As you know if you follow HSL on Facebook, I’ve written a homeschool planner! As you also know if you follow HSL at all, I have strong feelings about planners, so getting to design this one was a lot of fun. My goal was to come up with something that would be really flexible, so it could adapt to changing goals, changing grades, and changing homeschool philosophies. Now that my oldest is about to be a junior in high school, I’ve been through pretty much every stage of homeschooling, so I know that what I want to manage my 4th grader’s schedule is different from what I need to keep up with my 10th grader’s schedule — and that’s totally different from what I wanted with a kindergartener or a 7th grader. And that’s just grade differences — my totally different kids also have totally different ways of processing information and working, so their to-do lists and we-did-that lists usually look completely different. I wanted a planner that could accommodate all those differences, plus my never-ending book lists and the occasional extended rabbit trail or big project. I think this planner gets pretty close.
You will want to see all the weekly and monthly pages, but I think it’s important to point out that this planner encourages you to start not with a to-do list but with the big picture of what you want your homeschool to accomplish. You can skip this section if you hate these kinds of exercises, but I always find them helpful — and because it’s so easy to forget in the middle of February sometimes that you, too, are a person with dreams and goals, intelligence and passion, there’s space for you to set some goals for yourself, too. I find this kind of thing helpful because homeschooling is hard work, and on bad days or when I’m not sure what to do next, going back to these big-picture goals can point me in the right direction and remind me why all this time and effort I am putting in matters.
But on to the main planner! It’s generously sized (8.5 x 11 inches) because I think most planners are a little on the small side. It’s perfect-bound in paperback, so it’s not too bulky and heavy, and there’s no spiral to get caught on your bag every time you pull it out. (Maybe that’s just me?) Best of all (for me anyway), it’s full of containers that you can use however you want.
Bigger Picture: The Year and Month at a Glance
After you’ve set goals, there’s room to pencil in the annual events that you don’t want to forget, like Grandma’s birthday or the dates of the annual Science Fair that you always manage forget about until it’s almost the last day. You can also jot down the deadline for filing your homeschool paperwork (if that applies to you) or events like NaNoWriMo or Pi Day that you want to celebrate in your homeschool. I find this handy when someone says something like, “What if we do the co-op talent show in April?”
The monthly calendars break it down a little more—as you can see, they’re undated, so you can fill them in as you go. (You don’t have to waste a month of pages if your homeschool shuts down for winter break in December or if you get too busy to even have time for a schedule one month.) There’s a space to mark attendance for up to six students — even if you don’t track attendance as a homeschool requirement, I like being able to go back and see how much time we’re spending on school. I use tick marks to indicate the number of days we spend 4.5 hours engaged in active learning, but you could track individual hours or use the bigger monthly boxes to chart monthly attendance and total the hours for each month in the attendance box.
The Weekly Schedule
The best part, though, I think is the weekly schedule. It’s got six rows, so you really do have room to keep up with the schedules for six different kids. (You can see the example page does that.) If you are one of those people who plans out every week in advance, you will love having space to actually do that for every single kid. But what if you only have two kids, or three kids? Do you just have a ton of wasted space? Nope — at least, you don’t have to. As you can see from the schedule I wrote out for my two kids, you can use the sections to organize your kids, or — as I’ve done here — your subjects. (Since I color-code my kids’ homeschool stuff, it’s easy for me to see what’s going on this way.) You could also use multiple squares for students who have more stuff going on or use squares to manage To-Dos, Reading Lists, Writing, and other specific tasks. And while the layout works great if you are an advance planner, it works equally well for people like me who engage in what I call as-we-go homeschooling. Instead of trying to map out what we’ll do in advance, I focus on recording what we’ve actually done each day.
Since we all have those things that don’t fit neatly into traditional planners, I wanted to have a space to accommodate everything from tracking project-based learning progress, to individual reading lists, to nature journal highlights, to science supply shopping lists, and all the other things that pop up, sometimes every week, sometimes just every once in a while. The Extras page is designed to accommodate your homeschool as it changes and grows — you can use one list per student for up to six students, but I like treating each section as a mini-container that I can fill with whatever information is most important for our homeschool on a given week.
There’s also a grades page, which may not get much use for you if you’re homeschooling younger kids. (Though you can see it’s a handy way to keep a running progress report for your younger students — that’s how I have used it in this example.) If you have older students, though, especially if you’re working on a high school transcript, having a place to track grades can be useful. Grading has definitely been one of the challenges of homeschooling high school for me, and I really like having the grades next to the work we did that week, so it’s easy to reference if I need to.
Finally, there’s a section at the back for end-of-the-year evaluations, where you can consider how well you’ve succeeded at accomplishing your goals — or, as is often the case, how they morphed and changed over the year. I love this section because it gives you planner closure — you get to pause, evaluate, and celebrate before you move on to the next planning session.
Oh, and it passes the Three-Step Real Life Planner Test:
- My son has already highjacked one of my author copies to keep track of his Little Pet Shop school lesson plans. (Yes, my son will write lesson plans for his toys. No, he will not write in a journal.)
- You can lose/forget about/fail to use this planner for three months and come back to it without having to feel guilty about all the bank pages in the middle. It’s undated, so if you date as you go, you can skip months for spontaneous vacations without notice.
- It passes the flip test, especially if you use different colored pens for each kid. You can find information you need quickly and without having to sort through computer files whose names totally made sense when you created them but that now do not seem to be named anything relating to what they actually contain if your computer search has any idea what it is doing.
So that’s the scoop on my planner. If you’re interested, it’s available on Amazon — and while you definitely don’t need a planner to homeschool happily, if you think it’s a good fit for your planning style, please check it out. The more of us who shop for secular homeschool products, the more companies will feel that secular homeschool products are worth publishing, and I know we’d all love to see more secular homeschool resources out there.