How I Plan my School Year


 I can achieve a lot more during the school year with a lot less stress if I spend a little time planning early on. Some time during the summer I plan out my school year: What subjects I want to teach, how I want to teach them, when I'm going to teach them, etc. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so here is how I break it down into simple steps that aren't so overwhelming.

Back to school Free Photo


1. Write out average schedule for average day of the week, noting any available time for school time (I usually do this in a spreadsheet on the computer).


07:00 AM

Wake Up

08:00 AM


08:30 AM


09:00 AM


09:30 AM


10:00 AM

Feed baby

10:30 AM



2. Duplicate for every day of the week and note differences for particular days.






09:00 AM





3. On a separate paper (again I usually use a spreadsheet) write out subjects to teach (legally required plus personal preference) - Reading, Writing, Math, Spanish, Religion, etc.


4. Decide what I want to teach for each subject and how often.



Handwriting – Copy work



Language – A Beka God's Gift of Language C



English from the Roots Up



Typing – Mavis Beacon


Fine Arts

Art – A Beka Art B



Music – Songs We Enjoy 3, Hymnal



Music – Guitar



A Beka Arithmetic 6



Apologia Exploring Creation with Chem/Botany



A Beka Choosing Good Health (6th grade)


5. Fill in school subjects during school time for every day of the week.





08:00 AM




09:00 AM





09:30 AM



10:00 AM



6. If multiple kids, repeat steps 3-5 for each kid. I even make a schedule for my toddler and preschooler so I have a plan for what they will be doing when I need to work with my older kids in a quiet environment (For example play with sibling, nap, etc.). I usually start my scheduling with the youngest child because they are the most inflexible. This may take some tweaking to coordinate all their schedules. At 10am they may all do science together. But at 9am I may be doing one-on-one reading time with my kindergartener, so my older kids may be doing self reading or computer time at that hour.


When I am done, I have a detailed list for each child of what I plan for them to be doing for each subject (Steps 3 and 4). and a spreadsheet for each child of what subject I plan for them to be studying at what time (Steps 1,2 and 5). This is only a guideline. Obviously messy toddlers and crying babies alter the schedule regularly, but it gives me a plan to help everybody make the most of our time and to coordinate when I plan to do group work and when each child can have time on the computer and how I can plan to give each child their needed Mommy time. The more kids I have the more essential a schedule becomes to me to get anything done.  


Kitchen Dating

I think home economics if an important skill. That’s one of the reasons I have one kid a day as my kitchen helper.

My kids usually love it when it is their turn to be my kitchen helper. It’s kind of like a date with Mama since they get to spend a little one on one (sorta) time with me. I invest this time into them because I love them. It’s also important for them to learn how to cook and learn how to help. As they grow older and learn more this will return as a blessing to me.

I have them assist me at their level. My two year old can dump stuff into the bowl or stir something. My four year old can make juice. My six year old can flip pancakes and crack eggs. My eight year old can make pancake batter and pizza among other things.

I believe that kitchen economics is an important skill to becoming an adult.

What have you taught your child about kitchen economics this week?

Save Time and Money with a Meal Plan

To save time and money, I use a weekly meal plan. I used to have a blank meal plan every week. I would come up with ideas every Saturday night and fill it it. Some weeks though I wasn’t feeling very creative, or I didn’t have enough time to come up with ideas and it was rather difficult. So I created a two week revolving meal plan pattern. Some of the meals are static such as Monday breakfast is usually pancakes (Though I change it up from week to week by making different pancakes including plain, banana, or blueberry). Some of the meals are more flexible like Monday night pasta (this can be anything from spaghetti (my fallback), to tuna noodle casserole)).

On Saturday night, I fill out my weekly meal plan for the following week, being as specific as I can. Monday breakfast (pancakes) becomes: Rhubarb Spice Pancakes, strawberries, and juice. Monday night pasta becomes: Spaghetti with meat, garlic toast, and lettuce salad. Here is a PDF of my weekly meal plan that I printed and laminated with contact paper. I hang it on my fridge for convenience but keep my two week revolving meal plan pattern stashed away with my cookbooks since I don’t need it every day. Here is a sample of what my weekly meal plan would look like filled in. The only difference is that I use dry erase markers to fill it in on my fridge (they wipe off of contact paper easily), and I abbreviate a lot and assume things for myself. I thought it might make more sense if I spelled it out in a little more detail than I use for myself.

