Now that I’m home from the convention and we have finished up our last few subjects, my mind is turning to planning the new year and using all of the materials I purchased in June!
This is our fifth year of homeschooling, and although I’m starting to feel as though I finally have some sense of what I’m doing, this year I will be teaching three grades–plus some kind of “tot school” for Jack! The third- and fourth-graders have enough of a foundation now that we can start to add some additional subjects, such as Latin, art, and Bible, and I feel I can also step up the requirements in areas such as neatness and diligence.
It’s time to make sure I have the year well-planned before I forget all my neat ideas and the January doldrums hit.
The first step in successful homeschool planning is always evaluation. Not just testing, but looking at the year past, considering the students, and writing down what I thought went well, what went poorly, and why I think things went as they did. I try to do this by subject–Did we complete the material? Was the curriculum easy to use? Did it keep the children’s interest and build a desire to learn? Did they retain the information?–and by child–What did they enjoy? What was their best and worst subject? Did they do better at any point in the day regardless of subject? What did they go on to learn independently? What attitudes did they have? This evaluation helps me determine curriculum, schedule, and what character issues I need to focus on in the new year.
Secondly, I look at the calendar. I look at the year we completed and note when we took time off. We school 11 months out of the year, using eight-week blocks, with time off for holidays and as needed. I also look at which subjects took the longest to finish and try to understand why. I then look at the new school year’s calendar, divide it into blocks, and write in the things I know we will need to take time off for (holidays, visit to family in Kentucky, etc.) This tells me where I will have gaps in the school schedule and I use that information in the next step.
For the third step, I look at each subject and divide the number of chapters or lessons by the number of weeks we will be in school to find how many lessons we need to cover each week. I use that information to write the actual lesson plans and to build our daily and weekly schedule. Our core classes–reading/phonics, spelling, and math–happen every day, while other subjects–such as science, history, and Latin–are taught once or twice a week.
Once I know the rotation of lessons and how many we need to go through each week, I write the lesson numbers into my planner along with short notes on supplemental reading, projects, etc. I try to be aware of holidays and breaks, and may combine some lessons or shift the order around to ensure that lessons with multiple parts are not split by a break.
Finally, I do as much of the copying, printing, and collecting of supplies ahead of time as I can. This year, I have a file drawer specifically for printouts and am planning to make all of the copies I can for four children ahead of time so I can just pull them out when I do my weekly preparation.
Planning ahead makes such a difference to my attitude and ability to “do school”. I am much more able to change and adapt to circumstances when I have a framework to follow and have taken the time to consider the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of all involved!
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a houseful of young children, special needs, discipling hearts, and abundant grace! As a homeschool graduate, she has an especial burden to encourage mothers to know and enjoy their children. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.