Thoughts on “Homeschool Planning Season” – and a peek at Plan Your Year

So, it’s that time again – Spring is technically (according to the calendar) here and with the approaching warm weather comes the season of Homeschool Conventions, Curriculum Sales, and the  potentially all-encompassing “Homeschool Planning Season”.

We are entering into our 7th official year of homeschooling.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been on this journey for that long.

I have spent a good 5 years out of our 7 completely stressing in the Spring.  Because, you know, it’s when us homeschool Moms have to figure everything for the next year out.  I’ve spoken to so many Moms who have walked through the same journey I have over the past several years.  Spring rolls around and everything goes crazy in the homeschool (and the home).

The rhythm of Homeschool Planning Season often goes something like this:

  • About March, I start to burn out.  (Let’s face it – what homeschool Mama isn’t burning out a bit in March?)
  • I make excuses why it’s ok to drop the same-old same-old we’ve been doing for several months and start dreaming of all the better, more fun, more engaging, more challenging, more expensive ways we can do this homeschool thing.  Big boxed curriculum, here I come…?
  • I start looking at all the various curriculums and programs we just haven’t tried yet.  (And we’re starting to run out of ones we haven’t tried… so that’s good news, I guess!)
  • I start looking at all the booklists and piles of books we have yet to read and start putting every single title in my Amazon cart.
  • I get tempted by flashy promotion, packaging, and promises of all my homeschool curriculum dreams coming true with the simple click of a mouse (and a rather large charge to the credit card).
  • I go to Homeschool Curriculum Sales and spend money on piles of curriculum-type-stuff I really don’t need and will end up selling for less about a month after the sale. 
  • I feel defeated because I’ve spent way too much and very shortly feel overwhelmed and unhappy with my choices.  (Mostly curriculum that I’m convinced will answer all our needs and work wonders in every way the publishers promise.)
  • By July, I’m back to square one before the ‘official’ school year has even BEGUN.  I’ve sold all the stuff I thought was “AMAZING” and “THE ANSWER” and I have gone back to the basic and piles of great living books.
  • Sometimes, I blog about all this, which is surely leading people all over the world to think I am absolutely crazy.  (And, believe me, at times I am – but I’m trying hard not to be!)

So, the moral of the story?
Do not do as I do.  Or have done.  It’s nuts.  It will cost you way too much money and has a high potential of leaving you disappointed and overwhelmed.
Let me share with you a little truth I’ve learned that took me way too long to figure out:

No curriculum is going to give me the perfect homeschool.

Say it with me. 

No, honestly.  You need to tell yourself this.  No curriculum is going to give me the perfect homeschool.

It sounds like a basic statement and we can all nod our heads in agreement, right?  I mean, come on Cassandra, isn’t that an obvious truth?  OF COURSE no curriculum is going to give me the perfect homeschool.  Well, yes, it’s obvious.  And, no – it isn’t – not at all.  Because how many of us have spent countless hours researching the ‘best’ curriculum for our children and then invested in ‘the best’ only to find it wasn’t at all what we dreamed?

No homeschool curriculum is going to be the answer to all your prayers and/or dreams.  If you put that much hope and trust in one boxed resource, you are almost sure to be completely disappointed, friend.  I’ve been there.
Oh, I know – but the catalog is so shiny and pretty and the promises are huge and you are so tempted to get pulled right in.  And hey, maybe that big curriculum purchase might really work out for you – but my encouragement would be to just take a deep breath and be sure (really sure) before you jump two feet in.

It has taken me many years of homeschooling primary, elementary, and now upper elementary aged children to realize that this homeschool thing really doesn’t need to be so complicated.  

No, I definitely do not need a boxed curriculum (even one that is labelled as Classical, Charlotte Mason, or the like).  No, I do not need pretty subject-based curriculums for every single subject known to man.  (IE: a program for Science, Geography, History, etc.)
No, I do not need to spend tons of money to offer my children a wonderful feast of beautiful ideas that will inspire them to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.  And, in fact – I’ll probably do a better job at my intended goals apart from much ‘curriculum’ at all.

It’s not that I scoff at those who do use such curriculums – it’s just that, I’ve realized that for SO many families- the expensive programs are completely unnecessary.

