10 Steps to Anxiety Free Homeschool Planning ~ The Subjects

For the next few months Everyday ScholĂ© will be focusing on planning so that you have a leisurely, restful year. So does an anxiety free homeschool sound like an oxymoron? It’s not because our family has learning in one for over a year now. Be sure and check back in the last Thursday of every month during April, May, and June so you find out how to plan a restful homeschool year for your family. This month we are focusing on how to plan your subjects for a restful year.

Lazy Young Teenage Woman Relaxing

To ensure a year of restful learning I’ve found planning to be a necessary part of the process. I’m sure 99% of that is because of my Type A tendencies, but I’ve found a good plan helps me to be more relaxed throughout the year. When it comes to choosing what subjects to study for an upcoming year some are pretty obvious like math and language arts, but sometimes it’s difficult to decide what subjects and topics to cover for the non-essentials. Should we study Latin this year or next? Should we study Latin at all? Is logic necessary or a foreign language? What science topic or historical time period should be our focus? I came up with ten steps to follow so that you can have an anxiety free planning session for your next homeschool year.


I guess the pre-step to this one is if you don’t have homeschool goals, then make some! My first step when I begin to plan for the year is to look at my goals. I have three big over-arching principles to help guide the overall tone of our homeschool, and I also have personal goals for each of my children. I update each child’s personal goals for the coming year and I do a quick read of my three main goals as well. Once I’ve got these in my mind I find it makes planning our subjects infinitely easier.


I call this the #1 rule of homeschooling. If you find a curriculum that works for your child, do NOT change it no matter what other interesting, shiny, and new curriculum you see. This also makes subject planning easier for you because all you need to do is plug these curriculum into your plan for the coming year. If something is not working, however, feel free to research and read reviews to find something new that will work. A sure killer of a restful learning experience is to change what’s working or refusing to change what isn’t.


This is my biggest problem area when it comes to planning what we will be studying in the coming year. I love to learn and I want to learn everything. This means that I feel my children need to learn everything as well which is an impossible and anxiety producing goal. To keep myself from over-indulging, I plan out what years I want to study certain extras with the kids. For example, I know that I want to study philosophy while studying ancient Greece, and I want to cover Latin in sixth, seventh, and eighth before beginning high school foreign language. I try to keep things super simple for early elementary and slowly add things into the schedule based on interest and my requirements for my children. Overloading on how many subjects you are studying becomes a source of stress because you can’t get it all done without relaxation flying out the window!


Nothing will make your homeschool planning more simple then doing one vital thing: ask your child what they would like to study. I did this for the first time this year and the girls did a great job with feedback. The first time I asked there were crickets chirping. They had no clue. So the next time I went back I came prepared with various topics in history and science. I also showed them what I had planned for us to do. They liked my plan for history which was to study ancient history so I kept that, but they each picked a science topic to study and I chose one as well. Now my planning for those subjects was pretty much complete other than pulling resources. Quick, easy, and more restful because now my children have some ownership in their own education.


It’s a fact that some subjects we feel more comfortable teaching. For me those are the social sciences and the language arts. Math and science are out of my comfort zone for the most part. When it comes to planning your subjects and choosing curriculum knowing where you need less help in teaching and where you need more assistance is hugely important to have a restful year. If your curriculum doesn’t hold your hand enough in the areas you struggle it will frustrate you and make school stressful. On the other side a curriculum that is too scripted and planned in areas where you feel more comfortable might feel stifling. It doesn’t matter how awesome the curriculum is supposed to be. If it doesn’t work for you as a teacher it will only cause repeated problems through the year.


One of the best ways to make a relaxing year is to have some of your curriculum cover two or more subjects instead of just one. This eases your subject load and takes less time. For example, I’m using Logic of English Foundations Level D right now with Sophia. This one curriculum covers phonics, spelling, beginning grammar, beginning writing, and beginning literature. Once we’ve finished our time with Logic of English we’ve touched on some or all of these subjects freeing up more time for other pursuits. Other common curriculum combinations are history, geography, and literature. Efficiency is definitely a contributor to a relaxed homeschool atmosphere.


When it comes to having a low stress homeschool year, this choice could make or break you even if you get everything else perfect. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes combining children for subjects works and sometimes it doesn’t. This will totally depend upon the personalities of your children, their ages, and their skill level. Some homeschoolers find it easier to combine their students for content subjects like history, science, geography, etc. Others find that combining their children causes more headaches and problems. I’ve been in both of these camps. I’ve combined the girls for a couple of years now, but I spent a couple of years not combining them as well because of personality difference between the two of them that just needed some time to work themselves out. I do know one thing. If you try to force your children to combine when it is not a good idea, you will pay for it all year long. If you try to keep them separate when it would actually be easier to combine, you are wasting time that could be maximized through teaching them together.


