(Part 1 of a 3-part Planning series)
Another school year has gotten off the ground and planning is fresh on my mind. There are probably as many ways to plan as there are homeschool families. We each need to find what works for us. Here is how I do it.
I begin by finding a free printable calendar of the academic year and printing it out. (One can be found here.) I decide when to start school, and then in pencil, number the weeks by putting small numbers alongside the months. Also at this time I plan our breaks, writing “off” next to those weeks.
I personally stick close to a traditional school year. There are many families who school year-round with frequent breaks. Another option is schooling three months on, one month off. But the winters are long where we live and I have found that none of us feel like doing school during our short summer. So I plan a 36-week schoolyear, but I fit it entirely between Labor Day and Memorial Day. We take a week or two off for the holidays and a week in early spring. Younger students (K-3) may do only 34 weeks.
Many homeschoolers prefer to the leave the year more fluid, allowing their achievements or life events to determine when to school and when to break. I like to work within a rough schedule, with flexibility. Some days or weeks may be lighter ones, depending on what life will bring.
There is only one other aspect to my planning, and that is setting goals. What books or programs do I want each student to go through? What projects do I want them to accomplish? I make a list on the computer that I refer to throughout the year. It is also helpful to look back on the list later when making recommendations or planning for the next student. Here is an example of the list for my 3rd grader:
Work on Strayer Upton math daily
Work on copywork and dictation daily
Have him read aloud through the third Elson Reader
Read through Complete Book of US History
Read through Behold and See Science 3
Do a journaling page daily
Have at least an hour of free reading daily
Work on recorder daily
Do a La Clase Divertida lesson every two weeks
Do some Mark Kistler drawing lessons throughout the year
Go through Times Tales when working on multiplication
Go through The Sentence Family at the end of the year
Make a birdhouse with Dad
Complete one knitting project
Go to the Planetarium at least once
Attend theater once
(And then I make a booklist for read-alouds and Circle Time.)
Two things about setting goals: first of all, do not overplan. Leave plenty of breathing room. Not every subject is done every day. You want time and focus to go slow and deep with education. You want time to follow bunny trails and interests. Rushing from one subject to another is not the way to go. And you’ll need extra time occasionally when life happens.
Secondly, I do not schedule out skill subjects such as math, writing, phonics, or music. My goal with these is to learn to mastery. Every student has his own pace. Pushing ahead when not ready does not provide a solid foundation or a sense of success. Notice my math goal does not say “complete Strayer Upton math” but rather “work on daily.” There is nothing wrong with slowing down or redoing a lesson when needed. Make curriculum your servant, not your master.
And that’s it. A calendar and a list of goals. I do not make daily or weekly lesson plans. (I do, however, give students a planner when they are old enough to organize their own work. More on this later.) This method has just enough structure to give us direction and a sense of accomplishment, yet we are relaxed and flexible too.