I will be going into my 5th year of homeschooling this fall and I have made a lot of mistakes. Mistakes help us grow. I also think they are pointless if we don’t learn from them. I’m hoping that you can learn from my mistakes as well. These are only my top 3 planning mistakes (there are many more). These are the traps to avoid. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Please see my full disclosure here.
Top 3 Planning Mistakes
- planning too much
- not planning enough
- planning daily
Planning Too Much
When I first started homeschooling, I planned for a full day of school with way too much brain work. Not knowing much about little kid education (I am certified in 7-12 and have taught at the college level for over a decade), I required too much concentration and focus for too long of a period. Once we weren’t able to keep up that pace, I was flustered and pushy trying to “get caught up”. This was the disaster you can imagine it being. I was also trying to homeschool in the fringe hours which wasn’t ideal for my kiddo or myself. The natural response is to go the other direction.
Not Planning Enough
I decided that none of the curriculum was working (and most of it wasn’t) and we would unschool instead. I loved the idea of a lifestyle of interest led learning. It DID NOT fit our family. A big reason was our busy schedule. I love the hmmmschooling mom’s post on The Hidden Harm in Following Your Interests. My kids’ interest are also not super academic and it became apparent that they would need intensive reading and math instruction so we scrapped unschooling.
Then I started planning daily. That was a catastrophe. I finally got in a rhythm where I was planning about the right amount, but there was no room for field trips or little learning rabbit trails. Every day was planned, therefore if something came up, the entire plan (and all the time it took to create it) were just out the window. Then we were back to trying to figure out where we were, what we needed to be doing, and how we “got so far behind”.
How I Plan Differently Now
I started planning weekly a couple of years ago and it has helped a ton. I would plan our reading and math for 6 weeks at a time and then re-evaluate. These were our areas of focus, so that worked at the time. Unfortunately, because I was just going to use the class syllabus to “help guide” our other subjects, they were often rushed or totally forgotten. This year things are different. The first difference is that everyone is a proficient reader. That is a big one. This will be the first year that I can feel confident giving some independent work. The second is that I am using a crate system to plan by week.
Lack of Flexibility has been a long term issue
After homeschooling 5 years over a 7 year period, I have been searching blogs and Pinterest homeschool hacks for a long time. I had seen weekly crate systems before and had even tried to do one, but I did it ALL WRONG. I labelled everything by week, which means that I took away all the flexibility of the system. The folders were labeled, the work was labeled, even the books had little sticky flags with weeks labeled on them. I bought a label maker, in order to help make labeling easier.
So what happened if something came up during a week, we were behind again and ALL the work needed to be relabeled and moved. I would become frustrated that my struggling learners couldn’t get caught up, they would be understandably upset with my pushing. Everyone was in tears. It was a mess. It became a mess, everything with scribbles all over it and total chaos. This year I have the entire first semester planned for two kiddos and work ready for tot school for the 2 year old in the house.
Changes that helped me get organized and planned.
What is the difference? There are a few things that have happened. One is my own mindset. I have really tried to protect my kids because of their learning differences, but last year in tutorial class they both blossomed and found their niche. Realizing that I was holding them back by assumptions from previous years, was eye opening. This year my expectations are higher (with accommodations and modifications available) and I will begin to foster more independent learning. They have developed and grown. My kids are older and their proficiency fosters that independent learning that we all crave from time to time. I also realize that we aren’t in a season to sit down and read and color all day (that also doesn’t fit my boys well) so I have changed my way of thinking. They need structure and routine.
The other difference is that I decided to invest in learning more about organization. I am not naturally organized (I know I keep mentioning it, but if you are with me you understand), so I finally accepted that I needed help.
I tried workboxes, folders, sticky notes, expensive Ikea systems, and wine without success (chocolate did seem to help a little). Realizing I needed help, I decided to take a course. The result is that I feel organized and ready to start the school year with a plan for the entire first semester! After hundreds of dollars (or maybe even thousands), I took this course for $39.99 (while it was on sale) and it has changed our entire school year. She is running another sale and you can get the same course for $37 through Cyber Monday.
My New System
I love the Clover Crate’s flexibility. This system provided the right mix of structure and flexibility for our family. I am a type A creative so I need a little more flexibility. The reason it is so flexible is NOTHING is labeled. If we don’t get to something we can just move it to next week’s folder (or move the whole folder)- easy peasy.
This means that our homeschool can’t “get behind”. We just extend the year. We are always exactly where we need to be for the year. No more frustration or pushing to get it done, no more we need to “catch up”. Just move a folder. I have 18 weeks in our first semester, but I have planned for 14 weeks. I tend to overplan a little, so this gives me 4 weeks of flexibility. That allows time for field trips and stomach bugs. I just felt every muscle in my body relax when I typed that. Updated: After 6 weeks into the school year we have already used 2 weeks of that flex time. The most amazing thing is that it hasn’t been any stress on this mom!
What I have in my crate:
- social studies
- read alouds for tutorial (using index cards to note which books)
What I don’t have in my crate:
This system has changed my outlook on the school year. Now I just need to work on a whine reducing mechanism for the kids. I hope you have found this post helpful and that you can avoid some of the planning mistakes that have plagued our homeschool. If you are interested in the organization course, that I mentioned, the normal price is $59.99. There is a wealth of information and I love how she presents and is available for questions. You can get it through Cyber Monday for $37. That is almost a 40% savings! I don’t regret my investment at all!