Homeschool Planning 101 & a Customizable Homeschool Planner Download

The planning side of homeschooling is admittedly half of the fun for me! After choosing all of the curriculums and resources that I am using for the school year, weekly planning is essentially making it all come together and writing down the game plan for each day in one place.

When and how often do I plan?

I usually have one big planning session on the weekend where I spread out all of my resources and fill up the upcoming week’s planning sheets. I like to get a big view of my week by looking at each day as it is planned out in my current curriculums and then transfer what I plan to do each day in my planner. In this season with a baby and a toddler I only spend about an hour each week planning. 

After school each day I also look over the next day’s plans and revise anything based on what actually got accomplished that day. For example, if my kids really struggled to understand the math concept for the day, I may erase the next day’s plan to move on to the next unit and spend another day reviewing the concept. This is why I always write in pencil in my planner! I love using mechanical pencils for this because they write so thin and erase so cleanly.

How Do I Plan?

There are four parts to my weekly planning:

1. Prepare for Morning Time

Morning Time is such an important element to our homeschool days and I like to keep it fresh and exciting by adding in new books and materials regularly. Read more about Morning Time here. During my planning session, I switch out the Traceable Monthly Calendar if it is a new month. I also find which poem and art study piece I want to study that week and print those and add them into our morning menus for the week. I usually choose these based on what we’re studying to go along with the seasons or current nature study topic. I find these from multiple resources, but my main go-to’s are in the monthly Rooted Childhood collections and in Exploring Nature with Children. I gather any books or other resources that I want to add to Morning Time that week as well and put them in my Morning Time basket. 

2. Write out the plan

I use all of my curriculums and guides to write out a plan for each day in my planner. I don’t write word for word what I will say or do in the planner. It is more of a reference of page numbers, titles of books, and general ideas of activities. I like to glance over stories I am planning to read and math concepts that I will be teaching to be mentally prepared. I also spend some time researching anything I may want to add in like additional handicraft projects or activities not listed in my guides and write those ideas in the planner. I find most of my additional ideas on Pinterest and Instagram.

3. Request and gather library books

I use my master booklist to request the books I need from my county’s library website. It usually takes anywhere from 1-10 days for the library system to have the books that I request on the hold shelf ready for pickup. When I sit down to plan, I request the books that I need a few weeks before I need them. It can get really confusing, which is why having the master booklist is so helpful! Requesting them a couple of weeks ahead of time gives the library time to get them on hold for me and once I pick them up, I have some time to look through them before I use them for school. I also use this planning time to go through my current stack of library books and make a return pile of books we’ve finished.

4. Order supplies and prepare materials

After I have written down the plan, I make a daily list of additional materials I need to purchase in my planner. I also write down anything I need to do to prep, such as saving an egg carton, printing and laminating cards from a shop, or buying museum tickets. You can find the printer and laminator I use, as well as more of my favorite lesson preparation materials in a list here in my Amazon storefront. I spend a little time ordering anything I need to, printing, laminating, or gathering things from around the house that I may need the upcoming week. I also clean my chalkboard and write our weekly scripture verse and poem on it. Sometimes I like to add an illustration as well.

My DIY Planner

There are so many lovely planners out there, but I just wasn’t fully satisfied with any, simply because I had a very specific format in my mind that was tailored to the subjects we are studying, as well as having a separate spot for our Morning Time plans. I also laid the planner out in the order that we cover the subjects daily, so that I can just go down the list and check things off. 

How to customize the planning sheets

Morning Time

My recommendation is to choose three things that you do every morning during Morning Time and type them in the box under Morning Time. They will auto-fill in the planner on each day. For us, those three things are: Calendar/ Weather Charts, Poetry, and Art Study. In the first box, I left spaces under each category so I could write in that week’s poem and art study title as shown in the picture. Then, list other things you may cover throughout Morning Time, but not necessarily every day. They are here in this box just as reference as you plan each week. You could also write book titles or descriptions for these as well.  Some people do history, geography, or other subjects during Morning Time. Customize this box with subjects that suit your family. I left 3 lines blank on each box for Morning Time so you could pencil in songs, page numbers, or anything else you may plan to do that week. 

Lessons

There are 3 sections under lessons for you to customize. Choose the subject that needs the most space for curriculums for the first box, because it is the largest. For me, that is Language Arts. On the left, you can type in all of the curriculums and activities you will be including in the daily boxes as a reference as you plan each week. 

The small subject box is for any subject that needs very little explanation or details. For us, this is math, because I just follow what the teacher’s guide says to do each day. All I write on this line each day is the lesson number we will cover. 

The third box is for another subject you plan to cover each day, or you can use it as I do, which is for our loop subjects. 

What is a Loop Schedule?

