My homeschool schedule crisis came when I couldn’t seem to manage to grow bean plants in a pot. I seriously just about lost my mind over a bean plant. It’s embarrassing to type this out loud for the world to see, but I share it with you on the off chance that I’m not alone. You see Sonlight is an amazing program, but like any other curricula it is a tool. It’s up to us as the homeschool Mamas and Papas to figure out how to wield it best to fit the needs of our family.
Sonlight’s Grid Schedule
Sonlight’s literature rich, faith filled resources are organized in a grid of 36 weeks; five day or four day schedules are available. While this organizational scheme makes it possible for families of all different homeschooling philosophies to successfully use the program, it can easily lead to a feeling of overwhelm if you don’t have a game plan in place for when you get off schedule.
Remember that bean plant? Well, it was the one thing I just couldn’t get done to save my life. First I couldn’t find the bean seeds. Then we were late for my daughter’s gymnastics class. Finally we got them planted and the darn things didn’t grow. Little did I know that the next two experiments for the rest of the week used the bean plants we were supposed to grow the previous Monday! Whoops! Suddenly, my entire schedule was off.
Schedules go wrong. It happens to all of us! Fear not, Sonlight works for real life homeschooling parents like you and me! There is an easy way to address this issue while still using Sonlight to the fullest!
Scheduling Sonlight for Real Life
Pam Barnhill is an expert on homeschool planning. In her recent book (which you should absolutely read), she talks about how to make schedules and curricula (yes, even prepacked, big box curriculum like Sonlight) work for you. She also provides you with some specific examples of lists that keep me moving forward in Sonlight’s weekly schedule even when I can’t check off every item.
Sonlight’s expert correlation of materials in the weekly schedule combined with a comprehensive topical mastery list at the back of the Instructor Guide make it easy to utilize Pam’s planning tools. While using these tools may initially seem like extra work, they are simple tasks that pay off big time. Why? You keep moving forward. You won’t be stuck on week 19, the infamous week of the bean plant forever!
3 Scheduling Methods to Keep Moving Forward
Please, let me introduce you to the three scheduling ideas that saved my homeschool from breaking down due to bean plants.
- Adapt Sonlight’s schedule to fit your routine.
- Strip the grids and work according to subject instead of day.
- Work across the page instead of down and use post-it notes!
- Put hard to complete items on loop schedules.
- Set up a block schedule.
These three organizational solutions will help pack those bean plant woes away for good!
Adapt Sonlight’s Schedule to Fit Your Routine
Very few homeschool families are able to open a boxed curriculum and go through the contents in a linear fashion. Not only is it hard to do (see bean plant example), but it’s undesirable to rush through subjects or mark things off without achieving mastery.
Strip the Grids
Instead you can strip the content out of the grids (as suggested by Pam Barnhill) and create your own lesson plan lists. Sonlight has already organized the material by subject (Art/History/Bible, Language Arts, and Science), which makes it really easy to further strip out the activities and reading. For example, you might choose to list all the reading on one page, the experiments or hands on activities on another, and any independent work kids can do on a third page.
Keep the Grid, but Use Color Coded Post-Its
Since stripping the grid is a time intensive solution and time is something I’m lacking in this season of life, I prefer using post it notes on the grid provided by Sonlight. With this method, you leave the content in the grids, but work through them at your own pace. I use color-coded post it notes to mark our progress. For example, we can be on week 19 in Science, week 22 in language arts, and week 28 in history and continue to move ahead in all subjects at our own pace. You can see more about my organizational strategies for wrangling the Sonlight binder here.
Stripping the grid or using post-it notes within the grid to mark your place helps with organization, but it doesn’t keep you from getting stuck on week 19 in science. This is were a loop schedule will save you from week 19 purgatory.
A loop schedule is a list on which you place items you wish to complete when time comes available. For example, while Dad has the big kids and the baby naps might be the perfect time for some one on one time with your first grader.
Grabbing your loop list, you see that the next item on your loop list is building a catapult from Sonlight’s hands on history kit. Since Sonlight provides all the unique materials you need to make that catapult and you had the item listed on your loop schedule, there is no rushing about or grappling with what to do next. You move forward, confident in your homeschooling. Go you!
If you want to learn more about loop lists and the many ways they can be used to benefit your homeschool, I highly suggest Plan Your Year!
One of the most effective ways I have managed to make sure we don’t skip hands on activities or intensive read alouds is to block out time for them to happen. We reserve time to tackle the items we have placed on our loop list.
Because I feel that hands on activities and one on one time are essential elements of our homeschool, I block out time for them to happen every week. These times are decided by the entire family. Times when Dad is available, Grandma commandeers the baby, or several of the kids are agreeable to occupy themselves at the same time are best.
Sometimes this means doing experiments on Saturdays or letting some kids stay up late for an extra chapter from our current read aloud. While not always doable or perfect, blocking out time works well enough and often enough that we continue to move forward and you can too!
How it All Comes Together In Our Homeschool
Remember that bean plant crisis? Here’s how we solved that schedule bump and moved forward with Sonlight without leaving out a thing.
Adapt Sonlight’s Schedule
First, we placed a green post it note for science on week 19 and moved onto week 20 in our other subjects.
When it became clear that the bean plant wasn’t going to grow and we were going to get further behind if we waited on completing those experiments, we placed the bean plant experiment on our loop list and moved on with the next item in our science kit, flower dissection and diagramming.
Finally, we made sure that on our reserved time block (currently Thursday evenings after dinner) we broke out our loop list, saw the experiment listed and by golly we finally grew that darn bean plant!
So when you get stuck, there is no reason to fret. Don’t let bean plants, hands on projects, or dangling read alouds keep you from moving forward with your homeschooling year. Use these organizational strategies, send Pam Barnhill and Sonlight a big thank you for giving us such fabulous tools, and move forward knowing you are making progress and doing great things for your children’s minds and hearts!
Infuse your homeschool with curriculum choices rich in quality literature and Christian values by investing in Sonlight! They have some amazing deals this time of year, so make sure you visit Sonlight’s current sales and special offers!
Wishing you joy, peace, and most of all faith in your homeschool!