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!

Charlotte Mason Inspired Apple Study

Autumn is quickly approaching, so naturally, all the homeschool mamas are browsing Pinterest on the hunt for the cutest apple, acorn, and pumpkin-themed crafts and activities. I used to be that homeschool mom. The one who would print and laminate all the things and stress myself out spending too much money at the craft store for projects that barely held my children’s interests and, in the end, taught my children very little.

As I have studied Charlotte Mason’s philosophies and methods over the last year or so I have begun to take a different approach to studying specific topics, and you know what? It is so much simpler and way more meaningful. Instead of the shallow approach I may have taken in the past, I focused on the staples of a Charlotte Mason education in this study–living books, narration, poetry, hand rhymes, songs, handcrafts, art, picture study, tea time, hands-on nature study, and real-life experiences.

Living Books and Narration 

First and foremost, every good study begins with books! I gathered the books from this list and put them in a basket in our living room for the children to read independently throughout the week. We grabbed a few to read together at Morning Time and I would ask the children to orally narrate what I read. We also used these books during our apple tea party and throughout the week as a reference when questions came up about apples and for art inspiration.

Here is my apple picture book list. I’ve compiled this list from a few sources over the years. These are my tried and true favorites from these sources: Read-Aloud Revival, The Peaceful Preschool Letter A Unit and Tree Guide, Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit, and Rooted Childhood September Collection (get 10% off with code: TREEHOUSESCHOOLHOUSE10).

  • The Season’s of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
  • Apples by Gail Gibbons
  • The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Princeman
  • The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
  • Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh
  • How Do Apples Grow? By Steven Kellogg
  • The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
  • The Apple Cake by Nienke Van Hichtum
  • How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro
  • Secrets of the Apple Tree by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner

Poetry, Hand-Rhymes, and Songs

Each morning we recited poems, hand-rhymes, and sang little songs around the theme of apples. Here are a few that we enjoyed. 

Poem

We focused on the poem After Apple Picking by Robert Frost. I pulled the poetry printable from Stephanie Hathaways Apple Unit Study and put it in our Morning Time Menu. We read the poem each morning and discussed unfamiliar words, the meaning of the poem, and how different aspects of it made us imagine and feel.

Hand-rhymes and songs

I pulled these two from Rooted Childhood’s September Collection and ended up finding them online to sing along with the music. My two-year-old especially loved these and wanted me to sing them all day and do the motions. 

Handcrafts, Art, and Picture Study

Here are a few handcrafts and art projects that I found to add to our apple study. We didn’t fit all of these into our week, but I wanted to share all of the ideas I came across to inspire you.

Apple star printing

After reading The Apple Star Story found in Rooted Collection’s September issue, we cut open an apple, found the star, and made star prints by lightly painting the apple’s star with a paintbrush and pressing it on paper.

Still-life art study

I printed the still-life art pieces from Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit Study and put them in my children’s Morning Menus. Each morning we looked at the art, read about the artists, discussed different elements of the artwork, the colors, the art mediums, and how the art makes us feel. After a few days of learning about still-life paintings, the children set up their own still life using apples and anything else they would like. We lit a candle, put on some classical music, and they attempted to paint their scene. You can find the watercolor paper and paint we use here.

Apple tree embroidery

This handcraft is so adorable and perfect for beginning sewing practice. Using an embroidery hoop and a yarn needle, your child can sew a felt tree trunk and green treetop onto some burlap. To finish it off, they can sew on a few red buttons as the apples. Check out the Art & Handcrafts section in my Amazon shop to see the needles and thread I use. This was a handcraft featured in Rooted Childhood’s September Collection.

Air-dry clay apples

Roll air-dry clay into balls and stick a twig in the top of them as the stem. Once they dry, paint them red, green, and yellow. 

Tea Time

One morning I set up an Apple Tea Time with a spread of apple slices, cookies, cheese, crackers, and almonds. We had cinnamon tea, read books from our book basket, and watched a few apple videos that were shared in the Apple Unit.

Here are the videos we watched:

Hands-on Nature Study and Exploration

Using the living books I mentioned, the videos above, and Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit printables, we explored many facets of how apples grow, the life cycle of the apple tree, the anatomy of the apple and the apple blossom, apple varieties, and more. 

Nature notebook

After a few days of my children soaking in all the information, I asked them to give me a few sentences of what they have learned. I wrote what they said in their nature notebooks and they drew/painted a picture to illustrate it. 

Dissecting and tasting apples

We cut open a few varieties of apples and using the Anatomy of an Apple printable from the Apple Unit, we separated the pieces into piles. Then we ate them and talked about how the different varieties tasted.

Real Life Experiences

What would an apple study be without some baking? This week we made apple crisp and apple pie. Children love being in the kitchen. They are gaining so much while peeling, cutting, measuring, following directions, setting the timer, and most of all, being together in a shared experience. 

Baking apple crisp

I use and love the apple crisp recipe from The Peaceful Preschool Letter A Unit

Baking apple pie

If you’re looking for a pie recipe, try this one.

Apple picking

After a full week of exploring apples, we drove over to our favorite mountaintop apple orchard and spent the day picking apples. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of a fun study and really round off all the learning that happened.

Our 24 Family Ways + New Scripture Set Bundle!

When my oldest children were preschool age, I incorporated Bible lessons and scripture memory into our Morning Time. At that point, we primarily read from The Jesus Storybook Bible and I dabbled in the devotions from Leading Little Ones to God. We also memorized short passages of scripture that I hand-picked. While I loved both of those resources and still use them now, I wanted something we could do as a family that would focus more on character training and Biblical application. 

