My stress-free homeschool planning method

Homeschool Checklists

As the new school year kicks off, there’s been a lot of talk about homeschool planning in my circles, both online and locally, and I realized I’ve never really shared my stress-free planning method.

You see, I used to sit down once a week and lesson plan: deciding which lessons would be taught which days, how I would supplement them, how much we’d get done, etc.

The only problem? I’m not very good at anticipating what will come up in a given week and, inevitably, we’d end up going on a field trip or a playdate, struggling with a lesson or spending an entire homeschool day researching the natural habits of a slug.

And then the whole dang plan was off-kilter, especially if we had the audacity to go off schedule on Monday!

On the other hand, working without any plan at all left us floundering and wandering aimlessly. I would remember something I wanted to have the girls do and be frustrated that we hadn’t gotten to it.

Eventually, I discovered our current checklist system, which is a happy medium between detailed planning and aimless wandering.

You may have seen pictures of our checklists in other homeschooling posts, but here’s how those work:

Each of the girls has a daily checklist of activities to complete. With these checklists, we all know what topics we need to cover each day, but there are no assigned page numbers, activities, etc. We simply work through those sequentially.

So, that means that the checklist says things like “Teaching Textbooks” and “read a chapter in Story of the World.” On Monday morning, assuming we haven’t tossed school aside so that the girls can forage berries in the yard or read a slave girl’s diary, we simply turn to the next chapter of Story of the World or Teaching Textbooks and start there. Sometimes the girls will write down which lesson they’re on; sometimes they just remember. The next day, they’ll move on to the next lesson, and so on.

Now, when I say I don’t preplan lessons, that’s not entirely true. I do copy the pages we’ll need for upcoming lessons and activities a week or two in advance (but if we don’t get to them that week, we simply hold onto them for the next rather than scrambling to adjust the lessons and wasting pages in the process).

I also pull out books related to upcoming topics so that girls can find those in one place rather than having to search through the shelves.

We don’t do a lot of other hands-on activities, but if we did, I would pull the supplies for those together in batches a couple of weeks in advance and then work through them when we got to the appropriate lesson.

I print the checklists in 4-6 week batches, adjusting them each time to include current chores, changes to our curriculum, and details (like North America for geography tracing).

At the girls’ current ages (our oldest is turning 10 this fall), I don’t worry too much about keeping detailed records of what they get done each day. If I felt like I needed to have that information or it was required by our state, I would simply right down chapters, books read, etc. on the checklists themselves and then save them.

You’ll also notice that the checklist is not labeled “Monday”, “Tuesday,” etc. but rather “Day 1”, “Day 2,” and so on. That gives us additional flexibility in our school week. We plan on a 4-day school week, and the girls have also been known to spend the evening working ahead on the next day’s work if they want to take an extra day off.

Doing it this way gives us the perfect blend of structure and spontaneity and eliminated a lot of the stress and guilt around planning that I was feeling before!

How do YOU plan each week?

(P.S. Download the checklist template here.)

  • Stephanie

    I love this! I have always struggled with scheduling because something always came up that got us off schedule and we all felt like we were constantly behind. Soooo, very frustrating to me and the kiddos! I love this method. The download is Monday – Friday though rather than Day 1, Day 2, etc like in your post. Do you have the Day 1, Day 2, etc printable available?

  • http://www.stacymakescents.com/ Stacy

    Happy, happy! I love printable checklists! Because it’s PAPER! :-)

  • http://joyceandnorm.wordpress.com/ Joyce (and Norm)

    Ummm…can I just have a copy of your exact plans? Kidding…not kidding! We started back to school last Monday, but I have just been writing out the subjects on the board and checking them off as we go. I do know exactly what they need to do for each day, but just need to get into gear with organizing it all. :p

  • Brenden

    I have switched back and forth from a rigid schedule with lots of planning for Mom to so loosey-goosey that we get nowhere. This sounds like a perfect balance of structure and freedom. (We are 5, 8, and 9.) Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Janis

    I have a spreadsheet that plans out the entire year. Although we live in Texas with loose requirements, I plan a 36-week, 5 day a week school year. We use a curriculum that has it’s own laid-out Instructor’s Guides and on my schedule I simply write 12M for week 12 Monday or something like that. If we don’the have an IG (like in math), I list the lesson for however many days it should take per lesson to get through by the end of the year. Handwriting in listed by workbook page and it only shows up every other day. The date is listed in the far left columns and holiday weeks are pre-assigned.

    We don’the stick rigidly to the schedule. My daughter is weeks ahead in math and everyone is weeks behind in history. It helps us to see where we spend our time and how to catch up if we want to. It helps me remember to do science (my son’s passion, but NOT mine). It helps me see when we take too many spontaneous vacation days and when we might be crossing over into summer vacation (DH is a teacher). It motivates us without oppressing us.

    I don’t do any real planning from week to week because I did all the work before the school year began. We have 5 kids 8 and younger, so this seriously saves me time and mental energy.

    I also have a chore checklist. It lists mom and all the kids with their morning chores (shower, get dressed, brush hair, make bed, tidy room, let go of one thing … which is our routine for decluttering …, and brush teeth). It has a column for kitchen chores (clear table, wipe table, sweep, put away clean dishes, and load dishwasher). Those happen after each meal, but I only listed breakfast and lunch. The third column has a list of all school subjects by student. I mark off anything that doesn’t apply to the day and they know what subjects to prep for. This list is on one paper in an 8×10 frame and we use a wet-erase marker to mark things off every day.

    These systems have really worked well for us. Thank you for sharing your method. I love reading about other people’s systems!