Get Started Homeschooling: Plan Your Homeschool Year

Okay, so you have decided to homeschool. Now what?

Good news! Homeschooling is very flexible. As you get started with a yearly plan, you get to decide when you hold your school days, how many days a week you plan to homeschool, and what types of “extras” you want to include in your school plans.

The Flexibility of Homeschool Planning

The Common Core State Standards indicate certain milestones in language arts and mathematics that schools work toward for all the children. The Core Knowledge Series by E.D. Hirsch (books like What My First Grader Needs to Know) likewise work out a set of standard learning concepts that children “should” know.

However, I personally would join with many homeschoolers in arguing that there is no “getting behind” for your child. Your child will work at his or her own pace, and if it takes an extra week to understand, the child is not “behind.” Each child has his or her own strengths, and I think parents can help them slower than someone who learns quickly. The child should set the time frame, and while some children figure out how to read at age 5, others are 7 before they read well.

I too like to use the standards for examples of where my children stand in terms of what to learn each year. But, I always try to keep in mind that a blessing of homeschooling is that we can stay on a topic until it is understood, rather than moving on too quickly. Thus, there is real worry about going too slowly for a homeschooled child.

Plan Breaks in the Homeschool Year

Some people choose to follow the public school calendar in planing their homeschool year. For many people, however, one bonus to homeschooling is that the family can pick and choose which days are “school day” and which days are not. Usually, school districts aim for 180 days a year. Regardless of what your state requirements are, you may want to aim for that same number of days.

I highly suggest that no matter when you start schooling, you build in a “break” week after every six weeks of schooling. In our family, we begin in mid-August, school until the first week of October (which also happens to be a birthday week for two of our kids), then do six more weeks before a Thanksgiving break. Then we have a 3-week term before the Christmas holidays. The winter term likewise has a week break in February and in late-March.

Knowing that a break is coming will help you cope when you really feel exhausted from homeschooling. Planning for a school break gives your children something to work for. Can they finish such-and-such before the break begins?

Finally, scheduling regular breaks into your yearly plan helps you “catch up” if you have missed some days due to unexpected illness or some other distraction. (That said, see my personal note about “catching up.”)

Homeschool for Four Days a Week

Another way that many homeschoolers plan for a year is by scheduling the “seatwork” and specific tasks for just four days a week. This allows parents and children to have a built-in buffer day.

In fact, many of the scripted homeschool curricula are even sold with a four-day a week option. I’ll be discussing all-in-one homeschool plans in the next day or two. Just know, for now, that some of these homeschool plans show the teacher just what to say each day of homeschool, and it is planned for just 4 days a week. This allows parents to “catch up” on the extra day, or plan for a gameschooling day, or watch documentaries.

Our family usually uses the “extra” day of the week for a co-op with friends. At the co-op, other parents teach my children, while I help teach other children. It is a great social time, as well as a nice chance to connect with other homeschool families.

Due to the expanding COVID-19 situation in the USA right now, I’m not sure what will happen with our co-op day. I suspect that if we cannot hold in-person classes, we will find some way to connect in the neighborhood each week.

Homeschool Field Trip Options

Getting out in the community can be a simple as scheduling our errands and doctor’s appointments for our extra day each week.

We sometimes coordinate more complicated field trips with many friends. Last year, we went to a dairy, we went apple picking, we met friends at a nature center, and we did a lot more. I’ve compiled a list of more than 100 fun activities to consider for your homeschool field trips.

The greatest part of field trips on the “extra” day is that it still counts as school. If your state requires a certain number of days, make sure you write down the field trip day too!

Scheduling the Homeschool Year

Once you have decided on what type of schedule you want, you can then layout the days on a calendar to confirm you can meet the needs for your state. What subjects are covered in each term is highly dependent on the curricula, the grade, and the type of homeschooling you will be doing.

Plan your homeschool year before it begins. Here are some ideas to consider as you get started homeschooling.
Get started homeschooling….here are some great tips for planning out your homeschool year.

In the next post, I’ll talk a little bit about how you can schedule your specific homeschool days. Because this depends so much on curricula, I will talk about daily schedules very broadly to help you see the big picture. In the coming days, I’ll talk about different curricula options.

More in This Series

There is a lot more you may want to know about geting started homeschooling! Below are specific “how to” concepts I intend to address.

This post about how to get started homeschooling by planning your year. See all the posts in the series!
Follow the entire how to get started homeschooling series.

Have another “how to homeschool” question? Contact me and I’ll write about it too. Send me an email if you have specific questions, or ask me directly on my Facebook page.

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