I know that most of you probably didn’t try to use three different math programs with your child. Or two different phonics programs with your middle child. But for some reason I always find things that I like about different approaches to teaching different subjects so I felt I needed to use them all. This was a really bad and stressful decision because if you buy them, you feel you must use them. I’ve slowly weaned myself off of this, but I know that using too many different curriculum for subjects caused a lot of anxiety in our homeschool over the years. Don’t do this UNLESS you have a child who really, really enjoys a subject and just wants more and more. I have one of these children right now so I let her have all the math stuff she wants but most of it is independent things for her to do on her own time so it doesn’t stress me out with trying to cover it.


If you hate doing crafts and experiments, do not purchase a curriculum that is heavy on crafts or experiments because you will not do them. If your children hate worksheets do not purchase worksheets for every curriculum because they will whine, complain, and drag their feet. As homeschoolers we have to be realistic about what will actually get done in our homeschool. You know what your kids like. You know what you like. Choose subjects and curriculum appropriately. Trying to force your family or yourself into a box that you think should be what your homeschool is like instead of what it is reality is a recipe for disaster and a stressful homeschool year.


Some states have written into their homeschool laws specific subjects that must be covered each year if you homeschool. Make sure when planning your subjects for the year that you are in compliance with the homeschool law in your state. A definite anxiety ridden experience in your homeschool year would be having a government official show up at your door asking questions!

Everyday Schole Final Image

Please hop over to Tonia and Sara’s blogs to see what my fellow Everyday ScholĂ© bloggers have to say about planning your subjects for a restful year of learning:

planning a restful homeschool part one  restful homeschool

Keeping anxiety at bay in the tree house,



The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers’ Mistakes

I’ve always been the type of person who learns best from the bad examples of others. I don’t need to hear about the person who got it right; I want to read about the person who got it wrong. I remember and apply those lessons much better. I’m assuming some of you might be the same way as well, so I asked homeschoolers from all different stages of the homeschool journey, from beginners to those who have homeschool graduates, one question: what are your top three homeschooling mistakes? The answers were uncannily similar, insightful, and absolutely convicting. 

The Hidden Gems Found in Homeschoolers' Mistakes

I found myself nodding my head so many times as I read their replies, so the first thing I want all of us to learn is that homeschooling mistakes are normal, and they are usually the same mistakes that homeschoolers before you have made as well. Hopefully this post will help us learn the right mindset and attitude to have as we homeschool so we can minimize the mistakes we make. In no particular order here are the compiled results of the homeschooling mistakes made by the experts.

Mistakes in Expectations

It’s so difficult when you are the person solely responsible for your child’s education not to feel the weight of that tremendous burden. Usually this manifests itself in having unrealistic expectations. One of the most common answers I received had to do with expectations: expecting all of their children to learn the same way, expecting too much academically of their children too soon, expecting independent learners before they were ready, expecting them to love the subjects you love and learn the way you learn. Expectations inevitably set us up for failure because life rarely fulfills our expectations. Adjust your expectations to reality, not your wish list.

Lesson to Be Learned: Fluid, individualized, expectations that are reassessed on a regular basis are much more realistic.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {One of my biggest mistakes is} letting my ego get wrapped up in the academic success of my kids. It's tempting and oh so easy when your life is homeschooling, but it also means that failure becomes personal blows, struggles are frustrating, and the successes are not given their proper context.

Mistakes in Curriculum/Methodology

As a curriculum addict I found this response to be the most common and the most convicting. The homeschool experts had quite a bit to say about curriculum and none of them said they wished they had more! They all said that they had too much, but the reasons for that varied. Some were trying to buy ahead so they bought every level only to regret that decision when the curriculum stopped being a good fit. Some tried to “do it all” and bought enough curriculum to accomplish that task only to find it sitting on the shelf. Misconceptions about using curriculum were regretted as well, such as curriculum hopping from one thing to another instead of sticking it out. Also being a slave to the curriculum or methodology instead of adapting it to your child and following their interests.

Lesson to Be Learned: Curriculum is a tool, use it as such. Don’t let it tie you or your child down.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My number one mistake was} desperately trying to fit ourselves to a method instead of making the method fit us.

Mistakes in the Research Phase

I fell into this trap for many, many years. I call it chasing the perfect. If I find the perfect curriculum, if I have the perfect schedule, if I have the perfect school room, etc., then I can guarantee success. Reading the answers to my question, I discovered I’m not the only one who fell into this trap. Everyone agreed that the fear of messing up led to a lot of problems during the research phase of homeschooling. One homeschool mom even called it “analysis paralysis”, which I thought was perfect. Analyzing everything about homeschooling to the nth degree instead of actually doing something for fear that you will make the wrong choice. All the moms who’d made this mistake talked about the anxiety that comes along with it.

