It’s that time of year again – time to start planning for the new school year. Maybe even a little past time – our new curricula has been staring at me since May when it all arrived. I have flipped through it, even studied some of it; but now it’s time to really break it open and spend a week planning!
I have tried several methods of planning – and not planning. For our first year (kindergarten for Aidan) I purchased a planning book and recorded what we did each day.
For first grade I purchased a planning software called Edu-Track and LOVED it! I planned the whole year and checked off everything as we did it. It was great. Until my computer crashed. In the lag between the crash and replacement of the computer, we got so off schedule that I never reinstalled. I had a backup file, but we were doing fine without the schedule. We then did two years without any planning.
Eventually I decided I wanted an online planner so that a computer crash would not wreak such havoc on our schedule. For two years I played around with programs while we just did the next thing. I finally settled on Homeschool Skedtrack and have been so happy with it! It made adding a second child to our homeschool much more manageable. Skedtrack had all of the features I loved with Edu-Track plus the added bonus of being online and better yet – it’s FREE!
You can use any planner that works for you. The first thing to do is learn how the planner works. I watched all of the videos on the Skedtrack website. I could have learned it all by trial and error, but using the tutorials and FAQ pages helped me learn some of the more complex features of the program with a lot less frustration.
To get started, set up your school, students, and the school year. Our school year runs from the start of August to July 31st. Pick the dates that work for you, of course. I always do the full year because we don’t really stop for the summer. We work until we finish the curriculum for the year; then we do unit studies, camps, and summer reading that I keep a record of.
Next, set up the courses for the year. I like to break things down into the smallest subjects possible. Instead of English or Language Arts, we have reading and spelling and writing and grammar. This lets me put each set of lessons in a separate list and allows more flexibility in our school week. If I listed everything under language arts, it would require that I go in and manually edit the lessons on days when we did not get to it all, which happens frequently. By separating everything, I can check off what was completed and it will disappear. What we don’t finish will just show up on the checklist for the next day.
What I see at the start of the day (This is a summer day, so there is not much in our checklist.)
What I see after the work is completed
After you have your school year, students, and courses set up, you are ready to input lessons. No matter what planner you use, you need to do a little work on paper before you get started. A few easy steps will let you plan for a full school year while leaving plenty of flexibility.
- Figure out the number of lessons for each subject and then how many days per week you need to do each subject to complete it in 36 weeks (or whatever length of time you chose). We do a standard 36-week school year for our subjects and do extras over the summer. Last year our grammar program had about 130 lessons I wanted to complete. We then needed to do 3-4 lessons a week to complete it in a year. Spelling and history needed 3 lessons a week. Science and geography needed 2 lessons a week. Math and reading were daily. We had co-op once a week for 25 weeks.
- Develop a weekly schedule to spread your work out and make your days manageable. I like to have Mondays be heavy days and Fridays be light. We always do better on Monday, and then we can play catch up on Fridays. Last year our schedule looked like this:
Edit each course individually to set the days. Then you can view the chart and see how your week looks.
This is what I see in Skedtrack when I look at our schedule. I assigned days of the week to each subject. After I input my lesson plans, they will automatically appear on the days assigned to the subject. If we do not complete the lesson, it will be automatically bumped to the next assigned day.
3. Finally, input your lesson plans for each subject.
Edu-track has two amazing features. You can purchase pre-made lesson plans for a couple of dollars. The plans are from the publisher’s recommended schedules and from parents who have created and shared their own plans. This feature saved me so much time! It also has a feature that will create lesson plans for numbered lessons automatically. It was quick and easy – fill in the date range, days of the week for the subject, lesson number range (1-180), and the name for the lessons. Edu-Track will populate the database and assign dates. It would even do a series of lessons for the week: Monday – Study Word List, Wednesday – Dictation, Friday – Spelling Test and fill in the number for the word list.
Skedtrack does not have those two features, but it does have some other great features that make it easy. You can create a general lesson, copy it 100 times, and then add the page or lesson numbers manually. It is not quite as quick, but I was able to do spelling and math lessons in just a few minutes. You can also copy plans from one student to another, even from past years. So once you set up a class for an older student, you can reuse it for a younger sibling.
Sample Math plans – I do a lot of copying and renumbering to save time typing.
Sample history plans – the completion dates show up after you check the items off in your daily checklist. You can also add them manually if you forget to check things off for a few days.
You can also just leave lessons blank and fill in after the fact. I do this for reading with my oldest. I can’t plan his reading. I never know how long it will take him to finish a book! Once all of this is done, Skedtrack creates the checklists. It takes the next assignment that needs completion and assigns it to the correct day of the week. If you check it off, the next assignment will appear on the next day for that subject. If you do not check it off, that assignment will appear again. That is what I love most. Edu-Track allows you to quickly and easily bump one lesson or a series of lessons if you got behind.
My whole year is planned – everything that I want to complete is listed at the beginning of the year. But I don’t have to adjust for days off, sick days, field trips, or just not getting it all done. Skedtrack adjusts automatically! Most planners will track field trips, reading lists, hobbies, tests, grades, and more. You just have to decide what features you need and find a planner with those features.
I love planning for the entire year. I cannot be sure that I will have time to plan every month or every six weeks. If I get everything set up at the start of the year, I can make changes in just a few minutes if I need to add, delete, or redo lessons for any reason.
My lesson plans are always changing and adjusting for our life schedule. By having the frameworks laid out in a flexible program, I can keep us on track while allowing for life to happen.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.