Step 5: Step by step

In this post, I am going to go through my planning for Katie’s school year, step by step. In my last post, I talked about “chunking,” which is how I decide where each child is in their learning journey. In our family, we do not do anything with rigidity. Everything is subject to change, and it DOES quite often. Life can throw some unexpected (to us!) curveballs. What I prefer to do, is make a routine, not a schedule. With a schedule, if I miss a day, I am “behind.” With a routine, if I miss a day, I can jump right back in where I left off. No guilt, no problem.

NOTE: As you follow me through this, please do not feel like you have to do the same thing as I do. My planning method may seem completely harebrained to many type A personality moms. That’s okay. 🙂 Find a method of planning that fits your needs. Don’t worry. Don’t feel under qualified or anxious.

This is my #1 tip for moms who come to me for a curriculum/homeschooling consultation: Just like your curriculum choice needs to be something that you are going to stick with, your planning method has to be something that doesn’t make your heart quake with dread. If you know that you will HATE (and therefore procrastinate about) your planning in the middle of the post-Christmas break “I don’t wanna’s,” then don’t start with it in September! Back up and read that last (albeit, long!) sentence. Find a doable method that doesn’t take up your entire life!

The surest way to dive headfirst into BURNOUT is to load yourself and your children up with ridiculous expectations. Burnout is caused by the feeling of failure to complete what you think you need to complete. So, please please do not do that to yourself! More is not better. More is just…more.

Ok, so here we go! I am going to actually post a short slideshow of pictures of my planning process. Remember, this is the last step of planning. The praying steps are the most important.




























Part 4: “Chunking” and Curriculum Choosing

I learned a long time ago to “chunk” my kids’ school years. I take each child and break their school years into workable chunks, like this:

Katie: (K – 3rd)  (4th – 6th)  (7th – 9th) (10th – 12th)

Inside of these chunks, I have a list of skills that I want to see accomplished.

For example: K – 3rd is focused on learning to read well, understanding math, exploring the world around them, learning to observe closely, etc. (This is why I LOVE Five in a Row for this age!) Each family will have different goals for these chunks of time. If you haven’t “mapped” our your children’s chunks, you might find it helpful to do so. 🙂

So, I have a “7th – 9th grade chunk” child, and a “10th – 12th grade chunk” child this year. (It still feels weird to have only 2 students!)

This is an example of Katie’s 7th – 9th  grade chunk for Bible:

– Learn how to use a concordance

– Learn who wrote each book of the Bible

– Memorize about 50 verses a year

– Learn inductive Bible study skills

– Learn chosen important hymns and their histories

When I plan Katie’s Bible for the year, besides the areas of character building, I also pray for guidance on what Scripture verses she needs to memorize, what hymns (if any this year), and what book(s) of the Bible to study. Bible is easy to plan, because we mostly use the Bible as our curriculum.

A note about curriculum shopping. You probably already know what I’m going to say. 😉
It’s super easy to get caught up in wanting to try every new thing that comes down the pike. And yes, I’m speaking from experience.

Please hear me! DO NOT turn homeschooling into your hobby! It’s an expensive hobby and your children are not guinea pigs! Prayerfully choose your materials based on your prayed-about and thought-out plan. Seriously.

Ok, having said that, this IS the FUN part! I love new curriculum and materials as much as the next homeschooler! I just won’t let myself go crazy anymore.

My next post will be a real life look of my plans for my 7th grader, Katie. 🙂

Step 3: Mapping Our Current Lives

To have a good plan, I have to take the time to get a good look at what our lives are right at the moment and what they are going to be over the school year.

When I take a look at life in its current place I see:

*I have a 7th grader (12) and 11th grader (16 -17)

*I take a good look at my life and the family calendar and ask myself these questions:

1. How much time do I have personally to do one-on-one teaching: with each child and group?

2. What subject am I going to require independence? (This is based on strengths and weaknesses.)

3. What outside activities am we going to engage in this year? (For example: Kylah is taking driver’s ed, is involved in a co-op, and is studying to take her ACT. Katie is taking piano lessons and is also involved in co-op. Both girls have youth group events each week.) These are activities that I need to schedule our days around.

4. What landmark events happen this year? (Kylah is starting to drive; Katie is in those difficult pre-teen years.)

5. How much time am I going to allot for chores each day? (I’ll write about chores in another post.)

All of these questions help me to see what I need for the curriculum and materials to be.

