A Review of the Plan Your Year Homeschool Planning Kit from Pam Barnhill

Homeschool Planning is a huge topic.  I mean, if you and I went out for tea (I’d have coffee but saying ‘let’s go for tea’ sounds nicer) I could talk for HOURS about homeschool planning.  And if you’re a homeschooler, I’m sure you could too.  Let’s face it – it is FUN to plan.  It’s FUN to dream.  There’s something about having a whole year ahead of you with wide open space to fill with learning and adventure to share together with our children.  (Honestly, I feel so blessed to have the privilege to Homeschool my kiddos!)

But the whole planning thing is also very overwhelming at times and can seem like a next to impossible task, especially when you’re just starting out in your homeschool journey.  I know – I’ve been there.  You open a curriculum catalog or walk into your first curriculum fair and you almost want to throw in the towel before you begin – so many options – how do you even take the first step?

Alright – so, that’s where awesome resources like Plan Your Year come in.  I so wish I had of had something like this when I was first starting!  I had books and Charlotte Mason type guides but nothing that took my hand and walked me through a step-by-step process of planning not only my YEAR but my HOMESCHOOL in general.  

Honestly?  Pam has thought of everything we need to know to put together a fantastic homeschool year and put it in this extensive Plan Your Year Homeschool Planning Kit.   The kit includes the Planning Book (78 pages of step-by-step inspiration), over 40 printable planning pages to go along with the steps in the book, audio interviews with two lovely homeschool Moms and top bloggers/writers in the homeschool world.  For $24 – it is worth every penny as you can use the resources again and again.

I’ve been planning homeschool for seven years now and yet I’m still learning a ton and gleaning so much from the Plan Your Year Planning Book.  And as I’m reading through it and actually working through the steps (or action items, as Pam calls them), I’m realizing how great it feels to actually HAVE a well thought out plan.  A plan that is prayerfully considered.   A plan that places a priority on peace in the home and progress towards long-term visions and goals.

What I love about The Plan Your Year Planning Book/Guide:

So, the layout of the Planning Book is awesome.  SO easy to follow.  Each section covers topics like: creating a vision, setting goals, determining a course of study, scheduling options, planning a week, evaluating and purchasing resources, building a booklist, organization, records, planning your day, etc.

Within these sections there is a TON of information and encouragement for tackling each topic and the planning and evaluating tasks that go along with them.  There are also very specific “Action Items” that prompt you to actually do something.  (Oh, how I love this as it gives me the shove I need to actually PLAN and not just read books about planning…)

Yes, so – you will read through the section on Determining a Course of Study (for example) and at the end you will be prompted to use the Course of Study form (which you get for free with the purchase of the Plan Your Year Kit) to actually start putting pencil to paper and plan that course of study for your child.

This layout/format is so fantastic for busy Moms who want to work through a book and get results.  By the time you finish working through the Planning Book, if you’ve actually followed along and worked through the Action Items, you will have planned a FANTASTIC homeschool year.  I’m sure of it.

Let me walk you through what some of these sections looks like –

Click above to see the Kit.

Pam starts by having us create a vision for our homeschool.  

Now, this sounds basic enough but  I don’t actually think it is that common for homeschoolers to even HAVE a vision.  Or to realize that they should have one at all or why.  A couple weeks ago at a local homeschool meeting we discussed the importance of vision.  I would saw the large majority of the group had never considered their homeschool vision!

A few years ago I put together my “Why Homeschool” page which is really a long version of our vision and the why behind our decision to educate at home.  (Often by asking the ‘why?’, you will get a good idea of your vision!).  However, beyond that post, I hadn’t really penned our vision in a more concise and direct format.  So, I took several days to work through that vision when I started reading Plan Your Year and it was powerful!  Knowing where we are heading makes every difference in the world for the journey.

Knowing our vision changes the way I view our time.  It changes the big decisions like what we study, what resources we use, what books we read, what extra-curriculars we get involved in, how we view scheduling and rhythm.

