Homeschool Planning-- also known as, realizing you have no idea what you're doing

I am in the midst of planning my homeschool year for my two older boys, and I must say started out feeling a little overwhelmed! I'm so excited about making this year great, but it's easy to get bogged down by the wealth of information out there. I don't want to over-schedule or attempt to do too much--but I also don't want to slack off and miss out!

Tonight, I did a ton of research in my final push to finalize our homeschool calendar. When I started, I was fairly confident that I was almost done planning. But, God help me, I traveled down the internet rabbit hole and ended up feeling vastly unprepared!! How can I wrangle all this great information and all of these wonderful projects in to a workable curriculum?

Start with the big picture.

I started my planning by writing out a list of learning goals for each child. To help determine my goals, I used common core standards, as well as picking the brains of a few teacher friends. These goals are definitely big-picture, with no real detail. For instance, under goals for reading for my first grader, I wrote, "reading at a first grade level." Not so specific, but it makes a good starting point for my next planning step.

Define each goal in detail.

After drafting a list of learning goals, I took each one and defined it further to make it more tangible. Adding details to each goal helps you grasp what it really is you want your child to learn. "Reading at a first grade level" becomes "reads some materials independently," "understands phonics concepts," and "shows comprehension of reading materials." As you add definition to your goals, you'll start to better understand how to make those goals in to lesson plans.

Choose materials to help reach your goals.

My next step was to create a table of my goal details and explain what texts and materials we will need to reach that goal. For reading, I wrote things like "reading together once a day," The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (my text of choice), and "reading worksheets." At this point, my brain started descending from the clouds and I began to feel like I really understood how I was going to get our homeschooling goals under control!

Develop a calendar.

Just like I started with a big picture with our learning goals, I began with a monthly calendar, defining smaller goals for each month, and then each week. I use a homeschool lesson planner that helps me when I get to the weekly level; it has a table for each subject and you can write your assignments for each day by subject. I rarely plan things for every single day, and honestly I don't care which day the lesson gets finished, but it's good to have a rough idea of what should happen each week so you make sure it all stays on track.

Organize materials and get ready to learn!

Now that the calendar is done, the lessons are (somewhat) planned, and I've chosen curriculum, it's time to get everything easily accessible for daily lessons. Last year, I started creating "weekly workbooks" for my children, with all of the worksheets for the week in one binder so they know exactly where to find them. This is also nice for record keeping, as it shows week-by-week what we accomplished. I've seen a similar concept used by subject, with a journal for each, but I love the binder because it keeps everything from the whole year together in one spot.

I still have some refining to do, but I'm very excited about how far I've come in planning this year's curriculum in a pretty short time. I can't wait until the planning is over and it's time to do some learning!

How do you plan for a new school year? Let me know if you've got any stellar tips!


Post Mommy, Post-SAHM

This morning, as I was scouring the internet for good sources of information on homeschooling, peering over an endless array of colorful pinterest pages and mom-blogs, I realized I was yearning for my own long-neglected blog project. I came over for a nostalgic peek at my last few posts, and what I found was one part heartbreak and one part inspiration.

My heart ached as I glanced over the projects and activities I had been doing with my children when I last posted here; so much in our lives has changed since then that I couldn't suppress my longing for this "simpler" time. These last few posts were one job loss, one exhausting move, and one pregnancy ago; we find ourselves in smaller living quarters with more children and considerably less income. As a consequence to this more complicated situation, I have returned to work--and thus have a lot less time to devote to things like paper mache and rainy day treasure hunts. As I looked back, I was astounded by what I've given up and what I've failed to provide for my children in the last year.

For as long as I've been a parent--probably even longer--I have had certain goals for how I would raise my children (as all of us do). My perfect-world version of myself bakes regularly (kids covered in flour and smiles), lets the kids get messy without breaking a sweat (think fingerpaint and mud, head to toe), and always has time to "be a monster" or play hide and seek on a whim. I want to be a fun, engaged, accessible parent. For a long time, I was just that.

Time and circumstances have changed how I parent, and I would argue that the changes are not for the better. I have less time, less energy, and less patience than ever before. I can feel the strain it puts on my children, too--they are more short-tempered with each other and more apt to whine of boredom than to pick up their crayons and draw me a picture. My lack of time has severely impacted our lives, and I can't stand it!

Last year, we made the decision to homeschool our children. At the time, it seemed like an excellent idea. I was, after all, practically homeschooling them already with all of the activities we were doing, and I was thrilled by the concept of being their teacher. Now, I'm struggling just to make them workbooks for the week and finish their daily reading lessons with no time for special projects or fun activities!

(And don't even get me started on how I feel like I'm letting down my younger two!)

There is light at the end of this dark tunnel, however. I didn't come here just to whine about how difficult it is to be a working mother of four. I was inspired by looking back, too--inspired to find ways to return to being this better version of myself. How can I get back there? Especially with my newfound lack of time?

I know there are ways. And I intend to find them.

My first goal is to make time at least once a week to return to the simple life. I do have some days off, after all! I'd like to stop treating them like days to cram in as much stuff as possible and start treating them like days to forget I ever went back to work. This will take a tiny bit of extra planning (not my strongest suit), but I'm fairly certain it can be done.

My next goal is to find a way to stop working (for an employer) again. I have ideas on how to make this happen, but it's still in the early lightbulb stage. Ideally, I would be able to earn money doing something I love without being a slave to a timeclock (the American Dream, no?!). I just can't shake the feeling that this is what needs to happen. I need to be home with my children and have time for them!

I've always lived my life by the credo that you can do anything you put your mind to. So now I need to prove it to myself. Here's to plotting and planning and making dreams realities. I'll be sure and stop by to share my journey with you. For now, it's time to make the best of my last 24 work-free hours!