By default, the homeschool life is full of the unexpected.
So how can you, as a home educating Mama, leverage your foresight, creativity, and problem-solving genius to set up easy-to-maintain systems for an amazing homeschool year? Having a strong planner that operates as a dynamic hub for your brain really helps.
If you missed the first two posts in this series, you can read about my two most effective ways for using my planner and how I use life-giving rhythms to support our homeschool day. Today's post is all about keeping things real, leaning into your own unique vision and goals for homeschooling, and how to troubleshoot problem areas. This post is full of easily applied practical advice you will want to use again and again!
Check in Every Morning to Create Realistic Lessons for That Unique Day
Homeschool mamas have to self-manage—and it's really easy to let the day get away from you.
Taking just 5 minutes in the morning to timeblock your day can really come in clutch to prevent this from happening.
The Day Spread on the Evergreen Planner has the todo list space nestled right up to the timeblocker, allowing you to write task lists to accompany each section of your day. This keeps these tasks realistic, well-defined, and within visually obvious boundaries.
As a working homeschool mom, it really helps me transition out of the deep work I need to do for my business in the mornings and don my teacher hat for morning lessons. I've found that planning my deep work session the night before helps me to maximize that 5:30-7:30am block, and then using my planner to timeblock the rest of the day afterwards helps me to shift my emotional-orientation away from my work and towards jumping in whole-heartedly with my students. I also know that I have their nap/quiet time to close any loops from the morning and catch up on shallower administrative tasks.
Everyone's homeschooling rhythms will look differently. But as homeschooling entrepreneurs, we've learned that we need flexible structure. I never take the time to map out which pages of which textbook we'll cover in which week. That kind of rigidity would trigger my perfectionism and make me feel like a crazy person. I've learned to look at deeper metrics for each student (i.e., progression in literacy and numeracy, insatiable curiosity, improvements in self-discipline, etc.)
This means I can take just 5-10 minutes to draw from my selection of resources and plan each day as it comes. Every morning, I can gauge what my students and I really need to do in order to use our school hours wisely. If Daddy suddenly has an opportunity open up for the kids to come work alongside him, I can simply migrate whatever we didn't get to onto the next day, allowing our family to fully maximize the benefits of our lifestyle. If a friend calls asks if we want to go hiking, I can bump our poetry tea time to different week.
My planner empowers me to stay proactive in all of this, thoughtfully balancing my family's hunger for both the quiet, ordinary mornings—as well as the wild and adventurous ones.
Make Your Systems Work for You
In this series, I've provided my best systems for your consideration.
But I also know that the one secret ingredient to the success of your homeschooling.
The secret ingredient to your success as a homeschool teacher is your existing expertise as your student's mama.
You see, McCauley and Clari both have different systems that work for their unique home education rhythms.
My systems work so well for us because I've really studied and honed what experience has taught me is best for my family.
In sharing exactly what I'm doing, I'm not making prescriptions for your home. Instead, I'm providing a nuts-and-bolts illustration of the system that's working super well for us in this season. Please feel free to glean any ideas for yourself: they're here for the taking!
But it's your prerogative as the leading expert of your home to design a custom system that will equip your family a homeschool year that radiates with your family's own brand of amazing.
So how do you start figuring out what an amazing homeschool year looks like in your planner? Grab your Evergreen Planner (we have a free printable version here), and start by getting a pulse:
- Pencil in what you did. Use a pencil and simply start recording how you're spent your hours each day on your timeblocker. Get curious and ponder your choices in a judgment-free way. Start evaluating what you might be doing out of wise intuition, and what you might be doing from old habits that no longer serve your family well.
- Leverage the braindump. Stop holding everything you're trying to do as a home educator (and professional, home manager, church member, volunteer etc., etc.,) in your mind. You need to dump alllllll those things you're trying to remember out on paper. But don't leave it as a massive todo list! You need to tame your massive todo list into a simple, customized system of organized tasks lists that actually train your brain to prioritize what matters. Thankfully, we have a PDF that helps you do that.
