Incorporating planning days was never on my radar. For many years I would plan homeschool all the time. It seemed like every new month I was trying to catch up with my planning. In my head I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish throughout the year, but for some reason I could not get it all down on paper in a timely manner. Instead I would constantly plan in the fringe hours – and this essentially meant that I was doing nothing but homeschool planning. Then this past summer I heard of something I never even considered as a homeschooler – incorporating planning days into my calendar
It seems like such a small change, incorporating planning days into my school calendar, but it was a miracle worker.
Incorporating planning days is something that I automatically associated with public school. And after all, we have been trying to get out of the public-school mindset and set our own path. Why would I look to the public school for ideas? Well, I didn’t. This idea was actually given to me while looking through Jen Mackintosh’s Instagram. What I would normally do – for all of my planning, not just homeschool planning – was to fit in it wherever I had free moments. It would be in the early morning hours, after the kids went to bed, when I would think of something while changing over the laundry. Chaotic, and not as efficient as it could be.
When you don’t give time to actually plan your days, they can easily get away from you.
How do you incorporate planning days?
It may take you a bit to try and wrap your head around this one – it actually took me quite a while – you literally put it on the calendar “Planning Day” and then you take that day for planning.
All joking aside it really is as easy as putting yourself on the calendar. The hard part comes when other things vie for that time, and they absolutely will. The first time I put myself on the calendar, other plans came up, and I just ignored that appointment I had made with myself. But, then I realized something, if I always push myself back to a different date on the calendar, that date will never come.
Do you feel the same sometimes? Does it feel almost wrong to take that time for yourself?
It isn’t wrong, and in fact it is a necessity.
When you were in public school, do you remember workshop days? Do you remember planning periods for teachers? They have time built into their schedules to work on planning. This doesn’t mean that you will get everything done that you need to on planning days. Public school teachers don’t either, but it does give you a head start into the following month.
When should the date be?
Putting a date on the calendar was a little challenging at first. When is the best time to work on plans? What activities do you have outside of the house during the week? Is there a day that you are home all day? Choose that day.
You most likely will want to choose a date towards the end of the month, the last week if possible. This will give you a chance to reflect on how your plans have gone for the previous month, as well as plan a few days ahead of time so you are ready to go when the new month starts. It will give you a chance to make a list and purchase any supplies you need, you will be able to revisit sports and extracurriculars, and whether or not they are working for your family. This is also a perfect time to set up your personal and family calendars for the next month, as well as reflect on goals you have been working on and set up new ones. We will talk about goals more later this month.
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Making Planning Days Work
The issue that most people have with taking time for planning days is that you still have your kids with you. This is why I was using my fringe hours to plan. Writing the day into the week is a good strategy because it gives the kids a day off from school, which can be motivating for the kids to behave and play by themselves for the day.
If that is going to be challenging, you should first explain to your kids why you have planning days. Then have some specific things for them to do. Look for a great documentary, or other show that your kids can watch. Set them up for an art day. This is one of my favorite choices. I am not so great at messy art days, but my kids absolutely love it. Lay a sheet down under your dining room table, and put a disposable table cover on, and then set out paints, glue, other art supplies, and let them go to town. For the most part things stay contained. And then everyone gets a nice long bath afterwards. These are the few things that keep my kids occupied for long periods of time, painting, messy crafts, and baths.
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What do you do on your Planning Days?
I try to set up for my planning days the night before. I have all of my calendars and planning supplies ready to go. My husband built me a table several years ago that I use as my planning center. This is where most of my stuff is and is always ready to go. I set up a card table in my living room and do all of my planning from the couch when it is the actual planning day.
You will want to go through your lessons for the previous month. Are you on track for where you want to be? Are there subjects that you struggled to cover this month? Did you not have supplies for half of the science experiments, so that was a bust? Or did every single book choice fall flat? You will want to make little changes based on how things went for your kids and for you during the previous month.
Also, you will want to set up your calendar for the next month. Are there any field trips you have planned? Do you want to make more library trips? Is a new sports season or extracurricular starting? Are you leaving enough margin in your days and weeks to accomplish school? What about caring for your home and having family time?
As homeschoolers, we can be so focused on the school aspect of homeschooling. We forget about the family part because we are focused on the academics. We want to get through the lessons, and keep moving forward. There are times that we are able to sit back and relax. If your month has been full of academics, maybe the next month you cut back a bit and have more family time.
It all depends on what you and your family want.
But I hate Planning!
Incorporating planning days on the calendar does not mean that you have to spend an entire day planning. There are a lot of people that hate planning, so the thought of planning days may seem scary. If that is you, here are a few ways to shift your thinking.
First, having planning days on the calendar means that you can focus on everything but planning the rest of the month. If you set up your calendar and plans so that you know what you are going to be doing for a one-month period of time, you won’t need to go back and keep re-planning throughout the month. Getting it all done in one morning will make the rest of the month go much smoother.
Treat yourself. If you hate planning, or even if you don’t, build in a few treats to your day. Go get a special coffee, have a glass of wine when you are done. The promise of a hot bath and a good book is a great reward for getting all of your planning done for the next month.
Resources I use for my Planning Days
The resources that I use during my planning days are pretty basic:
- Erin Condren Teacher Planner
- Erin Condren Life Planner
- Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets
- Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens – I color code everything!
The Bottom Line
Remember, if what you planned for the month isn’t working, it is only for a month. At the end of the month you can revisit and adjust. Or you can alternatively drop things that are really not working during your month, knowing that you can pick them up again easily the next month.
When I started incorporating planning days, I felt a bit selfish – why was I taking this time away from school? But, after I saw the fruits of my labor, and saw how much easier our month was after I took that time to plan it out ahead of time, I was happier. My kids were happier too – and that is something I want in our home, happiness. Not stress. Not feeling like we aren’t doing enough.
Are you a planner, or would you rather stab yourself through the eye than plan out your days? What is one thing I could do to help make planning your homeschool days easier?