Our Planning Secrets | Homeschool Student Planner & How We Plan Our Homeschool Year (part 2)
Homeschool planning doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time and I’ve discovered that including kids in the planning process will make them more involved in their learning, giving them the opportunity to take learning into their own hands.
My ultimate homeschooling goal is to get my son to be an independent learner. And I feel this is a skill that needs to be modeled and nurtured. That’s why our homeschool planning includes and models the skills he needs to become independent for school and beyond.
This year we are using a student planner (that I created for M) to try and encourage him to become self-sufficient and improve his executive functioning skills while keeping my side of planning simple and effective.
Keep reading to find out how I plan our homeschool year in 10 simple steps that keep us on track the whole year.
- What’s a student planner?
- My Learning Plan – Homeschool Student Planner
- Homeschool planning made easy
- 1.Choose your curriculum
- 2.Start at a macro level
- 5.Weekly, as we go
- 7.Monthly spreads
- 9.Be flexible!
- 10.Help! We’re Behind!
- Why I love homeschool planning with My Learning Plan
- ⏰Time management
- 😎Independence & Responsibility
- 🙂Anxiety Relief
- 📕Flexible & adjustable to your homeschool
- ❤️Easy to use
- Conclusion and Video
What’s a student planner?
Student planners (or academic planners) are different from regular planners because they are made specifically for the student.
These planners have a weekly space for each subject and their respective assignments and they start the year in August or September.
I use a student planner to plan our whole year and, by aiming it at the student, I feel that my son is becoming more involved in his learning and more responsible because he is the one that keeps track of his work and what needs to be done.
My Learning Plan – Homeschool Student Planner
Since I couldn’t find something I liked through and through, I’ve spent a good chunk of my summer researching and designing a student planner to fit our needs as homeschoolers.
I use My Learning Plan student planner as a command center for our homeschooling while M uses it as his daily planner. This allowed me to keep planning simple while keeping track of everything we do and to empower my son to take hold of his education and schedule. It’s a win-win for both of us.
Designs & versions
I created 3 color designs (jungle, moon, and peony) and 2 black and white designs (cats and dogs). They all have a similar layout and they are all coordinated inside!
I also decided to extend these student planners’ lives and created for each of the above designs an undated version. This means that these planners have no date written anywhere. But they can be personalized to fit your needs. You can either fill in the dates yourself or you can print the free planner stickers from my Resource Library.
How can you tell them apart? I decided to make their covers slightly different: the dated planners all have a rectangle on the cover, while the undated ones have a circle. The dated planners also have the year written on the cover, while the undated ones don’t.
Format & sections
a size that can easily fit smaller hands while still keeping enough space for jotting down daily tasks.
parents have extra flexibility when starting and ending their school year. And enough time to order a new planner next year.
because Amazon won’t offer me the option of stickers or tabs, I created my own free printable stickers to match them.
10 options and 5 designs
5 designs (3 color designs and 2 black and white designs) with 2 options each (dated and undated).
Daily Schedule – your old-fashioned school schedule where you can decide at a glance what subject goes into what time slot each day. I decided to go with block scheduling this year, but this can adapt to any kind of schedule.
School Year at a Glance – a 2-page spread, offering a full calendar overview over the whole 14 months.
School Year Details – where you can mark how many weeks/months of school you are planning to do and even split your main subjects into chunks, to be covered each semester.
Online Resources – a full page where you can list the online classes or websites that kids will use for the year, with their respective passwords and usernames.
Planning Resources – it’s a 2-page spread, with enough space to plan 6 subjects per page. This is where you will add your chosen resources and details about these, including how many tests each of these have and what grades they cover.
Monthly – each month starts with a 2page spread cover page followed by a 2-page spread monthly calendar. This is where kids can see upcoming appointments, recurring classes, and other important events.
Weekly Plan– each weekly spread starts on Monday and it’s split into 5 sections for the 5 main subjects. Each subject is then split into 4 more sections. For added flexibility, you can further split these pages to suit your needs.
Reading Log– it spreads on 2 pages at the end of the planner, allowing kids to log their reading for the year.
Notes– 2 pages for anything else you want to jot down.
