How to Plan a Homeschool Year in 13 Easy Steps

How to Plan a Homeschool Year in 13 Easy Steps

I’ve been at this homeschooling gig for almost a decade, and over the years, I’ve come up with a system for planning our school year that has stood the test of time. 

Feel free to borrow any of these tips and let me know how they work out for you.

1. On the day your local public schools start, go to the beach or the park, just because you can. While you’re there, laugh self-righteously at all the poor souls who had to drag their kids out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn to get them to school on time. Then remember with panic that you still have to prepare your school year for each of your children, and momentarily wish that all you had to do was drag your kids out of bed and take them to school.

2. Reread all of your favorite homeschool authors for inspiration. Then reinvent for the umpteenth time your own eclectic/structured unschooling/interest-led-except-for-math/Charlotte-Mason-meets-John-Taylor-Gatto-with-a-classical-bent educational philosophy.

3. Spend some time thinking deeply about your educational mission statement. Then print it out on pretty paper and hang it on the wall so that your children can challenge it daily.

4. Peruse Pinterest and repin beautiful homeschool rooms that you’ll never in a million years have the money, time, or space to recreate in your own home.

5. Get your actual school room or space totally organized and in perfect order. Then take a photo of it because you know it won’t look that way again until the next school year begins.

How to Plan a Homeschool Year in 13 Easy Steps (Humor)

6. Gather all of the curriculum you plan to use for the year, even though you know you’ll probably only get through the first third of most of it and the first three pages of the rest.

7. Print off enough planning pages for the entire school year, even though you’ll probably only use them for the first four weeks before devising an entirely new planning system.

8. Create an elaborately detailed, color-coded spreadsheet of what your daily schedule is going to look like. Print and hang on the wall so that you can flog yourself each evening over the fact that it fell apart somewhere between breakfast and morning snack.

Actual schedule I made one year. I’m only this anal on paper.

9. Convince yourself that this is the year you’re going to stick to your anal-yet-in-theory-still-flexible schedule, plan meals, keep up with housework, train for a marathon, finish your novel, and solve world hunger. When you realize you probably won’t actually do anything on that list, create a vision board so you can at least LOOK like you’re going to do those things.

10. Spend hours perusing park district brochures, library calendars, local e-mail groups, homeschool co-op schedules, and online programs looking for educational opportunities for your children. Then double those hours coordinating the times and places of your kids’ classes and activities. Then add up the cost of all of those classes, cut out half of them, and wish you could see some of that tax money you’re paying to educate other people’s children.

11. Call up another homeschool mom and whine about how not “together” you feel and beg her to tell you that she feels the same way. Solidarity, sister!

12. Remember that you go through this process every year, and that your resilient offspring miraculously continue to be educated despite you.

13. Take your kids to the beach or a park on the second day of school, just because you can. But this time bring a magnifying glass and nature journal, explain to them how sand is made, explore the history of jungle gyms, and call it a successful day of learnin’.

Happy schooling, everyone!  

(FYI, to help myself with #7, I did something unprecedented and bought this simple lesson planner. Usually I spend an embarrassing number of hours creating my own planning pages because I’m way too picky and a bit of a control freak. I need simple. Simple is good. So is cheap. This is both. And cute colors, too! Check it out on Amazon.) 

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 44

  1. Pingback: Homeschool Planning Roundup | Self Educating Family

  2. At first I wondered why I was reading this, torturing myself with more expectations that I will never meet. And then, I realized you are one of my people. Thank goodness! So many laughs!!

  3. Oh my gosh you know me so well, especially #2, #9 and #10. Lol!!! I have been searching high and low for a simple planner because I am so extra – Lol! Thanks for the opportunity to laugh at myself. Let’s see how much of my homeschooling plans I wrote about in my blog that I actually finish. Happy Homeschooling!

  4. Hahahaha!!!! THANK YOU!!!! I needed this beautiful mixture of truth, cynicism, and hope today! I literally have bawled my eyes out today, yet found myself laughing out loud at every one of the “13” tips.

