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Welcome back to the Homeschool Better Together Podcast. In today’s episode, host Pam Barnhill and guest Amie Gardner dive into the intricacies of homeschool planning and the tools that can make it all more manageable. Amie shares her experience using Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot, which has been a game-changer in balancing lesson plans for her family and creating a confident, structured homeschooling environment. 

We’ll also hear about Amie’s journey from feeling overwhelmed with curriculum to finding flexibility and peace of mind. Pam and Amie reflect on the pressures of finding the perfect curriculum and fostering a love for learning in children. 

This episode is packed with valuable insights, practical tips, and heartfelt discussion aimed at helping you navigate your homeschooling journey with confidence and ease.

Pam Barnhill [00:00:01]:
Are you ready for homeschooling to feel joyful again? Do you long for support as you learn alongside your kids? Welcome to Homeschool Better Together, a podcast about building a homeschool experience that works for your family. I’m Pam Barnhill, and it’s time to step out of the overwhelm and into the wonder. Let’s do this. I am joined today by homeschool mom, Amie Gardner. She is a member of our homeschool better together community, and she is also one of our super planners. She has been using Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot, and we wanted to have her come on today and talk to you about her experience doing that and how it has helped her planning. So, Amie, welcome to the podcast.

Pam Barnhill [00:00:53]:
Oh, well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to come on. Can you start off by telling everybody just a little bit about your homeschool and, like, how many kids you’re homeschooling and how long you’ve been doing it?

Amie Gardner [00:01:07]:
Yes. So I have 5 kids, but I am homeschooling three of them right now. Two of them chose to go to the public school for high school. And I started homeschooling when my oldest was in 1st grade. We were in the public schools, and we pulled them out and started homeschooling, and that was back in 2013.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:25]:

Amie Gardner [00:01:26]:
So been homeschooling for quite a while. And the three that I have at home are ages 14, 9, and 4. So I got quite the range at home right now.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:39]:
Yeah. You do. So what was it that prompted you guys to start homeschooling?

Amie Gardner [00:01:44]:
We were not getting the support in the public school that we needed to get. We were watching our oldest really just struggle socially. He actually was worse in the public school socially than he was at home, which is usually the opposite of what everyone says to you when you first start homeschooling. But we pulled him for a year and decided, let’s just see what happens. And even our pediatrician noticed a difference in him and just really noticed that he was thriving at home because he was feeling safe at home. And he also was bored there. You know, the math program, they have you do these math fact sheets, and he knew the math fact sheets within the 1st 2 weeks of the school year. And the, you know, the teacher was very kind, but she just said, this is what I gotta get my kids to.

Amie Gardner [00:02:48]:
And if they’re above it, then there’s not much leeway I have. You know? She did give him a couple of other things, but for the most part, he was just kinda bored there. So between not feeling safe, wanting to be at home, and boredom, it just was a a reason for us to kinda sit down and say, let’s try homeschooling. It was not on our bingo card for life as someone said the other day. Like, it’s definitely not on the bingo card. I was a college professor, so I wasn’t really planning on homeschooling preschool or elementary school, but we’ve made it through 8th grade with the with 3 of the 5. And then my current 8th grader has decided to homeschool high school. So I’m forging a new a new but just when you think like it’s like i’m done all this stuff. It’s like, no. We’re gonna do something new now.

Amie Gardner [00:03:41]:
We’re gonna start it all over and start something new all over again, but we’re excited for it. We’re very excited for it.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:47]:
Oh, that’s awesome. And so how awesome that you guys use the public school system as a tool to meet your needs. Right? It’s like it wasn’t meeting our needs when my oldest was in first grade. And so we decided to homeschool. And I’m assuming you liked it enough because you kept doing it with all of the other kids. And then you got to the point where you’re like, oh, the kids wanna try this again. I think this is gonna meet their needs. You let them go back into that system and try it, and you’re taking it one kid at a time.

Amie Gardner [00:04:14]:
Yes. Exactly. So we kinda take it 1 year at a time, although, I feel like now with my younger 2, we’ve gotten into a groove and we’ve decided we’re not gonna do public school for, you know, until they finish through their 8th grade year and kinda make a decision for themselves to go back. Because my oldest wanted to go back for 8th grade, but that was the year of 2020/21.

Pam Barnhill [00:04:38]:
God bless him.

