If I Were a Homeschool … {Planning, Organization & Motivation}

I have an unnatural affection for spreadsheets. I can’t help it. I color-code them and print them and have all sorts of disproportionate fun with them. This carries over perfectly into homeschool planning.

Yesterday I introduced this series “If I Were a Homeschool …” You can guarantee spreadsheets are part of the gig. Before we get into that, though, let’s look at my broader approach to planning.

Homeschool Planning Organization

Learning Styles and Thematic Units

Learning styles play a huge part in our (semi)homeschool. Aside from religious motivations, learning styles may be the greatest reason to homeschool. I am a solitary visual and tactile/physical learner. Zach is a solitary logical learner. Ellie is a social verbal and aural learner. We all have more energy and creativity than we know how to manage. Between the three of us, we require several approaches to truly own the knowledge. Because of this, I incorporate many approaches to each lesson.

I plan thematic units that enable us to repeat concepts in different ways. Let me give you an example or two.

Instead of memorization through rote repetition, we learn Bible verses through handwriting, music, and discussion. We incorporate motions or sign language. We even use games. (Did you see my post last week on Proverbs 31 Woman? I talked about our favorite media tools, including some tablet apps that help with Scripture memorization! See that post HERE.)

A study of math and economics may include traditional desk work and flashcards. (I actually have a few workbooks I’ll recommend later this week about money management.) But it may also involve running a lemonade stand, making a profit and loss sheet (Yay! A spreadsheet!), playing Monopoly or BankIt and watching an applicable episode of The Electric Company.

Yup. That’s me.

At this point of few of you are freaking out. How many hours does this woman have in her day?! And how could she possibly get anything else done??

It may sound like a lot, and it is, but our homeschool days rarely last more than three hours. Sometimes they’re as short as two. We have the rest of the day to do fun stuff, like go to the pool, run errands (Yes, this is fun for us!) or visit with friends and family. The kids can play, practice piano, or do chores around the house while I get some work done.

It’s time to get to the spreadsheets.

Planning and Organizing Lessons

If I were a full-time homeschool, I would have a binder full of spreadsheets, some for big picture seasons and others for details. These multi-sensory, saturated themes are never completed all in one afternoon. I spread them out over days or weeks.

Here are two samples of my spreadsheets. They’re old, but you get the idea. The first is a “big picture” plan while the second is more detailed for one child.

Summer Schedule

Zach Summer

Read more about what these spreadsheets include and why HERE.

Where do I get all the ideas and activities? Originally, I spent a ton of time at bookstores and libraries. Then came Pinterest. I still spend the bulk of my time with books, but Pinterest is great for discovering fun activities to complement the lessons. I have four boards that feed into my homeschool planning. Feel free to follow along.

  • Homeschool and Supplements: This includes all types of education activities, articles and resources.
  • TIC TOC (Art Projects for Kids): TIC TOC is a local program that allows me to teach at least once a month in our public schools. It stands for To Introduce Culture To Our Children and focuses on the arts. Here I generally pin simple art projects that can be completed in an hour and that tie into a famous artist, work or technique.
  • Intentional Parenting: This board houses ideas for faith training and parenting disciples.
  • Bible Study for Kids: Exactly what it says. Tools and resources for kids to study the Bible on their own or in group settings.

How do you keep kids motivated?

Wow. Yeah, that’s the big question for me. You might believe that, because I’m so anal about my planning and spreadsheets that I am crazy strict with time and completion of activities. I’m really not. The first year, sure. But I also had a kid trapped in plaster, stuck in his bed for ten weeks. It wasn’t difficult to make him sit still. As the kids grow older, I hover less and require them to take ownership of their work. They like the independence and so do I.

Our kids are only seventeen months apart. They’re only a year apart in school. A lot of what we do, we do together. Those activities we do immediately after breakfast. Once our group “lessons” are done, then they are responsible to finish everything else, all their independent work, in a timely manner.

I post their assignment lists in the morning before they come downstairs for breakfast.

Last year I did this on a big whiteboard that took up residence in our dining room. This year we use the chalkboard wall in the kitchen. The whiteboard was great because I could color-code the jobs. Ellie’s jobs were blue, Zach’s green and items they both had to do were red. They would check them off when completed. The chalkboard works well, too. It blends better into the decor or our home (since it’s an existing wall) and it doesn’t require any intoxication by dry erase markers. Both work and neither deplete my supply of printer paper.

The kids look at their lists and decide what to do when, within our “timely manner” rules.

The rules that work for us are these:

  • Screenwork (any assignment requiring Kindles, ipads, computer, Wii or TV) must be done last.
  • No screens or playdates until work is done.
  • If everything is not done before lunch, there will be no fun activity in the afternoon. (Sometimes they know what the fun activity is, like going to the pool or baking cookies; sometimes it’s a surprise field trip or activity.)
  • If everything (including piano practice) is not done before Dad gets home from work (around 5:30pm), there will be a punishment.

I don’t know that any of this truly answered the question of motivation. We’re still figuring it out, but for now varied activities (to retain natural interest) combined with privileges and penalties (to build discipline) works for us.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about field trips because … well, that’s fun stuff! :)

Your Turn: How do you plan and organize your homeschool or supplemental training? What do you do to keep yourself and your kids motivated?

Want more? Check out this post: Easy Homeschooling … Or Not. 


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