Since Amazon doesn’t allow me to add tabs or stickers, I thought to offer these for FREE to anyone that’s subscribed to my Newsletter.
You can find these in my Resource Library (you need to subscribe and you will get a password giving you access to everything I created).
I really wanted to make this planner an easy-to-use tool for kids (and parents alike). So I created a lot of coordinating printables for them:
- Fun stickers – I created these for kids to stick to mark events in their month-at-a-glance sections. I made some for appointments, doctor appointments, a gift for birthdays, a heart and a star for whatever else they want to mark down, and of course, a little test sticker if they want to know when tests are coming along in their curricula.
- Monthly tabs – I really love tabs, and while you can use plastic sticky tabs to mark your months, this is so much better! you can choose from dated or undated tabs and I even left a few blank tabs for you to mark other sections in your planner if you need to.
- Monthly names–these are great for undated planners, for every section, and numbered stickers that you can use to personalize the planner any way you need to!
- Subject names – I know it can be daunting writing down the name of your chosen subjects, again and again, that’s why I created these.
- Bookmark – lastly, there’s a bookmark to mark the day kids are left.
You can print all these on sticker paper. I used metallic (thicker) sticker paper to print the monthly tabs because they need to be sturdier, but the rest of the items can be printed on regular sticker paper.
I also printed the bookmark on magnetic printable paper, so we can move it along as we need to. But you can also print it on cardstock and glue some magnetic strip on it to mark your spot.
Homeschool planning made easy
I created these student planners with my mind on flexibility and usefulness, considering both the student and the homeschool parent.
My Learning Plan is aimed at the student, so I kept things simple with kids in mind. That’s why you won’t find pages full of quotes or other distracting things in this planner.
I am using this planner for our lesson plans, as well. What’s the use of writing things down in 2 places? That’s why I added a few pages to help you plan your resources.
I know many of you have asked about my homeschool planning. So I will do my best to explain it in writing, but if you need to see how this works, I created a video that you can find at the end of this post.
1.Choose your curriculum
Our 6th-grade curriculum choices (and how I made them) will come soon after this post, so I will save that for later.
I write my whole list of curriculum (even the extras) in My Learning Plan in the Planning Resources sections. This offers me a nice overview of everything, how many lessons each book has, and whether or not we have to send in tests (and how many).
This is an excellent way of keeping track of what you’re working from!
2.Start at a macro level
I always like to take a step back and look at my whole year first.
- Deadlines– Our school, Bridgeway Academy, offers us 40 weeks of school. So 40 weeks is my whole school year, and I have to FIT everything in that.
- Semesters – I then split those 40 weeks in half, getting the length of our semester: 20 weeks.
- Number of Lessons – I take my books and browse the contents (number of lessons or chapters) and I split those in half. This way I know that by the end of Semester 1 I have to finish lesson 15 out of 30 for example.
- Half Time– If you need to, you can even have a mid-semester date and split those 15 lessons again, so you have an even better idea of where you should be, and when.
- Per Week – Next, you just take each book, and roughly split the 15 lessons into 20 weeks. That gives me a rough estimate of about 1 lesson per week.
I like to keep all these on my School Year Details Page of My Learning Plan. This way, I can always look back and see how much of each subject needs to be done on a weekly basis.
Of course, if you have a teacher’s book, you will see sometimes lessons take more days, but we will talk about this in a minute.
I like starting the micro-planning by establishing a weekly schedule: when will every subject fit into a week?
I start by adding the priority subjects: math and language arts. These will always be done in the first half of the day.
This year I tried out a block schedule. But ours ended up looking more like a traditional schedule in the end.
For example, the Math time is in Core 1 from 10-11 AM. M is usually done with math in 30 minutes, and this schedule either allows him for free time or for more math.
Some subjects can even take up to 2 hours blocks of time, it’s up to you how you split your day.
We don’t follow this schedule to a T every day, but it’s a nice way to establish some order.
When scheduling, I also decide what subjects to alternate. I look at the number of lessons we need to do each week, then at the block of time scheduled for that subject.
For example, I know that Language Arts has a LOT of components for us. We work separately from multiple sources, and it would be impossible to fit all of the language arts in one block of time or finish all in a single day. That’s why I alternate.
