Three years ago my husband was deployed with the Alabama National Guard. Since we are a Guard family, we know that it can always happen, but this one took us a little by surprise. He was tagged to go with a unit that was not his own and therefore two years earlier than what we had expected.

It’s tough when you think you have two extra years to get your stuff together… and then suddenly you don’t. Can I get a hooah?

Six Homeschool Planning Pitfalls

My kids were on the young side (7, 5, and 2 at that time) so I had not felt too rushed to do much besides daily phonics, some math exploration, and tons of interest-lead learning (we were a little more “unschoolish” at that time).

That deployment, though, lit a fire under me. I knew that if I was going to survive the year I needed more structure for our days. The easiest way to do that was to create a more structured homeschool plan.

It was exactly what our family needed at that time.

You can read or listen to this post.

It was then that I started thinking hard about what makes a successful homeschool plan. I had made lesson plans for years as a school teacher. Putting together a 300-page yearbook each year with a staff of 40 teenagers takes no small amount of planning and organization, so it was a place where I knew I had some skills.

Six Homeschool Planning Pitfalls Thomas

Homeschooling is different though. Homeschooling is personal. Homeschooling is MY kid.

(Not that my former students weren’t my kids, but they wouldn’t be living in my basement if their education wasn’t successful. There’s a bit more stress in homeschooling, don’t you think?)

So I created a process that would allow me to plan my homeschool year step-by-step. In doing so I thought hard about what mistakes I was making as a homeschooling mom that were tripping me up and keeping me from being successful. Here are six of the biggest ones:

1. Pulling out credit card too soon

This can be death to a successful homeschool plan. I have learned that it is important for me to have my vision, goals, and course of study in place before I start buying a curriculum.

This keeps me from over-planning, buying too much that I won’t use, or spending money on things that have nothing to do with my objectives for the year.

2. Failing to visualize

This one is fun and unexpected, but totally effective. Just like elite athletes visualize routines to ensure everything goes as planned, I do this with my homeschool day as well.

Once my plan is in place, I fill out my spiral notebooks for the first day, sit in a quiet spot, and try to picture in my head how the day might go.

Don’t laugh! Often in doing so I discover spots where I have forgotten to prepare and have materials on hand or places where I might not have enough independent work planned for one child so I can work with another. It really works, and I highly recommend doing it.

3. Not thinking outside the box

Repeat after me: “My home is not a school.” You don’t have to do things in a certain way because that is what you did when you were in school.

You can be creative with your daily, weekly, or annual schedule. You don’t have to do every single subject every day. You can combine students across multiple grades.

There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Don’t be afraid to do what works for you.

Six Homeschool Planning Pitfalls Blocks

4. Not ordering your space

It’s hard to homeschool (or even plan to homeschool) amidst chaos. A successful school year starts by ordering your homeschool space — if it is a room, a shelf, a bag, or a closet.

If you have any kind of overflow space I highly recommend removing all the resources except the ones you will need for this year.

Freshen your space with new pencils, fresh paper and notebooks, and maybe even a touch of beauty like a scented candle or new print.

5. Being overly ambitious

I only half-joke when I recommend that no mom should do homeschool planning before 9 PM — preferably after a stressful day. It is impossible to overplan at a time like that.

A new year, a fresh slate, is such a temptation for piling on all the good and wonderful things simply because they are so good and wonderful.

Once your initial plan is in place glance over it with your red pen in hand and honestly ask yourself if there is anything you should strike out.

Remember there is also block and loop scheduling to help you fit in more things with less stress.

6. Skipping vital steps

Finally, successful planning comes from following a logical series of steps that will allow you to complete a plan for your school year before you begin schooling. By following the steps you will need less time during the year to plan, freeing up your schedule for enjoying your days and time with your kids more.

Next week I will walk you through each of those steps and why they are important. I will also have a printable checklist for you to follow as you make your plan.

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Pam is the author of The Your Morning Basket Guide and Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace. She also is the host of three popular  podcasts -- The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast, Your Morning Basket, and The Homeschool Solutions Show. She lives in the Deep South with her husband and three kids, where she is the go-to lady for great curriculum recommendations or a just a pep talk on a rough day.