4 Steps to Plan Your Homeschool Year

Ah, Summer… My favorite season… Sprinklers, sidewalk chalk, swimming pools and homeschool planning. That’s right, most homeschoolers, whether new or seasoned, are currently in the throes of homeschool planning for the next year and anxiously awaiting school supply sales. I’m pointing at this mom, right here!

Summer vibes

Before you sign up for all the extracurricular activities and order your curriculum, read on, my friend!

When I first started homeschooling my kids, I spent hours and hours pouring over curricula and making the perfect plan for the ideal year, weeks and days. But within a month of real life, the homeschool plan was abandoned in favor of “winging it” day to day. This is the same challenge as yo-yo dieting, trashed to tidy house and budgeting to frivolous spending when we have a perfectionistic ideal or a general lack of discipline. I am chief among sinners in this area!

Allow me to share with you the homeschool planning method I have developed over the last few years. It’s simple, and allows for freedom and flexibility to adapt for your family and real life along the way. 

Homeschool Budget

I was homeschooled growing up and as a seasoned homeschool mom myself, it’s too easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning and buying for the entire year. But I have learned to pump the brakes and not let the shopping craze kick into overdrive. Especially when crayons are only 50 cents a box! Come to Mama! It’s taken years to develop discipline in our homeschool budget. We choose to live debt-free and I’d rather not have homeschool be the thing that blows the budget. That’s the food line item’s job!

We prefer to spend our hard earned money on experiences and adventures, not pencils and textbooks.

Budgeting is full of personal choices. Everyone has a different expendable income and priorities, so I’ll let you decide what dollar amount you’re comfortable with. However, I’ve always felt that if homeschooling begins to cost as much as a private education, I’m definitely spending way too much! 

Show me the money!

Your Homeschool Budget

My recommendation is to start with your yearly budget for homeschool. This includes all curriculum, supplies and extracurricular activities. What are you willing to spend on education? And as much as we’d all like to say, “no price is too high!”, we each have a finite amount of money to spend on homeschooling. When I first removed my kids from the public school system as a single parent, my budget was somewhere between “Nada” and “Shoestring.” I found free online curricula, Easy Peasy Homeschool and Ambleside Online, and bought a pile of printer paper and a couple 3 ring binders. We also enrolled in a local homeschool co-op to make friends and do extra classes that I wasn’t yet ready to teach, like LARP and messy science experiments. We are still a part of that same homeschool co-op to this day! 

So whatever your limit is, determine the yearly budget and then break it down into semester or monthly chunks. This makes it easier to work into your monthly, debt-free budget. Some people buy their curriculum for the whole year in the summer. That’s often the biggest expense all at once, so save a little bit every month throughout the year starting in September so you have enough set aside next year for curriculum purchases. 

Socialization

This is the biggest and most annoying question most homeschoolers receive: “How do you socialize your children?” I have all sorts of sassy comebacks that are only ever said in my head or to other homeschool parents who can relate. The ironic thing is most homeschool families I know are doing TOO MANY things in the name of socialization! This is an area my family growing up and my own family have chosen to be selective on.

When I was homeschooled, we lived about an hour from civilization, so going to homeschool gatherings or extracurricular activities took more gas and time. Both of my parents are introverts, so it also took more energy! I get it, Mom! I remember doing weekly piano lessons, monthly roller skating and twice a year skiing. That was really about it besides church activities. 

For our family, we have had varying degrees of involvement, depending on the season of life. There have been seasons when we only did the Fall co-op and other seasons, like the current one, when we are able and want to do more. I just graduated my oldest son who was my most reluctant (read: frustrating) and introverted student. This bittersweet milestone has allowed me to taking a more involved role in our local homeschool community. This year, we are doing the Fall homeschool co-op (of which I am now one of the administrators & my husband teaches LARP), American Heritage Girls & Trail Life, a Spanish class, Martial Arts and a field trip group. All of these things align with our goal this year to engage in more family adventures. 

Kids socializing

Things to take into consideration when planning your activity involvement:

  • Your kids; are they social butterflies or introverts?
  • Your energy; as chief taxi driver, how much are you willing to run around?
  • Scheduling conflicts; double check for overlapping practices and events!
  • Your goals; does this align with your educational goals for the year?

