Have Your Best Homeschool Year Yet With These Great Planning Tips
What is it that happens between the fresh excitement of homeschool planning and the spring slump? Why do we go from being motivated, organized, and passionate to burned out? The back-to-school season is a season of excitement. Even those who homeschool year-round feel it. The season comes with a crisp touch in the air and a renewed motivation in our hearts. Only to find a few months later we’re exhausted, disorganized, and in a slump.
Burnout at Home and in the Classroom
I came to homeschooling after years of working in schools. First, I worked in a traditional Montessori preschool for almost a decade. It was actually my first ever “real” job. I stayed in that job throughout college. My head-of-school gave me a chance to work in every single classroom. I also worked in the before & after school program. I even helped in administration and office duties. Throughout college and my first few years after graduation, I continued to work in education in one capacity or another.
After a few years, I landed at an incredible school for special needs kids. I worked in a K-2 class and sometimes substituted with older kids. I was given the chance to see many different teaching styles and approaches. I stayed there for several years until my son was born. Now I continue my work in education as an at-home-educator with Montessori homeschooling.
Why do I tell you this? Because teachers burn out too! In fact, I observed that many teachers burn out faster than moms at home. What I have observed through all my years in education is something that seems to separate those who burn out from those who don’t.
Systems and Organization
Those who came into a school year with an organizational system seemed to stay motivated. I also noticed they were much less likely to get in over their heads. Yes, the systems adapted as the year progressed. And, yes, sometimes things didn’t work. Now I have worked my way from class educator to home educator. I find so much value in having good systems in place to bring ease to our days.
Today I hope to offer a few homeschool time management tips. It is my hope these tips will be something you can incorporate to avoid slump and overwhelm later
Back-to-School Time Management Tips
Pick a method and stick with it- Don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” too fast. It takes at least 40 days to adjust to a new routine. Just because a routine or planning method doesn’t work at first, doesn’t mean it will never work. You may need more time to iron out the wrinkles.
Expect the unexpected- We lay out our bright, shiny new schedule at the beginning of the year. Then life happens. Someone gets sick. There’s a job transfer. You face a death in the family. Your schedule gets out of whack and you get frustrated. Leave in flex time! Add in a few “buffer” days- sort of like how public schools add in extra days for snow days.
Buffer your day- Often we forget to add in transitional time to our daily routine. It can take children a while to transition from activity to activity. This is not because they are stubborn or not listening. It’s because their brains take longer to transition and transition is sometimes hard. Give yourself a 5-10 minute buffer between each activity. You may even need to make that longer if you have young children, a baby at home, or a child with special needs. This can make a dramatic change in your homeschool routine.
Plan like a funnel- Start out with a broad overview of where you hope to be by the end of the year. Then schedule out each element. It can be helpful to have goals for each month set at the beginning of the school year. Then, perhaps, only do a detailed schedule for every six-eight weeks. Keeping the idea of a funnel in mind is helpful. Broad for what’s to come, narrow for what’s happening now.
Schedule in time for YOU- Give yourself at least an hour a week of YOU time. No kids, no responsibility. Make it two if you can. An hour to relax and unwind alone does remarkable things. If you can add in another hour to take time to learn and nurture your interests, even better.
Track your time- Use a time tracker app, a Bullet Journal spread, or a piece of paper. Write out everything you spend your time on in a week. Then evaluate it and see what you can drop, outsource, or needs better balance. Use this to help inform your decisions about scheduling.
Put it down in paper and pen (or pencil)- The neurological process is different when we plan with paper vs digital. Using real paper and writing out goals, schedules, and plans can be revolutionary in and of itself. We even made it easy for you with a beautiful FREE printable planner. Homeschool planning takes on a new life on paper!
Give loop scheduling a try- Instead of scheduling specific subjects on certain days, try looping. This way if you have something come up on, say your “History Tuesday” you won’t miss it. To loop, write down the subjects you want to cover daily and the subjects you want to cover weekly. Start at the top of your weekly list and cover at least one of those subjects a day. The next day, move to the next subject(s) on the list. Then if you miss a day of school, you won’t miss a topic- you move to what’s next on the loop.
Follow the lead of the child- This is a core component of a Montessori education. If your child needs to spend an entire quarter covering the same 4 sections in Math Book 1, that ’s ok. Adjust your plans to follow their lead. This also applies you find your child dawdles, struggles with focus, or seems to zone out. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming blog. Montessori homeschooling is the perfect environment to follow your child’s lead.
Get a little help from ShillerLearning- We have made planning easy for both parents and students. Check out our FREE printable planners- there’s a set for homeschool parents that we brought you last month. This month, we’re happy to bring you a Student Planner Pack. In it you’ll find back-to-school activities your kids will love. We have activities like timer races, schedule card creation, cutting strips, clockworks, and more! Plus it has a FREE Student printable planner to help your child get organized along with you!
Focus on your next best thing- A time will come in planning, or in your year when you’ll get overwhelmed. Or an unexpected situation will arise, a new baby will come, etc. and your schedule will get backed up. In those moments of overwhelm, ask yourself “What is my best next thing?” Maybe that’s working on Math, or maybe it’s going out back to lay in the grass and watch the clouds. In moments of overwhelming- all you need to focus on is one thing at a time. No matter what it is, go from one best thing to the next and before you know it- you’ll be feeling calmer.
I hope some of these tips and tricks are helpful. I would love to hear about some of the things you do to help schedule and plan too. Plus, make sure to check out these other blogs and resources:
We hope this pack will encourage you to enjoy and learn more about Homeschooling. Plus this month’s pack is just as free as fresh air and sunshine! So download it now and start reading with your child!
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Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.