Amie Gardner [00:04:39]:
Yeah. And it was just that was when they were starting to do the hybrid model, and I said, this is not a good representative of public school and I even said I wouldn’t do that to the teachers, like, that’s just not fair.

Pam Barnhill [00:04:55]:

Amie Gardner [00:04:56]:
But he chose to go back for his freshman year and he’s finishing up his junior year and is gonna graduate next year. And so it’s funny. I asked him and my sophomore, like, do you think that homeschool prepared you? And they say absolutely yes. It’s like it it prepared them. You know? They went in as honor students. They went in as honors for history, honors for science. My oldest is gonna be an English tutor next year for the school, so it taught them how to study. The one thing that they did note, both of them did note, is that they get frustrated with kids who aren’t there to learn and kinda make it hard for everyone else to learn.

Amie Gardner [00:05:42]:
But they enjoy the social piece of it. They enjoy the seeing their friends in between classes and stuff like that. He don’t but we take it one year at a time because who knows? I I always tell them the door is always open. You can always come back if you need to. So

Pam Barnhill [00:05:57]:
That’s awesome. That’s awesome how you Madej both kind of work for you. Well, let’s go back to that 2013 and and back in the day. So what was homeschool planning specifically like back in the early days of your homeschool?

Amie Gardner [00:06:13]:
You know, it’s funny. I was a curriculum and program developer for a few years at a college. And so I had some idea of what I wanted to do, but it was good and bad because I knew how to research and I knew where to find the options. And that kinda led me down rabbit trails for for a longer than I needed to. But, you know, it it was hard because we were trying to pull them out of the public school. So we wanted to make sure that we showed we kinda knew what we were doing.

Pam Barnhill [00:06:52]:

Amie Gardner [00:06:52]:
And that we weren’t just going to pull them and do absolutely nothing. We were going to have a plan of some kind. So, initially, I had planned to use the public school’s curriculum. Like, I found out that I could buy their curriculum for a $100. 200. And I was like, why not just stay with it? And then as I researched it and I looked at it, I thought, this is not the right style for my kid. This is not the right style for me. And so we started we started looking at other options, and I prayed a lot.

Amie Gardner [00:07:29]:
Prayed a lot and, kinda stumbled on, like, All About Reading. Mhmm. And I stumbled on Tapestry of Grace. And I found things at the very beginning that were like, especially with All About Reading, you know, it’s it’s kind of an open and go.

Pam Barnhill [00:07:45]:

Amie Gardner [00:07:45]:
And I needed that. Even though I don’t use the I don’t use a script as much as I used to, I needed something to tell me I was going the right direction.

Pam Barnhill [00:07:57]:

Amie Gardner [00:07:57]:
And I wasn’t I wasn’t just, like, shooting a dart and hoping that I hit the right thing. So, you know, I tried to pick, like, what you call the skill subjects. I really tried to pick some core skill subjects and some, some core resources for those. And then, each year, I got into that planning phase again. I get into that course of study and review all the options, and then go back to what I know.

Pam Barnhill [00:08:27]:
Yes. Go back to what I know. That’s so funny. Okay. So you touched on a couple of things there that I think are worth like pointing out here. So first of all, with the research thing, it is so easy just to start researching and not knowing when should I stop researching? Like when have I found the best thing? When have I found, you know, because you could research all day long and keep following. I mean, the other day I was on Facebook and that somebody came up and posted about the Robinson curriculum. I’ve heard about it vaguely, but I was like, oh, I could go down a rabbit trail of, like, investigating all the things about that.

Pam Barnhill [00:09:08]:
And it’s not anything I really ever paid attention to before. Yes. I’ve been doing this for so many years. So you could research forever and ever,

Amie Gardner [00:09:18]:
I think. Yes. Yes. You could. And so, like, I was saying my 8th grader is going into high school and I don’t really have a a plan for that. You know? I mean, for my 9 year old, I’ve done it 3 other Time, so I know what works and doesn’t work at least for me as the teacher part of it. But for high school, I was like, okay. What you know, there there’s a whole slew of stuff you could do, especially with I mean, I’ve been using your Navigating High School Course, which has been fabulous, but you’re really planning somewhat loosely 4 years at a time instead of just one.