The bottom section of my meal plan is marked “Notes”. I use the space for reminders for myself. Such as new recipes I want to try next week. Reminder to fry 2 pounds of hamburger to save me time for a meal later in the week or often as a to-do list since I look at the meal plan at least 3 times a day.

As far as the “save money” part, there are lots of studies about people who use meal plans and shop with lists spend less money. In addition to that, there are two big ways that I save money with a meal plan.

  1. I buy meat when it is on sale at the grocery store and put it in the freezer. Then I base my meal plan the following week off of what I have in the freezer.
  2. I don’t waste food. I incorporate left-overs into other meals (such as left-over chili may become topping for baked potatoes later in the week) and I schedule a left-over meal into the meal plan at least once a week. (A left-over meal is where I pull out all the left-overs from the fridge, line them up on the counter, and let each kid have a turn choosing which left-over they want. I usually have a simple back up idea, such as PB&J if we run out of left-overs.)

How plan you meals?

Staying Sane with Homeschooling During the Holidays

Around the holidays I can get stressed with homeschooling. I want to keep doing all of our regular school, but I also want to do special things for the holidays. Originally I tried to do both. That was a little too crazy and stressful for me (and the kids). More recently I’ve adopted a different two-fold method to manage during the holidays.

First, I plan ahead and lighten the load. At the beginning of the school year when I’m planning my schedule, I plan a reduced schedule (or extra time off) around the holidays. This way, I don’t have to stress about getting behind if we take the whole day off to bake a pumpkin pie instead of doing math that day.

Second,I incorporate holiday activities into our regular school schedule. During the time we would normally be studying history this week, we stop our normal history study (Greece this semester), and spend the week on Thanksgiving related history topics such as the Pilgrims, or how Thanksgiving became a national holiday, or we learn about our heritage. During our normal art time, we do Thanksgiving related crafts. During our normal time for science, we might learn about live turkeys, or how turkeys are processed to get to the grocery store (my 3 year old is really fascinated with this concept this year) or bake a pie. My holiday approach is similar to a unit study on the particular holiday. 

I find this method makes the holidays a lot more fun for the kids and myself and a lot less stressful. In fact, it’s even an enjoyable time of year to be homeschooling!

How do you stay sane with homeschooling during the holidays?

A Report That’s Not Necessary?


In my state, Minnesota, writing a year end report of my child’s yearly progress is not a requirement. So why would I do it?

  1. Review and Encourage
    My year end report is a way for me to review my year and track my child’s progress. See what worked well and what needs to change. I can refer back to last year’s report when I’m having a rough day and be encouraged with all that I have done in the past with that particular child. It helps me know that I am doing something productive with my child’s and my time throughout the year.
  2. Spouse involvement
    My year end report helps communicate to my husband what our child has learned this year and what level he is currently at. It is a nice summary for my husband to read that makes it easier for him to participate in decisions regarding the upcoming school year. 
  3. Documentation
    My year end report is a great yearly summary for my child’s educational file. It is easily accessible for any future reference. It helps make it easier for me when I am trying to recall details about that grade for the next child that I am teaching. It’s a nice documentation of “just in case”. Having it in a file helps put my mind at ease should a “just in case” day ever arise. 

What I include:

I list the curriculum I have used throughout the year. I list textbooks and workbooks, but not library books that I have check out throughout the year (I actually record those separately throughout the year).

Minnesota requires instruction in eleven subjects, so I make sure to include a few sentences or a short paragraph for each required subject. I also include a few extra subjects such as religion or foreign language. I include what they learned (Reading-Child can read and write ABC’s. or Math-Child can do 2 digit multiplication.), what they did well (Science-Child enjoys science projects and conducts them well. or Art-Child can draw detailed nature pictures.), and what they need to work on (Writing- Child often forgets to punctuate his sentences. or Physical Education- Child has trouble catching a baseball when thrown from a distance of 10 feet or more.). I often use “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp as a guide for what to include in my report for subjects like Language Arts and Math. For other subjects like Science or History that may not follow the typical course of study for other children my child’s age, I often use the Table of Contents or book summary of the textbook we used. 

Sample paragraph:

Writing - Child can write upper & lower case letters and numbers. He occasionally writes some letters backwards, or uses the incorrect case. He can write short letters (such as thank you notes) using inventive spelling. Some improvement is needed with holding his pencil correctly and forming some letters in the proper stroke sequence (such as starting at the top when writing an L). 

