Roll-Over Lesson Plans: How to Use Them in Your Homeschool and Why They’re So Effective

Checklists. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with checklists. We love when we get to check off an item — done! Yay! We hate when we don’t get to check off an item on that list — ugh. Failure.

Whether we like it or not, checklists are, for many of us, a necessary part of lesson planning: a way to keep track of what we need to do, what our kids need to do, what has been done, and what has not. If you’re homeschooling multiple children, checklists are essential. However, we can easily fall into the trap of feeling as if we are slaves to the list. And we certainly want to avoid having a checklist mentality when it comes to teaching and learning. Ideally, we want our kids to enjoy the process of learning (at least sometimes!) and not just get the work over with. More importantly, we want to set an example for our children that nurturing relationships are more important than completing tasks.

Over my many years of homeschooling, I’ve come up with as system that has allowed us to use checklists without being stressed out by them. Here’s what we do:

To begin with, I give each child a worklist for the week. The weekly worklist is basically the same for the entire school year, with minor changes made as needed. Here are some sample work lists:

In addition, I give my kids subject lesson plans for any subject that needs them. They usually get subject lesson plans for history, science, and math. These go into the front of each subject’s notebook or binder. This way, my kids can easily refer to these plans to know what they need to do each day for that subject. Most of my subject lesson plans are available (for free!) under the Lesson Plans tab on the top of the home page. Mother of Divine Grace homeschool also offers single subject lesson plans, as does Catholic Heritage Curricula (for some of their texts.) All the Apologia science journals include lesson plans.

As an example, here’s the first page of our fourth grade science lesson plans:

Some subjects or workbooks are so straightforward that no lesson plans are needed. My kids simply need to do one lesson per day or two pages per day in the text or workbook (depending on the subject). This is usually the case for Latin, grammar, religion, or drawing.

The only two subjects that I write out assignments for on a daily basis are spelling and writing. I give my children a spelling lesson from All About Spelling on Mondays and Wednesdays. At the end of each lesson, I write out their assignment for the following day on a sticky note, which I place inside their spelling book. This assignment is usually to practice or self-quiz words from their spelling list and to practice writing sentences from the dictation page.

For writing, we use books or videos from Excellence in Writing. Since writing assignments vary from week to week, I jot down their writing assignment directly on the worklist at the beginning of each week. As the kids get older, I let them plan out their writing homework, with the stipulation that they write it down on their worklist and turn in a polished writing assignment by the end of the week.

What are the advantages to this system?

First, the kids know exactly what they need to complete each day and week. Managing expectations plays an important role in helping your kids to be responsible and compliant. Once kids know what to expect and know that you will stick them to it, there is less arguing over assignments. Instead of asking you if they can skip math fifty times, they might only ask you five times. πŸ˜‰

Second, I have found that my older children like to work ahead. Having a checklist helps them manage their time.

Third, I don’t need to write lesson plans at the end of each day or week. This is a huge time saver. I know some moms who spend every Sunday afternoon writing lesson plans. Other moms spend 40-60 minutes writing lesson plans at the end of each day. If I spent even ten minutes each day writing plans for five kids, that would amount to fifty minutes per day just lesson planning. And so much of it would be redundant. In a year, how many times would I have to write Do grammar, p. x-x?

Fourth, these lesson plans easily roll over. Life happens, right? Kids get sick, appliances break, you run out of milk or toilet paper and have to make a dash to the store. All sorts of things happen each week that can interrupt the school day. It happens in regular schools, too. When I taught highschool, there were always disruptions to the schedule: teacher enrichment day, student assemblies, fund raisers, retreats, and fire drills. Last year, from January to March, not a single week went by at my daughter’s highschool without a special event that truncated her schedule. So we have to expect the unexpected, plan for the unplanned, and make room for special events.

Roll over lesson plans allow us to make quick and easy adjustments to our schedule. When our basement flooded last winter, I didn’t have to write new lesson plans or checklists. I just crossed off the assignments for the day (my kids love that!) and those assignments rolled over to the next day or week. (We spent the rest of the day pulling up carpet and cleaning up the mess.) When we have a doctor’s appointment, I cross out a few subjects which, again, simply roll over to the next day. I don’t have to re-write checklists/plans everytime we have a special event or the unexpected crops up.

I also leave ample room in our schedule for the rolling over of assignments. Fridays are half-days, so I sometimes push assignments over to Friday. But I also plan on a 34 week school year, so there’s room at the end of the year for “catching up”.

