Welcome all excited, frazzled, giddy, cross-eyed, school-planning homeschool moms! (And Dads, if you’re reading this. Hi!!) The end of the summer signals many changes coming, a promise of cooler weather (the sooner the better) and the beginning of a new school year!

Back to school for us usually means back to school after about a month off from our year round schooling. This year is means we’d better hurry up and finish last year before the new year starts! The beginning of the school year (whenever we get there) also promises to bring many changes for us. While most homeschoolers constantly evaluate and adapt throughout the school year, the beginning of the new year provides big opportunities for major adjustments due to changing needs and growing self confidence. The possibilities are vast.

Today kicks off the beginning of a week long Back To (Home)School carnival – during which I’ll be posting every day about various topics and providing you the opportunity share what works for you, ask questions and find other like minded homeschooling blogs.

At the end of this post I’ll have a set of Linkies to do just that but first I wanted to talk about how I go about planning and setting goals for our upcoming school year. I’ll admit that what I’ve done has changed from year as I’ve learned how to set goals and plans that are both realistic and challenging enough. I still feel like I’m figuring a lot of things out, and I’m not an expert! Believe me!

So how does one go about planning a school year?
Some people find it helpful to print off their local school system’s calender and just follow along. If that works for you that’s definitely the easiest way to go. Two years ago I wrote about Getting Ready For the Homeschool Year, in which I laid out a “school planning 101” plan of attack. Last year I didn’t follow my own advice. Couple that with an unplanned one month break in April (when the weather was just simply TOO GORGEOUS to say inside!,) here we are… not finished.. still going.. banging my head against a wall for taking too many breaks! So can you guess what I’m doing this year? You’d better believe it! I’m planning it out again!

Living in Texas I have a bit of flexibility but still, this year I’m planning a traditional 36 week school year (the average length of a public school year.) Unlike public school systems however, we’ll be stretching our year from September to the end of June. I learned from our impromptu month long break this past April and I realized that it was much smarter to plan a longer spring break and less breaks in the summer when it’s too hot to play outside. Even so, I’ve adjusted all the breaks so that we actually have a 2 month summer break instead of our traditional one month. Why? WIGGLE ROOM. Enough said, right?

And then there’s the lessons.

For the longest time I railed and fought against lesson planning. I didn’t want to do it. It seemed so tedious, so stressful!! Most of the time we just go along and do whatever is next in the book. It’s not efficient. I’ve been improving and I’m hoping this year will be the year that I really get a handle on it. I’m starting by planning enough to set a pace (like I mentioned in that link above,) and then this year I’ve purchased The Well Planned Day homeschool planner to help me stay on track.

I’ve been using The Well Planned Day homeschool planner for the month of July, to get used to it and start developing a habit. So far so good. I’m getting there. I’ve also used the free version of Homeschool tracker (but last I checked it wasn’t available for Mac – is it now?) and I’ve also used MyHomeSchoolPlan.com. Well.. TRIED to use.. I didn’t stick with them very well. I seriously love my laptop but I have a thing for good old fashioned pencil and paper and I like filling all the blanks in on a planner. I’m hoping those work in my favor to help me stick to this one. 😉

I have to say that I haven’t been using this planner long but I am REALLY loving it so far! And I’ve gotten lots of positive recommendations for it so I’m really expecting a lot of good things out of it!

And then there’s the record keeping.
Ugh. Record keeping. The only thing I’m worse at than lesson planing is record keeping! I am very fortunate that I don’t live in a state that requires detailed record keeping because while I do grade their papers.. I’m not very good at keeping them. Or recording them. I’m going to work on developing that habit this year, but I’m still a little uncertain about how I’m going to stay on top of that and stick to it.

Obviously if I lesson plan that will make record keeping a little bit easier because that provides a place to write down grades. My problem area is the HABIT. The WHEN. Should I open up the lesson planner every time we finish a lesson or assignment throughout the day and jot down a grade? Or should I sit down at the end of the day and record everything? What about time spent? What about you? How do you do it? (I’m open for all lazy-homeschooler advice on this one!!) Please help me!

Last but not least – don’t forget to plan in some goals.
I know that can really sound cheesy if you choose to take it that way. I’ve never really done this but I’m doing it this year. I wrote down a few academic goals for each child, and I wrote down a few goals for me as a teacher.

I want to help Princess become really comfortable and quick at multiplication and division facts, I want to help Drama Queen make big improvements on her handwriting and I want to teach Little Prince to learn to read 3 letter words.. just to name a few. For myself, I really want to do a better job at encouraging my children in their interests and incorporating their interests and learning styles into their learning experiences. I obviously need to work on the administrative side of homeschooling, lesson planning and record keeping, but I also need to work on having more fun with it.

Simple goals, really, but a goal not only gives us something to work towards but it also provides a better opportunity to observe successes and feel a sense of accomplishment when those goals are met.

And now it’s your turn.
This is how I’m planning ahead for the upcoming school year. We’ll also be involved in our local homeschool group for regular field trips and we’ll take breaks and head down to my mom’s house for some kind of fun outing down in South Texas. What’s on the calendar for you, and how do you keep track of it? Do you plan it all out, do you go with the flow, do you march to the beat of your own drum? And what planning resources can you absolutely not live without?

Later this week I’ll be sharing more about our children, our curriculum, our school room, etc. You can do that, too, or you can write one post and share a little bit about everything. It’s up to you. You can even link up to posts you’ve already written about the upcoming school year if you’ve already written about these things. Or maybe you really don’t have time to write much of anything right now. That’s okay, I’ve got a way for you to join in, too.

I’ve got three linky lists here at the bottom. This  first linky list is a place to link to your homeschooling blog. You don’t have to link to a specific post, you just need to be a homeschooling blogger (who blogs about homeschooling, even if you blog about other things, too, like I do.)

Homeschool Bloggers

This 2nd linky list is a place to link up your Back to School post(s.) If you write more than one, leave a link for each one as the week progresses. Use keywords such as “Goals,” or “School Room,” and your blog name when joining the list to help others navigate it.

Back to School Blog Posts

Here’s a link to my 2nd post: My Students; Teaching Multiple Grades & Learning Styles

Here’s a link to my 3rd post: Our School Day

Here’s a link to my 4th post: Our Curriculum

This 3rd linky list is for “curriculum for sale” posts. Please, please, leave good instructions for people reading your posts and conduct yourselves with integrity. Remember, if you’re browsing this linky list, I cannot control nor am I responsible for what happens on other blogs. Remember to read the blogger’s instructions and conduct yourselves with integrity also. Thank you!

Curriculum For Sale

You can find my own ‘curriculum for sale’ post here: Day 5, “Got Books?”

{I reserve the right at any time to delete links that don’t belong and I will do so! I’m planning on leaving the linky lists open all week, and maybe next week too, unless it becomes a problem.}

I’m really looking forward to meeting some new homeschool bloggers this week! I’m excited about the opportunity to share information and get questions answered and take away some new ideas. What are you waiting for? Link up your Back to (Home) School post and get that information flowing!

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!