Amie Gardner [00:09:59]:
And I’ve been looking for a middle ages curriculum, and usually you can find, like, a little bit here or a little bit here, but the options that I was finding seem to be limited to just a few options for a whole year. And so I went on to the community and I was like, is am I missing anything? Is there something because I felt like I was researching for hours and finding the same stuff over and over again. I was like, okay. And so the other day, I just picked my resource, and I was like, we’re done. We this is what we’re using this year, and we’re Dawn, and we’re we’re gonna use it. And so there’s that desire to find the perfect curriculum that will make my kid well, let’s be honest, will make my family stop questioning that I’m homeschooling. You know? Like, listen, if I just show you my curriculum, will you believe that I’m giving my kid the best education? And that perfect curriculum that makes the kid excited or you excited on the days that you’re not excited.

Pam Barnhill [00:11:07]:
Yeah. And that that really means that that That really doesn’t exist. You know?

Amie Gardner [00:11:13]:
It doesn’t. It doesn’t. And so that’s why I’m also a boot camp member. Yeah. Because I need that accountability on the days that it’s not super exciting to open the book instead of watch another TV show.

Pam Barnhill [00:11:31]:
Yeah. And we put so much weight onto, like, whole like so much faith in what a homeschool curriculum can do before we buy it. Me too. You know? And it it’s almost not fair to curriculum providers that were like, you’re gonna motivate us every single day. And you’re gonna motivate the 15 year old boy every single day. And we’re all gonna be happy to sit here and do this. And it’s, it’s really not fair.

Amie Gardner [00:11:56]:
It’s it’s not fair. You’re right. And I think that, you know, one of the things that I have learned is there’s gaps in education no matter where you go. So I’ve watched my 2 in the public school, they have gaps. You know, there’s just we just can’t teach everything. But what we can teach is a love of learning and how to learn and how to not even just how to learn, but also how do you process what we’re learning. And then that sets them up for success throughout their life because let’s be honest. I’m still learning.

Amie Gardner [00:12:34]:
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’m learning right along with them as I I had never taught a kid to read Yeah. Until, you know, 2013. I got that book, and I was like, alright. We’re we’re gonna do this.

Pam Barnhill [00:12:47]:
We’re gonna figure this out. Yeah.

Amie Gardner [00:12:49]:
We’re gonna figure this out. And, you know, my my 14 year old, he asked me the other day. He said, what about the subjects that, like, I don’t know and you don’t know? And I said, well, if we can’t find an online course for it or something like that, we’re just gonna learn together. We’re gonna learn together and we’re gonna, you know, go through this process together. We’re gonna find a good a good book and work through the process. And and even when I was a college teacher, sometimes there was just a a textbook that didn’t work. And we got to the end of the semester and I was, like, yeah, not a fan of that textbook. And we put it away.

Amie Gardner [00:13:29]:
We found a different one, and we moved on. And we didn’t worry about the gaps that were missed with that whole group of kids because we taught them something. But there’s this pressure on homeschool parents to get the everything exactly right. And like you said, then we put that pressure on the curriculum. Yeah.

Pam Barnhill [00:13:50]:
Yeah. Well, and it’s not fair the pressure we put on ourselves. I wanted to get back to something you said earlier though, because I think this is something that’s important for people to hear too, is this idea of you were talking about All About Reading, which I’m a huge fan. I used it with multiple kids. And you said it has a script. I don’t necessarily use the script now. I think it’s so important. I hear some people say sometimes like, oh, like it’s a scripted curriculum.

Pam Barnhill [00:14:19]:
Like I don’t need a script or I don’t want a script. You don’t have to use the script. Exactly. But if you want it, if you want to go back to it, if you, you said, I use it to keep me in chat, then you, you can go back to it and look at it. So I just thought that was an important point to bring up because, you know, it’s okay. It’s okay to rely as homeschool moms. We don’t have to invent everything from scratch. We don’t have to know everything.

Pam Barnhill [00:14:47]:
We can use this resource that’s been, you know, created for us really good resources a lot of times. Exactly. You know, a whole curriculum may not be able to motivate your 15 year old necessarily, but they do a really good job of what they’re designed to do. The good ones do. And so, you know, helping us along and teaching us how to teach and what we need to know, because I bet thinking back, he said, you know, I, I taught a child to read. I had never done that before. You were probably sitting there just like I was. And I was a high school English teacher for years going, I’ve never taught anybody how to read.

Pam Barnhill [00:15:24]:
Like, I just read. I’ve just read for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember how to do this, you know, how to break it down for somebody.

Amie Gardner [00:15:33]:
Right. And I don’t know about you, but when this was funny when we were we were looking at the reading program, I remember saying to someone, I don’t remember being taught phonics.