After I have a list of clearly written goals for each child (based on their life stage, our current family dynamics, and what I feel God wants us to work on), I go to the next step – choosing materials to help us reach those goals. My goal is never to finish a given list of materials; it is to move ahead in our goals for our children. Academics are important, but they are second to character. (I have experienced that academics do better when they are in their place of importance – below God.)

Needed for this step: notebook and pen, and time to think through your family’s current location

Step 2: Praying for each child

Step 2 starts with a review of our family goals.

* That we grow in our own personal relationships with Jesus

*That we hide His Word in our hearts

*That we all grow in our maturity and relationships

*That our children grow in the areas of information but through the Biblical Worldview based on what God says

*That their faith be built through apologetics

* That we all grow more disciplined in our attitudes and actions toward each other  and others outside of the family

* That we serve and pray for those less fortunate than we are

I spend a considerable amount of time in prayer for each child on a daily basis, but I ramp it up big time when I am going to be making decision concerning a new school year. I seek God for the Scripture of the year for that child.

I pray for each child:

*That God would make it clear if there is a certain area of character training needed

* That God would make Himself so very REAL to that child

*For God to show us as parents the Scripture for this child to learn and study this year

*For guidance on choosing materials to meet the goals for this child.

*For that child to have an open mind and heart

*For that child to take their education personally and to understand that true knowledge starts with the bending of their knee before the living God

*For God to help us facilitate the sacred connection between Him and the child

Note: When our children were younger, and I was homeschooling a “clump” of them, I prayed to know what materials to use that would meet the goals of family learning in the subjects we could do together. We also always prayed for each individual child about character training and that God would make Himself so REAL to each one.

Charlotte Mason says that we need a LIVING GOD FOR A LIVING EDUCATION, and I completely agree. God has to be real to us as parents first. We have to be growing in our relationship with Jesus first before we can pass that on to our children. 

Needed for this step: notebook and pen, time to pray for each child

Step 1:Pre-planning

I decided to blog the process of school planning this year. I recently asked the group on my Jellybean Jar Publications Facebook page if anyone would be interested in seeing the rather unglamorous process I go through each year; the response was overwhelmingly positive!

Before I start this, I want to make sure everyone reading these ramblings, understands that every family is different, and what works for me may or may not work for you! That’s the beauty of homeschooling – the ability to make it work for our individual, unique homes. Having said that, maybe following me through this process will make you feel more secure and confident in your own ability to plan well for your homeschool year. I promise that everything I post will be authentic and un-staged.

For you to completely understand all of this, please start with the knowledge of what type of person I am: loosely organized, likes lists of stuff I need to complete (but not compulsive about checking everything off), tend to be spontaneous, like to do things the way my family needs, have an unusual vision of what true education is.

My first (and continuing throughout) step is refocusing my mind and heart on my responsibilities and prioritizing them. I pray, and I make lists. Lots of lists. 🙂  I make lists (I’m visual!) of my responsibilities before God, and I make lists of issues and projects that I need to complete or change in order to fulfill those responsibilities. As you can see in the sample below, it’s scribbled on a notebook page as it comes to my mind.

Pre-planning thoughts
Pre-planning thoughts

Needed for this step: a notebook, pen, time to pray about prioritizing your responsibilities.

This takes me being extremely honest with myself about how I’m living at the moment – what am I making my priority? Am I focusing on the right areas of my life?

Balance can be so illusive! It is a question I have to keep at the front of my mind at all times.

God first. Do what I have to do to put Him first. Time with Him first. All areas of my life open before Him. Growing in my relationship with Him.

Husband next. Put him before everything in my life but God. Pray for him. Pray with him. Be his friend. Give him the level of domestic support he needs. Be there for him. Let him off of the hook – he’s a human man and unable to read the female mind, let alone follow crumb trails – just be open and honest. He isn’t supposed to be my everything; only God can do that.

Children after hubby. And YES, this makes homeschooling those children less important than relationship with hubby! Take the time to be in the moment with each of them. Pray for them. Let them see me praying for them. Be real with them. Play with them. Teach them. Bring them to Jesus.all.the.time. Be open to what God wants to teach them, the way they need to be taught! Choose curriculum that supports this order of priorities.

Business and ministry. This one tends to slip up through the ranks unless I intentionally keep it down where it belongs. It’s important, but it’s not the most important thing. Be willing to do whatever God wants me to do but also know that He is NEVER going to ask me to do something in this area that will move it up on the priority list.

God -> Dave -> Children -> Work/ministry.