Are you new to homeschool planning or just trying to get a jump on what to do before your little one reaches school age? What if I told you that you can cover up to 10 topics in a 4 hour school day and the kids will not be overwhelmed? While it’s important to have a good homeschool plan in place, there’s no need to panic. Over the years, I’ve found the following steps to be the key to helping me plan each year out.
Three Tips For Flexible Homeschool Planning
These steps also allow for major flexibility in changing and rearranging as time goes on. My favorite tool for homeschool planning is Trello (in fact it has become my favorite tool for ALL PLANNING in life).
In this post, I’m going to go over some basic philosophies behind my homeschool planning and briefly introduce you to the Trello system.
Homeschool Planning For Success-Flexibiltiy Is Key
First things first, before jumping into the nuts and bolts of homeschool planning, let’s talk philosophy. There are three tenets to homeschool planning that I believe need to be in place and that will make planning your year, term, and even your week a cinch.
One of the best things about a gentle approach to homeschooling is giving yourself the room to breathe and the ability to be flexible with both yourself and your students. Face it, life happens. When that happens, you need to be able to recognize it and not be a slave to your “plan”.
Whether you have a planner on paper or use an online tool like Trello, keeping this philosophy in place will help you relax and recognize you are “not behind” you are just “flexible”
Homeschool Planning- Three Steps & Loads of Flexibility
If you are like I was, you are scratching your head as to how you are supposed to teach Latin, composer study, picture study, three historical eras, math, brush drawing, music lessons, handicrafts, nature study, etc., etc. in a day that is supposedly over by noon and to more than one child in some cases.
If you are new to Homeschool Planning, especially Charlotte Mason Planning, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of subjects you are supposed to cover. Here are the three key steps I keep in mind when I begin to think about planning out the year.
- Short Lessons
- Loop Scheduling and Flexibility
- A Flexible Homeschool Planning System
The mornings are dedicated to “table time” or “morning time” and the afternoons are reserved for drawing, handicrafts, free reading, and out of door time.
When my children were very young, morning time consisted of something as simple as a “morning basket” filled with books and various activities to be done together as a family. However, as the children get older, morning basket has turned to morning table time mixed with mom reading to them as a group or as individuals. It changes often. Thus the need for flexibility.
The desire to offer a generous and rich curriculum and be finished by noon is a great ambition and until your child reaches high school age should be entirely doable if you keep these three things in mind.
1. Short Lessons
The first key to a successful and consistent homeschool morning is to keep the lessons short.
Short lessons will hold a child’s attention and allow him to fully engage in the topic at hand.
Isn’t it true of us as well?
Most of us begin to drift in thought after about 20 minutes.
“You want the child to remember? Then secure his whole attention, the fixed gaze of his mind as it were, upon the fact to be remembered; then he will have it: by a sort of photographic process, that fact or idea is ‘taken’ by his brain, and when he is an old man, perhaps, the memory of it will flash across him.”Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 156-157
For many years, I resisted this truth in narrations, and my children suffered for it.
It goes against my grain when we don’t “finish the chapter” or “section” or whatever I have written in the lesson planner.
In fact, this is why it is so important to think through this when making your homeschool plans and not overschedule your days.
When I, at last, conceded to the wisdom of Charlotte Mason on this, I fell in love with it. It was true!
My kids could learn in short bursts and retain what they learned.
Better still, so could I!
In fact, it is my ongoing goal to increase my own personal reading using the same method.
You would be surprised how much you can accomplish and read by setting aside a short reading period of 30 minutes to read three books across multiple genres. It can also be very rewarding.
You have to keep short lessons and loop scheduling in mind when you are choosing your page selections for each subject when homeschool planning.
It is more important that you keep the reading assignments shorter and allow more time for narrations.
Even if you use a boxed curriculum, I recommend you be realistic with your planning.
I’ve been known to turn a week’s lessons into two weeks or even three in order to keep it to my timetable.
If you examine the Time-Tables that Charlotte Mason used in her schools, you will see that in most subjects, students were only assigned 30-40 pp. for an ENTIRE TERM.
For example, in their British History lesson (our students would have American history in the early elementary years), they were assigned from Our Island Story pp. 94-140 for the entire term.
The students take history 2 times per week and a term represents approximately 12 weeks with a 13th week reserved for exams.
Doing the math on that works out like this.
Our Island Story pp. 94-140
140-94=46 pp to be read over 12 weeks at 2x per week
46 pp/(12×2)= ~2 pp. per lesson
As you can see then, this is 2 pages per lesson.
That’s only 4 pages for the week!!
It is important to keep this in mind when planning your curriculum.
The entire reading and narration should be short, no more than 20 minutes with the bulk of the time allowed for the narration, not the reading.
Even if you don’t finish the 2 pages assigned in a said lesson, stop reading after 5-7 minutes and let the child tell you back what you have just read.
This is known as narration.
A good rule of thumb is that a 20 minute lesson should be NO MORE THAN 5-7 MIN OF READING, maybe less for a child who is just learning to narrate!