My husband and I decided that it was time to prioritize a time in our daily rhythm that he could lead the family in devotions and prayer. I was about to have our fourth child and I knew that fitting everything in our days with a new baby and a toddler was going to be challenging. We didn’t want this area of discipleship and biblical instruction to fall through the cracks, so we looked at our rhythm and decided to try family devotions over breakfast time on the weekdays. My husband shifted his work schedule a bit so he could be home most mornings to lead this time. We have been gathering for family devotions now each weekday morning over breakfast for about 8 months and it has been so great for our family.

After much searching, I decided on the family devotional, Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson. The devotional’s premise is that you are creating a culture in your home of how your family thinks and acts.  Based on the idea that we are called to “train up a child in the way he should go”, Clarkson maps out 24 ways which you can use to teach and instruct your children. I loved this idea because I felt like it was giving clarity and verbiage to the character traits I desire to see in my children. We refer to the 24 ways given in this book all the time now, even after finishing the devotional, to redirect heart attitudes and behaviors. 

The devotional’s layout is simple. It is set up to be used for 24 weeks, one week per Family Way. The 24 weeks are broken into 6 sections. 

The six sections are:

  1. Concerning authorities in our family: these ways address love and obedience to God, parents, and other people of authority. 
  2. Concerning relationships in our family: these ways address having a heart of love, service, encouragement, and forgiveness towards others. 
  3. Concerning possessions in our family-: these ways address thankfulness, contentment, generosity, and stewardship of belongings.
  4. Concerning work in our family: these ways address diligence, taking initiative, working cooperatively, and taking personal responsibility for cleanliness.
  5. Concerning attitudes in our family: these ways address choosing joy, being a peacemaker, patience, and showing grace to others.
  6. Concerning choices in our family: these ways address making right choices in the midst of peer pressure, self-control, and truthfulness.

Each section has 4 Family Ways and each Family way includes a picture with a story starter for discussion, and 5 days of questions, scripture readings, discussion prompts, and prayer ideas. Each day is presented using the acronym ARTS.

A – Ask a Question

This section gives the leader questions to get the children chatting before reading the bible passage.

R – Read the Bible

Bible passages or stories that are applicable to each day’s topic are listed here with a short summary. My kids loved to use their own Bibles to look up these passages and take turns reading aloud to the family. 

T – Talk about it

Here, questions are given that relate to the passage as well as open up discussion for life application.

S – Speak to God

In this section, prayer prompts are offered as suggestions. 

In addition to that, each week has one passage of scripture intended for memorization, some commentary, and a character trait highlight. Our family devotional time is about 30 minutes. We could easily fit everything in each day, as well as take a few minutes for reviewing previous weeks’ verses that we had memorized.

Here are the reasons we loved using Our 24 Family Ways:

It was engaging for children of all ages

We used this devotional when my oldest children were 5 and 7 years old and most of the content was perfectly suited for their age, but could absolutely be used for children older as well. We did skip over some questions and adjust the wording of some things to make it easier for them to grasp, but for the most part it was a great fit. 

It was easy to open and use with no preparation

Each morning my husband would open the book, glance over the topic and was able to jump in and lead without missing a beat. 

It set us up for life application and practical training

The verbiage of the ways gave my husband I language to use that my children knew from devotional time as we addressed situations in our home. I found this super helpful for training and discipline and plan to continue to use these ways in our home for years.

It encouraged the children to think and discuss

Each day’s devotional is based on scripture and the prompt questions get the children thinking and talking, rather than the parent reading long passages and telling the children what to think. I loved watching my children’s cognitive and language skills develop over the time we used this devotional.

It is designed to bring your family closer to God and each other

I loved the idea that each Family Way that we taught was empowering the children to take a step nearer to God and to us as a family unit as we talked about it being something that we all collectively do in our family.

Each week I wrote the Family Way and the passage for memorization on our chalkboard that hangs behind our dining room table. I would also write each person’s initial and 4 boxes for each person to check off as we recited the scripture we were memorizing that week. On Monday’s we introduced the verse by reading and reciting it together a few times. The rest of the days we each got a chance to recite it from memory and check off a box if we were able to say it without looking. 

In addition to using the devotional, I created the Scripture Sets as a tool to use during our school lessons to give the kids extra practice with the passages presented in the book for weekly scripture memory. I tried to think of short activities that my children could do each day of the week to reinforce memorization and application of the passage. I designed each passage with a standard and shortened version so that younger learners can participate too.

You can find these sets for all 24 Family Ways in my shop. Whether or not you choose to use this devotional with your family, this 24 week Scripture Set curriculum can be used to help memorize excellent selections of passages of scripture. You can purchase each set individually or save $40 when you buy them as a bundle.

Here is what I included in each Scripture Set:

  • Tracing: Children trace the verses to help practice letter formation as well as reinforce the memory work as they write.
  • Journaling: Children apply the scripture and practice creative writing by finishing the sentence. They can then illustrate their journal entry in the blank space provided.
  • Cut and Paste: Children cut out each phrase or word and then paste them in the correct order on the lines. 
  • Fill in the Blank: Children can practice copying, memory work, and letter formation by filling in the missing words.
  • Copy Work: Children will copy the selection to using proper spacing, punctuation, and capitalization to create a “perfect copy.” This activity will improve your student’s penmanship, grammar, and punctuation skills.

You can watch my igtv about Our 24 Family Ways and Scripture Sets here.