Homeschool Planning

Diane's Quick-Start Guide

Learn the Essentials of Homeschool Planning

Whether you're drafting your very first homeschooling plan or have years of experience, you can teach with more purpose, motivation, and energy.  What hopes and dreams do you have for your kids?


-- Homeschooling Methods --

How do you feel about home education?

Should it be really structured or not structured at all? Depending on what you value most, you are sure to find the right homeschooling method for your family and child.

If you like more structure, you might want to consider traditional textbooks, distance learning, or cottage school. The teaching sequence and content are already determined, so all you have to do follow the homeschooling plan laid out for you.

Do you like some structure and direction but also want the flexibility to customize the content as needed? Then try any of these homeschooling methods named after their founders: Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Enki, or Thomas Jefferson.

If you’re a little bit more adventuresome and creative, you might like the topical structure of the unit studies method or the skills mastery of authentic classical education.

Finally, some homeschooling parents are content letting the child lead the learning, so if this is you, look into the unschooling method. Of course, you are free to combine a few of your favorite homeschooling methods for an eclectic mix.

Which homeschooling method is best for you?


-- Homeschool Curriculum --

What homeschool curriculum should you use?

After you decide on your educational philosophy, think about how you will teach your kids. What teaching resources do you need to teach the content that you want your kids to learn?

What course of study will you follow this school year? Really, that’s what homeschool curriculum is…a course of study or syllabus.

So for instance, if you embrace the classical education method, your course of study (homeschool curriculum) for k-8 years is the classical trivium. You know what you’ll teach (3 skills: grammar, logic, and rhetoric); now you need to decide how you’ll teach it (classic literature, narration, recitation, and lots of writing). .

If you adopt a pure unit study method, your course of study (homeschool curriculum) would be topical, time-constrained lesson plans, illustrated encyclopedias, and lots of craft supplies.

Under the traditional or distance homeschooling method, your homeschool curriculum might be a language arts textbook, a math workbook, or online science lectures.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but before you purchase homeschool curriculum, check with your state law to see what they require. Especially at the high school level, you may have to show that you are teaching an education at home that is equivalent to the public school curriculum in five areas: (1) language arts, (2) math, (3) science, (4) social studies, and (5) foreign language.

What homeschool curriculum will help you meet your family’s education goals?


-- Teaching Strategies --

What teaching strategies should you use?

Generally, your teaching strategies will complement the homeschooling method or educational philosophy you follow. For example, in a traditional homeschooling method, the teacher is the giver of all information; generally, knowledge flows in one direction from teacher to student.

Whereas if your homeschooling plan involves the unschooling method, your teaching strategies may be fluid and spontaneous, contingent upon whatever direction your child takes his learning.

Teaching strategies can be organized by skills (classical curriculum), subjects (traditional), grade levels (cottage school), age (Waldorf), or even learning preferences (Montessori). In reality, most homeschool moms and dads use a variety of teaching strategies to convey knowledge and nurture understanding.

Finally, supplement your homeschool curriculum (remember, course of study) with unconventional learning experiences like field trips, co-ops, tutors, internships, and recorded lectures. Choose what works best for your child.

What teaching strategies will you use in your homeschool this year?


-- Strategic Planning --

What's the value of planning strategically?

You might be tempted to jump right in and tackle the homeschool year without a clear strategy, but knowing where you’re going can make the entire year that much more relaxing. So be intentional about what you want to accomplish this year in your school. Strategic planning can be as simple as three academic goals you want to see in your kids by next summer.

One of the easiest ways to catch some long-term vision is to start with the outcome you want to see, then work backwards. What are your academic essentials? What are your priorities? What spiritual changes do you hope to grow in your child? What character qualities can be improved through academic work? Maybe you want to see progress in your child’s academics, tech training, or life experience.

Get specific within each area. For example, is your child struggling in problem-solving? Set your intention…say by the end of the academic year, he’ll be getting 8/10 problems right on his daily math assignments, then figure out what areas he needs help with so that you can teach those concepts until they’re mastered.

How can you repurpose, maximize efficiency, and accomplish multiple skills mastery (2 for 1) with one activity? Busy work is a no-no! What are your "yes…that worked!" tasks and what are your "no, never again" tasks?

When doing your strategic planning, don’t forget the rest of the family. Are there bigger goals that you want to accomplish as a family like serving the community together, taking a trip, or pooling your financial resources for a big purchase? Catch a clear vision, and your homeschool year will be much more fun.

Are you using strategic planning to achieve your short and long-term goals?


-- Homeschool Recordkeeping --

What homeschool records should you keep?

Keeping good homeschool records now will save you a lot of headaches later, especially when you get to high school. Whether you keep a file drawer for each child, electronic homeschool records on your computer, or an annual homeschooling scrapbook, start saving today.

What do you need to include in your annual homeschool record? State homeschooling laws will tell you minimum compliance requirements. You might need to keep attendance records, grades, and standardized test scores. Keep a portfolio of your child’s best homeschool work, too.

For high school homeschool records, make a running list of all the classic books and textbooks you’ve used, writing samples, awards, honors, dual-credit records from the local university, apprenticeship details, and employment info. Keeping a running homeschool record from 7th grade will make compiling the high school transcript much easier when you’re ready to apply to colleges.

What homeschool records should you be saving?


-- Home Organization --

How should you organize your home for schooling?

One of the biggest threats to a smooth homeschool year is a disorganized home. Home organization is critical to the annual homeschooling plan. Why? A messy house, cranky kids at dinnertime, and a general lack of structure saps your physical, emotional, and spiritual strength. Maximize teaching and learning with a good home organization plan.

How can you get your home organized? First, establish a daily routine. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but generally, when the kids know what to expect each day, they are more cooperative at learning. Start the day with daily devotions, and end the day with quiet reading in the bed.

Establish activity centers for optimal learning. You don’t have to have a dedicated schoolroom, but designate certain areas of the house for storing teaching and learning resources. Get a whiteboard, and do all demonstrations at the kitchen table. Store all your reading materials in a basket by the couch. Hide all DVDs by the TV.

Plan your meals, and shop once or twice a week. Share the household chores with every member of the family. Homeschool studies show that home organization is such a critical watershed that some moms don’t give up homeschooling because they can’t teach the curricula, but because they feel like they can’t do it all for the home and school. Honestly, you can’t do it all. Get everyone to help.

How can you make your home organization even better for learning?