I generally try to operate with a ⅓ reading to ⅔ narrating ratio.
Also, it is ok, I repeat, OK, if you don’t complete an assigned lesson when the timer goes off.
RESIST THE URGE TO PERSIST!
Just move on to the next lesson and pick back up where you left off last time.
Afterthoughts Blog has some more great secrets on Scheduling for Peace which I find greatly encouraging and helpful in thinking about how to set up our morning and use short lessons.
2. Loop Scheduling
The second thing that helps achieve a peaceful, consistent, homeschool is a loop schedule.
If you add up the subjects listed by Mason for a Form 1 student (That’s what she calls students between the ages of 6 and 9 years), you will see that they are covering between 9 and 13 subjects.
Some of these subjects are every day, while others are only once per week, two times per week, or perhaps 3 times per week.
When creating your schedule, you need to determine which subjects you will do on which days.
In addition to that, I add in chore time before and after our school time so you may wish to allow for that as well.
We achieve this by looping the schedule. The only subjects which are covered every day are:
- Reading Lessons
No matter what you wish to achieve in a given term, your schedule should be planned in such a way that you always finish before noon.
If you will stick to the allotted times for each subject (I use a timer like this monkey timer. Kids love this!), then you will have no trouble.
Here’s a sample of what my Form 1 Student’s schedule looked like in Trello.
Learn How To Use Trello To Plan a Charlotte Mason Education
If you would be interested in learning how to use Trello to plan out your Charlotte Mason education, I’m looking for a few people to enroll in my Beta Class. If interested please sign up below and I’ll put you on the interested list and contact you when the first webinar is released.
3. Have A Flexible Plan
Along with having a good homeschool plan comes keeping things organized and all in one place.
The first few years, I was always having to dig out my plans or resources, hunt down a book, or dig up a website I had read about and jotted down on a piece of paper.
I fully admit that I am a work in progress when it comes to being organized and our homeschool day is no different.
If you haven’t read about how I found the Charlotte Mason approach, left it, and then came back again, read Why A Charlotte Mason Education?.
Pay particular attention to my story under the section titled, For The Children’s Sake.
When you have little ones in the house while you homeschool, you quickly learn every second counts so eliminating the time you take to hunt for things can dramatically improve your homeschool day.
We have devised a crate system for each child as well as what we call a “weekly box” (not pictured) for the things on our loop schedule.
The system “ideally” goes like this:
Every child has their own crate.
Every child has their own lesson plans (copies of the ones in my homeschool planner) printed out and put into a binder. [Incidentally, I also keep their daily chores in this binder, but that is a post for another day :)].
At the end of the morning, while I prepare lunch, the children check their schedules for the next day and pack their boxes.
Anything that was on the loop schedule goes in the weekly box and will be retrieved when it is on the schedule again.
This has helped tremendously in decreasing the amount of time it takes to “get ready” for each of the subject changes.
Finding Trello And Never Looking Back
For years I struggled to get a homeschool planner that worked for me. To be honest, I’m not the most organized person and keeping up with the planner itself was often a challenge. Added to that was that as the year progressed, I always found the need to tweak the schedule which meant rewriting, or white-out, or reprinting the whole thing.
After years of buying new planners, trying different online services, and even making a few planners of my own, I stumbled upon Trello. I actually began using Trello for my online business, (I have a travel blog and a DIY Crafting website called Made it By Hand) but I quickly realized that Trello is PERFECT for planning my school days. In fact, it is absolutely perfect for anyone who is schooling more than one child using the Charlotte Mason method or anything similar.
Why do I say that?
Well, I primarily used A Delectable Education in the early days of my planning and they recommended what they called schedule cards for organizing your students’ schedules. However, this means printing them out, cutting them all up, and laying them out on a table like a big puzzle. The idea is that you can visually see where things go for each child and then move them around accordingly to get the schedule to “fit” together for your family.
Trello can do this exact same thing, only quicker and without the need to print and cut out cards. It’s completely customizable and can be quickly shuffled, rearranged, and tailored to your needs.
Additionally, Trello is great for communicating to the older kids as everyone can download the app and have access to their schedule and any notes you want to give them.
Finally, if you still want a “printed schedule” which I do, you can simply screenshot the final schedules and print them out to be placed into a binder.
Trust me when I say that Trello has become my #1 planning device for EVERYTHING.
It does take some time commitment in the beginning to both learn and set up your Workspaces, Boards, and Checklists. But, I can 100% assure you that once you do it, you will not look back and you will thank me.
If you are interested in learning more about using Trello for Homeschool Planning, please sign up using this form.
I am putting together a course to teach people how to use Trello for planning their school day and I am offering a free Webinar to the 1st ten people who sign up and agree to share a review.
If you already know how to use Trello and are interested in purchasing my templates for your Form 1, 2, 3, or 4 students, please leave a comment below. Forms 5 & 6 will become available as my oldest works his way through and I create the schedules over the next three years.