Even though we recently switched to officially unschooling I still like planning. I’m in the process of reflecting on our last school year and will soon be planning for the next (though, to be honest, we learn all year round).
Last year I made a homeschool vision planner guide book and it was well received and downloaded thousands of times, I am going to be using the vision planner again this year to do some planning for our year but first I wanted to make a few updates.
The vision planner has now been updated and I can’t wait for other homeschoolers to use it to set a vision for the next school year.
The Vision Planner includes tons of questions to help guide your vision and goals for the next school year.
To grab your free homeschool vision planner guide book, just enter your email address below!
When sharing about our homeschool rhythm a few weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to write a post about how I plan our year without a curriculum and I got a few online and in-person questions and comments on how I do it so here it is!
When people find out that we homeschool and that our school division has zero curriculum requirements I can see the looks of concern and worry start to creep up on their faces. If I know homeschooling is not something they are interested in ever doing I’ll usually be quick to appease their fears by letting them know that I have my degree in education and am qualified to teach K-12. Those looks instantly change and I can see they feel confident in my abilities immediately.
But can I tell you a secret that I don’t tell those people?
My university degree taught me nothing about how to follow a curriculum. Honestly, I feel like my university education was, just as I feel like the school system is, a complete joke and waste of time (and money).
I have learned so much more in my three years as a homeschool parent than I ever did in university and if I ever decided to teach in a classroom again I would teach like I homeschool, at least as much as I could get away with in the school system.
WHY WE DON’T FOLLOW A CURRICULUM
I do understand why school systems have a curriculum, in that kind of setting you do need a standard for teachers to follow and there needs to be consistency from school to school.
But I do not think that homeschoolers need to follow a curriculum.
No child is at the exact place the school system thinks they need to be in every subject for their grade.
Both of my kids are a few grades ahead in a couple of subjects and a bit behind in others.
This is completely normal, even for kids that are in the classroom.
But, as a homeschooling parent I have the benefit of being able to create a custom educational plan for each of my kids that will serve them in the best way so of course I am going to take advantage of that!
Even the idea of an all-in-one homeschool curriculum rubs me the wrong way because who is to say that is all going to work for your child? If you do go ahead and purchase a homeschool curriculum I would strongly suggest being okay with not getting it all done because that curriculum was not made with your particular teaching style and your child’s particular learning style in mind. Most all-in-one curriculum end up recreating school at home, which is not my homeschool goal.
HOW I PLAN OUR HOMESCHOOL YEAR WITHOUT A CURRICULUM
Okay, so now you know a little about why I don’t like curriculum and I’m assuming you at least agree with me a little since you are still reading so I want to share how I go about planning for our year when we aren’t using a curriculum.
There are a few steps involved:
#1 VISION PLANNING
I always start with a lot of vision planning. I ask myself (and my kids and husband as well) a series of questions that remind me why we are doing this, what our priorities are, what the kids’ interests are, etc.
After I have gone through all pages in my Vision Planner I grab a piece of paper and start writing down all the subjects we will be covering in the year. Some are the regular school subjects and some are less so.
To give you an example, here’s what I ended up with for this year:
read alouds (audio)
free reading (for my fourth grader) and reading practice (for my first grader)
Bible reading (independent)
current memory verse
verse for the year
poetry tea time
fairy tales and Aesop stories
Honestly, when I wrote it all out I got a little overwhelmed so don’t be worried if you feel the same way.
Remember: not every subject has to be done every day.
#3 WRITE A FEW THINGS YOU WANT TO STUDY IN EACH SUBJECT
Using what I all figured out from my vision planning I like to take some time to write down what I kind of want to cover in each subject for the year. This is not an exhaustive list, I usually just write down the first things that come to my mind.
To give an example, here are some of the things from my list:
Bible (together) – reading plan & Bible journaling
Scripture copywork – a verse or passage a day depending on child’s ability
character study – using the Book of Virtues, Bible verses and maybe Learning Through Literature’s Character Study
artist study – approximately one artist a month
composer study – approximately one composer a month
science – grade one: animal science, human body & plan science – grade four: physics, mainly through simple machines
history – listen to Mystery of History, possibly journal through it
poetry tea time – weekly on Tuesday afternoons
#4 FIGURE OUT HOW OFTEN YOU WANT TO DO EACH SUBJECT
This is the first year I’ve created a bit of a rhythm for our homeschool days and I gotta say, I’m loving it. Yes, even this rebel-who-doesn’t-like-routine is enjoying a rhythm to her days.
