The Anatomy of a Homeschooling Planner
Even if you’re not new to the idea of a Homeschool Planner, I hope that you’ll find some tips here to help you put together your best one yet to help you with your homeschool planning. If you already have one, maybe these tips will help you organize your homeschool year in a new way that brings much more peace and functionality into your homeschooling days. It’s not hard to do and with just a bit of time set aside for making sure everything has its place, you’ll find yourself more organized than ever before, even if you are an Unschooling family. A homeschooling planner can be a part of your daily routine, even if you’ve never had one before.
So, let’s go ahead and dive into how a homeschooling planner can make such a huge difference for you and your homeschool.
Why Use a Homeschooling Planner?
There’s absolutely no doubt that, as a homeschooler, our days can be so hectic that we might forget many of the important things we’ve planned on any given day. Your daily plan, which you write out each day, helps you maintain focus on what’s important, what can wait until tomorrow, and what can be dropped altogether if necessary. Without this type of plan, you can find yourself deep into the afternoon, having not accomplished a single one of your goals! That’s not to say that a planner will assure that every single thing on your list gets checked off. In reality, it may not. But the truth is, you’ll still do more than you might have without it.
By using the planning pages of a homeschool planner, you can take a large task and break it down into reasonably sized goals that can be finished over the course of the entire day instead of setting aside a large chunk of the day to finish one particular task. Take your large goal, figure out which smaller steps need to happen to reach it, and then plan those small steps out, over the course of a week or a month, or a quarter.
From, there, you’ll easily be able to see if you’ve missed something. A great example is, of course, you can’t move on to fractions if you haven’t finished your teachings on multiplication! That’s large, looming, and obvious, but just an example that moving from one thing to the next is often just a case of making sure you’ve crossed your “t’s” and dotted your “I’s”.
Over the course of a few weeks, your planner will help reveal a “big picture” that can truly be a lifesaver when trying to figure out what you’re missing. Taking progress report scores or evaluations into consideration, for example, can help show potential educational gaps that you’ll want to come back to, so you don’t have an even bigger problem later on. It’s much easier to tackle a missing link in first-grade math while your child is still in the first grade, for example.
Finally, a homeschooling planner can be an excellent record (that is often completely customizable to you and your family), all-inclusive, and containing all the necessary elements for you to show proof that you’ve met your state’s requirements, should that ever be questioned. In the later high school years, as your child moves towards graduation, you’ll be so very thankful for a well-kept homeschooling planner because it makes creating a transcript so much easier.
And now that we’ve covered a few ideas on why it’s a good idea, let’s dive into the anatomy of a homeschooling planner.
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The General Records Section
As you open your homeschooling planner, the General Records section should contain such things as your “Year at a Glance”, which is usually just a one-page yearly calendar so you can quickly see what’s coming up and what has already passed. Some homeschool moms can even use this as the attendance record. To do so, you might simply circle the days your child “attended” homeschool. Another option is to use color-coding, with separate colors for regular class days, field trips, extra-curricular, and so forth.
This is the perfect section, as well, for birth certificates, copies of your letter of intent (LOI), social security cards, passports, vaccination records, or anything else that might be necessary for state requirements. Otherwise, it’s handy to have these items in a place where you can quickly access them if you need to.
This is a great place for your “homeschool vision” statement. Each year, before starting the new homeschooling calendar, take a few moments to jot down your “why”, as well as a few key ideas on what is most important for your child to learn this year, what subjects are non-negotiable, and what skills you’d like to see them, master, by the end of the school year. Of course, this vision can include anything that’s important to you and your child but be sure not to make it so long and burdensome that it becomes impossible to accomplish. Just a few things that will be quickly accessible when you need a quick pick-me-up will be entirely sufficient.
A printout of your state’s homeschooling requirements is a great addition here. It’s an at-a-glance copy of what’s necessary, such as the number of required teaching hours, days, and subjects, but it’s more than that. If you are ever questioned by a school official, a CPS worker, or even another homeschooling parent, you can quickly come here to find out for yourself whether what's being said is true or to have proof on hand that it’s not. Right behind that, it’s a great idea to have your HSLDA(Home School Legal Defense Association) membership info, if you’re a member, as they are a great help in times of conflict.
Your yearly schedule can go here too if you have one. Some homeschooling families find it easier to stay on track if they have this plan in a place where it’s easy to find and access quickly. It’s just a quick overview of your year and which days and weeks you plan on and off for educational activities.
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The Daily Planner and/or Homeschool Schedule Sections
This section will be the largest section of your teacher planner, as it will contain daily lesson outlines with the most important details. Some families use daily charts, while others use weekly charts. It really all depends on how much information you want to include in the space. A daily plan, usually consisting of one to two pages, can be broken down either by subject or by the hour, where you can lay out each day and everything you want to accomplish in it. For some, it starts at a specific time, while others start the “homeschooling clock” whenever lessons begin.
For the weekly planner chart, it can also consist of one to two pages, the information is more compressed and might only list subject with a checkbox for having completed that day. This is often the choice of Relaxed and Unschoolers, as their lesson plans are a little harder to compile into specifics.
