Thursday, April 7, 2011

Planning our School Year, pt. 1 (Year)

Can you smell it in the air?  No, I'm not talking about the pollen (we won't speak of pollen, still fighting a lingering sinus infection from spring allergies).  I'm talking about the scent of frenzied homeschoolers everywhere getting a jump planning for next year.  Personally, I like to do some big picture planning in the spring.  I take time to evaluate your current year, define some goals for next year, and come up with a basic outline for the year to come.  That way I can order materials now, leaving plenty of time to look them over and do my detailed planning over the summer.  

If you're looking for a good overview on how to plan a homeschool year, check out The Magic Onions' post on Planning for the Year.  Even if you don't use any Waldorf elements, this still describes a good approach to planning.  Even before we started incorporating more Waldorf ideas, I liked to plan in monthly blocks.  Last year I took Donna Young's Ruled calendar and filled in the major themes, holidays, seasons, or subjects I wanted to address each month.  This year, I took an idea from Melissa Nielson (I think she explained in a video that she got the idea from Barbara Dewey) and divided a sheet of paper into twelve squares.  Each square gets a month, and I start by listing major holidays, birthdays (just immediate family), and seasons.  No forgetting those anymore.  Then I fill in any major themes, subjects, or topics to be studied each month.  That way, when I go to schedule individual subjects, I'll have a clear picture of which months are busier than others, so I don't schedule an elaborate unit or try to teach a complex new skill in a super busy month.  

(You can find a printable yearly planning form in this post.)

This is the easy part.  I'm a big picture person.  A forest kind of gal.  This is fun for me.  Even if you're not big on planning, just doing this will make a big difference in giving your year some structure.  In fact, I planned this year (our first year) with just a yearly outline like this one.  I didn't go into any more detail until I got down to planning one month or one week at a time during the year.  And we did just fine.  It gives you structure AND flexibility.  Gotta love that forest.  

Ok, so the second part of my yearly planning is a little new for me.  After reading about the File Crate System explained on Rockin' Granola, I thought this would work really well for me.  I was having trouble making my big binder work the way I wanted it to.  And I had a file drawer with folders for different subjects, but I still ended up not knowing what to do with certain papers.  And then there were the endless projects and worksheets I'd find filed months AFTER the time I wanted to do them. away So, we're giving the file crate a shot.

Basically, the idea is to start with twelve hanging folders, one for each month.  Then you can add whatever folders you want for whatever else you use regularly.  I added a couple for preschool worksheets and file folder games for the little one, and I moved some out our subject folders up there so I can have easy access to them.  The folders or binders we use regularly just stand upright in the front.

The best part of this system?  When I find a cute poem that would be great for the fall, I can file it immediately in the October folder.  Those Mardi Gras color sheets we didn't get to this year?  I put them right back in the March folder . . . no wait, they went in February, since Mardi Gras will be earlier next year.  That email I printed with the ideas for a spring seasonal table?  In the March folder.  Now, when I do my monthly planning, those papers and ideas will all be there ready to go.  I won't have to look through math and language arts AND French folders to find potential work for each month.  So perfect.

Next week, I'll share my monthly planning sheet and show you what it looks like in these early stages.


  1. Wow--these are all great ideas! I'm very impressed that you're already getting a jump-start for the next year!

    I've been using an Xcel spreadsheet for planning, then putting stuff in a big binder. It's OK, but not the best system for a visual person like me. I like the idea of having things in a file crate, so they are more accessible. (That's an awesome HOT PINK file crate, by the way!)

  2. Isn't the pink great? The office is filled with those. Gotta have color. :)

    I started with everything in a binder, but it became a pain to put things in and take them out, so everything just stayed in a jumble in a filing tray. I would love to see how you do your spreadsheet. Although, I'd probably still do it by hand. I have a tendency to make planners on the computer, but I fill them out by hand anyway. I guess it's a visual/tactile thing.

  3. Thank you Thank you Thank you! I found you through another blog post on the Homeschool Classroom. I am so glad! We are pretty sure we will start homeschooling this year and I am trying to find out where to start. LOL Thanks so much this is a great idea and I will be doing mine tonight! LOL Can't wait to follow you guys journey and share ours as well!

  4. Thanks for the comment! I hope you had a good time envisioning your first year. The yearly sheet is my favorite part of planning. :) Good luck with your first year. We've had a great time finding our way, and I wish you all the best as you begin your journey!

  5. You have some good tips for organization. Thank you!

  6. I'm so excited that I found this blog. I am a fellow quasi-unschooling, montessori-ish, secular homeschooler - and from Mobile, AL..not too far from you I'm assuming by all the Mardi Gras and Langiappe talk - and I feel like I have found my homeschooling spirit guide or something. This is my first year. We just got through the first month, actually, and I am inspired by your tips! Keep up the great work!

  7. Aw, thanks, Jessica! Thanks for commenting, and best wishes for your first year! It's been an amazing journey for us.


Thanks for visiting my site! I love hearing from readers, and I do my best to answer all questions here in the comments section. Thanks for reading and commenting!