Pam Barnhill [00:15:46]:
No. Well, we probably weren’t.

Amie Gardner [00:15:49]:
And that’s what I like, we probably weren’t. And I was like, phonics makes sense to me. Like, and it was just so funny because I was learning myself a new way Yeah. To teach how to read and to teach how to spell. When I started teaching just a an introduction to Latin to my kids, like, we were laughing because I said, oh, I’ve known that word for years. And I kinda knew what that meant, but I didn’t necessarily make the connection. And so, like you said, I wasn’t quite sure how I was gonna do some of this stuff, but having that script in front of me helped me at least feel confident that it was there if I needed it. And if I didn’t, I didn’t need to use it.

Amie Gardner [00:16:39]:
But at least it was there if I needed it. Like, at least it was there if something didn’t make sense to me. It Ali like, okay. Let’s go back and read that again.

Pam Barnhill [00:16:48]:
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I can so relate to what you’re talking about. Just this idea of, you know, spending hours and hours researching, questioning, am I going to be able to choose the best thing for my family? You know, when can I stop researching and know that that I’ve gotten the thing that’s going to work for us? So when did you find, Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot?

Amie Gardner [00:17:11]:
You know, honestly, we’ve been using it for so long. I’ve been using it for so long. I’m not even sure. I think I’m one of the inaugural users because I have the old forms, like with the flowers and everything. Like I, I go way back. So that was probably about 2,014 or 2015 when those first came out. And I think

Pam Barnhill [00:17:34]:
we changed the design, like, in 2018 or something like that.

Amie Gardner [00:17:40]:
Yeah. So I wanna say it was, like, you know, it was a couple of years in, but not too long into the process, Because I don’t think the new forms were out yet when I first used it. I think they came out maybe the next year.

Pam Barnhill [00:17:56]:

Amie Gardner [00:17:56]:
And so I’ve been using the process for a long time.

Pam Barnhill [00:18:00]:
So how has the process helped you? Because that’s really what it is. You know, it kind of looks like a planner on the outside, but you can really use this process. You can use it with our planning forms. You can use it with any homeschool planner that you find. You could use it with a, like a digital, like an online planner, like a homeschool plan, but it’s really a process. So how did the process help you?

Amie Gardner [00:18:24]:
So one of the things that I think is really important is planning can be an overwhelming process if you wanna do it well. And we all wanna do it well for our kids. Right? Like, that’s why we’re doing this. So it helped me stay on track. It helped me make sure that I wasn’t missing anything in the process. And one of the curriculums that I was using was a buffet curriculum. Mhmm. And I’d be okay for the first few months of the year, but then come January, I’d kinda lose track of where I was in the buffet, and I’d kinda I’d feel that pressure of, oh, I gotta do it Ali, and I don’t need to do it all.

Amie Gardner [00:19:11]:
And so what I liked about plan your year specifically was the lesson plans and the the piece where we decide, okay, this is open and go and I don’t need to do anything other than get a sticky and write it out on my calendar of this is what we’re gonna use. 1st is the buffet ones where we have to pick and choose what topic we’re gonna do or what book we’re gonna use or what activity we’re gonna do. Because a lot of these buffet ones, especially for history, give you 4 or 5 activities to do, and you don’t need to do all of them. You can be a successful homeschooler and not mummify a chicken. Like, we have not done that yet.

Pam Barnhill [00:19:59]:
Never done that. We like salt dough here.

Amie Gardner [00:20:02]:
You know? But what I liked was almost the checklist to it. I use the table of contents as a checklist, and I make sure that I’m going through every subject, every for every child, and that I just have thought about it. And even if I’m using the same subject year to year to year, do I need the next level? Do I need an updated edition? Do I and so Plan Your Year really gave me a checklist to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and it was a physical checklist, not in my head, but a physical checklist that made sure I was covering my Basket. And then it became easier each year to use. Yeah. I, I look at my vision every year, but I don’t think I change it much because my vision goals are still the same for my kids. And I know what we wanna do, but, yeah, the goals each year might are gonna be different. The resources that we use might be different.

Amie Gardner [00:21:11]:
And some years, I need more open and go Yeah.

