5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

It’s that time of year again! The summer season is upon us and, for many homeschoolers, that means summer planning time! I’ll be taking the summer to plan our upcoming homeschool year (our seventh!). So I thought I’d share some of the tips for planning your homeschool year that have worked for us.

And before you give me any credit for these, just remember: A lot of these were from trial and error. So I tried something, it didn’t work, and now I know what to do instead. Learn from my mistakes! :)

5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

5 Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Year

1. Look back at last year.

Have you completed your year-end homeschool assessment? Do that before you get started on next year. Take a look at what worked, what failed, and what you didn’t have a chance to complete. Use these ideas as a starting point for next year’s lessons.

2. Outline what you want your kids to learn.

Now it’s time to make a list of all the things you feel your kids should learn next year. Start with your state’s required objectives (if you have any) and then add on from there. You might base this on their grade level, age range, or degree of responsibility.

3. Ask your kids what they want to learn.

Next, have a family meeting and have your kids write down all the things they want to learn for themselves. Their answers might surprise you! And while you probably won’t be able to get to everything they ask for, you can try to weave in at least one of their desired topics a week.

4. Shop for curriculum.

Once you have your list of things to learn, it’s time for the fun part: curriculum shopping! Request a free catalog from every homeschooling curriculum provider you can think of. Then sit down with a highlighter and select everything that matches your educational goals. Set a firm budget, then go back and make your final selections.

5. Plan for the first six weeks only.

When you receive your curriculum or when you finish assembling your resources, get out your lesson planner and plan the first six weeks of class ONLY. It can be tempting to plan the entire year, but that has never worked for our family. Generally, we end up tweaking the curriculum and our schedule within the first one or two months, so I plan the first six weeks and then go from there.

Do you have any tips for planning a homeschool year? Share them in the comments!

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Selena (10 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.

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Why Child Led Learning is About Chasing Rabbits (and 8 Ways to Make it Happen)

This post originally appeared on VibrantHomeschooling.com. Click here to view the original post.

Have you ever been on a “rabbit trail” with your child?

My guess is that you have. Kids are made to be naturally curious, and “rabbit trails” are what many people call “child led learning.”

How can child led learning happen... naturally? Check out these 8 ways to encourage child led learning (or what I like to call "rabbit trails"). Vibrant Homeschooling


At its core, child led learning is simply following a child’s learning curiosity.

I like to think of it as all the unplanned (yet exciting) adventures that Alice has following the White Rabbit throughout Wonderland. Child led learning brings freshness and joy to education. It really is the fastest ticket to creating life-long learners (and leaders), which are two of my top goals as a homeschooler teacher.

So why are we moms continually tempted to squelch this type of learning? Come on… I can’t be the only one out here.

Ah yes, because we’re the responsible ones. The ones who must keep the family engine humming along at breakneck speed so that everyone can get to swim class by 4:00 and dinner at 6:30. We know that if we do allow the kids to pull out that big box of electronic gear to tinker with, not only is there going to be a big mess to clean up, but some other “ultra-important” school worksheet isn’t going to get done.


About 2 years ago, I came to the realization that I’d sucked the fun out of our school. A big part of that was because, in order to maintain some sort of “control” over our school time, I’d accounted for every minute of our school day and deemed each and every assigned task as critical to complete.

So it was no wonder that I became unglued when the kids wanted to dig in deeper on a subject or to explore some random topic in the middle of the day. Everything on our “list” needed. To. Get. Done. (Been there?).

So I began experimenting. What if we chose to learn about dolphins for the day (based on my daughter’s whim)? Or spent the day collecting autumn leaves (because the kids were right—they were so beautiful outside) and made some sort of project with them? Would our little homeschooling world stop turning if we had to, in turn, not get everything done on our “list” that day? I mean, really?

Little by little, I began stepping outside my homeschooling box. Instead of viewing “rabbit trails” as burdens to push through, I began welcoming these unexpected learning adventures. Now I’m choosing to see them as God’s way of lightening and brightening our days.

Like any good rabbit trail, you never know when they will pop up, or exactly where they will take you. Here’s an example of one from earlier this morning.

One Example of Child Led Learning

This morning I found my eight-year-old coloring a picture of a peacock from a coloring book. “Mom, can we look up peacocks on the internet? I want to see the exact colors of their feathers,” he said as I was preparing breakfast.

