So the other day an Instagrammer asked, “If you were a teacher before homeschooling, why did you decide to homeschool your children?” There were lots of answers that I held in common with the other respondents, but I had to be honest and say that, well, God kinda made up my mind for me.
So once the decision was made, my next question became “How do I plan for this?” One might think that my background in education would more than prepare me for the task at hand, but really, it did not. I never had to pick my curriculum, I never had to teach more than one subject! Plus, I had always joked that there was a reason that I taught high school and not elementary - after 56 minutes I could say, “Bye bye!” and start with a new, fresh batch of students. (In retrospect, this is probably not a good reason to state out loud.)
Thankfully, a benefit of being slow to make a decision was that I was able to learn about many different resources for new homeschoolers - chief of which was Pam Barnhill’s book: Plan Your Year. I used her first edition of the book to plan our year when we were still “playing” at homeschooling (because our oldest was still just in preschool) and it was a wealth of information. Then over a year ago, Pam released her “Put Your Homeschool On Autopilot” course and I decided to give that a shot, since this would be the year that we would no longer be “playing” but doing this homeschool-thang for real. And that was a good decision. Using her e-course was instrumental for me having the confidence to tackle this past school year with a baby, a preschooler and as a “first-year teacher”. Because if there’s one thing that has helped me by being a former public school teacher, it’s this: I *know* what being a first-year teacher is like. (Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.)
In my opinion, the “Autopilot” course was mostly her e-book read aloud, but I think that was its strength. I liked having each chapter broken down into “module” form, with corresponding worksheets. I liked listening to Pam’s southern accent. And I knew that if I worked each module from beginning to end, I would have my year all planned out.
Then I received an email that Pam was releasing Plan Your Year, 2nd edition - with more material, more contributors and new snazzy forms! So how did it stack up against the old book/online course?
Well, Pam herself says, “PYY includes more options and spreads a wider feast of ideas about homeschool planning so you can pick and choose. Autopilot is video-based and hyper-focused on one method of planning that will help you plan an entire year in a few sittings. All of the material in Autopilot is included in Plan Your Year -- you just have to hunt for it.” This is 100% accurate. I appreciated reading the guest contributors’ ideas in each chapter (my favorites were Amy Milcic’s “How to use a Homeschool Vision Board for Inspiration” and Mystie Winkler’s “Break Week and Why It’s Vital to Your Sanity”) but in some ways the “wider feast of ideas” actually made it harder to digest.
Maybe Pam noticed this as well because each chapter closes with Action Items that are clear and concise, along with the corresponding forms. I found that when I got to these Action Items, if there was any lingering confusion/overwhelm from reading the "wealth of ideas," then the list brought things back into focus. Ah... peace and purpose restored.
And that’s really the point right? I’m planning the year so I can have peace that what I’ve chosen will accomplish the purposes I’ve set out for it. To that end, Plan Your Year is an excellent resource for the new homeschooler, or the “I’m-wondering-if-I’ve-really-got-this” homeschooler - and I’ve been both.