When it comes to homeschool planning, I like to be over-prepared because life happens, and it is so helpful to have everything nicely planned out with flexibility in mind. When I taught at the high school level, I usually had a back-up plan in place in the event that we were having a rough day, but I am finding that I usually need to have 2 or 3 backup plans with toddlers.
Having everything neatly planned out and at my fingertips is a must for me. I don’t have time to flip through a book or do a Pinterest search when I need to refresh my memory on an activity. Meltdowns happen in a matter of minutes here, and telling two antsy toddlers to “just wait a second while Mommy gets it ready” can destroy an afternoon quickly.
After a lot of trial and error, I have settled into a nice rhythm to planning our homeschool weeks and making sure I am ready for each day. It isn’t always seamless and not every plan is toddler approved but for the most part, it eliminates a lot of chaos.
Here’s how I break down the week. Like many things, I always start with the big picture and narrow it down until I have everything sorted. It’s the English major in me.
First things first. A desktop calendar. It helps me to be able to see the month laid out all at once. I can see everything we have scheduled and work from there.
With the calendar in front of me, I take my teacher planner and make notes on the days we have something scheduled so that when I begin to plan, I can make adjustments where necessary. Being a visual person, I always highlight the pre-scheduled events so they are easy to see. It probably seems redundant to have our appointments written in two places, but I like to keep my desktop calendar separate for family use, as my husband often refers to it as well.
After I get appointments sorted, I plan for the week. I like to do 4 weeks at a time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. As long as I am planned a week ahead of time, it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. In my teacher planner, I have a section for the weekly notes. It is there that I write the basics of what we will be covering that week. Memory Verse, Bible Story, Song, Poem, Letter of the Week, and Number of the week are written in those sidelines.
With that in place, I can plan lessons or activities for each day. I write a very basic description of the activities in each day’s square. It’s just enough that I can glance at it quickly and get a picture of the day. I write in pencil, and it doesn’t look pretty, but I find I often have to erase and re-work bits and pieces of the day depending on moods (or if it’s a full moon).
Continuing to whittle down and fine-tune plans, I move to my file folders. I have seen so many other homeschoolers use this system and it really is a fantastic idea. I have a file folder for each week, and keep them all in a crate that I can easily access. In each week’s file folder, I have any printables that I might need – playdough mats, cut out and laminated puzzle pieces, coloring pages, worksheets, etc. In addition, I have a sheet of paper for each day with any details of that week’s lesson. So, if I wrote in my lesson book “Act it out”, I will have a brief description of that activity on my weekly file sheets. Like the calendar, this may seem redundant. I could skip the teacher planner all together and just keep the files with my weekly plans in them, but I find myself referring to my lesson planner often to quickly jog my memory, and that isn’t as easy for me to do with individual file folders.
*Note: When the week is over, I go back over that sheet of paper in my file and make notes of any changes that we may have made. That way, when I am looking back on it for the sake of record-keeping and assessments, I know exactly what we did, what worked well, and what we need to continue to practice.
So, there you have it. Probably more detailed planning than many people need, but it works for me. It keeps me focused and prepared. It’s my system and I find it comforting to have everything neatly detailed and at my fingertips