10 Things I Do When Planning a New School Year


School PlanningWe are about to begin our 22nd year of home education, and I still get giddy over new school supplies. Love the smell of a new box of crayons and the feel of a brand new, freshly sharpened pencil in my hand! I am also a creature of habit. Every summer I walk myself through the same basic procedure in order to plan out our upcoming school year. This keeps me from going crazy in the back-to-school aisles and assures we have some kind of plan as we jump into our next season of education. I’ve condensed it all into a list of 10 steps for you.

{Some links in the post are affiliate links. By clicking through you are not obligated to purchase, but if you choose to my family will earn a small percentage which goes toward school books for the children and coffee & chocolate for the mother}

1. Inventory School Supplies. The kids are a great help with this first step. They test the Markers and throw out the broken crayons and make a list of things we’ll need (glue, tape, pencil lead, spiral notebooks, etc.) Later, when I flesh out my lesson plans, I add to the list before we do any shopping.

School Supplies

2. Purge curriculum. Our youngest is now 7 years old. She’s moved past most of the preschool activities and some of the early elementary supplies I’ve collected and she’s getting beyond picture books and cutsie manipulatives. Time for me to let them go. They may be a blessing to someone else, or they may be so well-used they are not worth saving or passing on. WooHoo! More Space!

3. Store curriculum for future use. We still have 4 students in our homeschool. Many of our resources are non-consumable. Once a child finishes, say, Learning Language Arts Through Literature (Orange Book), that resource is put away until the next child needs it. My very own library/curriculum store! I go shopping every year without leaving my home!

School Books

4. Set up Daily Routines and Habit Training. Big Sigh. This is the area I am weakest. I love setting up lovely plans and beautiful schedules. That part is fun. I’m lousy at implementing and following through. That part isn’t fun. I am finding help and encouragement in this area from these resources:

Teaching Kids to Clean

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets (which includes 28 Days to Hope For Your Home as an appendix at the end of this new book)

The Homemakers Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule

Smooth and Easy Days (a free ebook from Simply Charlotte Mason)

5. Work through my Brain-Stormer Questions:

  • What’s working? Unit Studies (Konos); Language Lessons for Little Ones; Lapbooks & Notebooking (Homeschool Share, Notebooking Pages, Notebooking Fairy)
  • What didn’t work? Mom’s grading schedule: kids need more immediate feedback; household schedule: going back to choreboard & check lists; handwriting and spelling: need consistent practice
  • What learning gaps do we have? a time period not yet covered? an area of science still needing an introduction? has everyone mastered their basic math facts? do we need to revisit the parts of speech?
  • What ‘extras’ do we want to fit in and how will we do accomplish it? music lessons? foreign language program? art – drawing or painting? organized athletics?
  • What interests do the children have right now? Lego, sewing, electricity, horses, insects, cake decorating, woodcraft, etc.

6. List out goals for each child. What are their strengths and weaknesses academically? What character traits need to be addressed this year? Which subject area do they struggle with most? I make note of these for each student, and list out the resources we plan to use to accomplish these goals. Remember: this is a plan, with guidelines, which can be changed or even thrown out the window if/when necessary. It gives us a place to start and gives us direction.

7. Plot out bare-bones school year schedule. I take a calendar showing the entire school year and mark out the days I know we will NOT be doing schoolwork. This includes holidays, vacation days, special occasions like when our daughter got married or a new baby arrives.ย  Each year I decide either the start date or the end date of our school year and count up or back 36 weeks. This is a typical school year in most states, and I have found it offers about the right amount of time to fit in our 1000 hours of instruction that meets our state requirement. I highlight these weeks and keep it handy to coordinate with my lesson plans. Donna Young has a huge selection of printable calendars and this year I am using a fabulous Day Planner from Homemakers Friend.

School Planning

8. Determine materials/resources I have on hand and those I need to purchase. And now I’m ready to gather, collect, borrow and buy. LOVE this part! Even my old materials we’ve used for 20 years seem new again, with a fresh start on the horizon when I have everything in order and new lists made up. Each year our lessons are mixed up in a new way even if we are using old materials. My favorite places to purchase resources are Rainbow Resource, CBD, Amazon (the handy little search box in my sidebar will take you right there).

