A peak inside my Homeschool Lesson Plans

a peak inside my homeschool lesson plans

Over the years, I’ve taken the whole idea of customizing our homeschool to a new extreme. Our homeschool style is largely classical with a Charlotte Mason twist, and my homeschool lesson plans tend to be just as “custom.” I plan some subjects in the most traditional sense; I loop-plan other subjects; and I just record what we accomplished for still other subjects. Because my homeschool lesson plans are so unique, finding the right homeschool planner can be a little tricky. Which is why this year, I’ve ditched the traditional planner and just picked up a cute graph-paper notebook from Plum Paper Planner

Take a peak inside my homeschool lesson plans.

Planning by Terms

I love the Charlotte Mason method of planning the year by three 12-week terms. We have one term in the fall, a one-month break for Christmas, followed by a winter term and a spring term. Each term, I change things up. We finish certain books or subjects and add in others. We finish certain topics in our classical-style history cycle and begin others. It also gives me the freedom to tweak our schedule every 12 weeks and re-evaluate what is working and what isn’t.

Planning the “Discipline” Subjects

My “discipline” subjects like math and grammar and spelling are easy to plan in the traditional sense. I figure out how much we need to get accomplished each term, dividing the number of pages or lessons by the number of days. I usually also assign how much time I expect the assignment to take, just to help us set goals and manage time well. From here, I type out a printable weekly assignment sheet that my kids use to actually check off their work.

homeschool lesson plans | term 1 schedule | dialectic stage

Planning the “Inspiration” Subjects

Our “inspiration” subjects include history, science, literature, and some writing. Although I assign certain books for my kids to read and plan for when I think we will get to those books within the term, I tend to loop-plan these subjects. As in, we move on when the topic has been covered. When we finish our projects and books on the Vikings, we move on to knights and castles. When we wrap up one writing project, I introduce the next. My younger two (K and 4th grades) will be continuing with science in this same fashion, looping through different biology topics. My 6th grader, on the other hand, likes to take his science more seriously, with weekly assignments.

In my homeschool lesson plans, this loop-planning looks almost like bullet journaling. I write in the projects, books, and audiobooks I expect us to get to in the next few weeks. As those assignments are completed, I’ll check them off. If they don’t get completed, it’s no big deal. I’ll write an arrow through the box and move the assignment to the following week.

homeschool lesson plans | weekly plans
For privacy, I’ve deleted my kids’ names from these plans, but you get the idea.

Planning “Meeting Times”

The time I spend one-on-one with each child is what we call “meeting time.” And I plan this time pretty loosely, mostly just recording what we’ve done. For my 6th grader, we plan to meet once a week, similar to last year. I’ll check over his work, hand back graded assignments, and answer questions on the upcoming assignments. New to this year, we’ll also be adding a discussion time with some questions about his reading and history topics, in a very classical model.

The “meeting times” with my younger kids are much different. For my kindergartener, all of his assignments require one-on-one with me. We’ll cover reading and phonics as well as math, and his time with me should take about 45 minutes or so each day. As those assignments are completed, I will circle the letter for the day of the week we worked together. At this stage, I usually work through subjects for an allotted amount of time, doing a little extra if he’s in the mood or a little less if he needs more playtime, rather than forcing him to complete an entire lesson on a particular day. I’ve never had any trouble completing subjects this way, and it gives my littles the flexibility they need early on.

My “meeting time” with my fourth grader is done very similarly. Because of her dyslexia and other learning challenges, she needs a lot more of my attention to get her harder assignments completed. Our subjects together include math, grammar, spelling, and some writing, but I adhere to the Charlotte Mason “short lessons” principle. All together, we’ll spend about an hour, and I’ll circle the letter for the day of the week that we got to each subject, alternating some of the subjects each day. 

Planning for flexibility

As you might have noticed, I don’t have daily homeschool lesson plans. I like to see my week and customize each day to get done what needs to be done. This allows us some flexibility and margin when we have busy weeks or bad days or sickness or whatever else life throws our way. On their good days, my kids will knock out quite a bit of the week’s work. On our bad days, we may only get to math. But by the end of the week, it works out—and I don’t stress about being “behind.”

We also have a unique schedule for easing into Mondays, which includes projects, game-schooling, art, and other casual learning opportunities. I don’t necessarily have a lesson plan for Mondays.

Though our system may not work for everyone, it’s perfect for us. Just like your system should be one that works for you, regardless of whether or not someone else could do it your way. That’s the nature and beauty of homeschooling—finding a learning lifestyle that fits your family, your personality, and your planning style.

