How to Create an Out-of-the-Box Homeschool Curriculum Plan for Family Schooling

Plus how to build your own homeschool planner

Many of us homeschool moms embrace the “weird” label given to us by mainstream culture. We care more about our children’s best interests than we do about strangers’ opinions. After all, we don’t send our kids to public school despite the societal objections we encounter. Homeschooling at its core is intended to be flexible and creative, as well as individualized. Our family’s homeschool curriculum plan should reflect that.

Although, when many of us first began homeschooling, I think that we (especially those of us who were public schooled ourselves) tend to have more of a “school at home” style. Over time, however, we change our homeschooling style as we gain confidence in our abilities.

Because we are often a “think-outside-the-box” type of people, we slowly cultivate that “school at home” style into a more individualized, authentic and family-oriented method of instruction. Besides which, as self-proclaimed non-conformists, we tend to be less than enthusiastic about using an entire homeschool curriculum in a box exactly as it is intended to be used! {smirk!}

My journey out of the homeschool curriculum planning box.

When my oldest was in third grade, we switched from a unit study style to a full, all-in-one boxed curriculum. (Looking back, I don’t remember why and really wish I hadn’t, but the oldest two still turned out okay, despite the boxed curriculum LOL.) However, as time passed, I changed so much of the boxed lesson plans to fit my children’s individual needs that only the basic structure remained. By the time that my third oldest was in third grade (nine years later), I was only using the living books from that boxed curriculum and was pulling together the rest of the plan on my own.

I love to plan (I’m an SLP, I can’t help it!) so I plan out the entire year ahead of time. Sounds crazy, right? Although it can seem daunting initially, it’s so freeing when it’s done! I don’t have to spend my Sundays planning for the next week or worry that we’re three days behind because we all had the stomach flu. We just highlight each lesson as it gets completed, and then move to the next day on the chart. We don’t worry about what day of the week it is, we just go through the plan day by day.

When all the lessons are highlighted, you’re done for the school year. I keep the highlighted lesson plans for my records to show what we’ve done—planning and record-keeping in one document!

If you’d like to have the same stress-free Sundays, try making your own lesson plans in advance. If the whole 36 week school year seems too much, start with just an 8-week set.

Here are a few steps to help you get started creating your own homeschool curriculum plan.

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Decide upon a basic theme for the year

We like to use a history-based theme. That way everyone in the family is studying the same theme. Some possibilities include Eastern Hemisphere cultures, North American History, World History following the Reformation, or African History. Or you could select a type of literature or science study as your family theme.

Determine Family School and Individual Study Topics

homeschool curriculum planning

What topics will you study together as a family? Some families use a morning time basket or an afternoon tea time as a way for everyone to learn together. Whatever your family calls it, gathering together has so many amazing benefits. Read this article from BlessThisHomeschool for examples of the positive aspects of studying together as a family. Many homeschoolers like to study the same general history along with a read-aloud book and fine art appreciation. This family schooling time makes planning much easier! Use this weekly family school schedule from the Free Resource Library to plan out which subjects you’ll study on which days.

Set Goals

Make a list of the goals you have for each of your children for the next year. Then have your kids make lists of their own goals and the activities in which they’d like to participate next year. Finally, talk with each child and select which activities are the most important for this year. This can help you set your priorities and make plans for extra-curricular activities.

Seek Guidance and Advice

Chat with other homeschooling parents to see what programs, books, and curriculum they’ve used in the past and what their experiences were. What is a terrific excuse to get together and spend some time with fellow homeschooling friends!

Let God lead you in the direction He wants you to go. If you are religious, pray about your plans and decisions for next year.

Select all of the resources that you plan to use

homeschool curriculum planning

I’m a visual learner, so I make a special Pinterest board to gather and easily see all of my ideas for the year. Be sure to include individual unit studies, hands-on activities, lap-books, notebooking resources, DVDs, and audiobooks, not just textbooks and workbooks. Don’t forget the importance of sensory bins and fine and gross motor activities, especially for younger ones. Gather all of your curriculum and ideas together. Jot down your ideas for each term during your brainstorming session on the Family School and Individual Student planning forms for Brainstorming in the Free Resource Library.