9. Set up Lesson Plan Binder. My favorite lesson plan sheets are ones I made up myself using a spreadsheet program like Excel on my computer.ย  It’s a blank grid, with the days of the week across the top and blank boxes down the side for me to write in subject areas we are studying. My inspiration for this came from Gayle Graham’s book How To Homeschool (this should be required reading for every homeschool mom!) I print off my 36 weeks worth of blank lesson plan sheets, put them in a 3 ring binder with divider tabs, add my calendar, goal sheets and log sheets. A fresh slate, ready for my sharpened pencil (and trusty eraser!) Stay Tuned: More on lesson planning next week!

10. Pray. Consider. This might go without saying, but I’m going to say it. Your plans will be successful if you take time first to seek guidance, wisdom, discernment from the Lord. He will direct your steps and make known to you what you might not otherwise notice. Be sure you and your husband are on the same page with your goals and ideas and plans. Prayerfully consider all that you do.



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  1. This was such an excellent post! Thank you for being so detailed. I’m entering my eighth year, but it feels like 22! I have a lot to learn from you. If you have time, please link it up tomorrow at From House to Home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In Christ,

    • Thank you, Gena ๐Ÿ™‚ Though I still don’t think of myself as an expert, I’m happy to share from my experience. We are so blessed to have the lifestyle we do, the freedom to educate our children as we wish. It’s one of my favorite topics! I look forward to linking up tomorrow. Thank you!

  2. #4- that is me exactly!! Big sigh here too. I am the master planner, but terrible, terrible at follow through. Thanks for listing a few resources- I’ll check them out. 22 years- congrats! We’re starting our 5th and that’s went by way too fast already ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’m glad you found encouragement here, Cheri. Let’s pray we each make big strides in the area of following through this year! God has been gracious, and our children are doing just fine, even in adulthood, in spite of me and my weaknesses. Enjoy the next 5 years!

  3. These are really good tips for a non homeschooling moms like me too. This could help me get the homework strategy a bit more organized and seamless. I definitely need to get the after school routine plan in gear again in the next few weeks before it starts back up again. And I definitely need to see what supplies we have and what we need. I think all Homeschooling moms are amazing! I don’t think I could do it.

    • Thanks Amanda. I had not thought about it, but I suppose many of these things apply a lot of different situations. You working Moms are awesome, the way you juggle so much – I’m glad you were encouraged. Getting those routines in place, taking proactive steps to being prepared makes life so much more enjoyable!

  4. I loved this time of year when I was a homeschooled kid and now that I am doing it for the second year as a homeschool mom I still love it. I like your idea for a lesson planner – the things I tried last year where okay for one student, but now that I have two I don’t think it will work. “I’ll just make my own” has become my new motto.

    • Hello Dana! I get so excited when I hear of homeschoolers who have grow up to homeschool their own children. I hope to see that with my own children as they begin raising families of their own. I’m big on ‘just make my own’ because no matter what I try, it seems to need a little tweaking anyway. I’m glad you found ideas to try here, I hope you will visit again. Have a blessed week!

  5. We are about to start our 16th year of hs’ing and I still get giddy, too! You have a good check list for starting the year!

    • Hi Betty Jo ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you for stopping by and for your kind comment. 16 years – woohoo! I love the name of your blog – Still Learning Something New – it speaks volumes of truth. I have said for years the my real education began when I started teaching my own kids, I’ve learned so much, and continue to learn. Hope you have a terrific 16th year!

  6. Brilliant post and one I’ll hold onto to send to my friends asking for school year planning advice. I never really know how to explain it and you did it so well! I do this similarly though I use Homeschool Tracker to lesson plan, keep track of resources, etc ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you, Elizabeth, for your kinds words ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so glad I could encourage you. Yes, please share with your friends! I’ve gained so much over the years sharing between friends.
      Homeschool Tracker is a great tool. I used it one year, but found I really prefer the old-fashioned pencil and paper method. Isn’t it great to have so many useful resources at our fingertips? Enjoy your planning days, and the new school year!

