We’re kicking off a whole month of “Homeschool Planning” posts for you here on Only Passionate Curiosity! Last year, I ran a Planning 101 series, which was hugely popular. It seems that many people get overwhelmed at the task of scheduling out their curriculum and lessons in a way that works for them. You really don’t need to be overwhelmed (really!). Planning isn’t that bad, especially if you have the right tools for the job. This year, I am doing my planning in a Erin Condren Teacher’s planner, a big, beautiful book, designed for classroom teachers, but easily adaptable to be the perfect planner for my homeschool.
What do you need to plan?
The easiest way for me to share this planner with you is going to be to go through it section by section. I’ll tell you what’s there, and how I am using it for homeschool purposes. Even though this planner was made for the classroom, I’ve found a way to use every section to it’s fullest potential.
Inside the Cover
The first pages inside the planner include a place for your personal information (in case you leave it at co-op!), room to write down websites and passwords (for that yearly subscription I’m always forgetting about), and two pages for classroom teachers with information about classroom volunteers, room for field trips (which I will use), and a helpful information for substitute teachers (which I plan on covering with more field trip slots).
This section includes a monthly list of holidays- including some lesser known ones like Fire Prevention Week, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday, and more. I loved the education related extra holidays, because this year, I hope to use them for some smaller unit studies and celebrations to up our fun factor. There is also a page to note birthdays and special events for your family.
This tab is the one you really won’t need as a homeschooler, and I re-purposed it completely. It’s a “while you were away” spread sheet where a classroom teacher would note who was absent, why, and if they brought a note. I converted this to our homeschool reading list, where I can keep track of what books the kids are reading. The columns now read “name” “date” “author” and “note” (which is a check box). I am writing down the title of the book, the date they started the book, the author of the book, and checking the note column when the book is completed. There are 6 pages, which should be enough for all of our reading for the year!
This section is graph paper, and I am using it currently to plan the layout of our new homeschool room. It can be used for all sorts of things in a homeschool, grades, lists, ANYTHING really that you need graph paper for.
This big, blank spread for the year which is intended for class birthdays. I am using this page for our full year, at a glance, big picture planning. Last year, I shared all about how we make this big yearly plan, as a way for me to see visually when we really need to buckle down for school, and plan what days I want to have off. This makes it easy for me to break down how many days I have to teach, how many days we have for breaks, and when those breaks are going to be. This year, I am planning on working 6 weeks on, and one week off, year around, with a bit of a break over December and January for the new baby.
Monthly Spreads and Lesson Planning
These two sections are what makes this planner gold for me. Remember last year when I told you I have two separate planners for my homeschool? On one hand, I make a yearly master plan, where I break down our curriculum into daily lessons with an ideal in mind. It’s a master pacing guide that helps me see what I need to get done, and when in order to pull off our school year. I know how many days of school I need for each subject, and it’s all planned out as an ideal before we start on that spread sheet.
Then, as we go throughout the year, I write down what was actually completed in the planner itself, and cross things off the master schedule sheet as I complete them. This way, the planner is a complete record of what we have accomplished, and the schedule sheet helps me see where we are ahead, where we are behind, and what I need to do to catch up. Sometimes, I just scratch things off the master planner (if they are redundant, or if I was just over eager on our yearly plan) but the actual planner stays nice and clean and doesn’t overwhelm me (because I am the boss after all).
It’s like Erin Condren read my mind here. There are two distinct sections of this planner, which are perfect for planning as I do. The Lesson Planning pages are not dated, rather they are numbered by week and day. There is room to break down 6 subjects over 40 weeks. This is the section where I put my “ideal” master plan.
Then, there is a monthly spread. In these boxes, I only write down what was actually completed. This is going to be fabulous for the reviews we will have to do next year, and it helps me feel accomplished to write down what we actually did, rather than just look at what I ideally wanted to get done. It’s a small space, but I came up with a little code for what we accomplished (basically, I use the acronyms you see on forums, things like OM for Oak Meadow, or TT for Teaching Textbooks) and it’s easy enough to see at a glance what we have completed.
The final section is a checklist spreadsheet. Typically, a school teacher would use this to track assignments and grades for her students. It doesn’t really work that way in a homeschool, but this list does lend really well to daily to-do’s. On the name column, I listed the date (just numbered 1-31 each month) and on the colored lines, I added in things we needed to do every day. Things like “laundry” “dishes” “work out” “read aloud” and so on. This section is for me as the parent- I do well with checklists to help me stay on track and feel accomplished at the end of the day.
I took to my facebook page to ask what other people would use this section for- some suggested reading checklists (to keep track of 15 minute increments, or what have you), kids chore charts, hygiene charts for kids- basically anything you would use a checklist for, these pages will work for.
Last bits and pieces
Finally, this planner has cute little stickers. The ones it comes with already are:
assembly, IEP, duty, staff meeting, furlough, holiday, reminder!, progress reports due, testing, computer lab, library, feild trip, drill, first and last day
There are also two pages of blank stickers for you to write your own topics on.
There is also a folder page to stick loose papers, a zippered pouch to hold anything you like, and a page protector sheet (where I stuck our state legal policy).
One of the things that drew me to the Erin Condren planners in the first place is the bright colors and quality of the print jobs. I don’t know about you, but I love pretty office supplies, and gosh I deserve nice things too! This planner just makes me cheerful. Every last page has bright, cheerful colors. The cover is bright and happy (and, customizable). It’s just pretty and that matters to me.
The construction is sturdy, and the reenforced pages are standing up to use (granted, I haven’t had it long- but seriously, this thing is a solid brick…. it’s not going to fall apart on me). I love the stickers that came with it (I added my own extra too!)- I can just pop them in for reminders about reviews, appointments, or field trips, and the bright colors call attention to those occasional events at a glance.
I do wish they had a homeschool version (maybe some day!) instead of me needing to adapt sections, but honestly, no planner has ever been everything I could have ever dreamed of. I don’t mind the few adaptions I needed to make, but if Erin Condren ever decides to make a homeschool version, I hope they call me, because I have ideas! For the modifications I made, I used a white out marker and Washi tape. I didn’t remove anything from my book, I just re-purposed the small amount of existing pages noted above.
A couple people have mentioned the price (59.00 regularly) being a bit steep for a planner during the time I have had it. For me, this purchase this comes down to the planner being just about perfect for my needs, being bright and happy, and I don’t have to print it myself! After years of printing my own planners (and always splurging on color) I was thrilled to not have to spend the money on ink and paper (for a planner this size, it would easily use up ALL my ink, and a ton of paper, laminate, and then I’d have to pay to bind it), and mine would have never turned out this nice in the end. I am happy with the investment, and plan on purchasing it again next year (yes, on my own dime).
I feel like this planner is going to be HUGE for me this year, not only to keep me on track, but also to help support me in my record keeping. We are moving to Maryland, where the reporting requirements (in my opinion) are quite intimidating (twice yearly portfolio reviews???? You’ve got to be kidding me…) and I plan on using the book lists, record of accomplishments and plans as an easy way to frame our portfolios. I can just look in our planner to decide what I want to pull out and include in the planner, and I’ll be good to go.