Whether you choose daily, weekly, or monthly planners, it can be tempting to plan weeks ahead, but that isn’t always the best idea. I tried this with my daughter and as the year progressed, I quickly found it was a bad idea! With an autistic son also at home, our schedule would often change due to doctor and therapist appointments, his needs for attention at the drop of a hat, or those sensory meltdowns that can happen for what seems like no reason. When I switched to day-by-day planning, the entire year smoothed out immensely and we were actually able to get more accomplished, simply by not having that weekly calendar hanging over our heads. Of course, the plan that works best for you and your family will be based on your own specific requirements, so I suggest you plan your own way, and never attempt to “copy” exactly what another homeschooling family does.
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The Homeschooling Log Section
This section is where you can keep all the logs you might want to use over the course of your school year. For younger children, this is likely to be just a simple reading list, a spelling list, broken down into weeks, and maybe a field trip log, which can be as versatile as you want or need it to be. However, as your child gets older into high school, there will be more logs covering a wider range of topics, and a will serve as a way to count high school credits.
Depending on your child’s age, level, or list of extra-curricular activities, you might also include the following logs:
- Music Lessons
- Co-op or Private Club Functions
- Science Labs
- Employment Schedules
- Volunteer Activities
As you can imagine, this list could go on and on, depending on what your child is involved in.
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The Progress Report and Grade Record Section
Creating and keeping track of this simple section will serve you well, all year long. To add to the functionality of the section, you can also include a list of monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals, as well as a copy of your child’s own goals, recorded at the beginning of the year. This makes it easy to create progress reports, as you’ll always have your goal sheet on hand to assess by.
Keeping track of grades in this separate space is the best at-a-glance option, for any time when proof of classes is required. I always kept my grades in the daily lesson plan section, jotted down on a daily basis, and then I sat down at the end of each week and penciled them into this grade record section for quick access. If you actually issue report cards, you can add a plastic pocket here for holding that secure.
This section could also be used to keep track of high school credits. Do what makes sense to you, but be sure to keep track of those credits!
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The Key Information Section
In this section, keep a contacts list, which can include phone numbers for poison control, doctors, dentists, therapists, chiropractors, or any other necessary number. If you have babysitters, this is a good place to keep that information. And don’t forget to include a list of passwords for various educational websites.
This might also be a great place to keep co-op information and contacts, information for your local library or any other place that you frequent as a homeschooling family.
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: The Meal-Planning Section
I’ve been chided for including this in my “homeschooling” planner, but if you’ve been homeschooling for very long at all, then you’ll know how quickly an unplanned meal can throw your whole day off, not to mention your entire homeschool life! There’s nothing worse than thinking to lay out the day’s dinner meat to thaw only to realize you don’t have it. Or that you are missing a key ingredient for the meal you were supposed to make. Now, you’ve got to cut your homeschool day apart with a trip to the grocery, and for some homeschooling families, that venture can take hours, round-trip!
Having said that, this crucial section should contain at least a week’s worth of meal plans. Some people include just one meal but jotting down all three can keep things running more smoothly. Start every homeschooling week by making sure you have all the necessary ingredients and quick access to any recipes needed to make the meal.
Also, include a grocery list that is functional for your family. I’ve downloaded a lot of free printable templates and not all of them have the space for the items you use most. So, I suggest downloading a template (or creating one) that has blanks for you to write in what you need instead of checking off boxes. Cabbage, beets, and rutabagas are all great nutritional foods, but if your kids turn their noses up at all of them, it’s a waste of printer ink and time!
The Best Homeschool Planner Includes: Miscellaneous Sections to be Added by You
Depending on your child’s age, grade level, or method of homeschool teaching, additional sections may be required in addition to or in place of any of those listed above. Here’s a list of additions that could be turned into sections for your own personalized homeschool lesson planner:
- To-Do List
- Prayer Pages
- Research Forms
- Blog Planner
- Unit Plans
- Weekly Prep List
- Nature Studies
- Unit Studies
- Memory Verses
- Chore Charts
- Media Resources
Don’t think that my list is all-inclusive! If there’s something you need to add, remember that this is your homeschooling notebook, and you can fashion it in any way you feel best suits your requirements.
Of course, we can’t forget that we live in a truly digital age. The “grade books” of yesteryear are constantly giving way to more and more digital methods of record-keeping and planning. There is a vast number of digital planners that you can download that make the planning process quick, easy, and printable. So, you can actually fill out your planners online or on your computer or laptop, printing a page or two if necessary. I’m all about making things easier for homeschooling moms, so if digital planners are a better choice for you, by all means, take this route.
Just remember, these planner options are what most great homeschool planners will contain. However, there are certain records that are imperative to have on hand should there ever come that knock on the door, calling into question your homeschool. Be sure you take time to consider what might be required at this time and compile all those resources into one space for quick access, should you ever need it. Once you have that, you should have everything you need to get your year started off right.
Homeschool planners, of course, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Whether you choose a free printable one or one that's spiral bound (which I always felt like held up better), you'll find that homeschool planning pages can make you a happy planner. And, a happy planner that has a planned day, is a happy homeschool mom.