Lesson to Be Learned: You should research before you begin homeschooling or before you start a new school year. It’s always wise to know what you are getting into, but limit the time you spend in this phase. There are no guarantees in homeschooling and perfection does not exist.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} overcomplicating things - looking at every possible curriculum in an attempt to find what is THE best, and then stewing over decisions, and second guessing myself, and then going back and spending hours researching other curriculum, and spending oodles of time weighing the pros and cons of everything, to the point that I don't have the energy I need to get down to business.  {I should have} just started DOING and spent less time 'researching and reading'.  I made my best discoveries by digging in and testing and experimenting with my kids.  I should have been more hands-on. 

Mistakes in Personal Care

This one has been on my radar recently and I have been working toward implementing some changes in my life. When I saw how often this popped up as one of the biggest mistakes homeschool parents had made, I knew I needed to be even more diligent. Just like with an airplane oxygen mask, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, it is difficult to impossible to take care of our family and teach our children. One day this homeschool job will be over and we need to make sure that we have not let ourselves get lost in the process.

Lesson to Be Learned: Take time to do things for yourself that you enjoy and that will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My homeschool mistake was} not scheduling time for me to regenerate and refresh ("me time") rather than being haphazard about it.  It would have headed off burnout. On a related note, not asking for help/accountability for taking better care of myself.  If I had an accountability buddy to make sure I did the self-care before I needed it, I would not have had such a difficult time.

Mistakes in Scheduling

The responses in this area were a little mixed, but the overwhelming majority seemed to fall on the side of wishing they had been more scheduled because they saw the correlation to more productivity. Homeschool parents that were farther down the road repeatedly said that they wished they had been more strict and consistent with school times. They felt that they had been too soft and gave in too much when the kids wanted time off. It had bred laziness and a lack of progress. They wished they had helped their children realize that not everything is fun, and even when you don’t want to do things many times, you still have to do them.  One mom even said that being too flexible with their homeschool time had done nothing but tie them into knots!

Lesson to Be Learned: At some point your child will have to begin a consistent school routine, better to train them to do that now than later.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: I started off thinking not creating a strict school calendar meant we would have more freedom and be more efficient. The opposite was actually true. Creating a calendar had all of us working harder and more efficiently and our vacations were well-earned. We ended up being far more productive long term.

Mistakes in the Home

I don’t know of any homeschooler who hasn’t asked at some point, “How do I take care of my home?!?” Many answers to my question dealt with some aspect of the home life. The physical home was cited as an area when it came to wishing they had decluttered more and been more consistent with chores. Others talked about taking time to nurture relationships in the home, especially with their children, relating to their children as a parent and not as a teacher all the time. One mom talked about taking off her teacher hat, while other moms said that they shouldn’t have made everything be school or educational.

Lessons to Be Learned: Take time every day to focus on the “home” in your homeschool.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} forgetting to enjoy my kids.  That's mistake one, two, and three. Academics are important but my first job as a mother is to love my kids and that requires a good relationship.  Sometimes that got sacrificed in the name of "education". 

Mistakes with Children

I read a quote on a blog a while back {I wish I could remember which one!} that basically said, “How you respond to your child when they struggle with a math problem for the 10th time is what you will teach them about how God responds to them when they continually make mistakes as well.” It was unbelievably humbling to say the least. Quite a few homeschool moms cited their reaction to their children’s struggles as one of their biggest homeschooling mistakes. Some felt it was so severe that it actually damaged relationships. Some moms said they should have worked more on character training and obedience during the early years.

Lessons to Be Learned: Frustration and angry words can damage a child. Take a break, count to 100, or read a book, but don’t wound them with your reaction.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My mistake was} working for perfection - anything that was wrong we corrected. My kids translated that into a belief that they can only win my approval by being perfect - not even close to true. {I did} not emphasize how hard work counts as much or more than talent.  I think this would have helped my kid to not feel so inferior as well as encourage my more academically talented kids to have higher goals and be more proactive for their futures.

Mistakes in Self-Confidence

When you go against the grain, it’s easy to let negative voices into your head, to start doubting your path and your decision to home educate. Even the experts aren’t immune from these feelings, but none of them said that these voices were correct. In fact all of them said that one of their mistakes was listening to the voice of doubt. This can manifest itself in comparing your children and your homeschool to the public school or to other homeschoolers. A few even said that there biggest mistake was letting their kids go back to public school or waiting too long to pull them out. A couple of homeschoolers talked about caring too much what others thought of their child’s progress and second guessing their ability to teach their child.

