I have the books. Now what?
Have you ever sat in the middle of the floor feeling both excitement and utter anxiety over the piles of exciting brand new books surrounding you? If so, you’re not alone! What seemed like the perfect resource when building the curriculum order can become very overwhelming when you realize that you have to turn this wonderful resource into a real, practical teaching and learning tool for your homeschool setting.
The solution is a four-letter word that might seem as intimidating as the resource: plan.
Not all of us are planners, but if we are going to successfully tackle the responsibility of homeschooling, all of us need to learn how to create at least a basic plan for the year. The beauty is that we don’t have to all plan the same way. We can plan according to our personalities. But, it’s also helpful to know that there are some foundational planning guidelines we can use, no matter what kind of planners we are.
Points to Ponder
Here are some tips for preparing for the new year.
The first step to planning is to set a start and ending date for your school year. How many weeks are included between those dates? Be sure to also consider birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, holidays, and known commitments while figuring in at least a couple of weeks of discretionary time for medical appointments, unexpected family or friend time, illness, or other interruptions.
You might be wondering if year-round schooling would create an exception to this step. The answer is no. Even if you school year-round, you need to have a goal to work toward in order to make sure your child progresses well each year. So, you still need to set a date at which one school year ends and the next starts. Keep in mind, though, that setting a start and end date can flex from subject to subject. If your student is moving very quickly through language arts but needs a little more time in math, it’s okay to set individual date goals for each subject. You don’t have to hold your student back in one subject just to keep them on track in another.
One of the hardest parts of planning out a year is the uncertainty of how much time is needed for each concept and topic. To help give you an idea of what aspects of the year will take more time and every, take the time to assess where your child is academically before you start planning. You can do this in two ways:
– Assess your child’s grasp of last year’s work to determine what things were processed well, what still takes effort, and what gaps continue to exist.
– Assess your child based on concepts which will be covered in the coming year to see what they already know, what they are able to process with some familiarity even if specific answers to questions are incorrect, and what is completely foreign information.
Some curricula include placement tests with each subject to help you assess your child. You can also use an assessment like Well Planned Start for a general evaluation. If no evaluation exists to meet your needs, use the first week of lesson plans to evaluate how ready your student is for the new year. Use your assessment results to help you evaluate what subjects will need the most time and energy.
At the beginning of many resources, you will see a note that urges you to read through every detail before you get started. But in truth, few of us have time to even scratch the surface of all of that reading! Start instead by taking a quick look at the layout of a typical lesson or unit. Consider the total number of lessons or units, then evaluate how many days you have to complete each one to meet your target end date.
Next, pick a few random lessons from throughout the material and read through them more closely. As you process the material for a typical week or unit, write down any questions you have. Once that’s done, you’ll have context for what information you need to glean from the introductory material. This allows you to quickly skim through the introduction and any teacher notes to find those answers and see if any other information stands out, thus saving you time and mental energy.
Tips for Planners
The temptation for natural planners is to overplan, which can be as problematic as not planning at all. Here are a some ways planners can effectively lay out the year while still maintaining necessary flexibility:
- Choose resources that make it easy to have a general idea of what’s coming or that have clearly laid out lessons or units.
- Use an online or computer based planning tool such as Well Planned Gal’s Online Planner that allows you to easily bump individual assignments and rearrange plans as needed.
- If you are a die-hard paper planner gal, use the digital planner for the whole year, then write assignments for the coming week only in your paper homeschool planner.
Tips for Non-Planners
Planning is necessary even for those who are not natural planners. Without it, there is no framework for ensuring that certain mile markers and goals are reached in a timely fashion. But, it doesn’t have to look the same for non-planners as it does for natural planners.
- When selecting curriculum, find resources that provide pre-done lesson plans to help you stay on track.
- Break courses down into manageable, six-week batches. At the end of each batch, evaluate where you are in comparison to your goal, then set an attainable goal for the next six weeks.
- At the end of each day, jot down what you completed that day so you can analyze what helped your reach your short-term goal or caused you to lag behind.
A Few More Thoughts
Don’t forget that you do have flexibility! For example, if your year seems pressed for time, consider stretching some of your studies (especially Bible, fine arts, electives, foreign language, and supplemental activities) out over two years instead of one. In the elementary years, this can even be done with history and science, leaving plenty of room for math, reading, and language arts.
The bottom line, though, is that homeschooling requires planning of some sort, whether it’s natural to us or not. Although it can be a time-consuming prospect, it does not have to be as daunting as some homeschooling parents fear it to be. Planning can be flexible and structured to match each individual homeschooler’s style and skills.
Do you like to lay out your own lesson plans each year, or does the thought of creating plans induce an anxiety attack? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to discover ways to have a successful and well-planned homeschool year, no matter what your planner personality might be!