Amie Gardner [00:21:15]:
Than I do of my lesson plan. Like, last year, I knew I was gonna need more open and go. I was gonna need more of it written down for me. This next year, I got more time. So I know I can sit down with a book and create a lesson plan list using your method. And that’s what’s been so helpful about Laney Your Year is the flexibility, the options, but well, for example, I was reading the daily and weekly schedules

Pam Barnhill [00:21:50]:

Amie Gardner [00:21:50]:
Last night and listening to the the video, and I was like, yep. I do the weekly plan. I have that. I block out my time management, but maybe I’m gonna do my daily schedule a little bit different this year. And I know at first when I did it, I definitely was a block person. It was like,, yep. This is the block. This is what we’re doing.

Amie Gardner [00:22:11]:
This is but loop scheduling has completely changed things for me as well because I don’t feel like I’m stuck having to get through everything in one day.

Pam Barnhill [00:22:25]:
Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Amie Gardner [00:22:27]:
You know, I’ve got my loop and I know, alright, we’re gonna history, science and I don’t forget things. There was something in the video that you said that said, that way you’re not on lesson 11 of science and a lesson 40 of history. And that was us this year. Using someone else’s plan, we were on lesson 40 and lesson 11. I was like, okay, we’re gonna go back to this way of doing things.

Pam Barnhill [00:22:53]:
Oh, I love that. I love it so much. Yeah. And you know, you, you mentioned buffet curriculum earlier. I just wanna clarify if nobody’s heard that, if somebody has never heard that term before. So a lot of times when curriculum developers create curriculum, they do create this kind of buffet effect where they give you so many different books to read and so many different things to do. And their intention is not for you to do all of it. Their intention is for you to pick and choose, you know, a good portion of it, but not necessarily all of it.

Pam Barnhill [00:23:30]:
And in that way they give you options. You know, if you can’t find these supplies or if you can’t find these books or, or whatever. And so often we find families, we find moms who are like, okay, this is my curriculum. This is what I’m going to do. And they try to do all of it. So that’s the first mistake we see with a buffet curriculum is they don’t understand. Yeah. I think we’ve all been there, Amie.

Amie Gardner [00:23:54]:
And that’s what I did my 1st year. I was, like, this is so exciting. Like, I was really excited about the curriculum because it covered something like 8 different subjects, and it covered 4 different levels. And I had different kids and I was like, it can grow with my kids. Like and then it, like I said, by January, I was like, oh, I cannot keep this pace going. Like my stacks from the library. I became besties with the library.

Pam Barnhill [00:24:23]:
That’s not a bad thing. No. It’s not.

Amie Gardner [00:24:26]:
And, actually, one of our librarians homeschools her kids. And so, you know, it was another connection, but she was hilarious when I would check out. She’s like, oh, what are we learning today? Laney Yeah. I know what program you use.

Pam Barnhill [00:24:41]:
That’s funny. But, yeah, that is the first problem that people run into with a buffet curriculum. The second problem that people run into with a buffet curriculum is I think I’ve bought this thing that’s planned everything out for me. And then I realized I’ve got to make 50 different decisions to be able to use it. I’ve got to make a plan from the plan. And so a lot of times we’ll get people say to us, well, do I really need your planning program because I’m using a pre-planned curriculum? And I’m like, yeah, you’re probably gonna find it helpful.

Amie Gardner [00:25:16]:
Yeah. And this last year, we used Sonlight, and we loved the choices. It’s definitely literature heavy.

Pam Barnhill [00:25:22]:

Amie Gardner [00:25:23]:
And as I started to go through the year, and I remember asking you someone last year in our planning sessions, like, how do I use this grid with what I’ve known for years? Because I needed someone to do the research for me last year. I didn’t have the time to go down the rabbit trails, like, I like to go down. But at the same time, I found that I still had to plan. I had, a program for a 4 year old and a program for a 9 year old and a program for a 13 year old, And I had to find a way to pull it together and not be so overwhelmed and know what my time resources were. And so, yeah, we we think we’re getting this, like, all done for us and it’s like, nope. Still gotta do a little bit more planning. We still have to think through our day and think through, you know, even just a certain period of time, like a certain season of life. Summer, we can be more laid back.

Amie Gardner [00:26:24]:
Whereas in the fall I tend to buckle down a little more. Christmas I tend to do Christmas schooling and so I use a lot of those Plan Your Year forms to tell me what I’m doing each term. Right. Like, this is what I’m doing this term and this is what I’m doing this next term and it helps me get all my ideas out that I have in the summer so that when I get to that term 10 months later, I remember what I was trying to do from what I had seen of those grids and those plans that I had initially made 10 out of 50 decisions on because you use a term that I love, decision fatigue. Yeah. Yeah. And the more kids you have, I feel like the more decision fatigue you get to and the faster you get to it. But Plan Your Year has helped with that as well because let’s say I’m stuck.

