How do I plan school for the upcoming year? Well, I play to my strengths: I let my husband do it.

“Okay, then,” you ask, “What does it look like with Darren as the planner but me as the primary educator?” Great question!

(And yes, I did actually interview Darren for this blog post.)

Like Rachelle, Darren is able to take a whole mass of information and streamline it into a manageable form. Unlike Rachelle, he’s not the person who oversees most of the day-to-day schooling. So planning for us is a two-step process. Darren lays out all his ideas in a spreadsheet, and then I go over it to see what I’m actually able to implement.

School planning doesn’t begin very early in our household. Darren is better at starting projects than finishing them; so to keep his mental focus on the current year, he puts off next year’s planning until about May.

Once he’s ready to put serious thought into the new school year, though, he tackles it with enthusiasm . . . and a spreadsheet. He types each child’s name and grade level across the top. Down the left of the page, he lists all of the subjects we need to cover for all of the kids.

“Then I go child by child,” he explained to me, showing me last year’s spreadsheet. “I look at what they did last year, what grade level they are, what they will need for next year.”

Once he’s got the basic information settled, he goes in search of curriculum. He browses catalogues, looks up online curriculum reviews, and asks Google for suggestions. He also likes to attend a conference, where he can physically pick up the books and thumb through them. He’s also more likely to find new and interesting ideas to try. “A Google search is too broad a range, so I tend to go just with what I’ve done before. A conference lets me branch out into new ideas without being overwhelmed.”

I asked him how he makes sure the kids will “get” the classes they’ll need for graduation. He uses a combination of materials from HSLDA’s high school consultants, The Well Planned Gal and our state’s public school graduation requirements. He also administers standardized tests each year, and we use those results as a (very general) indication of areas we need to focus on.

Once the spreadsheet is filled out and ideas curriculum written down, Darren moves to Step 2: asking me out for chocolate martinis so we can discuss the coming year.

He tends toward traditional education, while I have a hefty serving of unschooling in my makeup. We blend the two into a flexible structure. We use a lot of textbooks, and Darren has created his own courses of study for Bible and history. But I make sure there’s enough room for creativity, which doesn’t operate on a schedule. I also add in my “running days,” when I’ll be driving kids to classes or co-ops, and sometimes that means we have to cut back on the course load so I can keep my balance throughout the year. As much as possible, we take the kids’ interests into account. We ask each other over and over, “Will this great idea actually work?”

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. (Ask us about the science textbooks that both of us loved . . . but our kids did not.) However, our teamwork—Darren the planner, Sara the implementer—has served us well for several years.

Now it’s May again. We’re looking toward a school year with an elementary schooler, a middle schooler, and two high schoolers (including a senior!). Darren’s spreadsheet is open, and he’s looking through catalogues and dreaming of a fresh new school year. And me? Well, I’m finishing up our current year—and looking forward to that chocolate martini.