Create a basic outline of when each child will study each subject during the week

I like to go “old-school” for this and use colored pens and paper (’cause I’m a color marker nerd!), but a spreadsheet would also work well for this task. Just make a chart with days across the top and each subject down the side. Look at the table of contents for the number of lessons or add up the number of activities you want to accomplish in each subject. Divide that by 36 weeks (the typical number of weeks in a school year) and that tells you how many times that subject needs to be studied per week.

For example, I know we need to have math 4 times a week, but we’ll only do dictation twice weekly. I make an X in the box to show which days we’ll study that subject. Check out the sample copy of the Individual Student Weekly Schedule in the Free Resource Library.

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Think about your extra-curricular activities, too, when making this chart. If you know you always have piano lessons and an outside Spanish class on Thursdays, you will want to make Thursday’s plan a little lighter.

Make lesson plans for the year

What?!! I know that sounds crazy, but trust me! It’s much easier than it sounds. Just make 36 copies–one for each week– of the chart you made in the above step and start plugging in lesson numbers, names of books to read, etc. I use the “save as” function in my word processor to make this part go much faster. As an example, here’s a copy of my son’s 6th grade lesson plan from week 22. (That year, we only did Bible for our morning time together. There’s a large age gap above him and another large gap below, so he was the only one I schooled that year.) Hole punch and place in a small 3-ring binder. Get blank copies of the Weekly Lesson Plans for Individuals and the Family School Weekly Lesson Plans from the Free Resource Library.

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Add “something that matters” to your plan

This is a great way to meet some of the non-academic goals you’ve set for the year. Some seasons of your life, this might mean volunteering for a leadership position in your church or homeschool co-op. Other seasons with high schoolers might mean adding in more community service. (If you need community service and leadership ideas for your high schooler, read this.) For others with lots of little ones, that might just be making sure that you are refilling your own bucket regularly. Or it could even simply mean making your homeschool time a greater priority and cutting back on outside activities.

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Add in additional documents to your homeschool planner

I like to keep a year-at-a-glance calendar in my binder as well as a few other pages. For example, I keep a log sheet for my teens to jot down any volunteer work. Grab your own copy of my volunteer hours log from the Free Resource Library to help your teens keep track of their volunteer hours for scholarship applications. I also like to keep a paper copy of schedules for outside lessons or practices, just as a back-up to my phone calendar. Our family uses the free version of Cozi; all of us with phones can access it and update it, plus it color codes everyone, which is a huge help for large families like ours!

I hope these steps will help you to create your homeschool curriculum plan! Follow my Homeschool Hacks Pinterest board for more homeschooling tips and tricks! Comment below and share your favorite homeschool planning tip!

Pin this post to refer back to later!

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This post contains content from two articles I originally wrote for Reused with permission.

3 Replies to “Homeschool Curriculum Planning: Create a Plan for Your Family”

  1. Stephenie Reilly says:

    Thanks for your helpful worksheets and planning guides as well as detailed descriptions! I was wondering if you could use your method of planning for the whole year but instead of doing it by weeks but by days. The days of the week we homeschool can be more fluid and it would feel less like we are “behind” if we were able to just pick up where we left off. I’m a new homeschool mom (going into year two with a 2nd grader and Kinder plus 2 younger ones in the house) so I’m not sure where the potential pit falls may be with this plan. Any encouragement and advice is appreciate!

    1. Whole Child Homeschool says:

      Yes, definitely! Anytime that we are sick or want to take a spontaneous field trip, we just pick back up on the next scheduled day. We don’t necessarily worry about doing Day 2 on Tuesdays, we just do the next day. So we might do Day 4 on Mondays because we were sick for 3 days. Does that help/make sense? Also, there have been some years that I only planned 4 days/week because of numerous outside activities on the fifth day. I usually plan for 36 weeks because that gets us the required number of hours for our state for the year. Most years, it takes us nearly the 52 weeks to get in our 36 weeks because we like to take off in the spring and fall when it’s nice out instead of having a summer break when it’s too hot here to go outside LOL Planning ahead makes it SO MUCH easier to just jump back in when you’ve been gone or sick too. It really is worth the extra time now! Also, if you only get part of a day done (which happens with little ones), just add in the leftover to the next day or two until you’re caught up. I hope this helps and blessings on your school year!

  2. Amanda Moore says:

    Excellent tips.

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