Don’t stress just because it’s April and every other Homeschooler is stressing about planning.  Don’t get restless and fidgety and start thinking everything you’re already doing isn’t good enough and something more expensive and more flashy will be the bees knees for your kids.  

It probably won’t be – or bee – at all.  I mean, it might be… but a lot of times it is just a lot of buzz.  (Ok, I’ll stop…)

I think the way I kicked my curriculum addiction and restlessness is by actually acknowledging that I had a problem.  (HAHA-  Hello, my name is Cassandra and I am addicted to buying curriculum and continuously changing my homeschool plans half-way through the year when the curriculum does not work for us in the idyllic way I dreamt it would.)

I had to acknowledge that my restlessness was more than me ‘searching for the best’ for my kids. It was about me not really having a clear enough vision for what I wanted and what each individual child needed.  It was about me thinking that a purchase, a click of a mouse, could solve all my frustrations or be the answer all my Homeschooling dreams.

But instead, I was lost in a circle of discontentment, constantly changing what we were doing, putting HOURS into planning and implementing the next best thing to just toss it all out the window in a few months.  Don’t do this, please.   It’s hard on you.  It’s hard on your kids.  It’s hard on your budget. 

My eyes have really been opened lately to the value of keeping things simple.  I no longer make big, expensive ‘curriculum’ purchases.  (Not that they are always wrong for every family, I’ve just realized they are almost always wrong for us.)

We use a huge number of wonderful Living Books to learn.  We follow a general timeline resource (Simply Charlotte Mason) and we work through our learning using History as our spine together as a family.  We dive into what we find interesting a little further and for this, we use the library.  We Notebook about what we are learning.  We implement the largely FREE Charlotte Mason philosophy into our home and school.   It’s as simple as that.

Simple.  And not simple.  Because I know so many of you out there will say, well that sounds just great, but how on earth do I do that?!  (I did put together a post right here that explains how I piece together our stuff, if that helps...)

It has taken a few years to find our sweet spot (um… 7 years?).   We use resources – but no boxed curriculums.  For example, we will use “Dictation Day by Day” for Dictation or Delightful Reading and All About Reading for reading instruction, or SQUILT for composer study, but those are stand alones.  It’s not a catastrophe or a huge change in course if they don’t work out.  But usually, things DO work out now-a-days because I’ve taken the time to really understand what will and won’t work for our kids and for myself.

For all things family (History, Geography, Science, Nature Study, Foreign Languages, Literature, Poetry, etc.) we use Living Books and Charlotte Mason’s methods.  It costs me next to nothing beyond the cost of some Living Books we choose to purchase.

We embrace Morning Time and learn wonderful things together using inexpensive resources that make learning come to life and give us freedom to pick and choose what moves us.

So, it is my hope to inspire you to embrace the truth that YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL for less.  Less stress and less money and less chaos.  You can keep it simple and still have a rich education for your children.  You can homeschool more effectively for your own family’s style and needs without locking into big, fancy curriculums.

And I’m hoping to walk through this process a little with you over the next several weeks.

I wanted to share with you the resources I am using to help me “Plan my Year” this year.  I have only started this book (and printed a bunch of the planning pages) but I still thought it was important I share because it is a GREAT place to start if you are planning your homeschool year.

Plan Your Year is another great resource from Pam Barnhill (I talk about the Your Morning Basket resource here).  I LOVE her stuff.  I actually didn’t realize at first that all the printable planning resources came with a detailed book explaining full of inspiration and information about how to actually implement the planning.  (On of my friends pointed it out to me, thank you, Kayla!)

I love so much of what Pam shares – it is great advice to help you solidify your ‘why’,  stay on track, plan for a successful and restful year, and (hopefully) find your sweet spot in homeschooling. (And also- avoid the chaos I’ve described above!)

I will be doing a full review of Plan Your Year in a few weeks, but here is the link if you want to check it out and get started!  You will not be disappointed.

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner

Plan Your Year Ad

I’ll be back in a few days with updates about how to create a Homeschool Vision and set realistic goals to help you plan well for an enjoyable and peaceful year.  πŸ™‚

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