Some homeschoolers plan their whole year at one time. Others plan by semester or term. That just doesn’t work well for me. I have learned that I do my best planning when I have a general year plan and then do my actual lesson planning one week at a time. For this reason, the monthly planning pages in the Erin Condren Teacher Planner were a point of pain for me. I didn’t want to waste anything in this costly planner, but I also couldn’t plan in a way that didn’t work well for me. Through much trial and error, I have found a way to use them that has improved my normal planning. Forcing myself to wrestle with those pages caused me to grow as a planner and make some changes that have enhanced my homeschool.

Charlotte Mason talks about laying out a feast for our children. Using that analogy, I think that I am French in my “cooking” style. The foods I want to include in the feast will not only be diverse, nutritious, and delicious, but I also want them to be gourmet. For me, this means offering fewer plates in the feast, but putting more care into each dish than I would have otherwise been able to do. In plain English, this means that I do not teach all subjects all year. Instead, I change some subjects by season. As an example, I save Geography for winter when Nature Study is hard to study in the Frozen Tundra. Maybe someday I will do it differently, but for now, this is what is working well for me.

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The pictures of my ECTP are from last year’s planner. If you have this year’s planner, you will notice some differences – like the bubbles. Apparently most folks hated the bubbles and wanted them gone. They aren’t my favorite either, but I have learned how to use them.

Morning Basket

I am using one of the lined planning pages to map out my Morning Basket resources. There is no magic to this. I look at the calendar, think about the interruptions and outside activities we will have, and try to guess how much content we can reasonably cover in Morning Basket. I like to list not only the resource, but also the chapters or sections that I hope to cover. This helps me to not overschedule because, as I write each thing down, I see the page filling up and remember how much time those things take.

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I lead several book clubs, help with a Mad Scientist Club, and a Prairie Girls Club. Each of those monthly commitments requires a good deal of preparation. I am using this page to get myself organized for those enrichment activities.

Because I do have the bubble page, I am using the bubbles to note the habits we are working on. Following Charlotte Mason’s suggestion of laying down the rails, and the Rails Checklist from Simply Charlotte Mason, I am recording the habit for each child and myself in those nifty little circles.

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As I have said in other places, decision fatigue is the greatest cause of burnout for me. In an effort to reduce the number of decisions I have to make each week, I am using this planning page to track the books that are coming up next in my children’s school boxes. Because I do not do term or semester lesson plans, I need a list somewhere of the books that I intend to assign. I like to be free to change as we go if necessary, so I do not like planning too far in advance. My solution is to list two or three future reads on this page in each relevant category. What a gift this has been for me! Once a month, on a day when I am energized and feeling creative, I reach for the next month’s planning page and hunt out whatever I need to update the “future reads.”

My eleven-year-old typically reads one chapter per day in each of the living book categories. Most Landmark, Signature, Vision, etc. books have between ten to fifteen chapters. So, for Michael, I need to anticipate about two books per month. My nine-year-old reads at a much slower rate, so I only have to plan one book for every four to six weeks for her. My seven-year-old is still learning to read, I read his books to him. At this time we are just using one larger book (like Childcraft, Nature Anatomy, etc.) at a time and thinking about which one we will read next.

In the lower section of the page, I am more or less ignoring the “dates to remember” section and have converted the “birthdays” section over to saint feast days and holy days.  

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Since I do my personal calendar planning in my Day Designer, my husband and I share a Google calendar, and I have a large family calendar on the fridge. The monthly calendar in the teacher planner really stumped me. Asking in my favorite Facebook homeschool group, PPPS: Symposium and Parnassus, however, I got some great ideas which I have happily adopted.

  • I am keeping track of full days, half days, and days when we have academic enrichment events outside of our school routine.
  • I am keeping track of when we start and finish read alouds (school and family time related).
  • Some of our outside activities have at-home projects. I am using the calendar to plan those projects.
  • Jack’s First Holy Communion prep this year has special requirements and memory work. I plan to track deadlines for all of that in this calendar.
  • I lead several book clubs at Cathedral Book and Gift. By marking the book clubs in, it helps me to remember to schedule the reading.
  • Our family tries to make a monthly holy hour at our Cathedral or St. Norbert Abbey. It is family culture and on the family calendar, but it is also part of our faith formation. Therefore, I plan to track that on this calendar.
  • We love to hike at a few of the local nature preserves. I want to record our hikes here (as well as in our nature journals) so I can look back on our nature study.

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