It has been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While I am convinced that learning at home should be as organic and spontaneous as possible, I also believe that it should be orderly to be enjoyable and effective.
Planning is a great part of this. It gives order and security to an otherwise overwhelming part of our lives.
Having said all this, I don’t have the entire year mapped out before me. I might have a general direction, such as studying ancient Greece and Rome this year, but I hold those thoughts loosely, because we might get sick of studying ancient cultures and decide to study Ireland instead (I know, I’m a little scatter-brained, but I get a lot done, even in my scattered state).
But where to start?
Well, when I plan to plan, I start with a stack of books. I go through our library and stack up books I would like to take advantage of, and then I…
..but wait, there is a step before this, and that is the making of lists and spending hours and hours in research. Sorry, this doesn’t sound easy or quick, but it is really the most important part of the entire process.
Here are some of my favorite places to look online for ideas:
I take a notebook or notepad (or scrap of paper) and scribble down list after list after list. Eventually, I take all my scraps and pages and compile them into something that resembles order. Where necessary, I order a book or two online.
Then I stack the books.
I stack like I shop at thrift stores; I pile everything I find that catches my eye into my cart, and then I go through the cart and make piles–definite keepers, so-so’s, and discards.
Then I take the “definites” and arrange them according to a number of categories; one for “group time,” and one for each child. After this, I add in any so-so’s where needed, or put them in the discard pile.
After putting the discard pile away (or in the giveaway bin), I start making more lists. This time it will be about procedures. I will decide what is to be done with each book, when it will be used, and how much of it will be used.
When we are finished with one book, or one study, I simply create another one.
Along the way I will be creating and/or printing notebooking pages (I usually create these) and other information I have found online.
I also order my Lesson Books as needed.
Then I work on presentation.
I want to give my children the impression that we have a procedure and a direction, but with loads of wiggle-room. I might put together a binder with some pretty folders, lists, print-outs, etc. I might have them help create the cover of the binder, or other artwork. We like to do this over on Canva.
I make a binder for myself as well.
Well, sometimes it’s a binder. Other times it might be a home-bound book with lists, procedures, etc. to keep me on track as to where everyone is at, and I have copies of the printouts I gave to them so I know just what to reference when they have questions.
Spaces and places are a must for me.
You can’t really have a peaceful homeschool year unless you have spaces to learn and places to put things.
A space to learn may be the dinning room table, or the couch, or it may be an actual desk. This space says, “Now we are going to study,” and settles children into that mode, so it’s a good idea to keep it as consistent as possible. Our girls currently have their own desks in what we call the “hang out room” in the basement (our landlord actually suggested we use it as a homeschool room–he’s a blessing, I know). Each one has her own lamp and everyone knows this is a place for concentration. I often bring my own chair into this room and have read-aloud time with them. I also make my rounds and check in on how they are doing periodically.
We also need “places.” It is so discouraging to have bright faces eager to learn sitting at the table while Mommy is scrambling for pencils, papers, books, scissors, etc.
When we primarily sat at the table, we used a bunch of bins–one assigned to each child. Then we also used different colors of duct tape or washi tape or stickers to identify whoses was whatses. I used a set of old bookshelves to store these when not in use.
Now they simply store everything in the drawers at their desks.
Something we have been doing for almost 30 years now is to create a binder of our best work each year. I have shelves of binders we have done together, and I tell them we are creating our own encyclopedia of information together (great thing for creating lasting memories and something that we can show off to concerned, and nosy, relatives, neighbors, and officials). I like to prepare one for us to put our work in just as the fall season starts.
And that’s pretty much it!
I have never lived in a place where I had to report everything or had to have a detailed plan that lined up with “standards,” but I know of families who live in states with these requirements who are able to stay relaxed. This YouTuber is a relaxed homeschooler who lives in a reporting state. Watch to glean her viewpoints and procedures:
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