You need to create a yearly homeschooling calendar. Wait a minute! A what?
What on earth is a yearly homeschooling calendar? What does it even look like? On top of that, how on earth do you even begin to create your own?
Simply put, a homeschooling calendar is a calendar that shows you the days and the weeks you will work through your homeschooling curriculum. Think of it like this: Schools put out a school calendar each year letting you know what days your child is required to be in the school building. A homeschooling calendar is very similar. It lets you and your family know the days you will be working through your lessons.
There are many benefits of sitting down and creating your own homeschooling calendar each year. Yet, the idea of doing this can be very intimidating – especially if you don’t have a plan on how to do it! But the thing is, creating a homeschooling yearly calendar doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be intimidating.
You see, when you know how to create your calendar, when you have a framework of steps to follow, this concept of creating your own homeschooling calendar leaves the realm of the impossible and becomes very doable.
On top of that, when you create your own yearly calendar, you have the flexibility and freedom to create the schedule that will best fit the needs and learning styles of your family.
But how do you do it? How do you create your own homeschooling calendar? Let’s talk through a framework to help you create the best homeschooling calendar to fit your family.
A Yearly Perspective
When you start creating your homeschooling calendar, you need to start with the big picture. Creating a plan for what you will cover daily in each subject is part of your homeschooling planning. But, before you start to plan each subject individually, you need to know how much time you have to work with for your homeschooling year. You need to know where your school days will fall on the calendar. You need to start with the big picture.
Now, at first this concept can feel very intimidating. The feeling of overwhelm tries to take over when you think about planning your entire school year right now. Before you give into those overwhelming feelings, I want you to remember a couple things:
First, there is a process in how to do this. And I am going to walk you through it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do this all on your own! Remember those simple, practical steps that keep coming up? This post is filled with them! So, breathe easy, my Friend!
Second, think about this concept: If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. The opposite of this is also true: If you have something to aim for, you have a much better chance of hitting it. Whether you’re working towards a personal goal of wanting to run a marathon or a financial goal of wanting to get out of debt or a school goal of wanting to complete a science curriculum in the space of one school year, you need to know what your goal is. You need to know when you want to complete this goal. If you don’t have a starting point and an ending point, you won’t know where you’re going and when you’ve arrived.
And finally, your homeschooling schedule is not set in stone! Now, don’t misunderstand me: You should absolutely create a yearly calendar for your homeschooling. You should try to stick to the calendar you’ve created as closely as possible. But, you do have freedom within the structure that you are building. If your entire family comes down with the flu for a week, don’t do school during that week! Shift things a little so you have the chance to heal and feel better before jumping back into your school lessons. It is much easier to shift things around within a plan than to try and figure everything out on the fly!
Creating Your Calendar
To start creating your calendar, you’re going to need a few tools: a pencil, colored pencils, and a dated calendar. You might also want to have some extra paper handy just in case.
The easiest way to begin is to print out a year on a page calendar for each year your school year will cover. For example, if you are working on creating a plan for the 2020-2021 school year, print out a 2020 calendar and a 2021 calendar. Now, these calendars do not have to be detailed at all! In fact, you can easily find free printable calendars that show you the entire year on one page. This is the type you’re looking for.
But why do you need colored pencils to create your homeschooling calendar? That was a joke, right? Nope, it wasn’t a joke. And yes, you read it correctly. You will need colored pencils. These colored pencils are going to help you identify certain things in your year that are already determined: holidays, previous commitments, and more. Remember, you have 2 entire years on only 2 pieces of paper right now. You are creating your big picture view. But even as you start to create that big picture view, you need to take certain details into consideration. Colored pencils are a really easy way to help you see the big picture that includes those details. I promise, this will make more sense as we go along.
Block Out the Holidays
The first step in creating your calendar is to mark all the holidays. So, take your red colored pencil and circle or color all the dates of all the important holidays. Pay close attention to the ones that have a direct effect on your family. For example, National Donut Day might warrant a special breakfast of donuts, but you don’t need to take the whole day off of school for it. Christmas, on the other hand, is a holiday you want to take off of school!
Go through your entire calendar and mark all these days. Don’t forget to include holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Also, don’t forget about the non-major holidays – particularly the ones where your spouse might have the day off work. If you want to keep Labor Day or Memorial Day open for family time, make sure to mark it in red on your calendar!
