The most important thing you’ll do as a homeschool parent is make the decision not to send your kids to a traditional school. Next on the list is choosing curriculum (ideally based on your child’s learning style).
But once those two decisions are made, the next most important thing is making sure you actually get through all of the lessons you need to each semester/year. Making sure you stay on track will keep your child moving through the grades “properly.” And this will assure success later in life. Not only will they “finish” school with their peers, but they will learn the importance of sticking with things until they’re done. If they decide to enter the traditional work force and get a job, this will keep their employer happy. If they opt instead to start their own business, then they will have a huge advantage over a public schooled peer in that they already know how to stick to their own schedule instead of someone else’s.
But how do you do that? Especially if you’re schooling different kids in different grades? Over the years, I’ve had varying degrees of success with keeping on track. Looking back, my most successful year was the year we had a paper planner (and I was only working with two elementary-school aged kids). I know that sounds kind of dumb; of course things will be easier to keep on track if you’re working from an actual planner as opposed to just kind of “winging it.” But to a certain extent, that’s easier said than done. See, with winging it, all you have to do is make sure you have a pile of books and all your online subscriptions up to date. With a planner, you have to actually take the time in advance and write down everything you want to cover each day. It’s more work for Mom! But that’s precisely why it’s such a better system. When you put that work in prior to needing it, it’s almost like you feel obligated to follow through. If you don’t, then all that planning time was wasted. And we don’t want to waste our time! So take the time to plan, and then make sure to pull those plans out each school day and follow them.
Which planner should you use? The short answer is “whichever one works best for you and also fits into your budget.” That school year I mentioned before, the one where I felt the most on the ball? I used The Well Planned Day planner. I won it in a giveaway, and I adored it. I haven’t used one since, but if you can swing it, I can’t recommend it enough. It runs about $40 on Amazon, and is worth every penny (assuming those pennies don’t stretch your budget too thin, that is). One of the things I liked so well about it was that it had monthly and weekly pages, and the weekly pages had enough space to plan for multiple children. It was so easy to write out the lesson plan for each child and have them all in one place, where I could quickly glance at the day’s plans and see what each of them needed to do. It was a dream.
But I haven’t used a paper planner for homeschool in many years now, and I can feel it in my own self. I know in my head that things aren’t the same as they were that year that we used a good planner. So this year, I’m going back to a good, monthly and weekly, paper planner.
I found a great digital option using my SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership that I’m going to use this year. It’s called the Schoolhouse Smart Planner (if you don’t have a SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership, you can purchase the planner – physical or digital – for about $35), and it reminds me very much of the Well Planned Day. (Though to be fair, I haven’t used or seen a Well Planned Day planner in about 5 years, so I could be remembering inaccurately.) But it has everything I need, which I described before as reasons I loved the other one so much: a monthly calendar and a weekly calendar with space for more than one child. The monthly calendar is great for “at a glance” things like appointments, while the weekly is perfect for writing down the specific lesson plans for each child. And beyond that, there are other pages that give you a different “at a glance” specifically designed for homeschool. What I mean by that is that the pages include “semester” and “annual” goals for each child. There’s a page to manage your household budget and your homeschool curriculum budget. There’s a reading log, and even a page specifically for making sure your preschooler knows what he needs to know for Kindergarten readiness. And the best part is that because it’s digital, you can simply print out the number of pages you need of each style of page. For example, even though there’s technically only one page of weekly planners, you just need to print multiple copies of that page when you set up your printer.
When you get all your pages printed out – however many you decide to print – you can take the printouts to any office supply store and have them bound. If you have your own binding machine, even better! With your new planner in hand, you just need to write down all the assignments for each day, and then execute them. It’s amazing how much simply having a written list of things to do (and cross off!) will help keep you organized and on task.
How do you keep your homeschool days on track?