I decided there were some subjects I wanted to do each day (our priority subjects) and then I wanted to add in two loop schedules into our day. You can read the full details here but here’s the general breakdown I created:
DAILY (AKA TEA TIME)
These are the things I would like to do “every day” (but, here’s a secret: we only do “school” about three days a week):
independent Bible reading
independent reading/reading practice
OUR MORNING LOOP
Ideally we do one or two of these each morning after our tea time.
fairy tales & Aesop
OUR AFTERNOON LOOP
These subjects are a little more intensive and we will only do about one an afternoon:
#5 CREATE A MONTHLY OVERVIEW
From there I went and created an overview for each month of the year. I generally make one for August-May but should really adjust to September-May because we don’t really do a whole lot in August. I’m still learning what works best for us.
All I did was write the month at the top of the paper and then write out each subject and one or two things I would like to get to that month in each subject. For me this is not a list to cling to with everything in me, it’s a guide.
I don’t even fill out all the months for the year. I only went to December and then for January through to May I only filled out a few things because I want to leave room to make some adjustments as needed.
#6 KNOW THAT YOU CAN CHANGE THINGS
On that note, one of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility we have if we notice things aren’t working for us or for our kids. Don’t be afraid to change your plans halfway through the year or even halfway through the first month!
As a homeschool parent you have the benefits of looking at every moment as a potential learning opportunity and kids naturally learn so much in that kind of environment.
I’m happy to share what does (and doesn’t) work for us in our homeschool but just because things work for us don’t mean they will be right for you. We are all unique creations raising unique creations and there is no one-size-fits-all method, which is why following a curriculum is often not the best for anyone.
If you are a fellow non-curriculum follower I would love to hear how you plan your year in the comments below, who knows, the way you approach your year may help another homeschooling family that is looking for a rhythm that works for them!
Welcome to a new series where I am going more in-depth on all the different subjects we will be tackling this school year! If you want an overview of our homeschool day/week/month you can take a look at our three-part homeschool rhythm.
One area I knew I really wanted to do better this year in our homeschool was the Bible. I have tried a few different things (plans, methods, children’s Bible’s, etc) in the past and have not really been very good with sticking with them.
One of the ways I plan on making sure I follow through this year is by having our family Bible reading at the beginning of the day, since it is the very first thing we will be doing it will definitely get done.
My own personal Bible reading routine has changed a lot this year and I’ve gone from just reading the Bible to actually studying it, I don’t know why it took me so long to make the realization that I should do more than just read it.
I spent some time reading The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents this summer and it really made me want to step up how I approach the Bible with my kids. No one ever taught me how to study the Bible which is probably why it took me until I was in my 30’s to even learn how to study it, out of all the subjects I teach my children, the Bible should be my top priority.
OUR READING PLAN
The first thing I needed to figure out was a reading plan. I would love to one day go all the way through the Bible reading every chapter with my kids but we definitely needed something more manageable to start. (And, let’s be honest, there are some chapters I’m just not willing to tackle with my elementary aged children.)
Via some Google searches I came across a 90-day Bible reading plan that I mostly liked. I printed it out and have adjusted the lengths of some of the passages so far. Once I have the readings separated to my liking I’ll share it as a free printable. (Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter and you’ll be the first to get it.)
The Bible reading plan was originally a 90-day plan but it will take us longer than that since some days have quite a few chapters and I would rather take our time than just try to cruise through to check the boxes. I’m guessing it will take us all year to go through it.
Because our Bible reading takes place during our tea time and I’m usually sipping on my homemade, dairy-free hot cocoa at this point I usually use the Bible app and we listen to the audio version.
One thing I have been doing since the winter is taking notes when I study the Bible. For the new testament I’ve gone a bit more in-depth and the old testament has been more like chapter summaries. It has helped my comprehension and retention a lot so I knew I wanted the kids to do something similar this year.
Enter Bible Journaling.
All we did was get them basic composition notebooks and each day they write the title (the book and chapters we read) and then write and/or draw something from that chapter(s).
