A new year means the perfect chance to change some things up and try something new. The tools I use to schedule our school year are changing. Our state doesn’t require anything in terms of record keeping but I still like to keep track of what we plan to do and what we’ve actually done. I like to set goals and then see how we do as time goes on.
Last year, I kept an Excel workbook. Each week had its own spreadsheet. On Sundays, I filled in the work we planned to do the following week. I didn’t fill in any more than one week in advance because things always came up. I printed the sheet for the upcoming week and used it to make notes. At the end of the week, I made changes to the document if needed and printed out a clean copy of that week for our records.
I tried using a few online homeschool planners but they always fell short of the flexibility I enjoyed with what I had created in Excel. This past summer I signed up for a free trial of the Homeschool Planet. I had heard many great recommendations but the cost made me shy away from it. Generally, I don’t like subscriptions when it comes to software or even curriculum. I like to buy something once and have long term access to it. But I decided to try the free trial. The summer seemed like a perfect time to do it because we weren’t schooling. I could play around with it without the stress of having to figure it out right away.
Two of the curricula that we use come with a schedule. I sat down and entered the entire year’s schedule for Bookshark’s Reading with History 1 and Sonlight’s Science B. Whew! I really prefer entering it one week at a time but I figured that would be nice to get it all done before our school year started. I can easily move around assignments when we deviate from the schedule. You certainly don’t have to enter the whole year at once but I kind of like that it is done now…at least for those two programs. Plus, when Comedian does these programs in a few years the data will still be there and I can plug it in to the calendar with just a few keyboard clicks. For the other subjects, I’m adding them to the calendar as we go through the lessons.
One of the flexibility issues I saw in other online homeschool planners was the ability to add links to other resources such as videos or documents. This is the main reason that I stuck to my Excel workbook but you can add those links with Homeschool Planet. It seems to be incredibly flexible. Now that our school year has started, I’m excited to see how it works for us in real time.
Last year, I used a vertical calendar for keeping track of how fast (or slow) we were moving through our curricula. It is an easy one page year long calendar that helps me see our overall school schedule. My goal is to average four days of school a week for most subjects. At the bottom of the calendar, I keep track of how we are doing in reaching that goal. The line that is labeled “week” is the expected week that we’ll be in during the first week of each month. The color coding is how I easily see when we will be taking our planned breaks. I loved having this quick snapshot of our school year so I will be using it again.
We find it really easy to get side tracked with all the distractions that can come with homeschooling. In our community, there are seemingly endless options for play dates, field trips and group activities. Those are very important to us but sometimes it is easy to forget that we need to do our actual school work too! These scheduling and record keeping steps help keep us on track with our goals.