“Sure, OK,” I said. He pulled up some pictures on his iPod and began ooohing and ahhhing as he shared them with me.

A few wheels started churning in my head. What if we… I began thinking.

Wait! Caution, interrupted my Type-A schedule mom-side. Rabbit trails ahead!

I consciously decided to ignore Ms. Type-A and officially showed my son the rabbit trail I’d found. “Well, what would you say if we went to see some real peacocks this morning… in person?”

His eyes brightened. “What do you mean? Like at the zoo?”

“No, I mean actually walk around with them. Take our own pictures of them.” I began telling him about an outdoor area literally 5 minutes from our house where dozens of peacocks congregated. (Then I honestly felt bad that I’d never taken him there before! I mean, it was super close!)

Of course he said yes. Then, as the news traveled through the house that we were going to “walk with peacocks,” the excitement for our rabbit trail grew.

Two hours later, the kids and I left the “peacock park” overheated from the late August weather (and from chasing our new exotic bird friends, of course) but beaming from ear to ear. We each held huge feather plumes, and had several amazing tales about our individual interactions with the peacocks:

“I got a great photo of one spreading his plumes open!”

“I saw a mommy one with three babies!”

Plus we got to talk to some of their caretakers and even I’d learned a few things (“Did you know they love to hunt for snakes?” I told my husband later). Back at home, we repurposed an old green bottle into a stylish vase so they could proudly display their four-foot-long iridescent feathers.

Did it take long? Maybe an hour out of our day, tops. But it did take me being willing to (possibly) let go of other scheduled homeschool tasks. But look at all we got out of it: a hands-on science lesson, some great photos (not to mention really pretty room decorations that they can’t stop talking about), and some great memories together.

I didn’t know that simply saying yes to this rabbit trail would net all of this. I just chose to be open to it and watched the learning experience unfold.

Making Child Led Learning Practical and Possible

I’ll admit that our family can’t chase rabbits everyday, but when we do, I’m always amazed at the blessings we incur.

So, fellow homeschoolers, I’m officially giving you permission to ditch the schedule (even if only for an hour or so) and to chase some rabbits with your kids. Here are some tips for helping you discover, embrace and enjoy child led learning with your kids!

1) Follow their current whims.

Maybe it’s something they’re into for the moment (like my son’s very random interest today in peacocks) or something they’ve loved for a long time. Be sensitive to their cues.

2) Be on the lookout for child led learning adventures.

Be on the lookout for rabbit trail “entrances”—experiences or activities that could turn a kid’s fascination into a great learning experience. I am a Christian, and I am always blown away at the number of times that I hear God whisper in my ear about some cool resource or project to explore that I know my kids would love (like today’s foray to the “peacock park”). Pinterest is a great place to collect all those potential rabbit trails (you can follow my ideas here). I love when rabbit trails come out of left field (and when we have the time and patience to go on the hunt).

3) Be willing to let go of the reigns a little.

Child led learning opportunities are good practice for me in letting my kids lead in their education. Where will we go? Where will we end up? What exactly will we do? Usually I have an idea of how things will play out, but they almost always turn out differently then how I’d imagined and that’s because I allow my kids to follow their own wanderings and discoveries.

4) Give yourselves a timeframe for the child led learning.

Sure, allow them to do X, Y and Z but tell them that we’re only going to do it during this timeframe. You don’t have to completely abandon your lesson plans for the day (unless you want to). However, be willing to sacrifice something else (or to accomplish it at another time if need be) so that you can enjoy the beauty of the learning “chase.”

5) Start out small.

You certainly don’t have to chase rabbits every day. Maybe you only choose to follow the winding paths of exploratory learning once a month. As the months pass, you might choose to slowly incorporate more times, or once-a-month might be enough for your family.

6) Give yourself permission to not follow every rabbit trail.

Honestly, there are days when I don’t have the extra gumption (or patience) needed to let child-led learning take over. Relative structure and rhythm are still vital elements in our school because I see how they too help my kids thrive. So I try to strike a balance between the structure and unstructured, and give myself permission to say no if it just won’t work out that day.

7) Make your own “rabbit trail” on days when the regular plan just ain’t workin’.

