Are you crazy overwhelmed with the task of planning for your homeschool year?
Maybe it’s your first attempt at homeschooling or maybe you’ve been planning homeschool lessons for years – but the task is still a chore that you’re not looking forward to.
The expensive stack of books you ordered is beckoning your name and you can’t figure out how you’re going to get this hefty job done with all the other things you have going on.
I mean, you barely have time to get groceries, sort of clean the house, and answer text messages – where is the huge chunk of time coming from for you to plan out a year of homeschool lessons?!
And even if you had that time for homeschool planning- wouldn’t you rather do something a little more fun with it??
I know I would.
How Far Out Should You Plan Your Homeschool?
Conventional homeschool wisdom I have read and heard supports the idea of long-range planning – like as far out as you possibly can.
I have seen many articles about “How to Plan an Entire Year of Homeschool Lessons.”
Homeschooling friends on Facebook seem to always lament the end of summer because they have this massive task looming over them of planning a year’s worth of lessons for multiple kids. They talk about not wanting to sit down and plan and that they’re jealous of other homeschool moms who are already done planning.
Well, when I finally decided to get on board with homeschooling, you can imagine that I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea of planning out my school year – I mean these veteran homeschoolers struggled with it – what hope was there for me?
To be quite honest, this driving fear is what sent me straight into the arms of a fantastic box curriculum. Everything was done for me – to include lesson plans, exactly what I was supposed to say, and little tiny boxes to check off what we did every day.
As the years passed, I gained confidence in our homeschool and I decided that I wanted to step outside the curriculum box and try some of the amazing curriculum I’ve been hearing about. I pieced together my own curriculum choices that were tailored to my kids and I was really excited to get started.
But didn’t I now have to sit down and do the dreaded homeschool lesson planning myself?
What did I get myself into??
Planning My Homeschool One Week at a Time – A Guilty Confession
As the summer waned away, I found myself incredibly pressed for time and energy.
We were having issues with our house (never get a pool, trust me). My husband was getting his master’s degree while working full time and traveling regularly.
I was running a side hustle of my own and I was swamped with work.
I found myself being just like the homeschool moms I had heard about while I stared at the expensive stack of books and wondered when I was ever going to find time to plan my homeschool year out.
I did the very best that I could and I spent about an hour planning one month out…and from there I was only able to do one week at a time.
I felt guilty about this and thought I must be behind all the virtuous homeschool moms who have every lesson plan done from now until June.
And then I discovered that this week to week thing was actually working.
It was working well!
Benefits of Homeschool Lesson Planning One Week at a Time
1. It is a manageable amount of time
Years ago, I used to try to meal plan for 2 weeks to a month out. I HATED doing this and would drag my feet through the process. I justified the task though because I thought it was ultimately saving me time by doing it all in one big batch.
In reality though, it overwhelmed me and made me feel like I was trying to swallow an elephant.
When I switched to just weekly meal planning, it was much easier to find the short burst of time to sit down and write out a few meals and their ingredients on a grocery list.
It was a manageable task that I could handle.
Weekly homeschool lesson planning is a lot like that. Your mind can wrap around the smaller piece of work in front of you.
You are not paralyzed by the size of the job, so you are much more likely to actually do it.
This hopefully makes homeschooling, in general, more attainable and something you feel that you can stick with.
2. It allows greater flexibility in our homeschool
Planning your homeschool lessons out for a year in front of you can make you feel a bit rigid. I would know this from using a box curriculum.
What if your child shows interest and delight in a science topic that is not in your year plan?
What if your child is struggling through a concept and needs to take longer than the days you carefully allotted in your homeschool planner?
Maybe a friend presents an exciting field trip opportunity. How will that shift all of your plans?
And here is a shocker: What if the curriculum you’re working with doesn’t cut it – and you have to change it up during the year?
*****Yes, I know this is scary to think about, but it is very common for homeschool parents to find themselves switching curriculum in one or more subjects during the year. It just happens.
3. Keeps me fresh and current on our homeschool lessons & saves time!
Truth be told, even if the year was planned out in front of me – I would still need to take the time to sit down and go through the lessons regularly to make sure I’m prepared.
No way am I going to be ready for a lesson that I planned 3 months ago! This 30 something-year-old brain needs to be reminded of things that happened hours ago – much less months ago!
I reasoned that if I was going to have to be regularly taking the time to review the lessons – why not incorporate that into my planning time?
Two birds with one stone makes a lot of sense to me.