Combining weekly checklists with single subject lesson plans gives us a lot of structure and flexibility. The structure allows kids to work independently and saves the me a lot of time. The flexibility gives us freedom from the checklist mentality, so we can roll with whatever comes our way with grace and good humor. And perhaps, in the end, that’s one important lesson kids can’t learn from books. They can only learn it from our example.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments box. πŸ™‚

13 thoughts on “Roll-Over Lesson Plans: How to Use Them in Your Homeschool and Why They’re So Effective

    1. Hi Eva,
      I have a calendar where I keep track of all my kids’ extra-curricular activities and appointments, but for their school work, the checklists and lesson plans are all we need.

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  1. I really appreciated reading this. I have homeschooled for 12 yrs and change my checklist style each year. I will have 6 children of homeschool age this year (with a baby in tow) and need to simplify. Could you please make your sample checklists available to download and modify? Thank you so much. God bless you.

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    1. Hi Jen,
      I can make a very generic work list for you to download, but these files must be JPGs or PDFs, which are not easy to modify. However, if you shoot me an email, (mercyformarthas@gmail.com), I can send you some check lists in Word, which you would then be able to modify. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Hi, I’ve done hybrid homeschooling for a year, where lesson plans are given. Now I’m looking into pure homeschooling. How did you start preparing lesson plans? Do you know all the materials inside out? I’m so overwhelmed!

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  3. Hi Agatha! I bet you’re feeling overwhelmed…. homeschooling is always daunting at first! But the good news is that you don’t have to get it perfect the first time around, and you can alway make adjustments as you go. Usually when I prepare lesson plans, I first figure out what subjects I want to cover, what materials/books I want to use, and then I figure out how I want to divide the assignments in order to finish the text by the end of the year. I have lots of curriculum recommendations under the “Curriculum” tab at the top of the home page. I also have some lesson plans under the “Lesson Plans” tab. Maybe you’ll find some of those helpful. Try to get in touch with a local homeschooling group so you can learn from other people’s experiences.
    I do not know all the material inside out before I begin. In fact I only learned grammar when I started homeschooling! As long as you have the answer key, you’re one step ahead of your kids… and that’s as far ahead as you need to be! One thing I love about homeschooling is how much I’ve learned about history, science, and writing.
    If you’re really super overwhelmed, consider a packaged curriculum that comes with lesson plans. Mother of Divine Grace, Seton, Catholic Heritage Curricula all have great packaged curricula. After one year of homeschooling, you’ll have a better idea of how you want to go about it and what materials work best for your kids and your family.
    And just take it one day at a time. If this is God’s will for your family, you’ll have all the graces you need!
    Hope this helps!

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  4. Thank you! I’ll poke around your site more. I’ve already learnt so much from you: I learnt about All About Spelling and Singapore Math from you, and we used that in the summer just to maintain knowledge and hopefully start a little ahead. I’ve never done lesson plans and worry about being organized enough, and hopefully not spoil their futures!

    Do you actually do Science experiments?

    How do you know which books to use? There are so many out there that all sound so good! What if you dislike the books you’ve started with?

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  5. Hi Agatha,
    Try not to worry about spoiling their futures! Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and allow Him to guide you. Consider yourself the co-pilot of your children’s education, with Our Lord at the helm.

    Many years ago, I tried to do science experiments with my kids. Ideally, they ought to be done and will make learning science so much more memorable and meaningful. However, I rarely do experiments with them now. First, science experiments are time consuming and often messy. Second, I need to focus on the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, and religion. The kids study science, but we use science to develop essential study skills such as reading comprehension, note taking, memorization of facts, (I know, sounds boring, but we just can’t do everything. Having sent my older kids off to high school, I know that it doesn’t matter whether your child grew mold on a piece of bread or watched salt crystals grow. It does matter if you child can read and understand a science text book and all the concepts, take succinct notes, and memorize a ton of information, such as the periodic table.) Third, I have found that if you remove T.V. and video games from their lives, children are naturally investigative anyways. The real value to science experiments is that they help your children develop the power of observation, to collect data and draw conclusions. When kids are young, they will do this on their own by playing in nature. Around the age of 9-10, let them play with a good electronics kit and other science kits. You don’t need to do everything with them. When they get older, these skills will be refined in high school (hopefully) and certainly in college if they study science. So short answer: if you can do science experiments with your kids, awesome. But if you are spread too thin, don’t worry. Focus on the fundamentals.

    With regards to choosing books: When I first started homeschooling I relied a lot on the experiences and recommendations of more experienced homeschooling moms. I also attended conferences and spent a lot of time browsing books. If I dislike a book I started with, I try to stick with it for a while longer. But if my kids are really not learning anything, we just switch to another book. There’s no use sticking with a book that is not beneficial or at the right level. However, switching curriculum should (hopefully) be uncommon.

    Hope this helps!

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