Mondays we do Grammar and Writing, Tuesdays we do Vocabulary and Literature, and so on until the week ends.
The way I pair them and how many days they get, depends on how long it takes for M to finish a lesson, and how meaty they are. Grammar and Writing have the most material to cover, so they get 3 days a week. But while 1 grammar lesson takes about 10-15 minutes, writing can take up to 1 hour. That’s why they go well together for us.
Now this means that the vocabulary gets spread out over 2 days. I chose this because I know vocabulary is a fairly easy-to-cover curriculum and it takes less time.
The literature we have should take 5 days per week, which means I had to split those 5 days in half. There’s also a review section weekly, so that made it easier.
I also alternate the electives, because we chose 3 this year, and I don’t really have a deadline for them, M is just doing them as he goes, 1 every day.
5.Weekly, as we go
I learned to hold my horses when it comes to micro-planning. I did try to plan all the lessons at once, having dates assigned to every lesson… but the truth is it NEVER happens according to plan! And I always end up ditching the whole thing because it causes too much frustration.
My secret now is that I only plan as we go, shifting things around. I never plan more than 1-2 weeks at once because I know we inevitably have days off.
So at the end of each week, I take My Learning Plan and see what lessons of that past week aren’t checked off and I move them to the new week.
The greatest piece of advice that I can give you when homeschool planning is to establish your priorities and consult them again and again.
What’s the most important subject for you? If it’s math and LA, those take precedence over all others. And I consider my day done if it’s been a bad day and we just managed to do that much.
Electives come last for us. That means these will get cut off the list first if we need extra time or we can’t keep up.
I use the monthly spreads to write down recurring classes (that aren’t in our weekly planning), dentist appointments, birthdays, holidays, or big test days.
This spread is modeling monthly planners to my son as he is learning the importance of keeping track of days, appointments, upcoming events, or important dates.
I would have liked to be able to add a note section for every page, but the limited space didn’t allow me to. Each month does have a Note strip where you can write important reminders.
But for the weekly spread, I found the perfect solution!
We use Post Its over Saturday and Sunday. They are easy to move around and great to write down ideas as you go through your week.
We use it to write down words to research, ideas to explore, and reminders for the next week. This way, we know exactly what needs to be moved for the next week, keeping our homeschool planning flexible.
Other advice when it comes to planning is to be flexible! Things will NOT always happen as you planned. Sometimes you’re done with your day in half the time it takes on others.
Sometimes you will get NOTHING done out of a whole week! Don’t panic!
10.Help! We’re Behind!
Ok, so your level of panic on this depends on HOW far behind your plan are you? And this again depends on whether you need to send tests to your school or not.
If you don’t have tests to send, just homeschool year round, going at your kids’ pace. Nothing terrible will happen.
If you have tests to send and a certain timeframe to finish your year, recheck the deadlines you set at the beginning. If you work a little extra will you make it in time for the END of the year (or of the semester).
For extremely behind, ditch the electives, recheck your plan and choices and shave off anything that’s not essential for a while. Use that extra time to see if you can catch up.
Why I love homeschool planning with My Learning Plan
I am extremely happy with how these turned out but I especially love how they made homeschool planning in our house simpler for both me and my son.
And I can’t help but jump for joy seeing my son take his planner seriously and work diligently to get things done.
So let’s see what we love about My Learning Plan and how it’s helped us in our homeschool planning and journey to raising independent learners.
We all know most kids (OK, maybe even adults) struggle with this aspect. You can easily get sucked into less important tasks throughout the day and forget your priority for the day. And then you end up frustrated that the day’s over and your tasks are still pending.
In a similar fashion, kids can get caught up in the details and forget the essential bits like deadlines or staying on track.
With My Learning Plan M can see what his daily academic tasks are. And knowing what’s expected of him allowed him to start realizing the benefits of managing his time wisely so he can get enough free time in a day to do whatever he wants.
Obviously, with better time management skills comes increased productivity.
By knowing exactly what’s on your plate daily, you can become more efficient at getting things done and not procrastinating, postponing, and missing deadlines or just adding even more to your plate until the point of overwhelm.
