This is an excellent way to describe what you will create if you follow the guide of this author. Amy Knepper has taken something that I thought was truly impossible and made it seem much more possible – and likely.
Early in the book, Knepper says, “This book isn’t really about planning. After you’ve gone through it, you’ll have a great plan for your school year, but that’s just a bonus.” I like this, because it is very true. This book can ultimately result in you having an outline that will help you get through the next year of schooling, but there’s so much more that you can get out of it, if you’re open to it.
Before I go much further, let me mention one more thing: she’s been homeschooling her own children for six years (as of the date this book was published). I don’t know about you, but when I look for resources to help me figure out this homeschooling thing, I look to people who have the experience and knowledge to actually know what they’re talking about. When I see books (or more accurately, in some cases, pamphlets) by people who’ve been homeschooling for a matter of weeks or months, or not even homeschooling at all, I tend to run far and fast. So I was glad to see that Knepper has the experience, the knowledge, and a way with words that puts her in a position to actually tell us her plan for how to make it all work.
Let’s move on to my review now.
At another point early in the book, Knepper writes, “Rather than having you fill in a bunch of charts and calendars, I will walk you through the process of discovering why you homeschool, what you hope each of your children will get out of homeschooling, and how you will make those dreams happen with a solid, workable plan.”
This paragraph promises some pretty big results, and I really wondered if she could pull it off. But she did. In the years since I began homeschooling, depending on who I’ve been talking to, my reasons for homeschooling have varied: a crappy school system, a teacher and other administration that bullied one of my children, constant budget cutting in the schools, the fact that they have ADHD and I wanted them to have a better, more accepting environment to learn in, the influence of bad friends, and so on. But in the process of working through the plan in Knepper’s book, I found that, ultimately, I could distill all of this down to one, simple, clear statement: I want better for my children. That’s why I homeschool. I want better for them. Even if I can’t identify what this is better than, or the list of what this is better than is endless, I know that I want better for them.
She promises that by going through the process, you’ll find your values, set goals and choose concrete ways of managing your expectations through the year. I found that this (finding values, setting goals, etc.) was what helped me figure out what I hoped each of my kids would get out of homeschooling.
Finding values is pretty important to this whole homeschooling gig – whether you choose to follow Knepper’s book or not. If you don’t know what’s important to you, it’ll be very hard to give your kids what you consider to be a quality education. If you don’t know that reading is important to you, you won’t include reading as a critical component to your days. This extends to everything: if you don’t know if academics or creativity is important (or which one is more important), you’ll have a hard time deciding what to teach or how to balance everything. Figuring these things out can also help you figure out why you focus so much on academics while shoving art to the side, saying, “We’ll get to this another day.” (Or vice versa.)
Knepper packs a lot of information into this book, and every bit of it is useful. She helps you figure out your values, your goals, what you want to teach, how to schedule it all, how to prepare, how to rearrange when it doesn’t all fit the way you want it to, and so much more.
I will admit that it can seem a bit overwhelming when you first start reading it. And if, like me, you set it down for a few days and then return, it might feel a little overwhelming again. Knepper recommends trying to complete the whole process within about two weeks – and I would agree with her assessment of the time frame. Don’t set it down and walk away – start the process and keep going every day until you finish. If you keep the momentum going, it will be easier to remember what you’ve done and not done, what you were thinking as you worked on the last step, etc.
Another recommendation that Knepper makes is to read through the book twice – first to get an overview of the process and the second to actually answer the questions and do the projects. I didn’t do this, and because of that, I stand behind her recommendation. I think I would have found it a much smoother process if I’d read it over first and then tried to do everything, rather than trying to do it all at once, and feeling a bit…disjointed, I guess, for lack of a better word.
The thought of planning for an entire year of school at once (whether you mean an actual 12 month year because you school year round or just 9 months or so because you follow a school calendar year) probably sounds like too much all at once. You’re probably thinking about how time-consuming it’ll be and imagining that it will take hours and hours of your time.