Exactly How to Plan Your Homeschool One Week at a Time
1. Decide How Often Subjects Will Be Taught During the Week
The first thing you want to do is nail down a template for your week.
Pull out all of your books and make a decision about how often they need to be taught in order to get through the year.
Your core subjects – math, language arts, reading – are usually taught daily. Your enrichment subjects (everything else) are usually not daily.
If you think about your own school experience, you will remember that you didn’t go to classes like music, art, and P.E. every day.
So don’t feel pressured to do every subject every day – that’s way too much.
The curriculum/teacher’s manual will likely even tell you how often the subject should be scheduled. For example, the language arts curriculum for my 1st grader only has 4 lessons/week. So I will only schedule it for those 4 days/week.
2. Figure Out Which Subjects You Can Do as a Group
If you have more than one homeschooler, it is imperative that you find a way to group all the lessons you possibly can.
It adds an element of fun to the lesson to do it as a group, it saves you time/sanity, and it’s a huge benefit to your younger homeschoolers. I continue to be shocked at how much my youngest child has learned while sitting in on homeschool lessons that are meant for kids several years older than her.
Keep in mind that my expectations are different for each kid when it comes to what they learn/retain and the work they produce.
The lessons that we can group include:
I assigned each of these enrichment subjects to a day of the week (except for Bible – that is daily) and wrote it out on a weekly planner page.
For example, Monday is Science, Tuesday is History, Wednesday is Music, Thursday is Art, and Friday is P.E.
3. Under each subject write a brief description of what the lesson will cover according to the curriculum and any supplies needed.
Bible: Read the Bible story and ask corresponding questions at the end for discussion. Introduce Memory verse – Proverbs 21:23
Science: Solar Energy. Read pages 4-5. Watch the corresponding videos. Do solar toaster oven experiment.
History: Early Nomads. Read pages 8-13 while kids color the included picture. Ask comprehension questions. Do mapwork page. Make cave drawings.
Music: Music of the Olympics. Read the online lesson and watch corresponding videos with kids. Do virtual quiz at the end to review material.
Art/Art History: Learning about Different Lines. Read short lesson from page 10 and then introduce the corresponding art project.
P.E.: Cosmic Kids Yoga. Discuss the importance of eating protein and drinking water after exercise. Name different protein sources.
Then make a small note under each subject of any materials you may need:
Bible: Print out Proverbs 21:23 for the girls to see on the board
Science: Shoebox, tin foil
History: Brown grocery bags, washable paint
Music: Print worksheets x 3
Art: Construction paper, crayons, photocopy of page 11, make art project as an example for kids to follow
P.E.: Set up Cosmic Kids Yoga to stream on TV
Luckily, the large majority of things I already have, so not too many things to pick up. During this stage, I may flip ahead in the curriculum book and make notes of any other supplies I may need to pick up in future weeks.
And you’re done! You just planned out one week of enrichment subjects and it probably took you less than 20 minutes!
If it took you longer, that’s okay. You will get faster as the year progresses and you get to know the curriculum better.
But what about Math, Language Arts, Spelling, Writing, Typing, Reading, and all the other subjects??
No worries, I did not forget them.
These subjects are core subjects and are not usually done in a group setting in our homeschool.
They are done individually with me or independently (depending on the kid). They also do not typically have activities or large projects that need to be prepared.
All of the curriculum I have chosen for these subjects is very “open and go.” This means that I need to do very little prep (sometimes no prep at all) to teach the lesson.
Over the weekend, I will browse through the teacher manuals and see what we will be covering that week. I will make a note in my planner if there are any special supplies I need to pick up for the lessons, photocopies made, or tech things setup.
At night I will also look at the lessons again to see what exactly we are doing the next day so it is fresh in my mind and I am ready to go. I will also pull out any supplies that might be needed for the lesson.
Does that seem really last minute to you? A little too unstructured and disorganized?
I totally get that. I have a very type-A personality myself.
I thrive on structure, organization, and expectations. There are very few things in my life that I do the night before.
And I am telling you that the way most homeschool curriculum is written today – it is completely manageable and appropriate to approach planning in this way.
The curriculum is written to take away the guesswork and heavy lifting you would have to do.
It truly is a blessing to be homeschooling in this day and age!
Homeschool Lesson Planning Reality Check
If you are new to homeschool and have never written a lesson plan, I want to pull back the curtain a little for you to make something really clear.
Homeschooling curriculum is NOT the same as the dry textbooks that are used in a public school.