My daughter will often write questions that she thought of while listening to the chapter being read. As you can see above in the photo on the left, she wrote: How was the ark strong (enough) to hold all that (stuff)?
Also, I am not picky about spelling when it comes to their Bible journals, if they ask how something is spelled I will tell them but there are times when my fourth grader will write a page and a half long summary, I care way more that she is writing and processing the chapter than whether or not she is spelling things correctly.
Not only does Bible journaling have them thinking about the Bible for longer than if we just read the chapters and moved on but it can create some discussion as they ask for clarification as they write or draw. Plus they are getting writing and drawing in, honestly, if we just did our Bible stuff each day I would be okay with that, in my opinion it covers all the most important subjects.
And there you have it, our super simple and yet incredibly beneficial Bible reading and journaling time!
I am so excited at the treasure these journals are already becoming, I know they will be even more so by the end of the year.
I would love to hear how you study the Bible with your children, leave me a comment below and let me know what you do!
As I was planning our homeschool year it became clear to me that this was the year to finally get on board with loop scheduling!
My oldest is in grade four this year and I’ve really noticed an increase in the amount that I want her to learn this year and have decided that this is the year we start sitting down and having more focused “school time”. After our first few years being more on the relaxed/semi-unschooling side this is definitely a change.
I’ll be honest, there has been a bit of push back on her part, especially since we “started” a light version of our rhythm a couple of weeks before the school system here but I keep reminding her that we take lots of breaks (even our first week had two days off), plus this will take us maybe three hours a day if we do all the things I have planned for the day as opposed to the six hours kids are in school.
That all being said, I am contemplating running one day like the school system, making sure the kids are up, dressed, eaten, etc for the day, make them walk the distance of the bus stop and then make them do a regular school days work, have recess only at designated times, eat only at regular times and not talk while working. Ha, I think I may have the hardest time getting through the day! But I do think it would be an interesting experience.
Anyway, on to our rhythm for our year and the loop scheduling!
WHAT IS LOOP SCHEDULING?
Before we go any further I need to break down loop scheduling, thankfully it’s really simple.
For loop scheduling you just make a list of the subjects you want to cover and each day during your loop time you will go down the list and spend time doing the subjects until your loop time is over.
So, let’s say you have artist study, composer study, nature study and art on one loop and you spend one hour each day doing that particular loop.
On Monday you would start with artist study and let’s say it takes you 45 minutes, then you will move on to composer study.
Then on Tuesday you will continue down the list, meaning you are on to nature study. Let’s say nature study takes you the full hour.
Wednesday comes around and you’ve planned a play date for the afternoon, so you don’t do anything off your loop.
On Thursday you continue on where you left off: art. Let’s say art takes you half an hour, you still have half an hour left so you start back at the top with your artist study.
Friday the kids are really interested in your composer study and you spend the whole hour on it.
WHY LOOP SCHEDULING IS GREAT
The nice thing about loop scheduling is that it can keep you from consistently missing a subject like you may if you were doing a weekly schedule. For instance, if you always wanted to do nature study on Friday afternoons but that turned out to be a day when you end up planning a bunch of play dates you would “fall behind” in your nature study.
With loop scheduling, even if you miss a day there is not one particular subject that suffers since you just pick up where you left off.
OUR THREE-PART HOMESCHOOL RHYTHM
I did some research on loop scheduling because it had been awhile since I had really thought about using it and I came across this 3-part homeschool routine that really resonated with me (though not the word routine, there’s a word I don’t like!).
There were a lot of changes that I wanted to make to have it suit our needs but the bones of the three-part rhythm (that’s a better word!) would be perfect.
I already knew there were some things I wanted us to do each day in our homeschool and then other things that we could loop. I wanted to start with the daily tasks to make sure they actually got done, but, let’s be honest, tea time sounds way better than tasks.
After we were done our tea time we would do some chores around the house and then do our morning loop (couch time), after that it would be lunch and then time for our afternoon loop.
Tea time is how we kick off our homeschool morning. Truthfully, for my son this is actually breakfast but for my daughter who likes to eat at the crack of dawn this is usually second breakfast, and this is when I have my daily cup of homemade, dairy-free hot cocoa (so it’s not really tea time at all).
These are the most important “subjects” I want to hit each day and if we only get the tea time portion of our day done I am okay with that.
I plan on writing a separate post for exactly what we are doing for each of these subjects and will come back and link here when I do so.
