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Welcome to the Homeschool Better Together Podcast, where we explore where we explore building a joyful homeschool experience for your family. In this episode, host Pam Barnhill provides actionable tips to help make your homeschool planning simpler and more flexible. Pam tackles some common struggles, such as, when life happens and your perfectly laid plans fall apart. Listen in for practical solutions like lesson plan lists, loop schedules, and procedure lists that will help you stay organized without the stress of rigid grids.

These tips are designed to help you create a homeschool plan that adapts to your family’s needs, eliminates decision fatigue, and lets you enjoy the journey more. These strategies have been lifesavers for many fellow homeschoolers.

If you’re ready to bring joy back into your homeschooling, don’t miss today’s episode. Let’s step out of the overwhelm and into the wonder together!

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. Hey there, friend, and welcome to the podcast. Now before we jump into the main content for today, I just wanted to give you a little tip for summer. If you are looking for something fun for your kids to do, I would invite you to check out the Wonder World Podcast. The Wonder World Podcast is a podcast that I do each week with my daughter, Olivia, and we just have so much fun talking about all the great topics that are going on in the world around us. We cover famous birthdays, some science facts.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:02]:
We also talk about this week in history and also some of the fun and exciting days that are going on, like global running day, which we decided we were not going to be participating in this month, or love your pet day or something fun like that. So it’s just a really great podcast. Sometimes we have poems or short stories, and it’s a fun listen for the entire family. So you can find that in your favorite podcast app or by going to wonderworldpodcast.com. It’s a great activity for the summer. Okay. Now onto the main topic for today’s podcast, and this is three ways that we can make our homeschool planning just a little more simple and a little more flexible. And that is certainly what we want with our homeschool planning.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:57]:
We want it to be easy, and we want it to be flexible. And so I have three different tips for you. One of the biggest concerns that I hear all the time about homeschool planning is I can’t plan ahead because when I do, life happens and it messes up my plans. And I totally get it. Kids sometimes need more time to practice a math concept than what you initially gave them to practice it. They get stuck on a set of spelling words and need some extra practice, or maybe they melt down over writing a three paragraph essay, and it takes you 5 days to do it instead of the two that you plan. Or maybe everybody gets a horrible cold, and you have enough energy to do 1 or 2 subjects, but not all of them. And so it cuts your school day in half for weeks at a time.

Pam Barnhill [00:02:48]:
All of those things are possible things that could happen. Maybe there’s a new baby or a toddler who is all of a sudden mobile and just causing havoc in your homeschool. You get the idea because I am absolutely sure this kind of thing happens at your house too. What we want to do is we want to create a plan that is fabulous laid out and done for you ahead of time because that’s going to eliminate any decision fatigue we have during the school year, but we also need it to be flexible. So I have 3 tips for you to start thinking about in order to help you make these simple, flexible homeschool plans So often when we think about homeschool plans, we think about grids laid out. And it says on day 1, you’re gonna do this lesson in this subject and this lesson in this other subject and this lesson in this subject and this lesson in this other subject. And it’s laid out for you for the whole week. And it looks beautiful on the page.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:54]:
It’s so organized. There are probably little boxes you could check, and it just looks fabulous. And if you can follow that plan, it feels fabulous. But the problem is it is so very rare that you’re able to follow that plan perfectly. So what I would encourage you to do instead of placing your lessons into all of these grids and thereby tying lessons to specific days or tying lessons to each other. We’re gonna be doing this lesson in science when we’re doing this particular lesson in history. Instead, plan all of your lessons in lists by subject. So make a list of all the science lessons you wanna do in order, a list of all the history lessons you wanna do, a list of all the math lessons you wanna do.

Pam Barnhill [00:04:43]:
And then simply open up your list and do the next thing for that subject. And then flip to the next page and do the next thing for the next subject. And if for a few days you don’t get to that science lesson, it’s okay because you’re simply going to do the next lesson on the list when the time comes. You still have a plan. You’re still likely to get ahead on one list and feel like you’re lagging behind on another list. But by eliminating that grid, you’re not going to have this mess of flipping back and forth and trying to figure out where you are in each subject. And then also this kind of idea of, oh my goodness. You’re not where you’re supposed to be, so you’re just a big failure.

Pam Barnhill [00:05:30]:
It’s not just me who feels that way. Right? So when I stopped planning in grids and started planning in list, it was so much more helpful and it felt so much better. And then another thing that you can do, if you need to keep a record of when did I finish this particular lesson, just out beside it, you simply write the date that the lesson was completed. And so then you have a record of what you did on what day by simply going back and look at the list. Sometimes people talk about, oh, I don’t fill in my grids ahead of time. I fill in my grids afterwards. I do this kind of reverse planning, which is completely not even a thing. You can’t reverse plan.

Pam Barnhill [00:06:12]:
You can create a record of what you did, but there’s no such thing as reverse planning. Let’s get real. But you don’t even have to go to the trouble of doing that. Just simply write down the date on your list when you completed each lesson, and you have all of the information that you need there. So I call these lists, lesson plan lists, and we teach you how to create lesson plan lists in our autopilot planning course. And it’s just one of the most fabulous tools for making sure that your homeschool plans are flexible. But let’s talk about the 2nd kind of list. The 2nd kind of list that you can use to help you stay on track with your subjects is a loop schedule list.

