Back to school can feel like January, but heavier for me as a home school mom.
Resolutions to try harder to teach more, train better, and treasure this time with my kids. Because, after all, it is my choice to be with them 24/7. And everyone says they will grow and be gone before we can blink.
As a home school mom, preparing for the new school year is rough.
I have to not only prepare for the future and add in all the interests, skills, and resources that are necessary for each child in my home, but I also have to repair what was broken in the last year. The unfinished projects, the failure to manage my time, and the lack of plans simply because I didn’t make it a priority to stop the rush.
This year, I have distilled the failures that I believe had the greatest negative impact on our home and life, and that’s what this whole series has been intended to help me fix.
I know now that I need to study my patterns in order to fix or break them.
There’s no such thing as a magical curricula, planner, or eCourse for doing the life change for me.
So, as I address my need for planning this home school year, I know I need to set up a plan for how to plan. (Wow. That sounds redundant and complicated, but I think it’s going to work. Stay with me.)
I want to be able to Bullet Journal my life and home school plans. I appreciate the fact that I have almost everything important in my life contained in one spot. (Yesterday’s post was all about how I’ve set up my Bullet Journal – you should check it out. There are even videos.)
It’s tempting to think that a nice new home school planner, designed with me in mind, would revolutionize my world of home education – but I think I’ve been down this road before and it ended with less money in the bank and a fancy planner only partially filled out.
But before I give the impression that I don’t make myself finish things or that I give up easily, or worse – that I don’t have hope that I can stick with a system – hear me when I say that I just don’t think these fancy planners play nice in my brain.
They are linear and orderly. When I think and plan, it’s a mess. I’m writing down when to start making dinner right next to the notes I’m writing for the card I need to mail to a friend.
The Bullet Journal lets me do this on-the-same-page, which is freeing and beautiful in a messy, unique sort of way.
So before I start this home school year, I want to set up a plan for how I will plan in the Bullet Journal and when I will do it.
Accountability folks. It’s all about doing what’s right, not just knowing what’s right.
8 things I need to do in order to incorporate my home school plans into my Bullet Journal:
1. Write out each subject with 1 major goal and method to accomplish it
The reason I want to take the time to include this is to have accurate records for state. (See Day 12 for a detailed break down of the requirements for my state.) I do not believe that every subject needs to be taught equally or every day for that matter, but to be intentional up front and make myself write this out will serve as a foundation for the year.
2. Outline major events in each month on your family calendar, including any time sensitive field trips or vacations
Don’t write subject plans farther in advance than one quarter at a time. It’s tempting to me to repeat a mistake from last year. I wrote in the sections of our history and science for every month in the planner I used last year. As soon as the first 3 weeks of school passed, I knew we would never finish the whole science text by May and I felt defeated in my planning. Like I would have to go through the whole schedule and cross out and rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.
Family events are different. Planning around a trip to see grandparents is important to have written in advance.
3. Read to understand the Instructor’s Guide (IG) Intro
Often, the creator of the guide has tips and practical ways to best use the resource. Read to understand. I appreciate the helpfulness of others, but I don’t like making more work for myself. So, I try to think through the heart of what they recommend and then apply it to how I work best. Don’t get caught up in the “rule” of what is recommended or the helpfulness is lost.
Also, IGs usually include recommended resources and supplies. If there are things I can wait to purchase later, start a list in the Bullet Journal and add it to the Index: Supplies needed for X-subject by the end of the 1st quarter.
A lot of times, when I’ve started reading the IG’s it is a day or maybe a week before I want to start teaching the material – only to find out that I should have already bought a bunch of things or read another resource which leaves me feeling behind and discouraged.
Mentally prepare to feel partially unprepared, and continue preparing anyway.
4. Write a key
Write out a code or notation of some kind that makes sense and use it. Store this in the front or back of the Bullet Journal.
Things like recording memories matter just as much as recording the mastery of multiplication facts. Seeing myself and my child as a whole person is better than having everything categorized and separated into compartments. This is why I want to write down the interesting questions Graham asks in the car as just as important as what lesson he’s working on in math that week – chances are there is a connection yet to be seen between the two.
5. Use the key to thread topics.
With schoolwork, lessons, and things in progress and things complete – there needs to be a quick way to see and use old plans. I like using Washi tape on the edges of the page to quickly see plans on the same topic, but also threading makes it possible to take this even further.
Combining threading and the key – FIAR = Five in a Row and EAH = Early American History.
Next to the page number at the bottom of the page, I can write past and future pages on the same topic or using the same key to better weave together a continuous flow of plans, ideas and progress across multiple weeks.
Have you ever felt like you started a great project or conversation with your kids over a book or subject only to forget it because it wasn’t written down? I think threading can help by not only recording these projects but also by building upon them through review and connection.
6. Record to remember, not to impress
I’m not a scrapbooker just like I’m not a baker. I just can’t control my hands that well. I make mistakes, cross things out and spill. The fear of failure has no place in my Bullet Journal because the goal is to just keep writing, not to make something worthy of display in the home school mom hall of fame (which doesn’t exist anywhere expect my mind).
Don’t begin everything all at once. One thing Sarah McKenzie said in the podcast with Tsh Oxenreider that struck me (about the use of notebooking for her kids) was:
“When I plan the night before, I don’t over plan their day because I’m planning from the perspective of what was just done. When I plan in the morning, I tend to overfill their schedule in the hopes that we will do it all.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll preach it to myself again: Do one thing well and then add one more thing. Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.
8. Make a plan for when to plan
For me, it’s more important when I plan than how I plan. I have the ability to do a daily routine, or even a weekly one without ever setting any thoughts or schedules down on paper. This nearly always ends with me frustrated for forgetting chores, appointments, or other fringe items that should have been accomplished – and would have been easy to do in one setting if only I had made a point to remember them.
I think this is the usual hook for wanting to buy something new – the desire to use something new and write things down is huge when I’ve paid money and bought the promise that my life will be better with a product.
The problem is that I can’t buy a new me.
I need a plan for when I will plan no matter if I’m using something fancy or just a Post-It note to contain my intentions.
My big question:
What will this look like for real? On the page, in the journal.
I’m not sure, and I have to be okay with failure up front. Change isn’t the bad guy. It’s rebellion and choosing to do nothing that’s the bad guy. If this doesn’t work – I’m just going to change it or scrap it. There’s no shame in learning by trying when it comes to planning.
I know a planner is good for me when it helps me remember what I’ve written and doesn’t distract me or pull me to think in a different way. This is why I love the simplicity of the Bullet Journal. There is space to write what I need to remember to save it for future use, but the priority is staying in the present – just write in today. I don’t feel pulled to write ahead, dream ahead, or plan ahead. I feel capable of stewarding today.
Further reading on home school planning:
- I’ve been so blessed by my recent discovery of Sarah McKenzie and her website Amongst Lovely Things :: Planning to teach from rest is a wonderful series of encouragement and tips. It points to her lovely book Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace which is now offered in paperback (my favorite). I’m willing to host a book discussion or accountability group for anyone wanting to read this with me! Leave a comment or contact me for more info.
- Homeschooling planning from a fresh perspective, one subject a month, block schedules, why February is blank, and Waldorf style :: Homeschool Planning and the Room of Requirement from Simple Homeschool
- Here is a great resource for free homeschool helps :: from the Money Saving Mom
- The podcast I referenced: Put on your brave pants Episode #8 of The Simple Show
- Planning in layers :: I wrote about this in 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Curriculum
This is Day 15 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.
My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.
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