Ben Franklin said, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”
Over the years, I have tried several different planning methods. Prior to becoming a home school mom I worked in the public schools. When I decided to home school my son I went with what I knew. I bought a fresh clean lesson planning book and I planned out my lessons. I thought that I would make things go smoothly and easily by planning far in advance; so, I planned basically our entire first semester using traditional written out lesson plans. The first week went great, but by the second week we had problems. I had neglected to account for any field trips, appointments, etc. I found that there were many beneficial activities that were not in the plans. We went anyway but then I felt behind and was struggling to keep up. I also found a few weeks into our school year that some of the curriculum I had chosen just wasn’t right. This meant I had to switch all of that up on our plans. This all meant that I had spent a lot of time on detailed lesson plans that weren’t really working for us.
The next thing I tried was not really planning; we would just do whatever was next. This may work really well for some folks. However, by not being prepared I didn’t have the materials I needed to do what was next (the supplies for the art project or science experiment or the books or copies to go with history). This meant we really were not as productive as we should have been and we wasted a lot of time waiting for supplies or hunting down the right books. We also skipped experiments that would have been beneficial.
We tried several variations of planning before finally finding what has been working for us for the last several years. Each summer I make a plan for each subject by breaking it up into weekly chunks. This allows me to see the topics and note any unusual supplies I might need. Then I gather and organize the books and resources we already have to go along with those topics. Some subjects like science and history I go into more depth because those subjects tend to need more. Our spelling curriculum is very ‘open and go’, so I just write down the lesson numbers.
Once the annual plan is complete, I use that information to make the first 3 or 4 weeks lesson plans for the year using my lesson plan template. After those weeks I try to stay about a week or two ahead of myself, though sometimes I’m planning on Sunday night. However, because I’ve done the work of splitting it up and gathering resources the planning doesn’t take very long at all. It is also still very easy to adjust. This means that pacing in one subject doesn’t hinder the plans of any other subjects.
Another big change we made was to only schedule four days of school each week. This gave us room in the schedule for field trips, doctor’s appointments, diving deeper into topics, review, and those days where you need to take a ‘home-ec’ day and get everything put back in order.
The right way to plan is the way that works for you not the one that works for someone else. If you have something that is working for you, I encourage you to continue doing it. However, if you are looking for something different you may want to give this method of an overall annual plan with more detailed weekly plans that are done along the way a try. I do think it is important to note that we have been using most of our curriculum for awhile and are comfortable that it is working for our family. If you are not sure about your curriculum you may want to only plan out the first quarter or semester and then plan a day or two to reevaluate and plan for the next quarter.
I am offering my lesson plan template as a free download below. Please feel free to use it and adapt it as you see fit, changing subjects, frequency, etc. If you use it you will see a spot of preschool activities. I have a three year old and while I don’t use a formal curriculum I do like to plan a couple activities to do with him each week that are fun and work on developmental skills.
If you have a planning style or plan that works for you, let me know in the comments.