Loop Scheduling is a method in which you go down a list of subjects that you go through in order, one per day in the time slot of your rhythm that allows for it. Rather than “every Monday we do Nature Study”, we just go down the list of subjects as we have space in our rhythm to fit them in. For us, at this stage with a baby and toddler in the mix, this takes a lot of stress out of our days. My priority is to cover Language Arts and Math each school day. If we have time to fit in our Loop Subject after those are complete, then we do that too. 

If you follow a loop schedule, you can list all of the subjects you plan to loop in the box on the left for reference as you plan your week. 

The last two boxes are there for you to write in outings or special activities and any supplies or prep you may need to do for each day. 

Using the planner for multiple children

I created this planner with enough space to easily write in lesson plans for multiple children in the boxes, simply by adding their initials next to page numbers, etc. Another option would be to have a planner per child, customized to their needs. 

Printing and assembling your planner

You have a few options for printing your planner. You can print multiple copies of each week and assemble it into a year-long planner like I did. Or, you can print each week as you go. I highly recommend you print using Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free application. This will guarantee you get the best, highest quality print results.

To print from Adobe Acrobat, click File – Print. Type the number of copies you wish to print next to the box “Copies.” Each copy is one week, so for a 26-week planner, you’d print 26 copies. If you have a duplex-capable printer, you will be able to automatically print the entire set. If your printer does not have this capability, print only the first page, then flip and print the second page.

I designed a cover sheet for my planner with the title of our school and the years on it and printed it on cardstock. Then, I laminated the cover sheet and another piece of cardstock to be the back cover. After printing it I used my binding machine to bind it. You could also take your sheets to a local office store to have it bound inexpensively. 

I hope you found this helpful! If you purchase my Customizable Homeschool Planner, tag me and share with me how you’re using it @treehouse_schoolhouse!

Our Homeschool Daily Rhythm with a Toddler and a Baby in the Mix

If I have learned anything since beginning home education, it is that having a daily rhythm is crucial to my sanity, my children’s peace, and our consistency in lessons. A daily rhythm is a less constricting word for a schedule or a routine. With so many responsibilities and roles that come with being a mom of four and home educator,  creating and sticking to a daily rhythm is the only way I feel I can be intentional with our time. While I do set actual times for the events in the day to help me stay on track, it is more about the order of events than times, and the times vary depending on the day.

My children are highly visual and my oldest son particularly feels out-of-control when he doesn’t know what to expect of our day. It brings so much peace to him to have a visual schedule with boxes he can check off as we go throughout the day. I made and use these watercolor rhythm cards, but in the past (before the kids could read), we have used these chore cards from The Peaceful Press and these daily rhythm cards from StephanieHathaway Designs.

I have also learned that our rhythm is an ever-changing element, always needing to be adapted to the changes in our home life. I have blogged multiple times about our daily rhythm because it has changed so many times. I do love sharing it, though, because I know it really helps me to peek into other people’s days to get a grid for how I can potentially set up my own. You can read about our homeschool preschool rhythm and this post where I talk about how to homeschool with a baby in tow (my third was 9months at the time). 

Our most recent changes are that we have another new baby in the house and that the two oldest are more “seriously” homeschooling now than they were in the previous rhythm posts. My children are currently 7.5 years, almost 6 years, almost 2 years, and 2 months old. My infant isn’t on a schedule in the least bit yet, so a part of the rhythm that isn’t written below includes nursing her about every 2 hours, changing her, and helping her fall asleep throughout the day. 

Our Daily Rhythm

Mama Morning Time

5:30 – 7am Mama Morning Time

I wake up and make myself a french press or latte, light my bedside candle, grab my books and journal, and spend some time reading, praying, and preparing my heart for the day. The baby usually wakes up sometime during this period and I nurse her in the bed and lay her next to me while I finish my time. The other kids start waking up between 6:30-7. When they wake up, they are allowed to come into the bed with me and read quietly or go play until breakfast. 

7 – 7:30am Make Breakfast

I head to the kitchen and make breakfast while the kids are playing and my husband is getting ready for work. During this time I also pack my husband’s lunch so he can leave right after Bible Time.

7:30 – 8am Breakfast & Bible Time

My husband leads this time using a family devotional. We recently finished Our 24 Family Ways and absolutely loved it. I will share a review of it in detail soon, but in the meantime you can watch this highlight on my Instagram. Each morning includes Bible reading, discussion, scripture memory, and a time of praying together. 

Morning Time Read-Aloud

8 – 8:45am Morning Time

We say goodbye to my husband, clear the breakfast table and begin Morning Time. During this time we do our Traceable Calendars and Weather Charts, read and recite poetry, do picture study, and I read a picture book. My toddler plays nearby or sits on my lap. We often add things in to involve him like fingerplays, puppets, or read some board books. Read more about our Morning Time here. To read about how I find quality picture books, click here. When Morning Time is finished we get ready for our Nature Walk.