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Finding the right homeschool planner

finding the right homeschool planner | planning tips

My earliest homeschool memories include my mom working over homeschool schedules in her spiral notebook. Nothing fancy. Just a cheap spiral notebook with ruled paper. That “homeschool planner” served her well for years. Over the 6 years or so that I’ve homeschooled my own kids, I’ve been all over the gamut of homeschool planning. I’ve tried online planners, planning apps, free planning pages, printable homeschool planner pdfs, dry-erase calendar board, the Ultimate Homeschool Planner, Plum Paper Planner—you name it, I’ve probably given it a try. My planning needs and preferences are constantly morphing. But the one thing I’ve learned is that the key to finding the right homeschool planner is to know yourself and what you’ll use.

Tips to Finding the Right Homeschool Planner

Know yourself (and be honest). We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have short-comings. You won’t find your perfect planning system if you can’t be honest about what just won’t work. It’s not a statement of who you are if you can’t make a paper planner work or if you never get on the computer to log those lessons as completed. It’s simply a matter of a system that failed you. We are individuals with unique personalities; what works for one person won’t work for everyone.

Know what you are most likely to use. Some of this is trial and error. You simply won’t know until you give a few things a try. If you are good at keeping your Google Calendar up to date and like to keep Reminders and Notes on your phone, then try an online planner. If you are a list person who likes to write it all out by hand, then try a paper planner. Do you like to see your week’s events lined up vertically or horizontally? Do you like a large 8×11 size plan or a smaller “throw it in your purse” style planner? If you have no clue, then jump in and give something a try. Within a few days or weeks of using it, you’ll know what you love or hate about it.

Know what motivates you. And again, be honest. I’m cheap, and I hate to spend money on myself. But one thing I’ve had to be honest about: I just don’t plan well in an ugly planner. As shallow as that sounds, I have to have a pretty planner with soft, high-quality paper that invites me to sit down and plan. I literally try to think of something just so that I can write on that paper. If my pen scratches across the page, I won’t write it in it the way I should. Bottom line, if you hate your planning system, you won’t plan. If you hate sitting at a computer, online planning will not change that. If writing by hand is hard for you, then writing in a planner is not going to be a win. So find motivation that will make planning pleasant, and reward yourself for doing it. If stickers are your thing, than motivate yourself with some cute stickers and a Lisa Frank pen. If chocolate is your proverbial carrot, than by all means, have a private stash that only comes out during planning.

My homeschool planner for the 2017-18 school year

This year, I’m stepping way out of my norm for planning. But in a way, it really makes sense for me. Last year, I had two “planners” for homeschool. I had a traditional weekly planner from Plum Paper Planner that allowed me to customize my headings, add extra note pages and checklists, etc. It was my second year to use a Plum Paper Planner for homeschool, and I’ve loved them. But last year, I also had a cute little notebook from Plum Paper that was smaller and filled with graph paper. My idea was that all my brainstorming and Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc. would end up in my little notebook, then the final version would make it to the planner. But what I found last year was that I was much more excited about jotting down plans on that graph paper inside the notebook than actually using the planner itself.

While I love Plum Paper Planners as my personal planner for church, work, and home life, I’ve opted for the (much cheaper) Plum Paper notebook for my homeschool plans this year. It’s been fun to set it up, similar to bullet-journaling. And when I was done with planning, I didn’t want to be—I sat with it open hoping I’d think of something else to write in it. That, my friend, tells me I’ve got a winner. (Or that I’m a total nerd. lol!)

homeschool planner | finding the right homeschool planner | Plum Paper notebook

Here are a couple of other posts to get you started planning your homeschool year:

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Homeschool planning a new year

homeschool planning and curriculum | thinking through a new homeschool year

As we are wrapping up the last of our subjects, I’m in the throes of homeschool planning for the new school year. My decisions are all made, my online carts are empty, and the boxes of curriculum are beginning to roll in. In my routine, May and June are my intense planning months. I like to get all my homeschool planning out of the way so that I can truly take a break. Nothing homeschool related is swirling around in my brain come July and August; it’s done, on the shelf, and just waiting for us.

I plan the new year while the struggles of this year are fresh on my mind. I map out my solutions to all of our homeschool problems, from learning struggles to organization-fails, and then give it all a rest. My kids salivate over the new folders and books they are dying to read, and I dangle next year in front of them—my proverbial carrot—tantalizing their appetite for next year’s menu. It’s fun. We all love this time of year.

