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I sat in the coffee shop, staring at the complicated equation that was one young mom’s homeschool schedule. She had asked to meet with me that evening because she felt defeated. She was contemplating a forfeit and was hoping I could talk her off the ledge. She loved homeschooling her kids. She just didn’t really like it much at present.

As I held her lengthy minute-by-minute plan, I heaved a small sigh. Her plan was so exhaustive and over-worked. No wonder she felt like quitting. Her good intentions had become an anchor, weighing her down. She was drowning in a flood of her own making and needed a lifeline.

The Simple Solution for Homeschool Planning

“Dear friend, you’ve jammed 56 hour’s worth of work into a 24 hour day. You have to let some of this go, knowing that your kids have the rest of their lives to learn all the stuff. And while you’re at it, it’s probably best to loosen your tight hold of each and every lesson. Yes, it’s great to aim for forward motion, but you also have to leave enough wiggle room for all the small interruptions that come with mothering. Instead of writing out detailed plans for each and every subject of the day, try my secret planning weapon: a bookmark.”

With a raised eyebrow, she questioned my sincerity. How could a simple piece of cardstock work wonders in her day?

During the next half hour and with the help of our over-caffeinated cups, we crossed out, jettisoned, and tweaked her plan until it was actually doable. As we were packing up, I handed her a bookmark. (I’m a closet librarian and have at least two books and bookmarks in my purse at any given moment. If we’re to be friends, you’ll have to get used to this little personality quirk of mine.)

“Trust me. You’ll thank me later. Pinky swear,” I said.

The Simple Solution

A bookmark. Truly, for so many homeschool subjects, that’s all you need. You can expel lots of energy filling out fancy homeschool planners and wall calendars, but usually, all you really need is a bookmark. An old receipt, a sticky note, a strip of ribbon–any page marker will do. A bookmark is the simple solution to ensure that you never feel bullied by someone else’s lesson plans. You can work on one subject for as long as you are able, until you get interrupted, or until your kids need a change of course. Then, all you have to do is stick a bookmark in the book or work text in order to know exactly where to start fresh the next day.

The Real-Life Look

Here’s what bookmark “scheduling” looks like in real-time:

For our Morning Time, I rotate between three different books throughout the week. Currently, we are reading The Book for Children, The Ology, and William Booth: Soup, Soap, and Salvation. I keep all of these resources along with a Morning Time binder in a book basket next to a cozy chair in the living room. Each weekday morning, I read one chapter of one of the books, use a bookmark to mark our spot, and then move on to one of the other books in the basket the next day. By the fourth day of the school week, I cycle back to the original book and know right where to pick up with our reading. The bookmark is my guide.

We also sing hymns, recite a Scripture verse, and discuss a daily manner each morning. I use sticky notes in my binder to mark the spot of each of these. For instance, we always learn a new hymn each month, but we also spend time practicing the ones we’ve previously learned. So, by keeping all the hymn sheets in order within the binder, I can move the sticky note to the next song at the end of each Morning Time in order to know which previously learned hymn we’ll need to practice tomorrow.

Morning Time isn’t the only spot in our day when bookmarks come in handy, though. I also use them to mark my place in our language arts curriculum. Since each page in my teacher’s manual includes the plans for several days’ worth of lessons, I use a bookmark to mark the page and a moveable sticky note to mark the actual lesson number on the page. Since we are literature-based learners, this method works well for all of our content-oriented subjects too–history, science, geography, etc.

Since my kids use Teaching Textbooks, an online math program, I don’t need to make any lesson plans for math. Glory be! The program has built-in bookmarks. (Apparently, even the professionals understand the power of a bookmark, digital or otherwise.)

The Send-off

If you and I were to sit across the table at a coffee shop just like my friend and I did so many months ago, I’d shoot you straight and point your feet toward delight instead of defeat. A fancy homeschool planner has its place. But, most of the time, a simple bookmark is all you need.

To learn more about how best to plan your homeschool day so that you don’t find yourself in a chaos of your own creation, be sure to grab my “Quick-Start Guide to Homeschool Scheduling.” Come April, it will be free for the taking as it will be a preorder bonus for my new book, Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child With Confidence.

Don’t let your homeschool continue to boss you around! Grab a bookmark and start telling your homeschool what to do.

About Jamie Erickson

When she’s not curating memories, hoarding vintage books, or playing ringmaster to her own live-in circus of five, Jamie can be found at The Unlikely Homeschool, encouraging and equipping parents all across the globe who find themselves in the everyday trenches of homeschooling. She's the author of the upcoming book, Homeschool Bravely (Moody Publishers, 2019). In addition to speaking and writing, Jamie loves talking faith and family over a cup of Starbuck’s finest, collecting calories around a table full of friends, and taking grueling hikes with her formerly homeschooled husband, Dain (because alas, calories don’t display very nicely on a shelf like other collections).

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