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June 26, 2013 at 11:38am

Before we begin I want you to repeat to yourself:

"Planning is fun... Planning is needed... and by golly... I am a good planner!"

Obviously you have the hope of an organized, planned out school year or you would not be reading this. I would like to give you a few pointers to develop a simple plan for your school year. Please do not get "simple" confused with easy. Sometimes developing a simple plan can be hard work, but let me encourage you that it is possible and it will be a blessing to you and your family.

There are two types of planning that go into creating a good simple plan-"big picture" planning (yearly overview) and "rubber meets the road" planning (monthly/weekly planning). Have you ever heard the expression that you eat an elephant one bite at a time? Well this is the same idea, just more visually appealing! Let's get started!

Big Picture Planning... Why???
(Yearly Overview)

Many years ago, one of my sons, who is severely dyslexic, required some teaching therapy at a local Christian School. To participate in this therapy I was assigned a Homeschool Mentor to help me stay accountable to my lessons. I felt like a rebel out of water. Did I say rebel? I meant fish! The first thing this woman required of me was to take my curriculum and break it up into weekly chunks to show how I was going to accomplish my goals by the end of the year. I went home and told my husband that Hitler did have offspring and she worked for the Christian School! I decided to persevere for my son's sake. I would complete this unrealistic, waste of my "valuable time" task.

As I began the process of the yearly overview, I discovered that this was the missing piece to my planning! Looking at the big picture I began to see the importance of setting good goals, praying over the direction of my family, thinking through what was important to accomplish, and getting my dreams out on paper. The yearly overview was a fantastic starting point! I now look back on that Homeschool Mentor with great admiration and a thankful heart for the disciplines she taught this struggling mom!

Here are 6 steps to get you started:

6 Easy Steps to Develop the "Big Picture"

    1. Get Alone

      I know for many of you this may seem like an impossible task, but I encourage you to try. I would let my kids and husband know two weeks before school was set to begin that I was going to need three hours every morning, Monday thru Friday to work on our school year planning.
    2. Gather Needed Materials

      • Curriculum or course work
      • Lesson plan book or online planner (You could also use a spiral)
      • Pencils (Never allow a pen to touch your planner! If anyone walks by your planner with a pen give them the raised eyebrows and the most threatening look you have! )
      • Highlighter (Highlight special projects & vacation time.)
      • Calendar
      • Colorful Post-It tabs (Use hese wherever you want, they are cool!)
    3. Create Your School Calendar

      • What date are you going to begin school?
      • What date are you going to end school? Check your state laws to see how many days of teaching are required.
      • Calculate breaks, vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, mental health days, etc…!
    4. Familiarize Yourself With The Curriculum

      Take time to get to know your curriculum; after all, it will be a part of your life for quite some time!

      • Look at the Table of Contents.
      • Review the sections in each chapter.
      • Separate your sections by weeks.

      Example: Apologia is divided into Chapters that usually take two weeks to get through. Take that Chapter and figure out how much you want to get done in one week. Maybe you want to go slower so you make that decision. (YOU ARE MOM and you know your child better than the curriculum!)

    5. Choose A Subject & Child To Begin With

      Choose a subject and a child that you like! This makes an easier jumping in point. :-)
    6. Create Your Overview Plan For The Weeks

      All this means is that you write down what you want to accomplish each week with that subject. You are not writing a book or a lesson; you are writing a goal for that week.

      Week 6: October 7-11
      Science: Chapter 3
      Pages 42-47
      Build a birdhouse.

Weekly Planning - The Rubber Meets the Road!

Has this ever happened to you? You write down what you are going to do and then at the end of the week you look with disgust at the stuff you did not get done. Now, your planner is screwed up and you are officially discouraged!

Take heart, you can create a daily plan and have success! Remember that you are excited and inspired by your big planning and now you are ready to tackle the more precise planning of your week.

Here are 3 steps to get you started:

    1. Plan A Month At A Time

      I have found that a sure fire way to fail is to spend hours writing out months of detailed lessons on specific dates in your planner. OUCH! This hurts us type A, go-getter Moms! The fact is our lives are not summed up in tasks and we will have things that happen daily that change our plans. It is much easier to roll with changing a few days than scrapping the planner! Type A's will not erase, substitute dates, or scratch out because that would not look or feel right! :-)
    2. Begin Each Month With Key Questions (I call this my "month at a glance.")

      Do I have special things that I want to accomplish this month?

      Write them down! This could be something as serious and prayerful as devoted time working through a child's bad attitude or as lighthearted as getting together with a group of friends.

      What activities do I need to plan for?

      Many times if we fail to get it on our calendar it does not get done. Take some time to think through field trips, special events that you have, or just that last trip to the zoo before it gets too cold.

      What supplies do I need?

      Think through your science experiments, craft projects, etc. There is nothing that will let down excited kids faster than not having what you need to complete a craft or science experiment. I know this first hand! My poor children have never completed a science experiment that called for straws… every elementary science experiment calls for straws!

      What books will we read?

      Think through your reading list. What books will you read to your children? What books do they need to read? Write them down. This list will help you reserve what you need at the library and help you keep a running list of books you and your children have read.

    3. Get It On The Calendar

      Looking at the month calendar, write down everything that is going to take your time (e.g. doctor's appointment, soccer practice, dance, coop, AWANA, date night). You do it every week and you know it like the back of your hand, WRITE IT DOWN. Someone is going to try to add something to your calendar as the month goes by and you need to look at your schedule and count the cost. Sometimes your calendar will be the voice of reason that says, "I am sorry, my friend, I can not pick up Timmy for you and drive him 45 miles to his fly fishing lesson, I have date night with my husband."

      Create Your Weekly Assignments

      You have completed your yearly overview, thought through your month, and scheduled your calendar. Congratulations! You are now ready to plan out the week, but before you get started I would like to share with you a few suggestions to help you with your weekly planning.

      Take an hour to plan your week.

      I would take an hour on Sunday night to plan out my lessons for the week. Mondays always presented there own issues, so having lessons ready was a great help.

      Be intentional and be you.

      God has created you and your family to be different and purposeful for His glory! Be realistic with yourself and your children. Set obtainable goals and do not be afraid to pull back when needed.

Remember that a planner is a tool.

Do not let your planner rule you! We tend to be creatures of extremes. We will lean to legalism or "the suns out today so let's play!!!" Try to avoid being controlled by a rigid schedule, seek God to give you wisdom and balance in all areas of your life! You have planned your course, but trust God to determine His best for you and your family.

In his heart a man plans his course, but God determines his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9

Happy Planning!!!

Written By Dee Jones
Dee Jones is a homeschool veteran of 18 years and now works as the Homeschool Merchandise Manager for Mardel Christian & Education. Dee's desire is to encourage and equip homeschool families. She encourages moms to not grow weary in the day-to-day life of teaching and training their children.

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