MORNING LOOP/COUCH TIME
The next portion of our day is our morning loop/couch time, this is the shortest portion and we will generally just do one of these a day, which means it will take us a little more than a week to go through the loop.
1. artist study
2. composer study
4. creative writing
5. character study
7. fairy tales & Aesop stories
Once again, I’ll share these more in-depth in the upcoming weeks.
Our afternoon loop has less subjects on it but we won’t be doing it every day. On Monday afternoons I’m blocking that time for our “Monday unit” (more about that later in the post) and Tuesday afternoons are poetry tea time, though we may also do one of our loop subjects that afternoon as well.
3. nature study
One thing I wanted to try out this year was very, very short unit studies. So, I got creative and I decided that on Monday afternoons we would take some time for a mini unit study and then if the kids were interested we could continue learning about the topic throughout the week.
If I’m being honest, a big part of the reason I want to do some unit studies is totally because I’ve been suckered in by all the beautiful unit study flat lays I see on Instagram all the time.
Thankfully that’s not the only reason though, I also wanted some time in the week to be able to add in learning about topics that aren’t really in the “schedule” for the year. I’ve been creating a list of random things that we may use for these mini units including: owls, constellations, print making, Canada, spies, colors, mountains and more!
And there you have it, a bit of an overview of what our homeschool rhythm will (hopefully) be looking like this year! We started things off easy last week by “homeschooling light” meaning we’ve just been doing the tea time portion and are slowly adding in our loops.
Now, over the next few weeks I hope to share more details about what each of our “subjects” all entails and I’m also planning to write a post about how I plan our year without a curriculum. I wish I was able to be a little more ahead of things because I feel like that probably would be more helpful for people if I could share it before the school year started but hopefully it will still be helpful to some this year and others in years to come.
I actually think this is more than a schedule, I think it may be . . . dare I say . . . a routine.
Me and routine, we have a love-hate history. I’m not a fan of her but I see the benefits of getting to know her so I’m slowly exposing myself to this idea of routine and honestly, the more I get to know her, the more I see her benefits.
I don’t even know who I am any more.
In the past my beef with routine has been this idea of monotony and the only routine that I had was to not have a routine. But in the past year I’ve gotten into a few good personal routines and I’ve come to realize how they can benefit my children and our days (even though I’m still not a big fan of the word – let’s officially call this a rhythm – that is a way better word).
I am still waiting on a few resources to arrive but I think I have finished creating my ideal heartschooling rhythm for the summer and thought I would share it with you all.
Before we get into it, I guess I should back up a few steps and explain what heartschooling is.
I’m sure someone else has used the term “heartschooling” before but I’m not drawing from anyone else’s words or ideas when it comes to this idea of heartschooling. It is something I feel like I need and want to do with my kids and the definition I came up with is as follows:
Heartschooling is teaching and reaching the hearts of our children so they can know the heart of God.
This is done by spending time in God’s word, setting a gentle and loving example for them to follow and showing them how to love and forgive in their daily lives.
With that bit of information, for the rest of the post I will share some ways I plan on going about this.
I think we need to start with this one even though it is not the most important item on this list. I am working on instilling some good habits in my children this summer and I really think a regular rhythm or routine will make this a lot easier. I am so out of my element in this area though, I would appreciate any advice.
One thing that I am not a fan of are rewards charts/stickers/jars/etc. I know they work for some kids and families but not for ours, nor do I really care to make them work for us.
That being said, I do think rewards can be motivating and my kids to get some screen time a couple days a week but only once the things I want them to get done are done. These days where they have this screen time the list gets done a lot quicker.
I know the formation of habits will require consistency from me, something I am working on.
Some of the habits I am currently trying to instill in them are things like: getting better at cleaning up after themselves, helping more before and after a meal, getting some of their chores out of the way in the morning, etc.
BIBLE & MEMORY VERSES
This is one of those things that is really the most important but I struggle with doing consistently – with the kids that is, I am fine with studying the Bible on my own but for some reasons have a hard time sticking with Bible reading with the kids.
I did mention in my original heartschooling post that we plan on going through Our 24 Family Ways, I ordered the book and it should arrive early next week. Each week we will be going over a different “way” – each of which include a memory verse so we will follow along with that.