9 – 10am Morning Nature Walk and Ride

This is something new we have added to our rhythm to help schedule in some exercise for this postpartum mama and to start our day out with fresh air. I pop the baby and toddler in the double stroller and the big kids grab their bikes or scooters. We are fortunate to live right by a greenway, so we walk to the entrance and hop on. There are a few different routes we can choose to give us some variety. On our walks we like to listen to music, tell stories, and look for interesting bugs or animal tracks. 

Morning Chores

10am – 12:30pm  Snack, Stories, Morning Chores, and Free Play // Daily Cleaning Tasks and Cleaning Loop

As soon as we get home from our walk, the big kids prepare a quick snack for themselves and the toddler. They grab some books to read while they eat. Sometimes I will pull up an audiobook for them to listen to, and other times they just read independently while they munch and I nurse. When they’re done snacking they grab their chore charts and get to work. Morning chores usually take them about a half hour and when they are finished they are free to play until I call them for lunch. Usually they head outside to play in the backyard or downstairs to the craft table to work on projects. During this time, I tackle my Daily Chores which are clearing the sink of dishes, one load of laundry, cleaning countertops, and sweeping. If I have time, I take care of the next task on my Cleaning Loop List. 

What is a Loop List?

A Loop List is a list of tasks or subjects that you go through in order, one per day in the timeslot of your rhythm that allows for it. You aren’t scheduling a task/ subject to a particular day, but rather you just work down the list on each day that you have the chance. This works well for me in this season of littles because some days we skip the Loop Cleaning Task or School Subject altogether if it’s a crazy day and just resume down the list on the following day.

My Cleaning Loop List:

  • Clean bathrooms
  • Tidy our bedroom
  • Tidy babies’ rooms
  • Upstairs floors
  • Downstairs floors
  • Wash everyone’s bedding 

12:30pm Lunch and School Prep

I eat, feed the kids lunch, and get the materials ready for school. If I need to sharpen pencils, set up supplies, or grab any additional materials from our craft storage area I do that here.

Our homeschool space

12:30 – 3:30pm Nap and School

Around noon I prepare a quick lunch for everyone. We eat and I put my toddler down for his nap. Thankfully he is a good napper and goes right down. After I put him down, I quickly clear and wipe the table and we jump into lessons. Both of my older children participate in school lessons now, and I am using the same curriculums for both children with adaptations for their skill levels.

Our daily school time currently includes:

  • Morning Time overflow – any part of Morning Time that we didn’t get to in the morning or the whole thing if we had an outing and skipped it
  • Chapter book read-aloud
  • Language Arts – reading, narrating, phonics, copywork/ handwriting, grammar, poetry
  • Math
  • One of the subjects on our Subject Loop List – Art, Music, Nature Study/ Science, History, Geography, Handicraft

If my toddler wakes up before we are finished, he will draw or play with something nearby while we finish up. 

3:30 – 5:30pm Outside Play/ Tidy and Dinner Prep

The kids help clean up from school lessons and head outside to ride bikes, play in the backyard, or play with neighborhood friends. I am usually beat by this time, so I take a few minutes to decompress with the littles before prepping dinner. Sometimes I have to use this time to finish the task from the cleaning loop if I couldn’t tackle it in the morning. I prepare dinner and tidy the house before my husband gets home around 5:30.

5:30 – 7pm Dinner and After-Dinner Chores

We eat together and then the kids refer to their chore charts again for their after-dinner chores. These chores usually target areas of the home that get messy throughout the day and also include the things they need to do to get ready for bed. After dinner I start working on the dishes and getting the toddler and baby ready for bed.

7 – 8:30pm Play and Read with Dad

Once the kids have finished their chores they are free to play or read with my husband until they go in their shared room at 8. My toddler goes to bed around 7:30. During this time I am usually still working on dishes or with the baby. The big kids play in their room until 8:30 when we let them know it is “lights out.”

8:30 – 10pm Decompress

All of the children are asleep so this is the time when I spend catching up with my husband, showering, reading, or blogging. I try to be in bed no later than 10!

My hope is that reading this was helpful and that you can glean from this to create the rhythm that suits your family’s unique needs and desires! If you make a watercolor daily rhythm on Instagram, make sure to use the hashtag #watercolordailyrhythm and tag @treehouse_schoolhouse

Dear New Homeschool Mom: 5 Things I’d Like to Tell You as You Begin This Journey

New homeschool mama, you have been on my heart lately. 

You have just made such a weighty decision for your family, for your children, for you. You have taken the leap into being a home-educating family. You probably feel the full spectrum of emotions, from anxious and overwhelmed to excited for what’s to unfold. While I am only a few years in, I do have some words of wisdom to share that I hope will bring you peace and help light the new path that you are starting to walk down. 

While I may not be able to sit across my dining room table with each of you reading this with books spread out while we sip hot lattes, let’s try to imagine we are. This is what I would say to you.

