The attraction of homeschooling is customization. You are free to plan your day and your year however you want it to be. But that could also be overwhelming. No one else can make this plan for you. The ideas and tips below will help you craft a custom homeschool plan for your family.
What is a homeschool plan?
A homeschool plan is an overview of your month, semester, or year and the learning you plan to accomplish. The plan can be very specific, including which pages of a textbook you will study on which calendar days, or it can be more general. A homeschool plan may include specific strategies to help your child learn or lesson plans and activities to go along with each unit. Field trips might also appear in your plan. Even if you tend to be more spontaneous in your schooling, at least having a plan of what comes next will help keep you on track. Maybe your plan is to follow a specific textbook or curriculum you have purchased. Or your plan might be much more customized. The more customization you want to have, the more having a detailed plan will help you stay on track.
What do you need to plan your homeschool year?
- A homeschool planner. Depending on your needs, your homeschool planner might be a physical calendar or an online tool. There are many options available, including the BJU Press Homeschool Hub.
- A homeschool curriculum. Your curriculum might be an out-of-the-box solution or you might be planning to bring together resources from multiple places for more of a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Either way, your curriculum is the guiding light for your homeschool plan. Even with an all-in-one solution, you create your own path for the year. You choose how and when and how deep to go in each subject.
- A homeschool community. If you will be part of a homeschool co-op, their schedule will be an important part of your plan. Even if you aren’t part of such a group, you might at least find a community of other parents who are homeschooling that you can discuss ideas with.
- Your homeschool goals. What is the desired result for each of your children? Make sure your plan is working toward those goals.
What should you consider in your homeschool plan?
Your Students’ Learning Styles
Children generally have some combination of the seven learning styles that is unique to them. Determine whether your curriculum takes a multisensory approach to learning. If not, you need to consider how you might better accommodate your children’s learning style preferences in your homeschool plan. Plan to add visuals, reading aloud, and hands-on learning to your lessons. You might also need to find ways to incorporate group learning if you have social learners in your family.
A multisensory learning approach will benefit all students regardless of specific learning preferences. While students may learn best in a particular style, exposing them to many styles has long-term benefits. The BJU Press curriculum uses a multisensory learning approach, taking the guesswork out of it for you.
Your Teaching Style
Your teaching style is another consideration in developing your homeschool plan. Are you going for a child-led approach or a more traditional schooling atmosphere? The range of options in between is broad. You might even intend to use some online video instruction by another teacher in your curriculum. The mix of homeschooling styles you will use will impact the level of detail in your planning up front.
Group Learning or Combined Teaching
If your children are close in age, some subjects might lend themselves to studying as a group. Science and social studies as well as many electives can be pursued this way. As you start to plan your year, consider which subjects you might want to combine and which ones you will tackle individually with each child.
How to create a custom plan for your family
1. Know what your state requires.
You can find information about requirements of each state from the Home School Legal Defense Association. They even provide a color-coded map showing which states have low, moderate, and high regulation of homeschooling. Once you select your state, pay particular attention to state mandated subjects and assessment requirements when planning for your homeschool year. If your state mandates certain subjects, you will need to be sure you are giving those subjects adequate time. If assessments are required, you will want to be familiar with what is on the assessments, so you can make sure your children are prepared. Even if assessments are not required, you might consider using them as a guide to inform your goals for the following year.
2. Decide on a daily routine.
Most homeschools will operate on a basic daily routine. Feel free to mix up the daily routine if your children are struggling with boredom. You might even give them a few options of which subject to do next. But in general, the foreknowledge of what is coming next will be comforting to most children. Plan difficult or important subjects at the time of day when your children are at their peak of attention.
3. Prepare your lesson plans.
Outline the concepts and big ideas your student needs to learn this year. Make detailed lesson plans for how each unit and each day’s study will contribute to these big ideas. Put your plans into a physical or online planner, so you can easily track your progress throughout the year. Some homeschoolers prefer not to put a specific date on lesson plans, but rather put them in order and always take the next one after finishing the previous one. How you organize your lessons and work through them is part of what makes your plan yours.
4. Incorporate field trips.
If you aren’t familiar with popular museums and other kid-friendly destinations near you, now is the time to investigate them. Consider where you might go for a day or overnight trip somewhere in your state or a neighboring one. Here are some ideas for field trips close to home:
- Police station or fire station. Many police or fire stations are willing to talk to kids about safety.
- Post office. Call your local post office branch and find out if someone can show you how our mail gets sorted and delivered to the right place.
- Local restaurant or bakery if you can get permission. Call around to find a restaurant or bakery that might be willing to do some demonstrations or show you around the kitchen.
- Retail locations with crafting and building opportunities. There are several retail stores that have planned events for making crafts or building projects. Some of these are Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Lakeshore Learning, Lowe’s, and Home Depot.
- Historic landmarks. Depending on where you live, you might have some historical landmarks nearby. I happen to live near part of the underground railroad, and there are numerous sites in my city to visit.
- Nature hike and visit with a park ranger. You can go on a nature hike pretty much anywhere. If you have a place with park rangers, then take your nature hike to the next level by scheduling a visit.
- Library events and programs. Many libraries have story times for children as well as other activities throughout the week. Check the website for scheduled events.
- Government buildings. If you live near a state capitol building, there are likely tours happening that you can join. If not, your local town hall might be an option.
- Zoo or pet store. If you have a local zoo, this will make a great field trip. If you don’t, consider visiting a local pet store and seeing how many different types of animals you can learn about there.
5. Set up your environment.
The homeschool environment may not seem like it belongs in your custom homeschool plan, but it is a component of what makes your plan unique. Your daily plans will run more smoothly if you have an organized space where your children work on school. A place for everything, and everything in its place, so they say. Identify alternate learning environments in your plan as well. There will be days when you all just need a change of scenery. Variety in your learning environment can stimulate creative thinking. Traditional classroom teachers provide variety in the learning environment by redecorating their classrooms with each new unit. As a homeschool, you have more options to provide variety. Make your environment a positive environment so it will be conducive to learning.
How to Plan Fun into Your Homeschool Day
Certainly, on field trip days, you will have loads of fun while learning. Children naturally learn better when they are having fun, so be sure to include activities in each day’s routine. Plan for physical education class at least once a week. Include other special classes like art, music, recess, and even yearbook. Be sure to commit to doing experiments in science class. Your children will learn much more from doing an experiment than they would by reading about it. Incorporate games into your lesson plans. Include videos, documentaries, and read aloud times in your day. Use resources like Code Academy to help your children learn the basics of coding. Children who are having fun are less likely to begrudge the learning process.
How The Homeschool Hub Makes Planning Easy
The Homeschool Hub makes planning easy. It comes with a complete schedule of assignments for all current BJU Press textbooks. You can add or remove plans from the calendar and easily move them around as needed. You can also use the Homeschool Hub with non-BJU courses for free. And, you will be able to see all your plans for each day. What if you take an unplanned day off? The catch-up feature will adjust your schedule automatically. There are plenty of options for scheduling when you’re using the BJU Press Homeschool Hub.
• • • • •Valerie is a wife and a mother to a very busy preschooler. In her free time she enjoys reading all kinds of books. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Bob Jones University, minoring in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Ohio State University. Valerie has 15 years of experience working in research laboratories and has coauthored 8 original research articles. She has also taught several classes and laboratories at the high school and college levels. She currently works as a Data Analyst and a freelance writer.