Planning – A Beginning

Heather writes: Mind sharing what is in all your inspirational homeschool planning this time of year?

What fun! I’d love to start a few planning posts.  I’ll start with a general one – one that shows you how I work my way in from considering the big picture down to the year and from there into smaller baskets of work.  This is just how I work…it’s not the *official* method for home education planning!!  There are to plan and prepare for the next year!

I’ve started gathering resources together and ideas are starting to take shape nicely.  Our years always emphasize and invite creativity while we immerse ourselves in living books.  I have fresh printer cartridges in my printer, a shiny new pad of paper, a bouquet of sharpened pencils, lots and lots of post-its, and a nice group of catalogs I like to look at for inspiration.

The first thing I do in planning is build an overall picture.  I like to lay things out with post-it notes I can arrange and re-arrange so that I can consider the entire year – the subjects to be covered and each child.  After that, I get down to choosing resources for each child.  It’s wonderful that many resources already live on my shelves – I can just grab a book or group of books, or a booklist I’ve already worked on my laptop – and drop it into my planning bins and baskets.

Here are a few questions I ask myself before I start planning.  These help me be honest with myself, be honest about my child’s needs, and seek to plan with God’s plan in mind:

  • What season of life is our family in?  Is it clear that God has planned for our time in ways that I might need to be considerate of as I plan?
  • Is a child old enough to have identified life goals?  Vocation?
  • What is the educational path that would be most helpful to that child?
  • What are the passions of my child – where do they self-propel?  (These areas probably won’t need a lot of planning from me.)
  • Are there any areas that need particular work focus or remediation?  Writing?  Reading/Phonics?  Math?
  • Reflecting on last year – how can I improve my time management in order to offer myself to each of my children?
  • Do I need to spend some time with habit or discipline training before we start lessons again?

I just finished up my post-it note planning for next year for our crew and thought you’d like seeing a picture of our big grid.


This is the big picture plan for us.  I like that I can move and rearrange the post-its as I build so that I can see what’s going on: who’s doing what, what we might work on together, the themes that will connect the learning for the year, where I might have some holes that need a little more thought in planning.

One of my favorite resources for helping me come up with a plan is from Simply Charlotte Mason – Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.  I enjoy planning and have a style that works well for me, but this book is so practical and well laid out it was still a big help!  It walked me step by step from the big picture down to details in the planning.  If your educational philosophy tends toward living books or designing your own curriculum at all, do consider looking into this resource!

So…I’ve got our yearly plan done.  I will have a 9th grader, 5th grader, 1st grader, and a toddler next year!  I just finished hammering out the details of my 9th grader’s plans!  They’re lovely and what’s more, she had a hand in helping with the plans!  Good thing, because at this age, it’s her responsibility to live them!  She needs to be on board!  I have the 5th grader’s plans halfway done.  I’ll give you a peek into the details of those plans soon!

 I’ll share one more favorite tool I use when planning for the year like this!  This tool is super inexpensive, available everywhere, and finds many uses all over the home – the plastic dishwashing tub!

I have about 10!  (**Note** I have written the kids names with sharpie on the front of my bins, but I smudged them out for the pic.  Names on the front of the bins are a help though!)  These are so helpful in containing groups and collections of things…like the books I’m pulling off my shelves to use for next year!  Set out one or two bins for each child on a table or the floor.  As you look to your shelves in your planning, hopefully you’ll find many books and resources that already live on your shelves to make use of.  Methodically go through your shelves; when you find a book you might use, drop it into a child’s bin.  Keep doing this as you work your way through all of your shelves.  This is a frugal way of making sure you use the resources you already have!

Another tip…if you use living books in your plan like I do you won’t be able to fit them all in a bin (or even 5 bins!)  I drop anchor books into the bins, and I keep a pad of paper in each bin for jotting down booklists of history, literature, and science books.  With my pad of paper in hand I can list living books from my shelves that would be useful for the year on the paper without pulling half of the books on my shelves down.  The pad of paper stays in the planning bin until I can build more detailed booklists and plans.

Now, with your bins holding the books, booklists, and your post-it note yearly plans considered, you should have a pretty good idea of what will need to be ordered and you can start working on a book-list for ordering!

How are your *big picture* plans for the year coming?  Hope you’re all enjoying this time of considering possibilities and the potential in a new year!  I’ll fill in a few more details with the plans in another post soon!

Follow up posts: 
Planning Again – A Year Considered 
Planning In Pretty Notebooks
A Considered Booklist
A Year Considered – Nurturing Wonder in the Preschool Years
A Year Considered – The Early Years – something between K and 1st grade plans
A Year Considered – 5th Grade
A Year Considered – 9th Grade
Charlotte Mason in high school
The Balanced Whole in a Charlotte Mason Education

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  1. So lovely, and as alwasys, very inspirational. I needed to read a planning post at this time, as this will be my first year of really coming up with a plan for my soon to be 6 year old, and I need a little guidance.

  2. Great planning post Jen. I like the grid method too, really helps to see the big picture! I usually do mine on Excel, I may have to try the post it method 😉 Great chatting, have a super rest of the week!

  3. Dear Jen,
    Great method of planning. I can't wait for the next installment.
    I love actually that you US people are planning for next year while we are still in the middle as I find it gives me some creative boost when I need it

  4. Jen,
    What an awesome help this is. I love the grid idea. I can't wait to see the rest. I have to tell you some of your post have been extremely helpful to me! God Bless you for being so willing to share.