I also include a list of the field trips the child has taken throughout the year. 

I like things to be neat and tidy at the end of the year before I start the next year. This makes it easier for me to decide what documentation to keep and what to purge. It helps me when I plan for following years. Staying organized helps me stay less stressed, makes things in our home run smoother and allows us more time to focus on the things that are more important in our lives. 

How do you organize at your year end?


Be Careful With Your Stuff-Learning The Hard Way

It’s inevitable that children will break things. Our oldest son was quite careful with his stuff early on and didn’t break very many things. Usually when something of his did break, we would fix it for him. My wonderful husband is a great handy man and can fix almost anything. Then, along came our second son and suddenly lots of things started getting broken. Initially we would fix everything just like we had when we only had one child. We were obviously busier now that we had two children and since things were getting broken at a much more frequent rate, we started getting a pile of toys and things that were waiting to be fixed. For the most part, the children didn’t even seem to miss them. I am not a fan of having toys or work piled up waiting for me. It stresses me and I try to avoid it. So, I decided it was time for a change in our fix it plan.

We changed our fix-ability criteria from “Are we capable of fixing it and is it economical to fix it?” to now adding on “Is it also an absolute favorite toy of the child’s or is it something that we really want their younger sibling to have someday?” With our new fix-ability criteria, we started NOT fixing most of their toys and things. If the toy was unsafe or unusable, they had to throw it away. Otherwise, they could choose to use the item in it’s broken state.

As a result, their pile of toys started diminishing to a more manageable number with no effort on my part. My children seemed more satisfied with less than perfect things (which is something I feel is important for them to learn). I also noticed that the frequency of things getting broken, had decreased! They had learned how to be more careful with their stuff. We had taught them a very important lesson-that not everything can be fixed.

What ways have you used to teach your children to be careful with their stuff?


Is It Break Time Yet?

I have days when things just aren’t going well. We all do-it’s a part of life. Sometimes I have a sick kid that needs extra attention, or sometimes a special event that requires time to get ready for, or sometimes I’m just plain stressed out and exhausted from life. Those are the days I give myself permission to take a day off. In fact, I even plan at the beginning of my school year, for some of these days. I try to schedule our work to be done a few weeks before I absolutely want it done in the spring. That way I have more wiggle room and can take a few days off when I want to without having to stress about it.

Now if you are reading this and really want a day off, but feel you can’t because you haven’t planned for it. Don’t worry! You can still take a day off. In situations like this, I try to stay rational and ask myself “What’s the worst that can happen?” My children may have to do an extra page in their workbook tomorrow. They may have to do some schoolwork on Saturday. We may have to work an extra day later in the spring than we planned. I might save their extra schoolwork for a rainy day in the summer.  I might just skip a page in their schoolbook (I know, if I do this, I start to panic temporarily that my child might spend the rest of his life not know the sound of the letter “h” or something equally important. I come back to reality quite quickly and realize how erroneous this thought really is.). My point is that it’s great to plan for days off so I don’t stress when I need one, but even if I don’t plan for it, it’s still okay to take an occasional day off.

Now I do have one caution to keep in mind. I need to make sure that when I take my occasional days off, they are “occasional” days off. I don’t want to get into the habit of taking too many days off and find myself stressed out because I still haven’t finished this year’s schoolwork and it’s the middle of August. If I do find myself taking a lot of days off, I consider changing something in my life. Maybe I need to take a break of one or more subjects, or lighten up my schedule, or sometimes it’s as simple as have devotions be the first thing in our day to set us on the right path in the morning.

If I find myself in a season of life where I am struggling a lot, yet can’t change anything like after the birth of a baby or a long illness, I tell myself that it’s okay to do light schoolwork for even a whole year (though I’ve never had to). I focus on reading, writing and math during these times. I do the rest when I am up to it (which usually comes quicker than I expect). My children are still learning during these times just not the way I planned.

My favorite verse at these times is Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) I hope my struggles can encourage you in your times of struggle as well.

Does being a “stay-at-home mom” mean that I have to stay at home?

In addition to being a homeschool mom, I am a stay-at-home mom and I love it. I feel very blessed that my husband and I have agreed to sacrifice so that I can stay at home and raise our children. 

Life gets busy sometimes and it’s easy for me to get so busy that some weeks I find myself going somewhere every day and not actually staying at home even though I’m a stay-at-home mom. Of course it’s okay to go places and do things. I like going and doing.  Many of the things I go and do are necessary like grocery shopping, or doctor appointments. Other times it’s educational, volunteering, or just plain fun. It’s all good stuff. 