Knowing our vision also affects my day-to-day decisions in so many ways.  For example, a huge part of our homeschool vision is to nurture relationships in our home.  If I see my two sons engaged in a healthy game of chess where they are both laughing and enjoying each other’s company – I am not going to interrupt that moment for anything.  They are building relationship – one of my main goals.  They are enjoying each other’s company in good, healthy fellowship – this relationship building trumps Math bookwork any day!  So, yes, having that vision that will affect how I act and respond in given situations.

Pam takes us through the process of not only writing a meaningful and useful vision but also helps us come up with effective and realistic goals based on that vision.  

To me, goals are a more close-up or personal spin on vision.  Now we are coming up with the ‘how’ for getting there.  Or at least AIMING to get there.

Honestly, I’ve always had ‘big goals’ for our homeschool.  They’ve always been kicking around.  But working through the printables and using the Goals Worksheets for each child was HUGE for me!  I’ve never done this before – actually writing down each child’s strengths, things to improve, and goals for the year.  I mean to really think it through and write it down – it makes a difference in how you view ‘success’ and progress.

A shot of one of the Action Items sections in the Planning Guide.
Our vision as it is shaping up… (it is in progress, just like us…)

Pam also walks us through different types of scheduling (for example schooling year round vs. September to June).  She also talks about block scheduling, loop scheduling, and daily scheduling – comparing and weighing the potential pros and cons of each style.  There are various printables available in the kit for planning with all these different styles of schedules as well.

Another section discusses Curriculum and Resources.  I agree so much with what both Pam Barnhill and Sarah Mackenzie (who wrote the introduction for Plan Your Year and speaks on the included podcasts) have to say about curriculum.  It is a tool – but should never be our master.  The resources and curriculum we buy is only useful if we actually USE it.  And we will only use it if it works for us, our children, and fits into our homeschool philosophy and vision.

So again, we are encouraged to choose curriculum carefully and with our vision and goals in mind.  Here we are also prompted to use the Curriculum Resource page to pencil in some of the resources we do plan to use. and for which subjects.  This is also done in partnership with the Course of Study section and printables.  (Yep, this Planning Kit is extensive… I love it!)

The Printables

The Printables included in the Planning Kit are awesome.  When you purchase the kit, all the pdf downloads are there for you to download and use as many times as you want throughout the coming months and years.  You are able to edit the forms on the computer as well, which is incredibly helpful if you prefer to use the computer to type out your schedules, goals, etc.  
I find that having the Printables ready to go is very helpful in keeping me moving forward and on task.  Love them.
Here’s a peek-

 Final Thoughts

Homeschooling is an absolutely HUGE task.  Those of us that are educating our children at home feel the weight of the responsibility in a very real way, especially when we are trying to put together a plan.  Whether the plan is for a week or a whole year – it is a pretty big deal.  This is not just about what time of day we ‘do math’.  This is about putting together a plan that nurtures the heart of our vision – that sets in motion the goals we have for our children’s education and discipleship.  This is about shaping young people – these precious children God has placed in our care.  So,  taking planning seriously is probably a pretty good idea.

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner
Click here to see the full kit!

Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean there is no flexibility or prayerful changes.  There certainly can be (and should be) room for listening to God’s Spirit leading in different directions throughout the year and being willing to tune into how you and your children are being led.   You can use tools like Plan Your Year to specifically make room for the inevitable (and often welcome!) twists and turns of following delights and interests along the way.

If you are currently on this journey of planning your homeschool, I encourage you, from one homeschool Mom to another – to pray about the direction for your coming year.  Start there.

I have found the Plan Your Year stuff to be wonderful in inspiring me to really think about the why and how I’m planning our homeschool.  I am shaping a fresh vision for our kids – even 7 years into our homeschool journey.  And that’s a gift!

As you work through the step-by-step process of piecing together a plan that makes sense for your individual family and child, you will be filled with excitement (rather than bewilderment!) for the year ahead.

I also very highly recommend getting your hands on Sarah Mackenzie’s book, Teaching from Rest.

Click here to jump over to Pam Barnhill’s website and take a look at the full Plan Your Year Homeschool Planning Kit.

I pray this review was helpful for you!!! Blessings.

Also from Pam Barnhill, don’t forget to check out my review of the Your Morning Basket resources!  They are awesome and Morning Time can and will transform your homeschool for the better!  I’m a huge believer and advocate for family Morning Time!  

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