possible.  This also allows me to correct attitudes and stop silliness before it gets out of hand (boys!  humph)

3. While that means my kids are still doing the challenging stuff like Veritas Press Omnibus, Latin for Children, Greek and Introductory Logic, it also means that we don't really delve into the super-creative options or the unit study kind of homeschooling.  While I love Konos, it is completely impractical for my family.  Once you recognize what your overall goals are, how to achieve them, and what your limitations are (a baby every other year, for instance, or harvesting walnuts) you can decide what are the non-negotiables and what to toss.  Mummifying a chicken didn't make the cut the last time we studied ancients, but this year we've been able to do a few more creative things because the older boys choose to do them on their free time.

So, here's where I am right now. 
We are going into summer with quite a few unfinished tasks.  So what?  If we plod away at them casually throughout the summer in the cool mornings, they'll get done.  As for next year, I began planning in about January.  I started writing down what I wanted them to do next year (actual curriculum names and other goals such as "improve handwriting").  Then I began to purchase slowly in about March.  At the end of June my girlfriend who homeschools much the same way as we do and I will get together for a planning weekend where we will photocopy and assemble as much of the kids' stuff as possible.  Mine each get binders for almost every subject they have, and for subjects like history, I make all the necessary photocopies for the ENTIRE year.  Yep.  It is torture for the weekend but then it's DONE.

One last thing- I LOVE history.  So I have made a spreadsheet for history each year based on the curriculum we're using.  Mystery of History is our favorite.  You could certainly do something like this for any subject; just be sure you use it and it doesn't use you.  In other words, feel free to toss a read-aloud you don't like a few pages into it, etc.

Does that help?