  7. So much of a teacher’s work is done before “the teaching” even begins, isn’t it?…and I suppose that if you’re a mom of the kids you teach, the teaching never really ends! It was fun to catch a glimpse into your process as a homeschooling Mom. You really are a pro! I really love the idea of listing out individual goals for each child. That’s so key in meeting their needs as individuals and helping them to strive to reach new heights. Blessings on your upcoming school year, Linda!

    • You know what they say, the teacher learns more than her students. And you are right, Lauren, the teaching/learning never ends! Am I a pro? No. Am I a mom who wants to see her kids grow? Yes! Listing out the goals has really helped me see growth in my kids, instead of focusing on the weaknesses so much. Thanks Lauren, for your sweet words – an encouragement always!

  8. I love this list! There’s a lot of wisdom and experience behind it; that’s clear. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is something I’ve been needing to sit down and do myself, and you gave me some new things to think about! I think I need to make myself a homeschooling binder for my own materials to stay more organized for the year. Your tips make the yearly planning feel so doable, too!

    • Hi Kristen ๐Ÿ™‚ so glad I could encourage you. I think it was about our 3rd or 4th year of homeschooling that I came upon the idea of binders to keep my more organized (I’m a slow learner). Each year I tweaked it and found a method that worked for us. The planning really is doable! Just tackle bits at a time, you’ll find your stride.

  9. I popped over here to read your Hidden Art book club post, but as I perused some of your other posts, this one got my attention. I, too, am a long-time homeschooling mama (beginning my 23rd year). I absolutely love the homeschooling life and can’t imagine it any other way. That said, I am always learning myself, honing my methods, adapting for my individual students. This post was just what I needed this morning! You have a great planning strategy here, and I plan to print it out and refer to it as I make my plans for the upcoming year. And, yes, #10 is the most important, for if I implement all the others and leave this one out, I only have my own ideas and that is futile.

    • Good Morning, Cheryl ๐Ÿ™‚ so glad you had time to browse around. I often pick up bits of motivation and inspiration just from reading/hearing about what other moms are doing. So glad you were encouraged. Enjoy your days of planning! Praying you have a wonderful upcoming school year, again, for the 23rd time ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Thanks for all your tips. I cannot seem to get to your links in #4. I would like to read them.

    • Sharon, I am so sorry. I have those links fixed now. Thank you so much for letting me know, I really do appreciate it. I hope you find encouragement in these resources – they have blessed me and how we get things done around here. Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. Thanks for sharing this! Pinned and am featuring at Family Fun Friday!


  12. #5 is one of my favorite planning techniques – what’s working and what’s not. This is always my first step to help me figure out what our plans should look like. Thanks for the thorough post!

    Stopping by from Family Fun Friday. Thanks for linking up!

    • Thank you Sarah. I just have to work through things step by step, one thing at a time, and if what we’ve been doing isn’t working it just doesn’t make sense to move ahead with it. Thanks for hosting Family Fun Friday every week! 2014 is going to be a great year!

  13. This is so helpful and insightful! I really like how practical it is. ๐Ÿ™‚
    THank you for linking up today!

    • You are welcome! I’m glad it was helpful. I’m all for being simple and practical. Excited about your new linky party – good luck with it!

  14. I just started to homeschool this year and am always looking for advice. Thank you.

    • How exciting Dana! I hope you were encouraged by my post. I’m re-evaluating our school plans these days, tweaking where we need it. Love having the flexibility to do that. when necessary. Hope your first year has gone well. Have a wonderful and blessed week!

  15. I enjoyed your post and your perspective. The first two links in #4 are going to the wrong resource. Thought I would let you know. I clicked through from your guest post on Raising Arrows. It was so timely for me. Thank you and God Bless,

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the article, Jenni, I am happy it was helpful to you. Thank you for stopping over for a visit! And thank you for the heads-up on the broken links. I’ll see to that right away.

  16. I struggle with the good habit forming follow up too…

  17. I finally gave up on making a nice plan/ schedule for us to follow each day. I am so sick of planning and not following through. I find we tend to naturally fall into a routine and that’s good enough for me. I do love making the plan but find that never quite following it was making me feel stressed out.

    • I can relate to that stressed feeling. And also to the love of the planning. More and more, though, I’m seeing the benefits of have ‘routines’ and not pressuring ourselves to force our days into a tight schedule. Here’s to a nice, routine New Year!


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