Saturday, July 04, 2015

Homeschool Planning Tools Part 1: Guest post by Kendra Barrow

Kendra has worked with me for many years.  She has always sent me a wonderful planning tool that she uses to plan her year.  I asked her if she would be willing to share her wonderful tool.   She graciously agreed and her thoughts are below.  Next week she will have more planning thoughts!  Stay tuned!  

It is that dreaded time for homeschoolers: the planning of next school year! Parents break out in a cold sweat. Sometimes the pain is put off until the beginning of September and then there’s a mad scramble to find the perfect curriculum. Or you are like me… If books are like food for the brain, I keep “overeating” when I try to make a new plan for the year. I tend to be unrealistic as to how much can actually be done in a day, week, or school year.

I’ve created a planning tool that has been helping me be more realistic.  Perhaps it would help you too?  I start by printing off a blank copy of this planning tool “All Year Plan – At a Glance”. It contains blank boxes for all of the subjects my school district requires, in addition to topics such as Bible, Character, and Life Skills that are important to me in educating my children. The school year is divided into three terms of 11 or 12 weeks each, but the plan is such that you can see the entire year at one glance. For sanity’s sake, I ALWAYS take the summer off!

Step 1 – I look over my book shelves and start filling in the plan with what I already have! Hopefully that prevents me from buying another grammar book or math curriculum when I have a perfectly good one sitting on the shelf.

Step 2 – I concentrate on the “biggies” first. History, Math, Science, Language Arts, etc. If I’m using the same book more than one term, I write it in each term’s box.

Step 3 – For “enrichment” subjects, I try to space them out throughout the year, rather than feeling an internal obligation to do every subject every term.  I have found that we get bored doing a little bit of three books all year.  Instead, I might study a composer one term, an artist one term, and Shakespeare another term.  The whole family enjoys a fresh start at the beginning of each term, and I find that I am “finishing” more subjects.

Step 4 – Lastly, in order to complete any blank spots, I look over notes (okay, more like a bunch of post-it notes) where I wrote down names of books my friends recommended that I’ve been wanting to try.  If I have seven suggestions for science for the new school year, I pick one title and save the rest of post-its for decision time next year!

                I find that looking at the whole year helps me to get perspective and be more objective about what is realistic.  The goal is that someday I would use everything I’ve already bought!

                An additional note about enrichment subjects: I am trying something new this year where I’ve picked 8 enrichment subjects or books I’d like to do and numbered them in my plan. When the school year starts, I’ll pick one to include with my other “Biggie” subjects. It might take 4 weeks to complete, or 12 weeks. When I finish one enrichment topic, I will start on the next.  Again, I’m doing this to help myself be more realistic about how much we can accomplish.

                Also, at the end of the year, I re-type up the plan using what we actually did (not what I hoped to do) and put it on the cover of the notebook I use to store all the paperwork from that year. I have found that this “At at Glance” summary of my year helps me when filling out the portfolio assessments for Becky Boerner to review.

                I hope this is helpful and wish you the best as you embark on a new school year!


Kendra Lane Barrow spent her childhood years in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she cultivated a love for solitude, books, and nature.  She is the author of a devotional book of prayer-poems and several Sunday School series written for children. As a graduate from Ohio State University with a B.A. in English Literature, Kendra’s excited to report that she is finally using that degree while home educating her children for the last seven years, and teaching literature and language arts for middle school and high school. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two children.

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