  5. I looked at a teacher planner but it was for school teachers and not totally what I wanted… I considered making my own and having bound… Spent hours looking and all the good stuff cost money… Ended up buying a cheap student agenda at Walmart with weekly and monthly pages.. Ended up working well. By the time I put in mentorships, beavers, church programs, gymnastics, a math tutor for daughters, therapists, a junior feild naturalists program appointments we have lots going on already! I amusing for daycare too and planning a yearly theme -literacy to cover both…

  6. Vanessa, Vanessa. My 17-year-old is starting her second year of full-time community college, where she made the Dean’s List last year. My 13-year-old’s test scores place her several grade levels above her age for reading and language.

    What you have to understand is that learning sometimes looks very different in homeschooling than it does in public school. This post is a humorous, somewhat exaggerated (but not really) illustration of the reality of many homeschoolers’ experiences. It’s really okay. I promise. If you can look at the outcomes with my children and still call me a horrible homeschooler, I don’t know what to tell you. What we’re doing is working by every measurable standard. Just because the process doesn’t look like what you would expect, that doesn’t mean it’s not working.


  7. Amen! Not to mention all the moms on here laughing like “oh haha that # is me!” I don’t get through our curriculum ever! Oh haha I can’t organize for the life of me! This is why homeschooling should be illegal because of posts and moms like these. If you can’t get through your curriculum and if you think just taking the nature part of CM is good enough then news flash it’s not. No amount of homeschool blogs trying to make you feel better is gonna change the fact that all of you laughing at this post, are horrible homeschool moms.

    1. I’d put my 10 year old against a publically educated 5th grader any day. He tested last fall as knowing as much as an average 6th grader… two months after his 9th birthday. And I don’t push him that hard academically.

  8. I really like the beach idea. We get tp have fun and the kids should know that! It’ s funny because I just wrote a 5 tips for a new homeschooling mother on my blog and keeping it laid back the first day was a suggestion I made as well.

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  9. I love this! So many posts about homeschooling are very serious with lists of “shoulds” to check off, I love that this speaks the truth of our reality, and with great humor.

    Let’s talk about my Pinterest boards, and the fact my son did 8 whopping minutes of led schooltime, the first this week, and he says he can’t wait till Saturday so he doesn’t have to do “all that schoolwork. (Dramatic sigh)”.


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  10. That planning thing… MY plan today was to start school today with our 15 and 12 yo sons. Here’s what we really did. My husband is a pastor and he had a funeral today. Our 12 yo and I did the advertising guide paper route this morning. When we got back, we folded bulletins for the funeral as our church secretary was out of town. Then our 15 yo practiced with the soloist for the funeral (son is one of the organists for our church), he was then to have organ lessons but due to a lot going on in the church, his teacher suggested tomorrow. Went home (across the back yard) and made lunch. At 1 both boys, and I headed back to the church as younger one was crucifer (carried the cross up to the front of the church) and the other played the organ. Husband did the service. I was on hand in case we needed more bulletins, then headed to the basement to help with the luncheon afterwards. Helped serve and clean up. Called the boys to come back and take down extra tables and put chairs up on remaining ones. Came home, younger son headed off to football practice. Made and ate supper. Clean up as soon as I get done with this!

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  11. Thank you for your comment! I’m a single mom as well, no chik d support, very little family support. It’s HARD, but worth every day that my child gets to be herself and I get to see her beautiful character develop, support her passions and creativity and see her imagination grow as she gets older rather than fizzle. I’m always feeling inadequate and “not together ” but despite that, my daughter jumped 3 grade levels in math last year and 6 grade levels in reading! I work full time, pay a lot for great childcare, I have a schedule that allows me to spend some days and some evenings with my daughter, and I’m exhausted most of the time. But I would not change a thing, EXCEPT that it WOULD be nice to have some of the funds to help out with childcare, which is something that public school provides. I won’t make a blanket statement but I do have friends who admit to loving the free childcare that traditional school provides. I’m also disgusted by much of way I’ve seen in traditional schools: bullying, dumbing down, ignoring the child as an individual, jail/prison practices, squelching creativity and individuality, unhealthy nutrition, pushing out the parents to name a few. I’ll stop my rant. I’m glad to hear from other single moms, it does feel like I’m the only one sometimes. And I’m sick of the judgment from those who question homeschooling and those who call it a luxury. It’s my sacrifice and choice, and by the grace of God I figure out how to make it work.