- Access your working memory. You don't need to see everything you need to do all at once, all of the time. But you do need to see your plans for today and your plans for your week at the same time! Our unique dutchdoor layout allows you to do just that, helping you to see the lessons you're trying to tackle today within the context of your week. This helps you make sure you're getting that skill work completed before the big vacation, or that you're avoiding accidentally starting a huge science project on the evening before you're supposed to be going on a field trip. The Evergreen Planner is designed to help your working memory stay sharp with both your priorities and your realities. Having key goals or tasks for the week in sight throughout the week also allows you to keep those critical things going, even if it requires a few creative pivots or proactive reshuffling.
- Nurture a flexible mindset. Use the lessons and victories prompts on your day pages to micro-journal your challenges, insights, and triumphs. You don't want to be naively optimistic, nor do you want to be defeatedly pessimistic—you want to be wisely realistic about how your homeschool is going. If you notice that you're mentioning math struggles every time you micro-journal your lessons, that's a cue to rethink your approach. If you're noticing that everyone does better if lessons are broken up by a brisk walk in the morning, then you can turn that into a part of your daily rhythm and proactively timeblock around it. Your planner is not meant to be tool that scripts every moment of your future homeschool days before you live the—(that's really not realistic for most of us!)–but instead, it's supposed to be a tool that empowers you to be intentional about the time you've been given with your children. Nurturing a flexible mindset will help you turn each week's inevitable lemons into sweet lemonade.
- Sharpen your time-management skillset. If this post has inspired you to become more proactive about how you spend your time, don't let that inspiration devolve into overwhelm. My systems are the result of years of time-management research and coaching combined with years of experience as a homeschool tutor/teacher who is pretty much obsessed with all things related to pedagogical theory, auto-didacticism, and curriculum-design. Thankfully, you don't have to have my unique overlap of passions in order to rock your own homeschool lifestyle. Most of it boils down to common sense, basic self-discipline, and finding a curriculum that actually works for your family. But if you want to fast-track your own education when it comes to sharpening your time-management skillset, you'll probably want to start binging our Make Space to Thrive podcast. Here are two episodes to get you started: How We Plan Our Days and How We Plan Our Weeks.
When Troubleshooting Your Homeschool Schedule, Keep it Simple and Focus Only On Solving Your Biggest Pain Point
You certainly need an emotionally-compelling vision for your homeschool to keep you moving forward.
But it's a mistake to try to overhaul everything all at once.
Instead, start with one simple question:
What is the biggest pain point I have that is keeping me from meeting my most important goals with homeschooling?
The answer to that question is your biggest priority.
If you focus tomorrow (or your next week, or month, or quarter—depending on how big the problem is) solving that pain point, what would it change? How would it make everything easier?
Even though we school-year round, I love to take advantage of the back-to-school spirit to troubleshoot our own homeschool. This August, the biggest pain point I had that was keeping me from meeting my most important goals with homeschooling (smooth, obstacle-free consistency) was a functional teacher's closet. It took me about a week to solve that problem.
In 2020, going through my own ROOTED Goals system revealed that my biggest pain point was that we needed to move. And in 2021, I realized I needed to talk to some experienced homeschool mamas in order to figure out why daughter was struggling so much with reading even though she was so incredibly motivated (the problem turned out to be our curriculum).
You don't have to revolutionize your homeschool all at once in order to make a deeply impactful change.
All it takes is sitting down, getting still, and allowing yourself to really study your own reality.
The Evergreen Planner is designed to support you in this endeavor by serving as an effective hub for your brain—a tool that you can use daily to get oriented around the things that matter most, and to get solutions-minded about anything getting standing in your way.
Homeschool on, mama. You totally got this.
And, hey! We're in your corner. Just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you need us.
Shelby and the rest of Team Evergreen