Those huge books are old, they have super long chapters, and no specific daily tasks/lessons listed in them. Maybe there is a teacher’s manual that helps the teacher define what needs to be done every day….and maybe there isn’t.
The teacher reads the material and writes out what they think should be covered every day. They come up with engaging activities and beautiful bulletin board displays.
It’s hard work – and I would just like to say a big thank you to any traditional school teacher reading this!
Homeschooling curriculum is very different. It is written to the homeschool mom, who is understood to be busy and not a professional teacher. For that reason, the true work of lesson planning is already done!
The book is often split into bite-size chapters/lessons that come close to a 34-36 week school year. No guessing about what to cover or how much should be done every day (you may need to make the call about staying longer on a subject for a student who needs more help).
The homeschool teacher’s manual also includes very clear details about what to say, multiple activities to choose from, and even review pointers.
The big work of lesson planning is just taking note of what is coming up in your curriculum, familiarizing yourself with the topic, choosing the activity (if any) that you want to do, making sure you have all the required supplies, and maybe ordering some corresponding recommended books from your local library.
A structured homeschool curriculum does the large majority of the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to.
Some examples of “open and go” homeschool curriculum that I have used:
Spelling with Sound and Structure
BJU Language Arts
I am sure there are many more, but I think you get the idea.
Yes, there is an exception to this homeschool planning “rule”
If you decided to choose more of an unschooling path, child-led homeschool, or use books that are not sold as homeschool curriculum – you will find that lesson planning is a bit more time-intensive.
These homeschool parents prefer a more fluid, unstructured homeschool. They may teach from Youtube videos (many are very high quality), make an entire science curriculum from an Usbourne book, or design their own unit studies around classic literature they have chosen.
This will require some time to decide lesson topics, choose activities (hello Pinterest), and plan ahead.
People who choose this path have deliberate reasons for it, and usually understand (and enjoy) the time that goes into it.
If this describes the homeschool you want to plan, then yes you want to look at much longer range planning than one week.
If you are looking at big-name, mainstream homeschool curriculum – your lesson planning will be much easier, shorter, and predictable.
Are There Drawbacks to Planning Your Homeschool Lessons One Week at a Time?
There are definitely downsides to this short-range method for lesson plans, and I admit that it’s not for everyone.
You might not be able to get to the store every weekend to pick up needed supplies.
A crazy, busy weekend may leave you feeling flat-footed on a Monday with no idea what you’re about to teach.
I would tell you that if getting to the store is an issue, flip further through your curriculum and buy what you need for one month in advance or as far forward as you can handle.
If your weekends are bonkers, I would remind you that the homeschool planning process (when using a true structured homeschool curriculum) is approximately a 20 minute time commitment. And you would need to review your lessons on the weekend anyway – unless you have a photographic memory of what you planned out in August.
I’m just guessing that it’s easier to find 20 minutes on the weekend to plan the week’s lesson than it is to find an entire day (or more) to plan out the year.
How to Keep Your Homeschool Plan Straight During a Normal Day
I have never found it very helpful to always be flipping through teacher manuals or homeschool planners during the day to see what else needs to be done, what page the lesson is on, etc.
That will quickly slow down the momentum of your day and suck all of the energy out of the room.
But you’re not a robot…so how are you going to remember all the things that need to be done?
From my first day of homeschooling, I have always posted our subjects on our whiteboard. My kids and I both find it tremendously helpful to have a visual of what is left for the day to be complete.
In the evenings, I will make notes on the whiteboard next to each subject that reminds me about any extras I might forget.
I have received many emails from very grateful homeschool parents about this visual homeschool schedule.
To find out more details and to get a free printable of the subject cards I actually use in my homeschool, check out – A Flexible Homeschool Routine Your Kids Will Love!
Recap How to Plan Your Homeschool One Week at a Time
Hopefully, this helped to make homeschool lesson planning a little less scary.
Women all over the world are learning that they can educate their kids at home – and do it well!
You can too!
And you don’t need to spend mountains of time planning your entire homeschool year out. In fact, I believe you’ll be better off (and more likely to keep homeschooling) if you plan your homeschool a little bit a time.
You will be able to keep up with it, your homeschool will be more flexible, and your kids will enjoy having a sane mother 🙂
Do you want to save all this for later?
Smart move, Homeschool Mama.
Be sure to save this to your homeschool planning Pinterest board and share it with your homeschooling friends and followers!