Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review

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Recently Pam Barnhill revamped her entire Plan Your Year program and released it as a physical book.  I was so excited about this!  I have gone through Pam’s Plan Your Year e-book in the past.  However, I like having a physical book in front of me.  When you look at the information and immediately see the action steps and worksheets, it is easier to move through the planning process.  I know that it is difficult to know where to begin when you plan a homeschool year.  You want to make sure everything is perfect, but it is overwhelming.  There are so many steps.  The freedom, while wonderful, is also stressful.  Am I doing the right thing?

This isn’t a traditional homeschool planner.  You are not putting dates on a calendar, or writing out lessons in a lesson book.  However, it does have enough worksheets and planning pages to put together a homeschool binder.  Instead, I would describe Plan Your Year as an entire planning system.  Something that you would use to flesh out your entire homeschool philosophy, planning style, as well as the actual lesson plans you will use throughout your next homeschool year.

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Get Started with Plan Your Year

The book will take you through all the steps to plan out your entire year.  Each chapter has information about a particular area of the homeschool planning process.  There are also additional essays included from other homeschoolers to help clarify, or give ideas on a different way to think about each section.  Finally, there is a list of action steps with the corresponding worksheet pages.  You can cut these pages right out of the book and then copy them as many times as you may need going forward.  Alternatively, Pam offers a Plan Your Year Forms Library and Community – which offers editable PDF files for all of the forms found in the Plan Your Year book.

Where does planning your homeschool year start?  With a vision statement.  Pam takes you through the steps needed to figure out exactly what your vision is for your homeschool.  If you don’t know what the vision is, you won’t be able to move forward.  What is important to you within homeschooling?  What is the atmosphere you want your homeschool to project to your family?  Pam offers a couple of different ways to come at a vision statement.  And if writing out a statement isn’t going to work for you – there is an essay about compiling a vision board.

I love a good vision board.  Something that everyone can see.  Something we can measure our current day against with a glance at a bulletin board on the wall.  It would especially be helpful to do a vision board with your kids.  If they can see it, they will have a better idea of why you are homeschooling.  Kids may not remember a vision statement written out that you refer to regularly to give yourself motivation.  But, a board with pictures and quotes on it certainly would be a great reminder.

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Goal Setting

After you have created a vision for your homeschool, the next stop is in goal setting.  You need to write goals for your homeschool.  The reason?  It helps you to plan your year.  You need to know what the outcome you are striving for is before you purchase curriculum and resources.  When you know the outcome you want, you are able to find the right tools for the job.

You will evaluate what has worked well in the past and what you are looking to improve on in the future.  Really take a look at your student.  Goals will be different for each child.  That is how it should be.  Homeschooling allows us to create an individualized homeschool plan.  So take the time and flesh out these goals.

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Homeschool Resources

It is after the goal setting where you are then able to figure out a course of study and know which resources you will need for the coming year.  There are so many options available.  Pam does a wonderful job of describing some of the major types of homeschool methods.  If you aren’t firm in the way you are teaching your kids (aka following a specific homeschool philosophy), this section gives you an opportunity to explore some of the bigger methods and see if they are right for you.

Most homeschoolers I know use a mix of methods and resources.  This is based on their individual family, and the students they are teaching.

Schedules & Rhythms

I find that the meat of Plan Your Year is in the next several chapters.  You need to figure out how and when you will homeschool.  Will you school during the traditional September – May?  Or maybe a year-round schedule is more your thing.  Perhaps you do 4 day weeks.  However you want to homeschool, you need to know it before you start planning out your weeks and days.  Pam also breaks down the different types of scheduling – block, loop, term, and magic number.  These all help you to wrap your head around the big picture of your year before you figure out exactly what you will be doing school-wise each week and day.

Once you decide on the structure of your homeschool year, you will move into the more specific parts of your weeks.  You need to consider when you will be out of the house for activities, and then plan around that.  It is all well and good to plan a full day of school even though everyone has piano and basketball practice within a two day period, but if you don’t account for that time away, you will not complete what you set out to.  It is always good to include margin in your weeks, especially when you have a lot of outside activities.  Make sure you think about prep time to get out the door, as well as travel time.  A 30-minute piano lesson isn’t just a 30-minute piano lesson.

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Weekly & Daily Plans

The reason that Pam’s Plan Your Year program works so well is that she leaves off one thing you may think you need – exact dates.  Instead of planning specific lessons for specific days, she works more from a list of lessons.  There are different types of lists – whether it is lesson plans or a list of procedures to follow in a specific subject area.  You may have a specific lesson plan list, but you don’t put it on the day that you want to do that lesson.  You just move from the top of the list down.  That way you aren’t missing things, and you aren’t stressed that you planned x, y, and z, but haven’t even finished m yet.

This is similar to how I plan.  I always look to the next thing that needs to be done.  I don’t worry about being ahead or behind, I just want to move to the next thing on the list.  This takes a lot of stress out of the days and weeks when you are in the throes of your homeschool year.  Your days move at a better rate because you aren’t trying to finish up three days of work that you missed because your daughter got a stomach virus.  Does that mean that you will always finish every bit of curriculum that you set out to use – most likely not.  But, even in the best of circumstances, you don’t usually finish every single thing.  That is OK.  Give yourself permission to move on, or put it aside for a time and come back to it in the coming year.

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Planning Your Own Course of Study

Pam takes you through the steps necessary to create your own course of study.  When you plan your year you want to make sure that you are teaching the children you have in front of you.  Often this means adapting the curriculum to fit your needs.  But, there are a lot of people that will take on planning everything.  But, where do you begin?