Amie Gardner [00:27:22]:
Let’s say I get off plan. I know I can go back to what your process is, see where I’ve gotten off plan and see maybe I missed a step in the process. Maybe I didn’t do a lesson plan list like I should have. And I take a day and I’m like, alright, let’s let’s do this one little piece today and set myself up for success for the next 6 weeks.

Pam Barnhill [00:27:46]:
Yeah. Yeah. Because the idea behind combating decision fatigue, it’s not that you’re not going to make decisions. Right. You’re just going to make those decisions ahead of time so that when you get to the heat of the moment and you know, you’ve got a 4 year old, right? So you’ve got that little one just kind of hanging off your leg and you know, there’s stuff going wrong in the house and it’s time for that 8th grader to do, you know, to dissect a frog. And it’s like, all the decisions have already been made. Right? When you get a good moment in that day, it’s like, okay, here’s the next thing we’re not supposed to do. Not the thing that we said 3 months ago we were going to be doing today, But the next thing on our list that we’re supposed to do, the decisions have all been made about it, so let’s just do it.

Pam Barnhill [00:28:34]:
You know? And to me, that’s the kind of planning that just brings the most peace of mind right there.

Amie Gardner [00:28:41]:
It does because, you know, the 1st year thinking thinking back to it, I even remember taking a picture of it. The 1st year, I wrote everything down to the day of what we were going to do did not happen. It couldn’t happen. You know, like a kid gets sick or the water heater breaks or just whatever. And the flexibility to plan your year gives you is you don’t have dates necessarily attached to everything. Like I said, I have my term and I know my general term weeks and what I went in to get done in that 6 week period. But I don’t say, okay, well, Monday we’re gonna do this and Tuesday we’re gonna do this. We know that we have a community Bible study on Wednesdays, so we know we all have time for a couple of things on Wednesday, which ends up being the skill subjects, reading and math.

Amie Gardner [00:29:38]:
But maybe I don’t get to history on Tuesday, but I can get to it on Thursday and not feel like I’m I’m I’m far behind or not feel like I have to rewrite everything.

Pam Barnhill [00:29:51]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Okay. So out of we’ve talked about a lot of the things that are in the process, the put your homeschool year on autopilot course. So if you had to pick one favorite, what would you say is your favorite kind of thing that you learned in the course?

Amie Gardner [00:30:10]:
I really have to say the lesson plan piece, that piece where we decide, like, open and go versus lesson plan versus procedures. I think you tell us, like, listen to both of these chapters first before you make a decision. And Dawn last year had us, like, write a a table out and and write down, like, what courses are open and go, and all I have to do is make a copy of the table of contents and put a sticky in it, and I’m good. And that process really helped me. It just kinda gives you peace of mind, and it gives you direction on where you need to spend your time. You know, if I know when I start to see my lesson plan list getting a little too long, I’m like, oh, maybe I don’t have time for that and I need to find a different resource for this year. Or maybe I need to simplify it a little bit. Like, maybe I’m maybe I’m too high of hopes.

Pam Barnhill [00:31:09]:
Yeah. Could I use a procedure list instead of a lesson plan list? Yeah. And for those listening who are not familiar with our process, we actually teach 3 ways to write lesson plans. None of which involve putting things in a Monday through Friday grid and sticking dates on things. But instead writing, you know, doing lesson plans for each subject, the easiest is buying something that’s open and go, making a copy of the table of contents. When you do that lesson, write the date you get it next to it, to our most involved, which is actually creating a more detailed list of lessons for each subject. And then there’s kind of this middle ground of procedure lists. And I think you’re right, Amie, because like I think last year, like 90% of my stuff was open and go.

Pam Barnhill [00:31:53]:
You know, that was the kind of year that we ended up with. It was great. It was fabulous. There have been years where it’s been the opposite end of the scale where I’ve had like 3 or 4 subjects that were lesson plan lists, but you can’t get much more than that. Or you, you simply just run out of time. And so I do think that Autopilot helps you balance.