  12. Hello, I have also been a single mom for the past two years out of the last 14 years of homeschooling, with much of it only living on child support. The first three of my ten children have graduated as homeschool kids. I live this article as yes, it hits many issues we homeschool educators deal with and to know we aren’t alone is a great battle we all face. My kids by the tenth grade all pass the high school graduation qualifying exam, i.e., the know what the state requires them to know in 12 Th grade by 10th grade. It doesn’t take a brainy genius to educate your own children. Just love, determination and creativity! I wouldn’t miss any of those ‘light bulb’ moments for the world. I teach by unit studies not so much text book style. My kids don’t excel in text books. If it’s fun to you, it’s probably fun to them! Keep up the great posts!

  13. #10’s tax jab is insulting. Public education is a societal contract to make sure EVERY child is educated. Childless persons pay as well. Not everyone has the luxery to homeschool. Single parents, parents in poverty that barely survive on two incomes, parents who have limited English fluency, etc ALL deserve to have their children educated. Check your privilege.

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      I can see how you read it that way, but really, it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke. I’m honestly happy to pay taxes for public schools, and I vote to pass every levy and referendum that comes our way. I used to teach in public schools. I get it. But the truth is that I AM paying that money to educate other people’s children, and I don’t think it’s insulting to say that I wouldn’t mind having a portion of the money that a school would receive if our child were attending to help fund their education at home (which some states actually do). It’s not a complaint about paying taxes for public schools, it’s a statement about how expensive activities, classes, and curricula are when you’re footing the entire bill yourself.

      1. I would just like to have the same tax break that licensed teachers get for school supply purchases for the homeschool materials I buy.

    2. Single parents can’t homeschool? I’m a single mom with no child support check rolling in, and I homeschool since Kinder. My child has never seen the inside of a public school except once when she went to her best friends “holiday” play. Don’t clump us together, I’m a single mother with a purpose, to raise a non brainwashed person. I wanted to homeschool and so I found a way. Period.

      1. Thank You, Janie!
        The claim that not everyone has the “luxury” to homeschool is absurd. Everyone has the ability to teach their own child, if it’s important enough. Lots of people work full time and then come home to teach. There are also lots of people below the poverty line who homeschool and a great number of parents who aren’t fluent in English (what does that even have to do with teaching your child?!) who homeschool.

        The Original Commenter was simply looking to stir the pot by getting offended for someone else.

  14. #10’s tax jab is insulting. Public education is a societal contract to make sure EVERY child is educated. Childless persons pay as well. Not everyone has the luxery to homeschool. Single parents, parents in poverty that barely survive on two incomes, etc ALL deserve to have their children educated. Check your privilege.

    1. #10’s tax jab was my favorite! It WOULD be nice to see some of that money I pay out to fund the schools (at roughly 10k per child). Give me that! (10k per child) Yet, I still hear parents complain because the school cant afford to pay the teachers and the kids dont have books etc.. My kids go without books too, because I am paying for the public schools to buy every teacher and student a laptop or an ipad. Then, I get ask every time I go to the grocery store if I want to donate school supplies. Really?!?! And you’re the one that is offended?

      Btw, for many of us, homeschooling your child is not a luxury! It is a sacrifice!

  15. I’m into my 3rd month of Homeschooling my 9 & 7 year olds.
    I can basically relate to everything in this fabulous post.
    It’s posts like this that make me realise that I’m completely normal and that I have the BEST job in the world – A Homeschool Mum.
    Best of luck and love to you all

  16. LO, My kids are eyeballing me sideways, watching their mother giggle like a small child as I read through this list. Its only funny because its completely true ! ( I am just a tiny bit relieved at #6, I really though I was the only one)

  17. Same story EVERY YEAR! I wish it wasn’t so but it is. Pretty funny stuff. As I plan my year this is great to remind me to be REALISTIC.

  18. I am laughing so hard I am crying. I am right in the midst of this, and totally made a vision board over the weekend with the hopes that it would help me to get my life right. Thank you for the (greatly needed) comic relief during this wild season. You are always relatable!

  19. Thank you for your honesty. I have very unhelpful relatives who hate that I try to homeschool (going to great lengths to co-ordinate a raid by child services.) You just made me feel semi-normal, thank you for this funny helpful post. I’m currently pregnant with no 13. I somehow believe I can homeschool and run a business too

  20. Thank you for this. I am just now on year three and realizing that this is the reality! Thank GOD I am not the only one. Blessings!

  21. Ha! Love it! I think I spend more time “trying” to schedule everything out to then not even use half of what I had planned =)

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