Lessons to Be Learned: Your decision to homeschool is YOUR family’s decision. Stop listening to any other voice. Trust your instincts.

Quote From a Homeschool Expert: {My biggest mistake is} comparing! To public schoolers, to other homeschoolers, to the other sibling... It's never good.

In a nutshell, here is my big takeaway from the homeschool experts: 1) it’s all about balance and 2) we get in the most trouble when we forget that our homeschool should reflect our individual children and our family. Almost all of these mistakes can be avoided if we balance between the extremes of scheduling, curriculum, and self care while letting the uniqueness of our children and family guide our expectations and homemaking while being confident in our choice to homeschool. No problem, right? I wish. It’s a daily struggle, but you are in good company. We’ve all been there.

What’s your biggest homeschool mistake?

Let me know in the comments.

Check out what other expert homeschool advice my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers have found for you. Just click on the picture below:


Learning from those who’ve gone before me is my favorite way to learn in the tree house,



Anchoring Your Daily Homeschool Schedule

“Aweigh” to Plan Your Day Without Running Aground in the Details

I swear I’ve tried every daily planning method out there. I attempted full on scheduling with specific times for specific subjects and activities. I’ve tried following a routine for our day where there aren’t set times, but more of a general flow. Anchoring your day is a hybrid of both approaches: scheduling and routine. Instead of scheduling every subject or activity, you only schedule certain items in your day or homeschool. Anchoring also is similar to a routine because your anchors keep your day flowing so you don’t get bogged down or off track.

Daily Anchors to Schedule Your HomeschoolI started anchoring our homeschool because scheduling felt too stifling and stressful while routine was too loose and resulted in inefficiency on my part. To determine my anchors I asked myself some questions:

What time did I want our school day to end? We are not morning people so when the day ends is more realistic for us than when it starts. If you are a family of morning people, you would want to ask yourself when do we want it to begin. My answer was 4:00 PM. I don’t want our school day to take longer than that because most of the kids’ outside commitments start right around there and because I want to be done before dinner time rolls around. This doesn’t mean our day could be shorter than that, but I definitely do not want it to be longer.

How long is our school day on paper? If I write out the amount of time I think it should take to complete each subject or activity how long would our school day be. Now add an hour. That’s actually how long your day will probably run when dealing with transitions, personalities, bathroom breaks, pencil sharpening, etc. My answer to the second question was 6 1/2 hours once I add in my extra hour of swing time. Knowing how long our day takes on paper along with that extra hour helps me determine my first anchor of the day.

What are natural transition times in our homeschool and home? This one was pretty easy for me since I already had our day divided into four major categories any way: Morning Meeting, The 4 R’s (religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic), Lunch, and Table Time. All of these require moving to different areas of the house and preparation on my part to get ready for those learning times so there are natural breaks there anyway. Some other natural breaks could be breakfast, chores, quiet time, devotions, etc.

Now I take this information to determine what anchors I want and what time I want that anchor to be placed in our day. The anchor is my “buck stops here” point in the flow of our day. In other words, when the time for that anchor arrives, everything else stops and we begin that activity or subject. This allows me the control of a schedule, but the freedom of a routine

For example here is our Normal Anchor Plan:

9:00 AM = Kids up and breakfast

9:30 AM = Morning Meeting

11:00 AM = The 4 R’s

1:00 PM = Lunch

2:00 PM = Table Time

4:00 PM = End of school day

When these times roll around those anchors MUST happen. Planning our day this way helps me stay on track, but it’s also really flexible. If something happens that we can’t hit one of those times, we just begin our anchors when the next one rolls around.

Now I will admit that some days we sleep late, some days we’re all moving slowly, some days someone is ill,  and some days we are just in a funk. Because of these real life scenarios I came up with my bare bones anchor schedule as well. I pull this one out on those days where we can’t fit in a full school day for whatever reason. It is also anchored, but it is more fluid. You can start the first anchor whenever you need to and just adjust the following anchors to fit your start time.

Bare Bones Anchor Plan:

10:30 AM = Shortened Morning Meeting

11:00 AM = Shortened 4 R’s (Bible, math, and phonics (for Sophia) or literature (for Grace))

12:00 PM = Shortened Table Time (reading only, no activities or notebooking)

1:00 PM = Lunch and end of day

I’ve found it super helpful to have a fall back plan when the full plan is not possible. We probably use our Bare Bones plan at least once a week, and it helps me know that we are still moving forward even if it’s not a full day of learning.

What’s your preferred method to plan the flow of your homeschool day?

Let me know in the comments.
Going overboard (I did it again!) with the nautical theme in this post in the tree house,