So since homeschool planning is consuming all my mind and energy right now, I thought I’d share with you the method to my madness, my steps to mapping out our next year. And over the next couple of weeks, I’ll go into more detail.

My steps to homeschool planning:

Planning our core curriculum: Tapestry of Grace

I’ll just give you a brief summary here, but just know this one step is getting a complete post of it’s own. For one, 60% of my homeschool planning is tied into Tapestry of Grace. It’s a huge undertaking, and when it’s finally done, I feel like I’ve scaled Mt. Everest. When I plan Tapestry, I’m not just planning our history studies; I’m planning our reading list, literature skills, Bible study, writing assignments, arts and crafts, and geography—for all three kids! This year, I will be teaching Tapestry of Grace on three of the four different levels that the curriculum provides: lower grammar, upper grammar, and dialectic. I combine as much as I can, and have my upper grammar student practicing her reading-aloud skills by reading the lower grammar book choices to my kindergartener. A lot of the writing, arts, crafts, and even Bible we will be doing together. The key to teaching multiple ages and keeping your sanity is to combine as much as you possibly can so that you can maximize your time. Tapestry of Grace is wonderful for this.

Gathering our other curriculum.

I have to see what I have to be able to plan. I can’t visualize anything on my own. Whether my husband is discussing house renovations or I’m planning math, I just can’t imagine what something is going to look like until I have it in front of me. Thus, the next step for me is to lay it all out where I can see what I’m working with. I’m also a sucker for the downloadable, print-your-own curriculum. I have a decent printer that uses inexpensive ink, and I shop paper prices and buy it in bulk by the case. So, in order to see what I have, I usually have a ton of printing to finish. Once everyone’s curriculum has been printed or has arrived in the mail, then I’ll take a look at one child’s complete curriculum at a time.

Mapping out the weekly/daily schedule.

In order to make sure I’m not biting off more than we can all chew in a reasonable amount of time, I sketch out a rough daily schedule for each child. It’s not a precise schedule. I simply jot done each child subject’s, the days of the week they will work on that subject, and how much time I anticipate them spending on that subject. I’ll also jot down how much time I expect to work one-on-one with each child. This way, if I’ve planned for a subject to take 15 min. each day, then I need to be sure I don’t assign more than 15 minutes worth of work. If I’ve decided that a total of one and a half hours of independent work is appropriate for one child, than I need to be sure I don’t assign him more than that. If I have only 45 minute with each child, than I need to be sure that I don’t assign more work than we can get through in that amount of time. A rough-draft of our schedule provides boundaries for me as I plan the assignments.

Tackling the master plan.

Some subjects require more planning than others. But in general I usually keep this as simple as possible. I divide our year into three 12 week terms. Some resources I use for just one term, to add some variety to our year. For the subjects that we will be doing through out the year, I schedule out how many lessons we need to accomplish each term or how many page numbers we need to get through. Some subjects, like math, require nothing more than that. Other subjects, like science or writing, I need to think through more specific assignments. Because I’m a little OCD about my planning, I plan on “scrap paper”; I actually have a notebook of grid paper that is specifically for these rough draft plans. Then, when I’ve sketched it all out the way I like it and I’m finished making all my mistakes and alterations, I’ll copy it into a finalized plan for my planner. (I’m an editor at heart, even more than a writer, so everything I do has to have at least a few rough drafts and revisions—even my text messages.)

Organizing the resources.

This is not necessarily a final step. Usually, I’m organizing resources throughout the whole process. And this year, I’m totally overhauling my system of organization. We had a major “loose-paper and missing-supplies” crisis this year. As a result, I reworked and revised how I’ve doing everything. Where will books go, where will loose paper go, what folders will go with what subject, how will each subject be organized, how will the kids recognize their own supplies, what supplies will be shared, how will I be able to quickly and efficiently double-check to make sure books and supplies get back where they belong—I’m serious! I rethought everything. (And I’ll be sharing the final results when it’s finished.)

