A Heart of Dakota Life
How to Use a School Calendar to Plan Your Homeschool Year
Each year as I plan my homeschool year, I like to print a school calendar. I find it very helpful to have a one-page yearlong calendar that notes the holidays. This is so much easier than flipping through a monthly calendar or looking up dates of holidays on the Internet! Once I have printed the calendar, I look it over to mentally note the holidays. I total the number of days I am homeschooling with Heart of Dakota by multiplying the number of units in my guides by the number of days of plans each week. When my children were in younger Heart of Dakota guides, like Little Hands through Bigger Hearts, I had a total of 165-170 days. Once my children were in Preparing Hearts through U.S. II, I planned for a total of 140 days. This year my children are using Revival to Revolution and USII, so I planned for 140 days.
Start with the End in Mind
I like to start with the end in mind. Knowing when we want to be done with our homeschool year helps me determine when we need to start. We like to be done with our homeschool year in early May, and we like to take our summers off. Pulling out a notebook to make my first rough draft calendar, I make a quick list of the reasons we’d take off days from school. For us, that includes time off for hunting, fishing, traveling, holidays, and family visiting. I also like to take off Valentine’s Day and each person’s birthday. If someone’s birthday falls on a weekend, we choose a day during the homeschool week to take off instead. On birthdays, the person whose birthday it is gets to pick what to have for meals, for snacks, a movie to watch, a game to play, things to do, and even a place to go (i.e. Dairy Queen for blizzards).
Jot Down Days to Take Off and Days to Homeschool
Looking at my one-page calendar, I begin with the month we hope to start to homeschool. For us, that is September, usually after Labor Day. So, on my piece of paper, I jot down the month ‘September.’ I label the left margin “# of Days.” Then, I look at each week of September on my one-page calendar, noting days we would take off and days we’d homeschool. I write this down one week at a time. Then, I total the number of days we’d be doing school in September and put a square around it. I move on to October, and do the same. Working through the months, I continue until I reach 140 days. At the end, I add 6-7 days for make up days (i.e. sick days or days we sporadically take off). Likewise, I add a handful of days for standardized testing.
Sometimes I do this, and after the 140 days, the 6-7 make-up days, and the 5 days for testing, I am past the end date I wanted. Then, I make some adjustments. This year, for example, I moved a trip my husband and I were taking to California one week earlier. I could then begin school earlier, which meant I would finish by early May. Sometimes I jot down several different start dates, end dates, or options of how many days to take off for something. For example, sometimes we start in August and sometimes in September. Or, sometimes we want to be done by the end of April and sometimes by mid-May. Or, sometimes we want a big break at Christmas, and other times we don’t. This is when I get everyone’s thoughts on the matter. This year I presented alternate start and end date options. Everyone picked to start after Labor Day and end by early May. Below is a picture of my rough draft calendar (and it is ‘rough’)…
Creating the Final Calendar to Be Hung for All to See
Finally, I create a final calendar to be hung for our whole family to see. I color-code days we are homeschooling yellow. Then, I color-code the days we are taking off pink. I note on the left monthly listing side why we are taking the days off and highlight that pink too. Then, I put a red box around the make-up days at the end. Finally, I put a green box around the testing days at the end. We all reference this calendar throughout the year many times! My husband can easily reference it as well. If we use a make-up day, I color one of the make-up days at the end (which are in the red box) yellow. This shows we used one of our free/make-up days. It is easy for everyone to see when we are taking days off. Likewise, everyone can see if we are progressing toward ending our school year on time!