Amie Gardner [00:32:18]:
It does. It helps you see your plans on paper because as you’re doing your research and as you’re doing your collection of your resources and you’re seeing that fresh calendar in front of you and you’re getting rejuvenated by the pool as you do your lesson planning, and then you realize, oh, wait, I have not put kids, dog, house, like any of this stuff into the mix. And when I sit there and I look at that piece and I’m like, okay. I’ve got, like, 10 things that say I’m gonna make a lesson plan list. I know that’s not gonna happen. Yeah. I just know that’s not gonna happen.

Amie Gardner [00:32:57]:
And so it gives me that checks and balance, but it also gives me that that ability to do a lesson plan list if I want to. Yeah. You know? So for example, my 4 year old doesn’t turn 5 until October. So in the public school system, she doesn’t go into kindergarten until next year, until to all of 2025. But she’s above a pre k level right now. So I’m having to create my own, like, mesh my own program together for her, but I’m confident that I can do it. And, you know, she’s again, it’s pre k, so we’re not spending hours with books, like, at the table, although she could. She loves worksheets.

Amie Gardner [00:33:50]:
She’s so opposite of my older 4. Like, I don’t think I would have had that confidence to make my own kindergarten program when I started in 2013.

Pam Barnhill [00:34:04]:
Yeah. Yeah. And now you feel like you’ve got the tools that you can do that.

Amie Gardner [00:34:08]:
Right. So, you know, I’ve been printing my blank pieces of paper and I got my pencil out and just kinda I’ll tell you that that course of study, that form that you have, that course of study, that becomes my, like, that’s my lifeline. That’s my I put everything there. The subject, the resources, the how often am I gonna do that schedule. Am I gonna make it a loop schedule? Am I gonna make it a lesson plan list? I kinda put it all there so I can see on one page what I’m doing for 1 kid. Yeah. And know, and then I work from that and go from there.

Pam Barnhill [00:34:45]:
That’s a great way to do it. Well, if somebody were on the fence, like, do I really need this program, this $99 program to, like, figure out how to plan my homeschool, what would you tell them?

Amie Gardner [00:34:58]:
You do. You do. This year is the 1st year that we started using Homeschool Planet because my, oldest asked for a list. And, we’re we’re a sports family. We’re very busy in the evenings, and I was having a hard time keeping up with a list for him. And so I found it was easier for me to do the homeschool plan it list part, but I still use the process of plan your year. I still use my lesson plan list and put it in and it assigns dates, but I’m always moving the dates.

Pam Barnhill [00:35:37]:
It’s one of the beautiful things about one of those online homeschool planners is that they all allow you to ship those dates.

Amie Gardner [00:35:44]:
Yep. And when I started in 2013 and when I got to 3 kids, because I was only homeschooling 2, when I got to 3 kids, I kept saying to my husband, I need something that shows me daily, like, what I need to do because I’d have all of their lists out, but I Dawn to find a way to combine it. But I still have to go through that process of listing it all out. And Homeschool Planet It is more of a visual piece, whereas Plan Your Year is the meat of it. It’s the structure. It’s the checklist that helps you make sure you’re dotting all your i’s, crossing all your t’s, and then you can put it in whatever planner you wanna put it into. Yeah. Yeah.

Amie Gardner [00:36:31]:
100%. But I use it I mean, I really use my forms daily and you never know when you’re gonna need it. So, like I was saying, my 8th grader is going into high school next year and I reached out to the school and said he wants to play sports. He wants to be sports eligible. When do I need to give you my education plan for next year? They told me in 2 hours. Oh my goodness. In 2 hours. I had 2 hours, but I had it.

Amie Gardner [00:37:03]:
I had my course of study page that I had already started and I just needed to put it in their format so it’s easier for them to do their little check marks. And I walked into the school at 2:30 and handed them my ed plan for next year. And it’s because of the Plan Your Year process that I was able to do that, you know, and, like, everyone’s around me saying, you did that in 2 hours? I’m like, yeah. Like, because I know the process and I had it ready. I had started my course of study much earlier and we’re ready for next year. That that part of it is ready for next year and I’m I got the approval today. So

Pam Barnhill [00:37:45]:
I love it. I love it so much that it was able to help you do that. And that is the thing about the process. You know, it’s when you think about this investment that you make, you’ve been using it now for, you know, at least 7 or 8 years. And the more you do it, like, it’s good to have the checklist. It’s good to have the planning checklist and say, I’m gonna start. I’m gonna review my vision. Now I’m gonna make my goals for each student.

