What we accomplished in March & our NEW homeschool plan

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When it comes to having a good homeschooling plan, I have found that Sarah McKenzie’s Podcast, Read-Aloud Revival, has been one of the most impactful and helpful things I’ve ever engaged in since we started homeschooling nearly two years ago. Her podcast is SIMPLE. It’s practical. It’s easy. And yet, it’s revolutionary.

You’ll see some of her advice sprinkled into my posts here and there, and a few on our new homeschooling Facebook page, Beautiful Messy Homeschooling.

But I wanted to take a post here to explain an idea she gave me, how we implemented it, and what we were able to accomplish because of it. I’m not really sure exactly what to call it, but a second potential title for this blog post would be this:

How to not over plan, lose your sanity, and try to do too much when you feel like EVERYTHING IS SUPER-DUPER IMPORTANT AND IT ALL MATTERS. 


In some ways, I rock at making a good homeschool plan. The problem is that I want to do ALL THE THINGS. And I know we can’t get to everything every day, but I still find myself frustrated when we go days without picking up our chapter book or spend MONTHS on the Salem Witch Trials (true story) and everything else is going at a snail’s pace.

Sarah puts this so succinctly in RAR # 159: 10 HOMESCHOOLING MISTAKES I’VE MADE (SO YOU CAN AVOID THEM):

And something happens when we overplan. We hold those plans too tightly. We think the plans are what we’re teaching, but we’re not teaching books. We’re not teaching curriculum. We’re not teaching plans. We’re teaching our kids. Our kids are humans and humans are unpredictable and messy. Sometimes they’re hilarious. Sometimes they’re maddening. They’re always though, always more important than whatever we’ve planned out for our homeschool day. So planning wasn’t my mistake. Planning was a good idea, but overplanning or forgetting to keep those plans in their place, forgetting to hold those plans loosely, that was a big mistake and I made it for years.

I also planned too much, and this is the mistake I think I see most homeschoolers making. We think we need to do more than we need to do. We plan too much to do in a week or in a day and we never get to it all, so then we worry that we’re not doing a good enough job. But the problem isn’t that we’re not doing enough. The problem is that we planned too much. As a rule, a lot of us underestimate what we can get done in a year and overestimate what we can get done in a day. So plan less.

Sarah then asks the listener to take a step back and look at the bigger picture at the beginning of each season. From RAR #150: WATER YOUR BAMBOO—HOW TO FOCUS ON THE PROCESS (NOT THE OUTCOME) IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL:

So here’s the question we’re going to use to guide us…

What do you want to say about this {season} when it’s over?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind? And I think it’s actually really important by the way, to use your gut answer in a question like this. The first thing that pops into your head, I think a lot of times our best answers are right under the surface. They’re the things that are bothering us. The things that we don’t have to dig very far to find. You don’t have to really stop and think about, what’s the right answer? Just, what’s my gut answer? What’s the thing that’s bugging me, is probably going to come out right away. So what do you want to say about this {season} when it’s over?

Because you’re setting yourself up to be constantly frustrated if your measuring stick doesn’t jive with what you really want…to be able to say at the end of this {season}.

The problem with this is that my gut answer was, “I want to get to everything.” I even called my mom and told her about this episode.

“I feel like everything is important. It all matters. I want to do history and music and vocabulary and creative writing and read-alouds and…I just don’t know how to get to everything. We will go months without doing our Prodigies music program, and I hate that! I can’t even think about reading them any kind of fantasy or fun books, because we just don’t have the time!”

But, later on in this episode, Sarah follows up with another question:

And then a next step question is, so how can you measure that with a focus on a process instead of outcome?

One suggestion she gave is using a habit tracker so you can visually see things like, perhaps, how many days you read aloud as a family. This is when it all came together in my brain.

What if we accomplished our goal of getting to everything…we just did less of it? 

What if, instead of reading THREE chapter books on Queen Anne’s War, we send two back, and read ONE? What if we didn’t try to do the 3 basic Rs 4-5 days a week, but instead tried to get to it 10-15 times a month?

I still think pretty concretely in numbers and checklists. I have a spreadsheet for everything. EVERYTHING. I like to be able to SEE what I’ve accomplished. So I used Sarah’s suggestion, combined it with my own design skills, and created a personalized visual school plan for each of the boys with a monthly overview instead of a weekly one. (I still keep my daily and weekly spreadsheets and planning document, but this was for us all to have a bigger picture approach.)

Of course, it was mid-month when I started this. So I was very curious to see how my plan lined up with the practicality of how much we could ACTUALLY accomplish. I was pleasantly surprised!

What we accomplished in March (and a new homeschool plan going forward)

What Ezra accomplished:

(Of note, Ezra has been really struggling with sleep – four nights getting absolutely no sleep and six additional nights getting under six hours. So, I’d say that’s pretty darn good!)

homeschool visual plan

What Little Brother accomplished:

MasterBooks Math Lessons for a Living Education K

We were also able to finish a history chapter book, Hostage on the Nighthawk: William Penn (140 pages, read from 2/25 – 3/13), and get 59% of the way done with our next history read aloud, Queen Anne’s War. AND we got 63% of the way through a FUN read-aloud, Beezus and Ramona!

homeschool visual plan

While we didn’t finish everything on the plan, we did GET TO everything! I’m sticking with this approach for April. That said, I’ve made a few changes and added some more things. (Some of the things I added were things we did do in March, but didn’t have visually represented.) I’ve reduced a few things too, to compensate for the additions.

homeschool visual tracker

Since the boys seemed to enjoy coloring in the tracker themselves, I also put the plan on a bulletin board so that they can visually see their progress throughout the month.

homeschool visual tracker

I have also found Sarah’s recommendation of using picture books with older children, particularly for history, to be mind-blowing. I still aim to read two history chapter books per month, but I am hopeful that moving through history using picture books rather than chapter books will help us move a wee bit more quickly! You can listen to her talk about history picture books in the following episodes. WARNING: You may never look at picture books the same way again!


While I don’t expect anyone to do exactly what I have done, I hope this gets your brain thinking about how you can make your homeschool perhaps more successful. I hope that, at the very least, you go check out the Read-Aloud Revival podcast because it is AMAZING and may be the best way for you to be encouraged in your homeschooling plan!

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