This is obviously a much more labor intensive way to play your year.  If you love planning out your own courses this is the chapter for you.  And, it doesn’t need to be your entire homeschool year.  It may be only a couple of areas that you plan out.  Pam offers some great advice on how to find the right resources and then making a plan off of the resources that you pick.

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Organizing Your Materials

This is probably my favorite part of the entire book – because I do love a good organizational strategy for homeschool.  You need to look at the home you have, not the home you wish you had.  It took me a long time to figure that out – especially when looking at the beautiful pictures of homeschool rooms on Instagram and Pinterest.

Where are you going to homeschool?  Where are you going to keep your homeschool materials?

She also goes into depth about the different homeschool planner options available – this is why I don’t look at Plan Your Year as a homeschool planner so much as a program to get where you want to go in your homeschool year.  I love to use my Erin Condren Teacher Planner for homeschool planning.  This will be my 5th year using it and it works for me.  Just enough structure to keep me accountable, but still adaptable enough to make changes to our weeks as we go along.

Pam offers suggestions on organizing all the papers and curricula as well as putting together a homeschool portfolio.  These are tips that any homeschool mama can use and implement in her own home.

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill Review & Giveaway

Communicating the Plan to your Kids

If you can’t communicate the plan effectively to your kids, you will not be as successful with homeschooling.  Pam goes on to talk about making a list in a spiral notebook in order to communicate what is on the docket to your children each day.  This is a practice that I have been using for a while as well.  I do not use a spiral notebook, but instead these weekly at-a-glance sheets.  The reason being that I am much more likely to make a very long list if I have the space available to me.  So having well defined smaller spaces makes me take a step back and realize my kids cannot complete every single subject every single day.  It is the little things!

The Bottom Line

Overall, I think this is an amazing program to work through on your own.  It offers you a chance to sit down and really flesh out what you want your homeschool to look like.  I love the way she creates lists in order to go throughout the year.  This is something that works well for me also.  I am a list maker and having the lists available are super helpful.

If you haven’t sat down to go through this type of process before, it will likely come as a shock to the amount of time it takes to pre-plan for an entire year.  The time investment is worth it, but it is a time investment.  When you use a list strategy, instead of specific lessons on specific days, you are giving yourself the margin you need for when things come up in life – as they always do.  If you want to plan out every lesson on specific days, you will be disappointed.  Even in public school, the teachers have to make adjustments throughout the year.  This does not mean that you are failing, but instead, you are adapting.  Homeschooling allows that freedom, and you need to take it.

Pam offers several amazing resources if you are looking for more help to plan your year:

Do you plan your year out in advance?  Have you been looking for something to give you the extra push in order to do so?

Enter below to win a copy of Pam Barnhill’s Plan Your Year!  Open to US residents only, please.

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Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill review & giveaway

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  1. We have not started homeschool officially yet, even though we have been doing it in an informal way writing down the date and things we did for each subject on a composition notebook. Now that we start officially for the first time it will have to be more organized. This is such a fun giveaway!

  2. I plan my days pretty insanely- I am both very thorough and also pretty sporadic. I like to plan the entire year out- but then, I seem to freeze and forget what plans I have. Yep. I don’t know what you call that? Deer Homeschooler?

    1. I have a pretty broad plan as far as what I want to be accomplished in our year, but I also end up planning specifics weekly. I work better that way…plus I tend to get derailed easily 🙂 Good luck!

  3. We haven’t started homeschooling ‘officially’ yet, I am waiting until a little later in the year to start our first year. This would be nice to start out with I think. It definitely looks awesome. Good luck to all and thank you for the generous offer. 🙂

    1. This book would be perfect for a first time homeschooler! Getting an overall understanding of your purpose and teaching style are both things that need a little bit of forethought and this book helps you get there!

  4. I mostly just wing it. That worked when I had fewer children, younger children, and wasn’t carrying a full load of college classes. It’s not working anymore so I’m trying to find a planning approach that works for me.

    1. Yes! When my kids were younger we were winging it as well. But, with one in middle school now…well homeschooling definitely is taking on a life of its own. Good luck!

  5. I use a travelers notebook for my on the go homeschool planner and I’m planning on using an Erin Condren teacher planner for lesson plans next year.

    1. I love a travelers notebook! I actually started using the Erin Condren on the go folio recently to keep some daily planners and notebooks in. Sometimes I need a little more space for planning, and that works perfectly!

  6. I plan by the year because it helps keep me accountable. I use Homeschool Planet and it’s very easy to move stuff around.

    1. I have talked to several people who use homeschool planet! I’m glad that it works so well for you. Easily moving stuff around is a definite benefit!

  7. I would love to be more organized in my homeschool. I feel like I get behind and I never catch up and then my schedule is out the door.

    1. This would be perfect for you then! Pam talks a lot about how to not get behind in what you have planned – it was super informative!

  8. I keep a Google Doc for the next school year basically as soon as we start the current year LOL That way I can at least list out subjects and as I find interesting things through the year I drop them in. I have purchased just about everything for 19/20 but have yet to sit and plan our days. Soon!

    Are the PDFs from the book an extra cost?

    1. She has all the forms included in the book that you can make copies of. But also offers the digital PDF files as an extra purchase on her website. A google doc is definitely smart! I have a running list of interesting things that I want to look into and use a private Pinterest board for digital stuff. I am very visual 🙂

  9. I purchase a basic planner from Amazon or our local homeschooling group for each child. Then I take our curriculum and portion the year according, working in two week batches. Pam’s resource sounds so well organized and planned for all aspects of the year. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!

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