However, when I do all these wonderful things outside of my home, it’s just that, outside of my home. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to stay at home and be a wife,mother and teacher which, after God, are my next priorities. The more I am away from home, the more I get stressed since obviously things like the laundry and the kids’ schoolwork aren’t getting done to my usual standard. The more I get stressed and crabby, the harder it is to be a good Christian, wife, and mother.

It is tough for me to balance how much to go and how much to stay. Lately I have been challenged to evaluate my goals/priorities as a Christian, wife, and mother and to really think about how much I want to stay at home as a stay-at-home mom and then try to find ways to meet those goals. Sometimes I have to just say “no” or “not now”. 

I have to remind myself often that “self” comes last. I struggle when I hear the common phrase “You have to take care of yourself first, so you can be a better wife/mother/(fill in the blank)”. This logic sounds appealing to me because it offers me an excuse to be selfish. Things like eating three meals a day, sleeping eight hours a night, and getting a shower qualify for taking care of myself. Going out for a day of shopping with my friends doesn’t usually qualify as taking care of myself. It qualifies for having fun for myself which usually falls into the selfish category. God tells us to be servants to others, to think of them first, not to be selfish and think of ourselves first. If God, husband, and children are cared for first, then I think it’s okay sometimes to do something for myself. It’s important that I get my priorities straight.

I know that the more I stay at home, the more my children’s quality of education improves, the less stressed I am, and the happier my husband, children, and I am. I think it’s worth the trade off of a little more fun outside the home now and than. 

Gift Stress

My husband and I sometimes struggle with giving gifts to our children or receiving gifts for our children from others. We are thankful for whatever our family receives and are truly appreciative of the sentiment behind the gifts given to us and our children. However, sometimes the gifts we receive bring with them issues.

One of the issues that sometimes arises with gifts of toys, is the educational value of them. We are okay with our children playing with toys just for fun, but we don’t want mindless entertainment toys that quickly lose their entertainment value to be the main focus of our children. We prefer toys that serve some form of educational or developmental value. We feel that quality is far superior to quantity in the area of toys.

The other main issue that arises with gifts of toys for us is quantity. The reasons are two-fold. First, there is the general issue of a large quantity of toys and the stress it places on the child. There are studies on this topic so I will summarize it to say children with fewer toys are often less stressed and happier (which also makes Mommy less stressed and happier).

The second part of this issue, is that we live in a small house with very limited storage space. I am constantly going through stuff in our house to try to make room for other stuff that I deem more important. When we receive more stuff, there is always the question of where to put it. Even if the stuff received is more exciting and fun toys, the question of where to put it still remains.

We’ve done a few things to help deal with these issues. We now limit the number of gifts we give to our children. We usually choose no more than three gifts per child. Sheer quantity helps with the issues of storage immensely. We are also mindful of the size of the gifts we choose. Some things are simply too big for our space and are therefore just not options.

We have also stopped giving mostly just fun entertainment toys to our children. We now give mostly stuff with a purpose. In addition to the old standby option of clothing, we have gotten a little more creative. This year one of our children is getting a new backpack because his old one is worn out. Our children love art projects so they have gotten things like glue and tape and even construction paper before. They love this! It’s also helps our financial budget. We like to give our children educational gifts as well, like science books about animals, manipulatives they can play with, a microscope to view things, or a globe to learn about the world. Sometimes we give these gifts to an individual child, but often the educational gifts we give jointly to all the children to share. Another type of gift that we have considered, but not yet given, are less tangible items like a zoo membership, tickets to a museum or sporting event, or a state park pass.

Not only have we made these personal changes in our gift giving to our children, but when grandma and grandpa inquire about gift ideas, we make sure to request these types of gifts as well.

One thing we have done to help with the quantity issue after Christmas, is the “In one, out one” rule. If you are not familiar with this one, it means that when you receive “one” gift “in”, you take “one” item “out” and get rid of it. I usually do this with my children a week or so after Christmas or their birthdays.

We also encourage our children to give of their own stuff to others throughout the year. This takes a bit of effort on my part to find areas for them to give their stuff that it will be appreciated, but it is worth it. In addition to minimizing the quantity of toys that creep into their space, it helps them learn to be givers. Which is a lifelong character quality I want to instill in my children.

Merry Christmas!


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