But Knepper addresses this, too. As she says, “You’ll spend the time somewhere.” Whether you spend the hours all up front at the beginning of the year, or sprinkled through out the 9 or 12 months of the school year (once a month, once a week, in a frazzled mad dash every morning while you try to figure out just what the heck you’re going to do today), you’re going to spend the time planning somewhere. Whether you spend the time buying supplies and materials all on one Saturday shopping spree in July or August, or you’re running out every week to get those last items you need to do that project you planned, you’re going to spend that time (and money!). So why not spend it all at once, before the year has started so that you can take a little more time and not feel stressed, confused, or rushed, so that later, you can feel relaxed, calm and prepared?
I know that, for me, I usually spend an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, prepping my plans for the upcoming week – working out what we’re studying and when, how, where, and with what, getting it all written down in my own lesson planner and then transcribing it into the kids’ planners. This method has generally been a more relaxed method than my previous one (which pretty much consisted of “Um, let’s do some science now! Okay, let’s do math now! Hey, who wants to do art?”), but even though it seems like Blueprint Homeschooling would be harder, I must admit that the thought of having all the planning done for the whole year and having to do nothing more than simply look at a planner at any given time and know what we’ll be doing is a really nice one.
With all that said, I will admit there are a couple of minor things that I noticed – I wouldn’t call them flaws, exactly, because they don’t and won’t apply to everyone.
The biggest issue for me would be with getting materials. Knepper talks about borrowing from the library. I wholeheartedly agree with this – the library is an amazing resource and it should definitely be utilized whenever possible. But my library almost always does not have what I need when I need it. I can guarantee you that if I planned something for three months (or six months, or nine, or a whole year) from now, they would not have the books, videos, or audios that I needed when that time rolls around. She recommends utilizing the hold system to ensure you get your books on time – again, a great suggestion, but one that wouldn’t work with my library. It’s just an unfortunate fact that my local library, while still a great resource, is just not reliable enough for me to count on in this way. I often have to simply purchase the books I want or need, because they either do not have them at all or I cannot get them when I need them. If I were to attempt to plan a whole year while relying on my library for any resources, I would find that my plan would be a complete and utter waste. I mention this because I do think that, depending on where you live and your local library, you may find that this is true for you as well. I do not believe that this would prohibit you from following Blueprint Homeschooling’s plan, but you will want to keep in mind that you’ll have to find and purchase those items you can’t get from your local library far enough in advance for them to arrive on time – which means that you would have to have a good enough understanding of your budget to ensure that you would be able to make those purchases when the time comes, so you don’t find yourself constantly having to rearrange the plan because you can’t afford the materials you need.
Amy Knepper writes with a conversational tone (including jokes) that makes it feel more like you’re enjoying a cup of coffee with her and chatting about how to homeschool plan than reading a book about how to homeschool plan. I felt far more like I was chatting with a friend, and this, I think, added something more to this book for me. Many books are written by “experts” whose tones often come across as condescending or even downright insulting. Amy Knepper has the experience and the knowledge to back up her claims to have a good method for planning, but she doesn’t use that “I know better than you, so you should listen to me” tone. Her book is written with the friendlier, “Hey, this is what I do and it works great for me, give it a shot if you think it’ll work for you.” There’s no pressure, and no rigidity. While she often mentions the 36 week school year because that is what she uses, she also mentions that you can adapt this process for whatever kind of schedule you use – and even for any method you use (including unschooling, to a degree!).
Overall, I would say that this book would be an ideal book for someone who is just getting started with homeschooling, or maybe who hasn’t been doing it very long and is looking for something to help them find their feet – but it would also be great for someone who’s been at it longer and is feeling burnt out, frustrated or simply knows that what they’ve been doing isn’t working anymore and they want a change. The process is adaptable, so regardless of how you want to homeschool, you’re certain to find a way to make it work for you.