  5. I like the pictures, Jen :-). Yet another requirement for me to put on my new house list: make sure there is enough space for planning bins! LOL

  6. Are the post it's color coded by child? How are the grids organized? Months? Child? Do you keep the books in the bins all school year, or do you do something else? Sorry for all the questions, but your posts are so very helpful!

  7. Thank you SOOO much for this wonderful post and for answering my question – I feel so honored!! 🙂

    I will certainly put into practice some of your methods – you have the best ideas! Can't wait to see what is on tap for your kids for next year. Please share some of your favorite tried and true curriculum choices!!???

  8. Thanks for the great ideas…I'm starting to think about next year myself! I'll have 6th grade, 3rd grade, 1st grade and toddler…I love the dishwasher tubs and will be incorporating that somehow:) Thanks again for sharing. God Bless!

  9. What a great post, Jen. I can't wait to read more. I am looking forward to hearing SCM at the HEAV convention in a few weeks- I am finding that I am moving much more towards a CM approach v. Eclectic. My children (and I) need the “rails”!

  10. great inspiration, thanks for the CM book recommendation – that is an invaluable tool! Looking forward to seeing more details 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing your planning methods. I'm going to get some dish tubs tomorrow. I too want to know more about your paper grid. Are the column headings subjects or months? Did you free-hand the grid or make it on your computer?

  12. Ladies,
    I'm so glad you might have found some ideas on this post you can use in your own homes! The things I use are really just ideas I've borrowed from others and made work for us and the way we learn – so do adapt these ideas to fit your homes and your needs! What great fun sharing ideas like this!!

    And…I got it! You'd like to know more details about the big grid, or the Post-It note planning I do…and you're interested in the details of what we decided to run with for the year, right?

    Ok…I'll get some details together for Post-It note planning! This is such an easy and workable way of planning ideas, especially if you plan in chunks or themes! It helps me see overall themes, balance across the whole, move and rearrange and consider individual work as well as family/together work! Great planning tool! I'll do a bit more detailed post soon!

    Happy planning, ladies!

  13. Sooo helpful, as always. I can't wait to read your next posts on the subject. I'm especially curious as to what you've decided to use next year. 🙂

    Hugs for your week, Jen!

  14. The picture of your post-it grid is a thing of beauty. I bought the Charlotte Mason planner you mentioned and it is a great help. Thanks for mentioning it! I'm finding I need a bit more help in the planning department this year as I have one going into 3rd and another ready to gently start school. And then there's the rampaging toddler, just to keep things interesting! *grin*

    I'm eagerly awaiting any future posts on the subject!

  15. I'm not in the planning mode yet. But this post just lit that fire and got me thinking and perhaps even excited. You really simplified the process and made it very visual. I love that! I am a visual person so planning things just in my head and on paper frustrates me. I am bookmarking this until I can print it out! Thanks!

  16. I feel so awful for taking so long to reply to Mary Ellen's question! LOL!!! I was working on a follow-up post and realized I never answered!

    Mary Ellen asked:
    ** Do tell what the Victoria magazine is for…. **

    Happy to tell!!!

    A dear friend gifted me with several of her older back issues of the Victoria magazine! Treasures these are! Among them was the Spring 1988 magazine – ALL ABOUT ANNE! Anne of Green Gables, that is! Since my 9th grader is finishing up her two years worth of studies with Anne, you know I had to toss that delightful magazine into one of her baskets for this year!

    And, I have assembled the most delicious teatime basket for myself just full of older issues of Victoria magazine! Each one waiting to be rediscovered in a quiet moment!

    So…that's what that Victoria magazine is doing there! So sorry to let this question just drop off my radar like that, Mary Ellen! 🙂

  17. Dear Jen,
    I come back to this post a few times a year! I wonder if you will notice this comment after all this time?…
    This book is pictured in one of your planning baskets, so I'm wondering if you use “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding” by Nebel? I bought it and love it, but find it so difficult to implement. I would very much appreciate your advice on this book.
    Much love from Australia

  18. Hi Selena!
    I'm grateful to get your comment! It's really fun when folks visit older posts and comment because it gives me a chance to revisit those older posts, too. This one really brings me back! I love planning! Love gathering all that great potential together and considering the possibilities!

    I've had several people ask me about Nebel's book and how I use it. I think it could work as a spine for some, but that's not how we tend to work here, so I mostly use it as background reference for me when we're covering concepts. I might read a few lessons and decide to introduce a concept from the lesson, but our primary way of conveying science ideas is in and through living books. For that reason, I also enjoy the recommended books in Nebel's chapters.

    My recommendation would be to look at it anew since you already have it on your shelf. First consider how your family learns best – living books, a text with more direction? We're definitely a living books family, so using Nebel's book as a supplement and reference works well for us. But look at Nebel's book through the lens of how your science days look when they're really intuitive, when they really “fit”!! And then open Nebel's book again and just skim it…and start to consider if there are ways (outside of the book ways) that the ideas in his book could complement your intuitive science days.

    Don't be afraid to use a resource in a way that isn't exactly as it is written, or suggested to be used, but rather in ways that help it to fit your family and the way you learn. It's a tool, and one that should function in as intuitive a way for your family as possible!

    Hope this is a help, Selena! Good luck!

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