Bonus: Accommodating ADHD and Dyslexia

There is a difference between coddling a child and accommodating learning struggles. If one of my kids has an attitude or behavioral issue that does not necessarily stem from their difficulties, I will not coddle that behavior; I allow my kids to experience consequences of bad decisions. However, I do believe in accommodating if there are legitimate struggles. I my kids have some legitimate issues. For instance, we have always accommodated ADHD with short bursts of learning. I keep most subjects limited to about 15 minutes each. For my fourth grader, her longest subject is scheduled for 20 minutes. That means on a good day, when her attitude is right, she has no problem completing the assigned work in 20 minutes. On a bad day—well, yes, we have bad days that require further adjustments and natural consequences. For my sixth grader, 30 minutes is a good average for his major subjects. I arrange my schedule according to which children will need me most. This next year, that will be my kindergartener and dyslexic daughter. My oldest is not suffering from this arrangement; he’s old enough for the responsibility and, in my opinion, it’s part of his learning process to need less of me. My daughter, though fourth grade, requires more hand-holding than my other two; it’s a combination of her dyslexia and ADHD. She’s my “Dory,” and she needs some accommodations for her short-term memory struggles. (I also make accommodations to fill in her learning gaps.)

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to and what I’ll be wrapping up next month as well. By July, I hope to be posting pictures of me on the beach with not a single homeschool planning thought in the world!

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Homeschool Helper Review (for homeschool planning & record keeping)

homeschool record keeping | homeschool planning | homeschool reviews

Though I do not plan online or on my iPad, I have an iPad app that I love to use for my homeschool grades and records. Attendance, grades, and reports I’d much rather have that automated; numbers just aren’t my thing. So for recording grades and creating reports, I love Homeschool Helper on my iPad. It’s beautiful, user-friendly, and I actually look forward to opening it up and using it.

Set-up took a little time but wasn’t complicated. I set up each child with the subjects they would be covering for the year. For each subject, you can assign a grading system—A, B, C, or Excellent, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory. You can adjust the grading scale and set up weighted grading (10% of the grade is for daily, 20% is for quizzes, 50% is for tests, 20% is for projects). Once set-up is complete, using the reports is simple, too.

Attendance is as easy as touching a date on the calendar. If I forget to do it daily, I can simply touch all the dates I know we did school. If we did a half day of school, I touch the date twice. It automatically records the total number of days we’ve done school and includes this info on the report card and other reports.

homeschool attendance | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

Entering grades is just as easy. It even has a calculator. Enter the number of correct answers; enter the total number possible; touch “calculate.” The percentage grade and description is then saved for that assignment or test.

homeschool grading | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

You can plan or record field trips and books read. You can also create a variety of reports, including report cards. Just enter the range of dates you want included on the report and information you want on the report. Then, you can either save or email the report. I usually email it to myself and then print it from the email. There is also a function to plan lessons, batch plan lessons, etc. But I can’t review those functions since I’ve never used them.

homeschool record keeping | homeschool report cards | homeschool helper review

I have used this app to record my grades for about 5 years, and I love it. I can’t see myself switching to anything else any time soon. While I love my pen and paper planner, I wouldn’t want to go without my Homeschool Helper.

homeschool helper review | homeschool apps
from the website
homeschoolhelperapp.com

Visit the website HomeschoolHelperApp.com or look for it in your app store.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read about different styles of planning, combining those different styles to find your perfect solution, organizing your child, and finding your rhythm—all in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Loop Planning with file folders (for themes, topics, and unit Studies)

homeschool planning | lesson planning | loop planning

Some subjects, like math and grammar, can be pretty straightforward when planning. But other subjects that are more topic or theme oriented are a little harder to schedule with traditional lesson planning. For those subjects, I’ve found that I really like loop planning.

The idea of loop planning is that you plan the order rather than the timeframe that a lesson is completed. When you finish one theme or unit study, you pull out the next one. There’s no deadline or getting behind; you finish when you are finished.

For instance, I plan my Tapestry of Grace history this way. I have file folders for each history topic we want to cover. Book lists, project templates, notebooking pages, and all other pertinent info goes into the file folder. On my folder, I mark about how long I expect this topic to take, but it’s only a guideline. Some topics take longer than I expect, and some topics finish more quickly. Because I know I have this flexibility, I don’t panic when we take a little longer on a topic; I know it will work out by the end of the year. Also, because I’ve marked approximate lengths of time on my folders. I can make quick judgement calls. (Hmm. I said two weeks for Ancient Incas but we just spent 5 weeks instead of 4 in Egypt. I bet we can cover Incas in just a week.) Whenever we finish one topic, I pull out the next folder to complete.

Simple Steps to Loop Planning Unit Studies

  1. Decide on a list of topics or themes to study.
  2. Decide on a method of organization to compile your resources for each study (file folders, Pinterest boards, Evernote, whatever you like to use).
  3. Decide on an order or arrangement of topics.

