How to Plan for Homeschool Sanity

Are you in the process of planning for the new school year? If so, you’re likely seeking homeschool sanity. You want to achieve your goals and enjoy homeschooling, too. But is that even possible?

After homeschool planning for more than 20 years, I can say that it IS possible with a few tweaks to the way we normally plan.

Planning for Homeschool Sanity

A traditional approach to homeschool planning is to assign dates to lessons and activities for each student. In addition, we may create a schedule or routine and plan where our books and materials will be stored.

This type of planning is important but is unlikely to help you have a happy, successful homeschool on its own. Instead,

The first step in planning is to ask yourself what got in the way of your homeschool sanity last year.

If you’re homeschooling for the first time, you can still do this.

Answer these questions:

  • What contributed to stress for you and your family last year?
  • How could you have avoided that stress?
  • What strategies would have made that stress easier to manage?

I’m answering these questions, too. The death of my sister-in-law last fall was a major stressor. While we had no control over when she passed, we could have talked a lot more about what we would do when she needed care. After an extremely stressful time of interacting with difficult people who knew my sister-in-law, I realized that most of the stress was the result of how I thought about the situation. I was awfulizing mentally, saying things to myself like “This is a nightmare” and “I can’t take anymore.” If I had reminded myself that God was with me and that I had the support of my husband and other family members, I could have spared myself a lot of suffering.

My example doesn’t have much to do with homeschooling. Your answers may not either. But life stress impacts our homeschooling.

Answers I may have given in our earlier homeschool years include:

  • searching for kids’ shoes as we’re about to leave the house
  • not knowing how to handle kids’ squabbles
  • having too many church commitments

The second step in planning for homeschool sanity is to practice prevention.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. We look to what went wrong in the previous year so we can be proactive in planning for this year.

Ask yourself what you can do to prevent similar stress or to cope with it more effectively.

Because I overreacted to difficult people in the past year, I can expect that to be a problem this year, too. Besides spending more time increasing my trust in God, I can ask friends and family to help me reframe my thoughts when I talk about difficult people.

  • With missing shoes, I could have trained the kids to take them off in a specific place or to set them out before bed.
  • With sibling rivalry, I could have planned to have focused discussions with the kids, rather than looking for a quick fix.
  • With church commitments, I could have limited them to one ongoing role and one short-term role at a time.

The third step in planning is to choose one leveraged weekly goal.

A major contributor to stress is trying to achieve multiple goals at the same time. When we want to be good at it all, chances are that we won’t be good at anything.

There is nothing wrong with having a goal for the homeschool year–goals like developing a love of learning, building stronger relationships, or establishing organizing habits. These are great options to consider.

But more often than not, we have unwritten goals of finishing all our curriculum (even the multiple options per subject); inspiring the kids to be pursue multiple passions independently; making healthy, homemade meals every night; reading 50 classics aloud with the family; going on lots of field trips; getting in shape as a family; and starting a business. We think somehow the time will magically expand to allow us to accomplish all these things. But, of course, it doesn’t. We are disappointed and feel like failures until the next year when we commit to trying harder.

The way to stop this stress cycle is to plan one goal a week that will result in an improvement in your life and homeschool. Some of these goals will be so effective that you’ll continue them. These are some ideas that I have used as weekly goals:

  • Exercise alone or with others
  • Plan meals for the week or have your kids plan them
  • Arrange to have grocery shopping done for you or have groceries delivered
  • Hire a mother’s helper for a day this week
  • Get together for homeschool activities with another family
  • Start your homeschool day later in the morning
  • Read aloud or watch educational videos during family time, freeing up time during the day
  • Train one of your kids to help you in your business or volunteer work
  • Sign up for service activities as a family
  • Teach a subject to multiple students to save time or increase motivation
  • Trade teaching responsibilities with a friend
  • Go to bed early so you can personal time the next morning
  • Plan time to connect with your spouse in the morning or evening

Doing any of these activities is likely to have a positive impact on other areas of your life or homeschool. See my book The Organized Homeschool Life for even more ideas and the associated planner for a way to regularly plan weekly goals.

Conclusion

If you ask yourself what created stress for you last year, what can you do to prevent or cope with stress this year, and what weekly goal will result in an improvement in your life this week, you’ll have a plan for homeschool sanity that is likely to succeed this year.

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