We are in our third year of homeschooling and I feel like I’ve finally found a rhythm. Last year we were thrown a curve ball when we ended up having to drive an hour each way to speech, twice a week. It ate up so much of our time and I found myself feeling constantly guilty about all the things we weren’t getting done. We also traveled a lot, so we “did school” fewer days than we had the previous year. This summer I started thinking about what I wanted out of our weeks and what kind of planning would work. Below is how I went about planning my year. I hope it is helpful to those of you looking ahead to next year.
1. Decide how long your school year will be. Count how many full weeks you can reasonably devote to school.
Some states regulate the number of days you need to do school, so keep that in mind. I decided we’d start in early August, simply because it’s easier for us to start early than finish late.
I got out a calendar and crossed off all the weeks I knew we wouldn’t do school. I crossed out the week before and after Christmas, our two week California trip, our two week Florida trip, the week of Thanksgiving, and the week of Halloween. I counted the number of full weeks we could reasonably spend doing school and still finish in May.
For our family, that meant 30 weeks. We still do a little school here and there during weeks “off,” but those are catch-up days.
2. Start with what you want to accomplish by the end of the year.
What curriculum needs to be finished? What field trips will you take? What topics will you cover?
I started with history because it’s my girls’ favorite subject and we wanted to finish Story of the World, Volume 3 by the end of the school year. I had 30 weeks to fit 42 chapters, so I decided which chapters we could spend a shorter amount of time on and which chapters would take longer. For instance, I gave us two weeks to study the chapter on the Revolutionary War, followed by two weeks to study the constitution.
I labeled weeks 1-30 in a teacher’s planner and wrote the corresponding chapter(s) of SOTW in each week. Then I chose our literature for the year and wrote those titles under the weeks in which they would be read. I also chose possible documentaries, field trips, and other resources, and jotted them down in the week I thought we would use them.
I did the same thing for each of our other programs that I wanted to finish before the end of the year- vocabulary, science, handwriting, Mind Benders, and Building Thinking Skills.
*I keep all of our planned literature on its own shelf. As soon as we’ve read a book, it goes in one of the common bookcases.
3. Use file folders for each week.
Place all worksheets or materials (or notes for larger items) you’ll need for each week in a file folder marked with that week’s number. Place them in a filing box.
I ripped out all the worksheets from Wordly Wise, Building Thinking Skills, Mind Benders, and our handwriting book and divided them into the file folders. I also printed off all the SOTW activity pages and sheets, as well as blank handwriting paper for their note books and put those in the correct file folders.
4. Plan your do-the-next-thing curriculum.
Math and spelling are two subjects I do NOT plan. I move through these with each child at her own pace. I do, however, have an idea of where I want each one to be at the end of the year and I try to anticipate how much we need to work in order to get there. We do math and spelling every day (ok, I’m less than perfect with my child who requires me for her spelling, but it’s our goal), even during the summer. So, while math and spelling are on our daily schedule, they do not make it into my teacher planner.
This method has worked extremely well for us this year. It is simple and very flexible. If we decide to take a trip, we skip a week of school and it’s right there waiting for us when we return. I am not tied to certain dates on the calendar and skipping a week doesn’t throw my plans off. It also allows me to feel confident that, yes, we will get it all done. If we miss a day or two of school, we might catch up on the weekend, or balance it out with the next week’s to-do list. My weekly folders allow for all of us to have closure at the end of the week and start fresh on Monday, without me running around like a mad-woman trying to catch up.
I’ll post more later about what we do with all that work and how I keep my girls organized.