I’m a planner. I don’t feel settled until there is a plan. Once I have a plan, I’m quite comfortable changing it as needed. But I need a plan.

School planning has always been a joy for me. It feels like the monster in the corner of the room waiting to pounce, until I sit down and map it all it out. Once I put everything on a calendar, it feels much more manageable.

Until this year.

Now before I go on, I should mention that I have a dual commitment to the best materials and to the family budget which drives me to begin planning early. The online sales on curricula happen in late winter / early spring—and I love sales. Used curricula is great when I can get what I want, but since I am often more attracted to the newer materials available, there isn’t always a guarantee I will find used copies of what I need. And homeschool conventions are a lot like shopping at Walmart for me; way too many choices, and stimulation overload. So, I plan early so I can save that 20% or get the free shipping.

I started my planning for the 2018–19 school year in February and tried to strategize with some great curricula deals on the table. I looked forward to breathing a deep sigh of relief that the coming year would be manageable. Time to kill the monster lurking in the corner.

Only the monster did not go.

This coming year I will have a high schooler, middle schooler, and elementary-age learner still trying to get comfortable with reading.

I tried to put it all in a nice calendar view. My 6 hours of teaching time became about 11. I was a little frantic. So, I set it aside for a few weeks until I could get a handle on the sacrifices and compromises I needed to make and could mentally reconvene.

I’m still not quite finished with my school planning and I am still contemplating new solutions to fill in some subject gaps, but here are a few things that are guiding me as I scale the Mt. Everest of arranging this year:

  • Make a list of essentials for each child. I also made a separate list of all the wonderful extracurricular and additional subjects I would like to be able to provide/teach.
  • Determine what can be done independently or with the help of someone besides the primary teaching parent. I included online classes and co-ops here and realized that while I want to be involved in teaching high school courses to my son, my youngest really needs my help more than my oldest does.
  • Plan for the long haul but think in terms of short sprints. I went over the high school graduation requirements in my state, and perused HSLDA’s helpful Preparing for College web page. While I need to think through what my son will take in high school, I also must remember that I do have four years. I can break up his program into years; sometimes semesters. Sprinters bring more energy to a race and find rest and rejuvenation before competing again. I will check in with “the plan” frequently, and revise to stay focused. I will last longer with shorter bursts than planning for a marathon.
  • Adjust expectations. I had to be realistic on what I must do vs. what I think I should do. As I planned for next year, I opted to cut entertainment options (no more DirecTV) and trim a little from the budget and hire a housecleaning service to come in twice a month and make sure we don’t drown in dust. When I lined my priorities up, dusting ceiling fans and cleaning windows fell off into oblivion every time. But when my house does not feel clean to me, it saps my energy. And I need every bit of it. My kids will still have chores and we will still be doing a fair amount of cleaning, but not as much as before.
  • Plan school days based on energy as well as time. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz introduced me to this concept in their book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. I have three children working with unique energy levels in real time. But more importantly, my energy resources are limited. Being realistic about energy as well as time, I put together a schedule which recognizes that one daughter needs to start with math (her hardest subject) in the morning; another needs to work on reading when she is fresh. I need to be done with physical labor by 2:00pm or it takes me longer to get simple things done. Planning for energy lulls will make for a smoother school year.

I still feel some shadows in the corners ahead and I have no doubt that I’m facing one of the toughest homeschooling years I will have. I will continue to seek advice, adjust, and accept help. But I know that we can do this.

What are your strategies for planning your homeschooling program?