Picture this: M used to spend up to 3 hours on getting his math lesson done, but with this new homeschool planning system in place, he is usually done with math in 30 minutes to 1 hour daily (including the extra math programs he is doing- we are basically working on math from 4 different sources!)
This student planner can help because kids can now SEE that if they move through their checklist and work efficiently (increasing their productivity), they have more free time in a day. And soon this becomes a habit!
Organized people are more efficient.
Because everything is spread out before them in an organized fashion, they are better at finding shortcuts and prioritizing, managing to accomplish more in a day, and still have free time at the end of it.
I am somewhat organized, but I had to learn it all through trial and error. I never had anyone tell me the importance of being organized. Public school never told us the importance of prioritizing, setting tasks and goals, or working with a planner.
That’s why I vowed M won’t go through all this. He will know (as early as possible) how to prioritize, break tasks into smaller chunks, and plan and organize. It’s still a work in progress and he has a lot of things to learn, but I already see some progress.
Many times now, he is the one urging me to focus and help him with his lesson so he can be done for the day.
😎Independence & Responsibility
An organized student is a more independent and responsible student.
Because now they clearly KNOW what is expected of them every day, they can start taking ownership of their education and of their time.
Kids will be in control of how they manage their time and work, and how they organize it. And this will feel so empowering to them.
I’ve seen this in my son this year and it’s something I’ve been secretly wishing for all these homeschool years: more independence. And, believe it or not, the only different thing in our homeschool this year is that we have a student planner.
He now knows how to READ it. And that’s a huge step. Slowly, we will move into him planning his work for himself, but for now, the fact that he opens his planner and checks each day and subject is amazing progress.
I feel that having all your tasks lined up helps take them out of your head and onto a medium where they will stay until they get done. So you can focus on the task not on juggling multiple things you need to do in your head.
Knowing what to expect is also great at reducing anxiety and uncertainty for many kids.
My son soon realized his day isn’t that bad. That if he works efficiently he can be done with it in 2-5 hours and be free. Whereas last year, every day was a struggle to get him to do things and not get sidetracked. He was stressed out by my nagging and I was stressed we weren’t doing what we needed to do.
M lacked a sense of time that is now more clear to him when he successfully finishes his day. He is much more relaxed, and I am, too, knowing we’ve done all (or most) of our academic work for the day.
📕Flexible & adjustable to your homeschool
I made these planners very easy to adapt to whatever your needs are. From covering 14 months to the undated version, these are molding to your homeschooling style.
I also LOVE that they are easy to personalize! M chose a Moon planner and the black and white images inside can be colored. He had fun coloring his in with glittery pens.
You can color the Moon, Cats, and Dogs planners.
Using the planner with multiple or smaller children is easy. Since each subject section is split into 4 smaller sections, you could use this to add 4 kids to each subject. I like color coding our subjects, but you could color-code your children.
❤️Easy to use
I really wished for a simple checkbox journal type of planner for my son this year. I wanted it to be easy for him to use and not get overwhelmed by the many options or features.
That’s why these planners are pretty straightforward. Kids will find it easy to keep track of their work or follow a set plan and parents can use the same planner to have a yearly overview of what needs to be done or to keep track of daily work.
The sections in this planner are pretty self-explanatory and, aside from the beginning planning section that parents would fill up, these planners should be fairly easy to use by 2nd graders and up.
I love how M feels a sense of importance by owning his own planner and this shows in the way he keeps it on his desk, daily checking out his to-to-list.
Teaching kids to use a planner will empower them, allowing them to become independent and more responsible.
Conclusion and Video
What do you use to plan your homeschool year? I would love to talk about it so drop me a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really think teaching kids the importance of planning and organizing their lives is an important skill and one that needs to be nurtured at home.
A proper planning system will lessen procrastination and anxiety while boosting self-esteem at seeing things getting done.
Through planning for them and letting them see how planning works, they will grow with healthy habits of prioritizing, tracking, and planning their work.
A student planner like My Learning Plan is an amazing tool that empowers kids to take learning into their own hands, driving them one step closer to independence and responsibility while helping parents with homeschool planning and having everything in one place.
For those of you that prefer a video, I made one outlining everything in this article.
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