We’ve all had those difficult days when grouchy attitudes, the “but I don’t understands!” and “I don’t want tos” become front and center. When frustrations are mounting, it may be time to ditch the lesson plans and let the ease of exploratory learning become a balm for the tension. Tomorrow is a new day. You can always pick up the regularly scheduled lesson and try again.

8) Be willing to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Remember that these child led learning moments are one of the privileges of homeschooling! Our kids can’t have these moments if they’re sitting in a classroom of 35 kids all completing the same lesson plan. Embrace and enjoy this wonderful benefit of homeschooling.

Your Turn:

Been on any good rabbit trails lately? We’ve love to hear about it! Share your stories in the comments below. We’ll see you out on the (rabbit) trail!


About the author:

Alicia Kazsuk writes about living the beautifully imperfect homeschooling journey at VibrantHomeschooling.com. She has been married to her best friend for 14 years and together they spend their days lovingly guiding their four passionate and creative kids.

Alicia is also the author of Plan to Be Flexible and the creator/producer of Vibrant Homeschooling’s online video courses “bloom: A Journey to Joy (and Sanity) for Homeschool Moms” and “rhythm: Guiding Your Family to Their Ideal Learning Flow.”

She believes each day offers new opportunities to grow in grace and to trust God in unexpected ways; and that “acceptance with joy” is one of the hidden secrets to a full, contented Christian life.

You can find her at Vibrant Homeschooling (http://vibranthomeschooling.com), as well as on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/VibrantHomeschooling), Twitter (https://twitter.com/VibrantHmschool) and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/VibrantHmschool/).
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I Love Your Style!

Remember that time when you were a teenager and wished your brown eyes were blue, or your straight hair was curly? Or the other way around? Or those times when you wished you could wear a certain hairstyle or outfit and have it look half as good on you as it looks on your friend?

Embracing your Unique Homeschool Style @hsbapost

I’ve seen – and experienced! – that the same sort of thing sometimes happens with homeschoolers. I felt pretty good about our unit study on American History until I heard about another family’s literature-based study and then I wondered if I’d included enough books in ours. I felt pretty good about the Biology textbooks we chose to use until I saw how cool someone else’s hands-on study was, and then I worried that maybe we hadn’t done enough.

It’s tempting to be a bit jealous when other families are learning Latin together and enjoying it, but we couldn’t fit it into our schedule. Or wish that we could go on awesome Field Trips like that homeschool blogger I admire does, but the nearest decent museum is over an hour away from us so it’s not that easy. Or regret that I hadn’t started off my children with nature journaling when they were little, because my friend’s first grader is so cute with his little journal and sketches.

There’s another side to that comparison trap too – we’re sometimes tempted to look down our noses just a wee bit at that other homeschool family that does things differently – bless their hearts – than we do, and we somehow feel that our style is better.

Here’s the thing: My style IS better than yours…. for my family. Your style IS better than mine… for your family.

I’m not even sure it’s possible to stop comparing ourselves to others, but I do think we need to be careful of our attitude when we compare. I have learned (for the most part) to be comfortable with our homeschool style, and that the resources we use and the way we use them suits us best. So I can listen with great interest as another homeschool mom tells about how their Classical style homeschool works and think how great it is, and learn from it, without thinking that we are either better or worse because we do things differently.

Embracing your unique homeschool style with confidence @hsbapost

I bet you wear your hair differently than I do. Maybe it’s important to you to spend more time styling it, or maybe you prefer to spend almost no time on it at all. You might prefer longer or shorter, curled or straightened; layered or not; but whatever you do, it’s probably what you’ve decided looks good on you and you like it that way. I’ve also been to enough homeschool conventions to know that homeschool moms dress differently. Some wear jeans and t-shirts; some wear skirts or dresses only; some are very casually dressed; and some are in elegantly tailored outfits. There’s that old stereotype about homeschool moms wearing denim jumpers, but I think we all know that we come in more clothing styles than just that.

Guess what? We also come in more styles than just Delight-Directed or Charlotte Mason! And we should be confident that our style suits us and wear it well, even as we acknowledge that other homeschoolers look great in the style they’ve chosen too.

Whatever your style, wear it confidently! It suits you, and you look great!

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Kym (4 Posts)

Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 27 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.

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