I’m still having trouble creating benchmarks.
How do I make sure I’m going to be able to fit it all into a year?
How quickly should I move through the book?
Creating Benchmarks by Doing the Math
Sometimes it’s easy to break course material down into benchmarks and other times it just takes a little more effort. If you’ve processed through all of the instructions for creating benchmarks and you’re still not sure about some subjects, here are some additional tips.
Read the introduction to the teacher’s guide.
Many guides give an actual schedule or at least an idea of how many lessons to complete per week. Or, they will tell you about how long a course should take — one full school year or one semester, for example. If the program centers on a weekly schedule, the guide may indicate which activities to complete each day.
For example, a spelling program might schedule one full “lesson” each week that includes a pretest for Monday, copywork for Tuesday, an oral spelling test for Wednesday, a practice test for Thursday, and a test for Friday. When creating benchmarks, you would anticipate completing one lesson per week, so you’d mark on your Benchmark form that you intend to be done with lesson 6 by the end of the first 6 weeks.
Count how many weeks are in the program.
If a program follows a weekly schedule, lesson planning could be as simple as writing “Begin Week 1” on Monday and “Finish Week 1” on Friday for those who love flexibility. If you like more detail, you can divide up the week’s assignments based on what best matches each day’s routine.
For creating benchmarks, count how many lessons there are in total and divide that number by 6 to see how far you need to be by each 6-week evaluation in order to be done in a standard 36-week school year. For instance, if your program has 108 lessons for a school year, divide that by 6 to see that you need to have 18 lessons completed by your first 6-week evaluation.
So, on your Benchmark form, you’ll put Lesson 18 on the 6-week column, Lesson 36 on the 12-week column, and so on. This then allows you to easily see that you will need to complete 3 lessons each week in order to reach your benchmarks.
Divide the days by the number of lessons.
For a program with 90 lessons, you would divide 180 school days by 90. You will want to schedule the lessons every 2 days. Or you could even divide by the number of evaluation points you have.
When creating benchmarks for every 6 weeks, you will have a total of 6 evaluations throughout the school year. So, you would divide 90 lessons by 6 to see that you need to complete 15 lessons every 6 weeks. Some weeks you might need to complete 3 lessons in a week while other weeks you’d only have to complete 2 lessons.
This same approach works if you want to divide the number of chapters in a reader or read-aloud by a certain number of weeks/days. If you wish to read a 30-chapter book within a 6-week evaluation period, you’ll want to read a chapter a day.
Using this system, though, be sure to pay attention to content. Some lessons or chapters may be longer than others and require more time. Don’t let yourself get caught off guard and thrown off because you just looked at numbers and not at the material.
When Creating Benchmarks Isn’t So Clear Cut
Sometimes it’s not quite as mathematically easy to divide assignments out for creating benchmarks smoothly. Or, perhaps you’re uncertain how quickly or how slowly your student will actually move through the material. While you’ll still want to create benchmarks to the best of your ability, here are a few tips for dealing with some of these uncertainties. (Remember, you can always update benchmarks during the year if you need to!)
Make notations in the textbook. If you’re using a boxed curriculum complete with a textbook, activities guide, quiz book, and test book, write notations at the bottoms of the textbook pages telling the student what to do after reading. Then, if your student would like to do a little more work in a day, they know what to do.
Set parameters for self-paced programs. If your program provides a set of workbooks for your student to progress through with no particular schedule, set a reasonable amount of time for daily work on each workbook and let your student work for that length of time every day. Some days they will make more progress than others, and that’s okay. At the end of each week, compare progress to your benchmarks to see if you need to make adjustments either to your benchmarks or to the length of time you’ve set for daily work.
Round up or round down. In a perfect world, all programs would have lessons evenly divisible by 36 or 180. So, what happens if you come up with fractions of lessons? You have two options. If you wish to keep your weekly schedules as light as possible, round down and plan to trim the program or extend the school year to accommodate the extra lessons. If you prefer to have a buffer of time at the end of each semester or school year to review and reinforce, round up and schedule more lessons per week.
Creating benchmarks to facilitate your homeschool plan can be intimidating, especially when you encounter the teacher’s guides that don’t give quite the amount of guidance you’d like to see. Simple arithmetic can get you off to a good start, though. Once you have a general outline established through your benchmarks, you can flex and make changes for more intense or lighter weeks.