In the past couple of months, Rachelle and Sara have both shared their families’ approaches to school planning. Now it’s my turn . . . last, because that is how I do my school planning: by putting it off as long as possible.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do like to think ahead in some areas, especially when it comes to looking for bargains on curriculum. But other than keeping an eye out for the books I already know I want, I don’t generally do a lot of serious thinking about our next school year until at least May, if not a quite a bit later (August, anyone?). There is a good chance this may change as my children get older and I have less time left to work with them. Currently, my oldest is just getting ready to enter 6th grade, whereas Rachelle and Sara are both dealing with high schoolers. But for the moment, I’m not too stressed about my kids getting what they need as long as I stick with the basics.

Of course, deciding which sources you want to use to cover “the basics” requires some thought. Over the past few years, I’ve used a few different approaches to piece together a collection of curricula that seem to work well for us.

First, I used what worked for me as a student. My mom used mostly Abeka* for language arts subjects, which seems to be working for my kids as well. I also did Saxon Math starting in 4th grade and thought it was great (bring it on, Saxon haters!), so I have done the same with my older two. Of course one can best draw on previous experience if one was homeschooled, but even first generation homeschoolers can always ask a trusted homeschool graduate what worked for them.

Second, I looked to other homeschooling moms (in my case, mostly older sisters) for ideas of what they used with their children. One of my sisters highly recommended The Story of the World for history and Apologia’s “Young Explorer” series for science, so we tried both of these a few years ago and have enjoyed using them ever since. Other homeschooling moms can be a great resource, as long as you remember that what works for them is not always the best choice for you.

Third, I did some exploring at our state homeschool conference. Last year, I was in the market for a new literature program and was considering moving my youngest daughter to Saxon Math in 2nd grade instead of 4th. This year, I was in search of a Latin curriculum for my older two. The conference was very beneficial to my search in both cases. It gave me exposure to curriculum I had never seen before, let me actually page through the books, and allowed me to hear more about the curriculum from the vendors. The internet is great for giving you exposure to a myriad of choices, but being able to see and discuss curriculum in person is extremely helpful to me when it comes to narrowing down the choices.

Now that I have mostly settled into a curriculum routine, however, the curriculum selection part of my planning is pretty easy: just find the next book in the series. To give you an idea of how extremely thorough I’ve been so far with my advance school planning (←sarcasm): my book-buying approach this year was to make a short note on my phone of what I hadn’t already bought during winter sales, followed by purchasing most of it at the homeschool conference the next day. There are a few pieces still remaining to find, and for these I’ll be monitoring my favorite online haunts for deals throughout the summer. But as far as my overall plan for the year and daily schedule, that will most likely be put off for another month or two. I usually spend a good week laying out the specifics at that point, but until then, summer awaits!

As you can see by comparison to Rachelle’s and Sara’s posts, there are many different ways to approach school planning. Probably no two families do it quite the same way, and yet it usually works.

My mom and I were recently discussing how school planning (and homeschool conferences in particular) used to be overwhelming for her. I wondered why I haven’t tended to feel the same way, and then it hit me. It’s not that our personalities, our teaching, or our planning styles are so different. The difference is that for my parents, homeschooling was more or less an experiment. They didn’t know for sure whether it was going to work or ruin our lives, so of course the planning would be stressful! For me, on the other hand, homeschooling is just a way of life, and I know it produces good results. My parents and so many others were successful, despite hosts of different curricula, plans, and teaching styles. Thus, I feel more free and comfortable doing whatever works best for our family.

So whether you have been pondering your next school year for months or are still months away from any plans, I say do what works for you! I’m sure you’re going to do great. Enjoy your summer!


*Note: I give the names of particular curriculum brands only to be more specific with my examples, not necessarily as an endorsement.

Photo Credit: iStock, edits by Anna Soltis.