External Class Details
Are you a part of a co-op or a homeschooling mentoring program? Are your children taking classes where they are required to be in a certain place outside your home for a certain amount of time?
It’s time to mark these days on your yearly calendar! Grab your blue colored pencil and circle or color all the days you know you will be meeting with your co-op or homeschooling mentoring group. Do this for the entire school year. Even though it may seem a little redundant to circle all those Tuesdays week in and week out, trust me, there is a method to this!
Next, it’s time to add in any extra classes where your child is required to be a certain place outside your home for a certain time. Mark these days in purple on your calendar. Keep in mind, your purple colored pencil should only mark classes where you need to physically be in another location to take a class in person. Don’t worry about virtual classes until you pick up your next color.
A quick side note: As you walk through each of these elements to your yearly calendar, you may find that not all of them apply to you. This is more than okay! Remember, this is your calendar. Add the things that apply to you so you can create the best homeschooling calendar for your family with all the information you have available.
Now it’s time to add in virtual classes. Instead of coloring in the date for every day in the course of the virtual class, try this: Take your orange colored pencil and put an open parenthesis to the left of the start date of the virtual course. Then put a closed parenthesis just to the right of the date when the class ends. Don’t forget to add in mid-terms and holiday breaks!
Are you still with me? This part can get a little tedious. But, when you take all these things into consideration at the beginning you save yourself a lot of unnecessary shifting later on.
Now it’s time to add in any family details. Do you have a vacation planned? Are you going to see family? Do you have family coming into town? Grab a green colored pencil and color in any dates you already have on your calendar. Yes, this step will require getting your family calendar to make sure your dates match up!
Do you have any special family days that you want to declare a ‘school holiday’l? A milestone birthday? A 3-day weekend to be able to visit a grandparent that is having a milestone birthday? Mark that on your calendar with your green colored pencil!
But what if you know you want to take a family vacation, but you don’t have exact dates yet? Even if you don’t have any reservations or exact dates for your vacation, identify a time frame on your school calendar and block it out. For example, if you know you want to schedule a family vacation in March, but you don’t know the exact week right now, pick a week in March and color it green to block it off. This allows you to plan for a week of vacation even if you need to shuffle your school dates later on. If you are part of a co-op or mentoring program, this method can be extremely helpful in showing you what blocks of time you have available to plan your family vacation!
Take A Breath
You have just done a lot of work! Pause for a second. Take a deep breath. Put your colored pencils down and look at your calendar pages sitting side by side. You have created your initial framework for your homeschooling yearly calendar. Oh, I know it may not look like you expected just yet, but hang with me. We’re getting there!
There is one very important thing to keep in mind: While it is not possible to plan for everything that might happen for the entire year, you can make allowances for the things you do know are coming. This is exactly what you’re creating in this calendar. This is exactly why you are creating this colorful calendar to plan your yearly homeschooling calendar. To plan for what you know and accept that there will most likely be a few adjustments as you live out your plan.
Okay, it’s time to figure out some broad details before you identify each week in your homeschooling year.
How Many Weeks Will You Homeschool Year Be?
Before you randomly pick a number of weeks for your homeschooling year, make sure you know the homeschooling laws of your state. Remember, each state has different guidelines for reporting homeschooling information and some states may have guidelines about the number of days or the number of weeks your homeschooling student needs to be in school. Now, don’t panic over this! Simply go over to HSLDA.org/legal to look at the specific laws for your state. One of the best ways you can serve your family is through knowing and following the homeschooling guidelines in your state.
(This blog post is not intended to take the place of legal advice. If you have any specific legal questions about the guidelines of your state, I strongly encourage your to contact HSLDA. HSLDA is an organization that specializes in helping homeschooling families navigate the legal requirements and guidelines of homeschooling.)
So how do you figure out how many weeks your homeschooling year should be? Most states (not all) in the US set their school schedule based on 180 days of the students being in class. If you divide this number (180) by 5 (5 weekdays), you come up with 36 weeks. This is a good starting place for creating your calendar.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that learning never stops. Every day becomes a new learning experience in some way, shape or form. This number (36 weeks) helps you determine how many weeks you will be sitting down and doing more “formal” lessons with your child. Just because you are creating a calendar does not mean learning is nonexistent the rest of the year!