Pam Barnhill [00:38:10]:
And I was thinking about that as you were talking about the 4 year old, like, personalized education right there because you’ve made those goals for her. Now I’m gonna do my course of study and, you know, just on down the list, And it just gets so much faster each and every time you do it because you, it feels like you’re just putting on that comfy pair of jeans that you love that haven’t been washed and are nice and stretched out And you just follow the process. Then it’s just so comfortable and it goes so fast.

Amie Gardner [00:38:43]:
It does. Each year, I get faster. Each year, I definitely go through the checklist, but I definitely feel like the process has helped me make sure I’m providing what I want for my kids. And it’s it’s so flexible. Like, there are lots of planning programs out there and I’ve looked at quite a few of them, but most of them have a specific way of doing things and don’t have a flexibility for you to put your own unique part of your homeschool on it. You know? I think that’s why Plan Your Year has been so successful for me because I’m a classical background. That’s that’s kind of the route that we’re going, but it works for anybody.

Pam Barnhill [00:39:34]:
Yeah. We definitely tried to make it like that. I don’t wanna tell you. I wanna show you how you can all. I don’t wanna tell you. What you’re supposed to do. So

Amie Gardner [00:39:44]:
Right. And I love, you know, like, you give us options. You’re like, here’s an option. Here’s an option. Here’s an option. Here’s when it works best. And that’s that’s so helpful. And then as you, like, kinda go through, like I said, even though I go through that checklist every year, I’m like, yep.

Amie Gardner [00:40:01]:
I’m still it’s almost affirming. You know? Like, yep. I’m still on the right track. I’m still our homeschool is still pointed in the right direction and we’re we’re headed the way we wanna be headed. So not only does it give you a plan, it also like gives you confidence as well. It definitely does. It definitely makes me feel like I am not going into the year in chaos.

Pam Barnhill [00:40:29]:
I love that because we don’t want the chaos.

Amie Gardner [00:40:33]:
No, no. I mean, life is chaotic enough.

Pam Barnhill [00:40:38]:
I love it. I love it. Well, Amie, thank you so much for coming and sharing your experience, sharing your insights on homeschooling. I think that’s so valuable, but also sharing your experience with autopilot and the plan your your process. And I just thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate it. Oh, thank you. I had a good time.

Pam Barnhill [00:40:58]:
That’s our show for today. Be sure to follow, subscribe, and leave a review so you never miss out on the wonder of homeschooling better together. To stay connected and learn even more about the homeschooling better together resources and to join our free community, visit Until next week, keep stepping out of the overwhelm and into the wonder.

Links and Resources From Today’s Show

Key Ideas About Organizing Your Homeschool Year

  • Discover how Amie Gardner uses Put Your Year on Autopilot to simplify homeschool planning, providing a checks and balances system for her lesson planning
  • Understand the benefits of online homeschool planners in tracking and shifting dates, helping to create an organized education plan within a short timeframe.
  • Explore the flexibility and customization offered Put Your Year on Autopilot making it adaptable for any homeschool approach and reducing chaos in daily schedules.
  • Hear Amie’s journey from starting homeschooling due to her oldest child’s struggles in public school, to finding the right resources that helped her develop a confident and effective homeschool routine.
  • Learn the advantages and potential challenges of the buffet curriculum approach, and the importance of making decisions ahead of time to avoid decision fatigue.
  • Gain insights into the benefits of structured yet flexible planning processes that provide a sense of direction, reduce overwhelm, and ensure comprehensive subject coverage.
  • Reflect on the balance between finding the perfect curriculum and fostering a love for learning, understanding the pressure on curriculum providers and the value of scripted homeschool curriculums.

Find What You Want to Hear

  • [00:00] Introduction
  • [01:77] Amie Gardner introduction
  • [01:44] Why Amie begin homeschooling
  • [06:13] Amie curriculum challenges and picking the right curriculum type 
  • [08:27] Researching curriculum and not knowing when to stop
  • [09:59] Desire to find the “perfect curriculum”
  • [13:50] Scripted curriculum as a helpful resource
  • [17:07] Finding Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot 
  • [18:00] How Autopilot has helped Amie with planning 
  • [22:11] Loop planning 
  • [22:57] “Buffet curriculum”
  • [26:00] Pulling it all together 
  • [27:22] When life happens and the plan pauses 
  • [30:10] Amie favorite aspect: lesson planning 
  • [32:57] Checks and balances 
  • [35:05] Homeschool Planet
  • [38:10] Making goals for each child
  • [40:58] Closing

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