You have what it takes.

The mere fact that you have made this choice displays that you are brave and that your heart is for your child to succeed. You do not need a teaching education or background to teach your child at home. You do not need all the fancy wooden educational materials or an Instagram-worthy classroom in your home. What you need is what you already have. You are the most qualified person in the world to teach your child because you have a mama’s love and a desire to see your child love learning. 

Let enough be enough.

Start simple. With so many amazing options out there on blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram, it can be easy to compare your lessons and curriculum choices to every other and feel the need to keep changing and adding more. You can start to worry if what you are doing is enough. You may want to scratch it all and start over. While there is the freedom to evaluate what isn’t working for your child, that’s not what I am referring to. I’m talking about looking around at everything else and having a serious case of FOMO until you jam pack your planner so tight that you choke out peace and joy in your home education. Your goal as a homeschool mom should not be to read every good book, use every neat printable, and teach every fact about every subject. Instead, your goal should be to offer your child inspiring opportunities to discover their own passion for learning, and usually, that means less is more.

Relationships are the foundation.

No one on Earth knows your child like you do. If that isn’t true, it soon will be as you walk down this road together. Home education means you are together a lot! Having all that time together with your children gives you the opportunity to form a close relationship with each one of them. Take the time to get to know their learning styles, their personalities, and to create special moments with them that will bond you closer and create memories. I’m talking about spontaneous dance parties, cozy read-aloud time, and silly games played around the table. That bond is built during nature walks, while you walk hand-in-hand and chat about the praying mantis you found or while mixing muffin batter over hot tea and stories. A deep relationship with you is far more valuable to their education than all the shiny curriculum and resources money can buy. That connection is the foundation and the rest will be built on that. As a new homeschool family, I recommend easing into lessons and focusing on the relationship first. That will make the new teacher-mom role that you are stepping into much easier for everyone to adapt to.

Home culture matters more than curriculum choice.

The culture and atmosphere of your home matters more to your child’s education than the curriculum you choose and how effectively you check all the boxes. Children soak up everything that they are exposed to from the minute they wake until the minute they fall asleep. If a home and family culture is full of strife, clutter, stress, busyness, shallow stories, bad habits, and hours in front of screens, that is what the children will soak up and produce, no matter what they are presented with at “school time.” Their entire day is education, not just the hours spent with books at the table. Learning happens when they observe how you interact with strangers and your spouse, solve problems, do house projects, and as they see what you value and how you steward your time. Learning is in the rhythms of your days including personal and home care, teamwork, and discipleship.  Your job as a home educator is to create an atmosphere of creativity, beauty, truth, knowledge, stories, and good character. This is done by being intentional about what is offered in their space and in the way their days are planned out. Children need time and space to thrive. As easy as it sounds, I have found that the best way to offer my children room to seek out learning on their own is by slowing down, simplifying their schedules, surrounding them with richness and beauty, and letting them be bored. You will be amazed at what your children come up with to discover, create, and learn when there is time to do so.  

You will be amazed at what your children come up with to discover, create, and learn when there is time to do so.  

You are free!

There is so much freedom in homeschooling, which is one of my biggest reasons for choosing this path. Don’t try to recreate a classroom setting and the way things are done for a room full of children for your one or small group of children at home.

You have the freedom of environment.

We have done lessons on the couch, on a blanket in the yard, in the car, and at a campsite. You can even scratch the formal lessons and spend the day at a nature preserve, serving in your community, or at museum and it’s still school.

You have the freedom of time.

Is your child struggling to get a math concept that “should” be covered in 2 days? Take two weeks! Want to move your formal lessons to the afternoons for a season so that you can go on morning adventures? Go for it. Want to school year-round so you can take vacations whenever you want or take off a month at Christmas? Why not? Time is your friend when you are a homeschool family. Make it work to your advantage.

You have the freedom of content.

Is faith important to you? You can make that the foundation of your children’s education. Is one of your children interested in a certain animal? Head to the library and create a unit study on it. You even have the freedom to ditch worksheets and do all of your learning through games and hands-on activities if you wanted to. You can adapt everything to your child’s interests, learning style, and development. Is your first grade child reading at a 3rd grade level? Ditch the first grade readers and move along. Same goes if they are reading later than their peers or needing more review in math for another school year. There is no “behind” as long as they’re being challenged and making progress.

There is so much more bubbling up inside of me to tell you, but this is a good start. This is a whole new chapter for your family. There will be tough days. Your kids will resist you and you will have days where you scramble and fail. It is okay! This is a new journey that you are all on together. If you commit to this lifestyle, I promise that the good outweighs the difficult. You will feel more bonded to your children than ever as you laugh together over a good book or discover nature together. You will see the lightbulb go off when your child makes a learning connection and it will all be worth it. You got this, mama.