Pam Barnhill [00:06:55]:
Now what tends to happen even when we’re using our lesson plan lists and we’re planning out what days of the week we’re going to do each subject, we sometimes get behind and we end up, like, on lesson 40 in history, but only on lesson 14 in science. And the reason is there are just some days that we tend to do school better. Done. For a long time, my kids were in gymnastics. The least amount of school done. For a long time, my kids were in gymnastics, and it came early on a Thursday afternoon, and it would completely mess up our Thursday afternoon. And so often I would plan to do Time science on Thursday afternoon. And by the time we, like, got our things together and got out the door to gymnastics, the science was not getting done.

Pam Barnhill [00:07:47]:
So this was one of those situations where we ended up way ahead in history and way behind in science because of the whole Thursday afternoon conundrum. Then I started using a loop schedule. And with a loop schedule, instead of saying we’re going to do science on Tuesday Thursday, and we’re gonna do history on Monday Wednesday, we’re just simply going to have a time in our schedule that we’re going to do those 2 subjects. And then we’re going to loop between them to get them done. So if I do history on Monday, that means I do science on Tuesday, and then that means I do history on Wednesday. So if I don’t get to science on Thursday, I don’t skip it and go back to history. I just do the science on Friday, and that’s what a loop schedule is. So we’re setting aside the time, and we’re looping between the 2 subjects.

Pam Barnhill [00:08:40]:
And so that means that I’m not getting way behind in one subject, or way ahead in another subject. Now that’s a very simplified version of a loop schedule. There are tons of different variations. We actually have a whole class on loop scheduling that you can take, and we’ll link it for you in the show notes. But it is a fabulous way to add some variety to your homeschool lessons and make sure that you don’t end up way ahead in one subject of what you need to be. Loop schedules also serve lots of other purposes. They’re a fabulous way to juggle all the different subjects of, like, 5th or 6th grade language arts when you’re trying to do vocabulary and literature and composition and spelling, and it’s all called language arts. And my goodness, when do we do all of this stuff? Loop schedule for the win there too.

Pam Barnhill [00:09:32]:
So loop schedules, absolutely a lifesaver when it comes to your homeschool. And then finally, the third thing that I wanna talk about when it comes to simplifying and making a flexible homeschool plan, and that is what I call the procedure list. The procedure list makes any curriculum open and go for you. And what you do is you simply sit down at the beginning of your school year, and you look at the curriculum and you decide what are the things that I am willing to do, what are the things that I want or need to do in order to meet the goals that I have for this subject? And you simply make a list. Every time we sit down and do history, we’re going to do these three things. Every time we sit down and do science, we’re going to do these Time things. And you list it out ahead of time. So when it comes time to do history or science, you simply open up your procedure list and you know exactly the thing that you want to do next.

Pam Barnhill [00:10:35]:
Procedure lists are also fabulous if you want to do something like a state study. And let’s be honest, when I was doing state studies with my kids, there were a lot of worksheet kinds of state studies out there that had things like writing down the gross domestic product or the major exports of a state. That’s not what I wanted for my 2nd grader. I wanted my 2nd grader, my 3rd grader, my 4th grader to be able to name the states, point them out on a map, and tell me something fun about each state. Since those were my goals, I made myself a procedure list. I found myself a few state books, some of those fun picture books about each and every state. And then every time we sat down to do our state study, I would read the book. We would find the state on the map, and we would identify the capital of that state.

Pam Barnhill [00:11:28]:
And then we would talk about the most interesting thing each child learned from the book about that state. And then sometimes we would do some other fun things like coloring the bird or flower page for each state, or we would watch a video on YouTube about each state. But all of those things were on my procedure list. And every time we studied a state, we just opened it up, and we did those things. And it made doing a state study with my kids so simple. I never had to think about what it was I was going to do each day. I just very simply opened my list, did each thing, and checked it off, and it was fabulous. So there you have it.

Pam Barnhill [00:12:10]:
Three things that you can do to simplify your homeschool planning and make it more flexible. And we teach you exactly how to do all of these things in our put your homeschool year on autopilot planning course. So we would love for you to come and check that out. You can find it at Pambarnhill.com/autopilot. 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 hsbtpodcast.com. Until next week, keep stepping out of the overwhelm and into the wonder.

Links and Resources From Today’s Show

Key Ideas About Homeschool Lesson Planning

  • Simplify homeschool planning by using lesson plan lists, where lessons are ordered by subject rather than assigning specific activities to specific days, creating flexibility in case of unexpected interruptions.
  • Adopt loop scheduling to balance subjects and avoid falling behind in one area while getting too far ahead in another, ensuring consistent progress across all subjects.
  • Utilize procedure lists to streamline the curriculum, specifying the steps needed to meet educational goals, thus making the daily execution of lessons straightforward and manageable.
  • Consider focusing more on the joy and wonder of learning rather than strictly adhering to rigid plans, to alleviate the feeling of failure when plans don’t go as expected.
  • Create an efficient homeschooling record-keeping method by annotating completed lessons with dates on your lists, eliminating the need for post-hoc filling of grids or records.
  • Enhance engagement through varied activities, such as incorporating books, videos, and interactive tasks, tailored to meet your educational objectives in an enjoyable way for kids.
  • Explore available courses, such as the autopilot planning course, which provide detailed guidance and tools for more effective homeschool planning and execution.

Find What You Want to Hear

  • [00:00] Introduction
  • [00:42] Wonder World Podcast
  • [01:41] Homeschool planning
  • [02:14] Life happens, what to do?
  • [03:08] Create a flexible Plan
  • [3:37] Lists over grids
  • [06:45] Loop schedule
  • [09:40] Procedure lists 
  • [12:23] Autopilot program 
  • [12:56] Closing
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