In my observation, over-scheduling is a bigger problem than lack of socialization for most homeschoolers.

Don’t sign up for a bunch of stuff if you know you don’t have the energy in this season of life to do them. You’ll only wear yourself out and experience mom guilt for bailing midway through the commitment. Also, you have to leave space and time for actual school. Whether you use a curriculum or not, it’s important to make sure you don’t over-schedule yourself to the point where you’re burned out or don’t have time to do homeschooling. 

Timetable

First things first, Double check HSLDA.org to be sure you’re meeting your state’s requirements for how many school days you need to have. This will be super important to keep track of as you make your schedule. It can also be retained as part of your records. 

Year-round or traditional school year, that is the question. There are pros and cons for both sides, so you have to determine what you think will work best for your family and then adjust as you go. If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, consider switching things up. This is an area I have been willing to flex on… maybe too much at times. But different seasons will call for different schedules. 

Calendar

We have tried the traditional school year before. We live in an area where summers are short and winters are long, so you’d think that would work better. However, I hate the months of review that ensue when school resumes. And we struggle with reimplementing a school routine after a long break. Year round schooling works best for our family. We take a more relaxed approach to homeschooling during the summer, so it still feels like a little REST without losing all academic traction. I’ve also more recently found that the Sabbath Rhythm (6 weeks on, 1 off) works well for us to get intentional breaks throughout the year. 

Your Calendar

Take out a yearlong calendar like this one and mark any holidays you want to take off. We like to take birthdays off. So instead of Presidents’ Day off from school, my oldest would get his birthday off, which was his favorite birthday present, I’m sure. 

Happy Birthday, Son!

If you’re doing year round schooling, I highly recommend using the Sabbath Rhythm. Here’s when you’d insert your break weeks.

After you block off single holidays and rest weeks, it’s time to schedule extended holidays. Is your family planning a vacation? This is when you block out your Christmas break, Summer break, Spring break, etc. I always think it’s fun to intentionally plan our breaks, road trips and family holidays!

Lastly, double check your number of school days to make sure you’re meeting your state’s requirements. I like to plan for 10 days more than required. This leaves us with a cushion for flex days for spontaneous adventures. In our area, the winters can be long, dreary and brutal. While public schoolers get snow days, we prefer to take sunny days, sledding days, ski days or lake days instead. To each his own! 

Curriculum or Learning Plan

Now that your budget, activities and school days are set, it’s time to decide what you’ll be doing during learning times. When I first started homeschooling, I was a single parent, so I needed our school schedule to fit around my work. Whatever your situation, be honest with yourself about how much time you’ll be able to spend each day on studies each day/week. This will help narrow down what, if any, curriculum and/or supplements you’ll want to use to help you achieve your goal. Read more about how to choose the best curriculum here. For us, this has shifted a little bit almost yearly, depending on the situation.

Stick with what works, but be willing to change what doesn’t. 

You’re not married to the plan.

It’s totally okay to make adjustments to your curriculum and approach as seasons and life change. This is one of the best parts about homeschooling: flexibility and adaptability! But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’ve found a math curriculum that your kids enjoy and learn well with, don’t swap it out for something an influencer or homeschool friend recommends. Stick with what works for you! Just like driving, it’s better to make minor adjustments than to veer to the left.

If you choose to skip the curriculum and freestyle instead, you might plug in a monthly theme or unit studies you’d like to do. Also, determine what your weekly rhythm will look like. We like to do more structured work 4 days/week with an educational field trip on the 5th day. This gets us out of the house on more adventures and taking in more of our local educational attractions. This can be anything from a simple nature walk to visiting a friend’s hobby farm. Bonus: per our state, the 5th day counts as a school day!

This is homeschool, so get creative! 

Remember that your goal is not to recreate the public school schedule, but to find what works best for you. So have fun with the process and let go of what you think it “should be” according to “them.” Don’t compare yourself to other homeschools. Be willing to experiment a little and make adjustments (even midyear) if needed. HSLDA.org is your best resource for state requirements for record keeping and subjects. Other than that, feel free to color outside the lines! 

Happy Homeschool Planning!

I’d love to hear from you!

What is your best homeschool planning tip? Drop it in the comments!

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