*(Optional) Decide on a rough time-frame for each unit or topic.

You can use loop planning for discipline subjects as well (math, spelling, etc.) And I will often default to loop planning whenever I can. If you want to attempt loop planning for all your subjects, here are a few suggestions.

Using Loop Planning for Traditional Subjects

  1. Decide on the number of lessons you need to complete each week.
  2. Set up a filing system for each week. (I love file folders and have a folder for each week.)
  3. File the correct number of lessons for each week inside your file folder. (5 math lessons, 3 latin exercises, 1 spelling list, etc.)

Your done! Pull out the correct folder, finish it, and move on to the next folder when you are ready!

The loop planning method also works really well for creative subjects or extra-curriculars like art, music, or nature study. You can even arrange the subjects themselves to loop. Nature study follows art which follows music, etc. Plan language arts and math everyday, then loop plan history, science, art, etc. completing one or two of these each week.

There’s no end to how you can creatively use loop planning. But the major benefit is that there is no falling behind or meeting a deadline. You are free to enjoy your topic until you’ve exhausted it. You are free to work on it whenever time allows; some weeks you may have 5 days and others you may have 2 days. Loop planning allows for maximum flexibility.

While loop planning has not worked for every subject in our homeschool, a combination of traditional lesson planning and loop planning has worked really well for us. Find a combination that works for you—your personality as well as your homeschool style.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read more about loop planning, other methods of planning, and combining different methods to find your perfect solution in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Free Homeschool Planner pages | free download | free homeschool printable | weekly planning pages

5 steps to traditional lesson planning

homeschool lesson planning | homeschool planning

For most people I know, lesson planning is the part of homeschooling that they despise. But I’m a nerd; I love to lesson plan and organize our year. And I have two methods for getting my ducks in a row: traditional lesson planning for subjects like spelling and grammar and loop planning for subjects that are more topic or unit study oriented. (We’ll tackle loop planning in my next post.)

I actually do a lot of my planning during the summer to help relieve some of the time pressure that lesson planning can create, so my school year just about runs itself during the actual school months. During that process, here’s how I break down our year and create traditional lesson plans.

5 Steps to traditional lesson planning

  • Think through vacation days and breaks your family likes to take. Do you want a winter break or spring break? When do you take family vacation? Will you have relatives visiting? Plot these times in your calendar first.
  • Set start and end dates. At this point, these are just rough estimates, you can always move these forward or backward as you define your year. But roughly, when do you want to start and end?
  • Calculate the number of weeks/days in your year. The traditional U.S. school year is about 180 days or 36 weeks. As a result, a lot of your curriculums will be designed for this time frame. However, depending on your state requirements, you can do less or more. Some families school year round; others finish up when the books are completed no matter if that is week 33 or week 48.
  • Divide your year into periods or terms (6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks). This step is optional. But it can be helpful to break your year into smaller increments: (1) if you plan on having report cards and grading periods, (2) if you are planning unit studies or themes throughout the year, (3) or if you just need to “eat the elephant” a bite at a time. 
  • Divide the number of pages or lessons by the number of weeks in the school year. (The average school year is about 36 weeks.) The answer will be how much needs to be assigned each week.

homeschool planning | plan your year

From there, you can decide how you prefer to keep track of progress. You can write in the lesson numbers each day (but then, if there are sick days or spontaneous field trips, your planner is all messed up), write in lesson numbers for each week (a little more flexibility with this approach), or record how many lessons you complete each week (maximum flexibility, but you will need to double-check that you are completing enough to ensure you finish on time.)

I use a combination of weekly planning and recording. For some assignments, I chart what needs to be finished on a weekly basis. So each week, I fill this in (and never more than 2-3 weeks ahead of where we are, in case of the unexpected): “read pages 20-30” or “complete lessons 35-40.” For subjects that only need to be completed 2 to 3 times a week. I write the subject into my planner and then record the days we worked on those lessons. For instance: FFL (First Language Lessons) M W F; WWE (Writing with Ease) M W; WA (Writing Aids) F

Subjects like math, spelling, grammar, etc. lend themselves to this kind of planning best. The rigid structure of these subjects fits well with the rigid structure of traditional lesson planning. Creative subjects, especially those that are based on theme, topic, or unit study are often easier to plan using loop planning. Stay tuned for my next post for more info on this method.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read more about traditional lesson planning, other methods of planning, and combining different methods to find your perfect solution in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Free Homeschool Planner pages | free download | free homeschool printable | weekly planning pages