Plugging the Weeks In
Now it’s time time plug your homeschooling weeks into your colorful yearly calendars. You’ll need a regular pencil that you can erase for this part. And do yourself a favor: Make sure you do this part in pencil! You will end up doing some erasing and rewriting before you can declare your yearly school calendar complete!
Once you know the number of weeks you are going to homeschool, determine the midpoint of your school year. Split your homeschooling weeks in half. Starting at your midpoint, number the weeks backwards until you reach week 1. Then, go back to your midpoint and work forwards until you reach your final week. Did you get all that?
Let me give you an example: You are going to have a 36 week school year and the midpoint of your school year is the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. So, when you split your homeschooling weeks in half, you will have 18 weeks of school before Christmas and 18 weeks of school after Christmas.
Now, look at your calendar and decide when your final week of school before your Christmas holidays (your week 18) will be. Write a number ’18’ and circle it at the beginning of that week on your colorful calendar. Once you have this final week set on your calendar, start working backwards to week 1, tagging each week by writing the week number and circling it at the beginning of the week. As you work backwards, make sure to skip any holidays or family vacation weeks you have tagged with your colored pencils. Do you see how all that coloring work before made those vacation days nice and easy to spot? Once you reach week 1, you have the start of your school year!
Then, come back to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. How many weeks will your holiday break be? 2 weeks? 3 weeks? Look at your calendar and decide when you will start school after your holiday break. Write a ’19’ at the beginning of that week and circle it. Continue counting up, writing each week number on your calendar as before, until you reach week 36. Again, make sure to skip any weeks that you have tagged for holidays or vacation.
Congratulations! You have just laid out your homeschooling calendar for the entire school year!
Take a Break Now and Then
One thing I have learned through homeschooling is that keeping up a consistent week in and week out homeschooling routine for weeks on end can get wearing. This is an area you will need to experiment with and find your own rhythm. For my family, I have found that after about 6 weeks of school, everyone needs a break, including me! So, as I plan our yearly homeschooling calendar, I plan a break week about every 6 weeks or so. Sometimes, the break weeks are closer together (like around Thanksgiving and Christmas). But I have found that our focus, our capacity to learn, my patience level is so much better when I build these regular breaks into our school year.
Now that’s not to say learning comes to a complete halt during the breaks! Learning still happens each and every day! We just don’t have the ‘formal’ setting of sitting at the school room table and talking through a set lesson from a book.
Keep in mind, the more breaks you add into your school year, the longer your school year will be and the shorter your summer vacation will be. This isn’t a bad thing! In fact, many schools and homeschools take this model of a year-round school calendar: Shorter and more frequent breaks spaced throughout the year as opposed to a longer break in the summer. The key is not to copy exactly what anyone else does, but to find what rhythm, what pattern will work best for you and your family.
Keep a Flexible Mindset
You cannot plan for everything! This pains me to say because I am a total planner. Yet, this is the truth. No matter how hard you try, you cannot plan for everything that will come up in your school year before your school year even starts!
The big idea behind creating your homeschooling calendar is not to create a rigid system that cannot be changed, but to give you a structured guide to work in. This goes back to knowing where you are aiming so that you will know whether or not you’ve hit your goal. It’s much easier to have a structured guide and flip a break week and a school week if something comes up than to be forced to take a week off due to sickness or unexpected events and have no buffer built in. When you have no flexibility, you create stress for yourself as you try to catch up and stick to your original schedule.
Now, you should try to stick to the schedule you created as much as possible, but don’t be so attached to this exact schedule that you leave no room for the unexpected. Go back to the golden principle of homeschooling: Be flexible!
Remember, this is your homeschooling calendar! You can set the schedule in a way that best fits your family. You need to make sure that your children are learning and progressing in their education, absolutely! But you can do it in a way that meshes with the rhythm of your family and allows everyone the greatest learning advantage.
- How to Get Started Homeschooling: 10 Important Tips
- How to Begin Homeschooling Your Little Ones
- What Style of Homeschooling Curriculum is Right for You?
- How to Intentionally Create a Pattern for Your Day
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.