Currently we have been listening to the first week of the Same Page Podcast and memorizing those verses (the also have a passage from Shakespeare, a poem and some US president history in each episode).
I’ve heard really good things about The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the subtitle is: Help Your Kids Learn Practical Life Skills, Develop Essential Faith Habits, and Embrace a Biblical Worldview. I know there are chapters all about teaching children how to read the Bible based on their age and it seems like a really good resource. I hope to also grab this book soon and put some of what I read into action.
IMMERSE OURSELVES IN GOOD LITERATURE
The last few months I feel like I’ve been even more intentional with making sure we are reading good books and listening to good audiobooks. I want my kids to be exposed to characters who love God and are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
Here are just a couple of recommendations:
The Chronicles of Narnia – it has stood the test of time for good reason. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will also be my favorite book in the series.
Frozen Fire – this audio drama is so, so, so good. We’ve listened to a few audio dramas from Lamplighter and have enjoyed them all but this one has been my favorite by far. My kids are 6 and 8 and I think they were a great age for it, though it would also be good for an older crowd (maybe up to 14 or so?).
Redwall series – we listened to the first book on audio and Raeca is currently reading book two, if you have kids that enjoy animal fantasy books, this series is great.
The Wingfeather Saga series – I read this one myself and plan on listening to it with the kids soon. The book is funny and yet has strong good vs. evil, with characters showing real courage and learning to use their gifts to help others.
Christian Heroes Then & Now – fiction books can be great but there is something special about listening to true stories of courage and bravery and this series has some great ones.
EXPLORING GOD’S CREATION
I want to take some intentional time this summer to explore and learn about nature. I bought Exploring Nature with Children last year and am only starting to use it now.
I plan on sharing some snippets of our time with this curriculum over on my personal Instagram in the following weeks, we’ll be starting with Summer Solstice next week, I’m looking forward to diving in!
I come from a line of crafty women and it appears that trait has been passed down to my daughter. I want to make sure we all work on handicrafts of some sort – things that are useful and are not going to just get thrown out immediately.
Lately Raeca has been making notebooks for her travelers notebook – she’s been taking pages of a phonebook (that for some reason still get dropped off in our neighborhood even though I doubt anyone even uses the things) she then glues decorative pages over top to make the pages sturdier and prettier. I might just have to get her to make a couple of notebooks for mine.
I have lots of other ideas for handicrafts as well and we will experiment with the ideas as needed.
SOMETHING TO DO – the kids have been doing a bit of school work in big curriculum books we recently picked up, they are currently in the stage where they are excited about this because they are already “in” the next grade. They are also doing their daily chores and some days also doing some handicraft stuff.
SOMETHING TO LOVE – we are in a season of learning to love the people in our home, even as we recognize they may have personalities that totally clash with our own. Some days there is more love than others.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT – they are thinking about the stories that we read, the verses we memorize and the nature we learn about.
We may not get to every single thing every day but it has been nice to stop throughout the day and think about just these three things and ask myself if they have had something to do, something to love and something to think about. I find it to be a nice, simple rhythm for summer.
What does your summer rhythm look like? I would love to hear all about it!
Hey guys, so, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now. Really, ever since I shared what did and didn’t work this past year in our homeschool, but I just had so many other things on my list I needed to get checked off and I just barely sent our stuff in to our school division and now I feel like it is officially summer!
While I told the kids we were done school a month ago (cause I have that authority) I felt like I wasn’t done until those reports were done so now I’m done for the year too!
Except, not really.
While I may declare the year “done” or “started” the truth is, we never stop learning.
I have shared our summer plan for previous years (here and here and then apparently I didn’t make one last year) but this plan is going to look completely different than those ones.
This year instead of having an academic focus I want to have a heart focus. Instead of homeschooling, it will be HEARTschooling.
The summer is the perfect time to make this switch because I feel like during the school year I get so focused on academics and put the things of the heart, the more important things, off on the back burner. But now that we are done for the school year there is nothing to distract me.
We are almost to the point in our family where our oldest is about halfway done her childhood in our home and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I want her to have learned during her time here. And you know, it’s not the academics. What I want most for her is to love and obey Christ with her whole heart. It’s what I want for both of my kids.
I want to make that the focus, not only this summer but for the rest of their lives.
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1
So really, there isn’t much of a “plan”, but here is what I have so far: