The Hack That Will Simplify Your Homeschool For Good

Chaos is not my thing. Not that anyone really likes it, but some most folks roll with the punches better than I do.

The kids are yelling. The dog is tracking mud through the kitchen while he yips incessantly at said children. A pot is boiling over on the stove.

And in the midst of this, I am supposed to be teaching reading, or math, or the kings and queens of England.

I struggle. Oh, I really do. What about you?

The Hack That Will Simplify Your Homeschool For Good Pam Barnhill Homeschool solutions

This is the main reason I love using open-and-go curriculum as much as possible. Math? Check. Reading? Check. Spelling? Check. My favorite programs are the ones I open, and they tell me exactly what to do next. And they are great programs, so that is an added bonus.

But sometimes I want to use a resource that is fabulous, but not so friendly to the decision-fatigued mom. Maybe it has too many moving parts to choose from. Or it is just a book with no guide at all. Or it is a practice I want to do it my homeschool, but I don’t really have or need an entire curriculum for it.

You can read or listen to this post.

What to do

Enter the procedure list for my homeschool planner. (Cue angels singing here.)

The Hack That Will Simplify Your Homeschool For Good Pam Barnhill Homeschool solutions

The procedure list is a super-simple tool I use that tells me exactly what to do in order to teach from any subject or resource. I make these magical lists myself, so they only include the things I want my kids to practice, do, or study. They eliminate the need for me to think or wonder what is next when we study a particular subject. All the information I need is included on the list.

Here is an example for studying Story of the World.

  1. Write names and place names from the chapter on the whiteboard.
  2. Listen to chapter while completing coloring page.
  3. Provide oral narration of part of the chapter. Use questions and names on the whiteboard as needed.
  4. Look up the topic in Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. View any interesting Internet links.
  5. Complete map work.

Story of the World is a great resource. It even has a wonderful activity book — which is full of so much information and so many things to make and do. I get a little overwhelmed by it all. *ahem* so I made my own list of what I wanted to do each time we study a Story of the World chapter. It took just a few minutes to come up with the plan, decide on the resources to use, and type up the list on a paper.

That paper then goes into my binder and I refer to it until the procedure becomes second-nature to me to follow. I also print out all of the coloring pages and map pages I needed ahead of time and stored them in a folder. If I waited until we needed them to print, they would never get printed.

Free Homeschool Planner

Why homeschool procedures work

The beauty of creating my own simplified procedures for these subjects is that in the heat of the moment, I don’t have to think about what I want to do to study a specific subject — it is all laid out for me on the page. I do this in the summer or before we start using a new resource, and it makes all the difference in the world with our consistency and follow-through on a subject.

So when someone is whining, the doorbell is ringing, and I have to track a child down for the third time to get started, I know exactly what to do next. Even if my brain is hurting.

Here is another example from our state geography study from last year. I downloaded a free state notebooking page set that had notebook pages and maps. I added a few state books and an atlas to our resources, as well as some YouTube videos about the states. The procedures pulled all the resources together into a plan that was easy to follow.

Mom reads from various state books while students:

  1. Label regional map with state names and capitals. Trace on tracing paper.
  2. Color bird/flower page. Student draws something in the box to help them remember the state. Consult atlas for more ideas.
  3. Watch Socratica video on YouTube.
  4. Do map work for state map from the handbook.

The Hack That Will Simplify Your Homeschool For Good Pam Barnhill Homeschool solutionsHow to make your own procedure lists

Making procedure lists is easy.

  1. Gather your resources for a specific subject.
  2. Think carefully about your goals for that subject. Looking at my geography study above, my goals were for the kids to be able to name each state and capital, place the states on a map, remember at least one interesting tidbit about each state. It might even help for you to jot the goals down on scratch paper so you easily remember them as you plan.
  3. List out the procedures you want to follow. Be sure to list them in the exact order you want to do them in. Consider your goals and don’t add extra things despite the temptation to pile on — only list what you will honestly do and what will meet your goals.
  4. Finalize your list and keep a copy handy. You can type these and print them for a teacher binder. Put them on a clipboard with your attendance sheet. Or write them on index cards and store them on a ring. Do whatever you need to do to keep them close by so you will use them.
  5. Prepare your materials. Once you know what you will be doing for each subject print out at least a term’s worth of printables and store them together or in a folder for each child, gather your needed books, and bookmark online resources. Your open-and-go math program has all the sheets right there for you. In making your own open-and-go program you need to do the same.

What homeschool procedures should you make

Basically, I make procedures for every subject that doesn’t come with step-by-step instructions (this is homeschooling for the weary, y’all). Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Map drawing or tracing
  • Music appreciation
  • Picture study
  • State or country study
  • Animal, plant, or bird study
  • Freewrite procedure
  • Simple Morning Time procedure (as opposed to a more elaborate plan)

The possibilities for using procedures are endless and the end result is a more peaceful mom.

I can’t keep the chaos from happening, but I am better prepared to deal with it. All I have to do is open my binder and do the next thing — no thinking necessary.

Free Homeschool Planner



  • Danielle says:

    Thank you, Pam! This is really going to help me get organized. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve been wandering around, still trying to find my bearings for the year.
    I’ve always liked the idea of curriculum in a box, but, ironically don’t want to be boxed in. Thank you for the guidance!

  • Anne says:

    This is awesome! Thank you!!

  • Cindy says:

    Yes, yes, yes!

  • Erica Sanchez says:

    I love how you spell out this seemingly simple plan for us! I know this is the main thing lacking in my homeschool. The open and go is going well. The other stuff, the fun and often beautiful stuff, is often pushed aside because I don’t have a plan. This procedure stuff, I can do. Not overwhelming at all. Thanks, Pam!

    P. S. Loving your podcasts!

  • Kelly says:

    THIS is what I’ve needed! There are times when I recall various resources I have for a topic I want to teach, but a plan is never developed to actually use the resources. This will help overcome that.

  • Tara M says:

    Perfect! I am getting ready to evaluate what has been working and what has not for our first school term. I think this will be great as I contemplate why some things never get done. Thank you!

  • Kortney says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Pam! I’ve loved the idea since I first heard you describe it (in the block scheduling video?) While I haven’t actually employed the method myself (ahem!), I hold out hope that the chaos *could* be contained! Maybe in the new year?!

  • I remember you talking about this a bit ago and I’d forgotten all about it. I need to do some procedure pages for a few subjects!

  • Monica says:

    Great post! I do something very similar!

  • Susan says:

    Love it! Thank you!!

  • Anne in IN says:

    Thank you!! After hearing you talk about procedures on a webinar, I made some of my own, and they really help my overloaded brain!

  • Anthony says:

    I’m starting Ambleside online next year, and just started doing this last week. I’m going through every subject (apart from basic narration ones) writing what do to and how to go about it. I used to have a shop and we did this so that if we have people come to work for us they could slip into the routine easily. Now I do it because I’ve had a head injury, so if I’m having a bad day there isn’t as much thinking to do, I can just work through the list I’ve made on how to do each thing, or my wife can fill in for me as easily as possible. Combined with my weekly checklist it makes life a lot simpler.

  • What a wonderful idea! This will really help me with Science.

  • Elizabeth says:

    BRILLIANT!!!! Going through old email,,,,, Now I need to look for this form, LOVE IT! Merry Christmas!

  • Jennifer says:

    Wonderful idea! Thank you, this is what I have been missing to bring order to the chaos! Thank you!

  • Elizabeth Hafferty says:

    This little pep talk is exactly what I needed. Thanks, Pam. You just made my day. 😀

  • Anna says:

    Pam, I have been following you for awhile and appreciate all that you do. Do you possibly have any more examples for procedures that you have come up with for different subjects? I struggle in this area, but I love the idea and I want to implement it in my homeschool.

  • This is exactly what I did when homeschooling my children, and it worked so well for me! So glad to see you showing how to do it.

  • Kim Bell says:

    While I was listening to this as a podcast, my mind was wandering, and I thought I’d share…

    I really do not need another reason to make another binder to keep up with. It just simply wouldn’t work for me. But… If I put the procedure list on a bookmark, and stick it in the book! Aha! Then everything is all together, self-contained, ready to go. The bookmark holds my place and my procedure list. Done and done.

    Happy homeschooling, everyone!

  • Maria says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m a fly by the seat of my pants, no-box curriculum girl but want/need better consistency.
    This is genius.

  • Nancy Barth says:

    I was just wondering where I saw this before. So glad Homeschooling With Dyslexia shared it again. I basically went through this last week creating procedures to work with my new English Learner adult student.

  • speckledegg35 says:

    Have you used procedure lists with an older child to teach independence? My oldest is starting 7th grade this fall and I thought a procedure list might be useful to teach her specific study skills in specific subjects.

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