It’s the most wonderful time of the year:
Time for school planning!
We’ve been off school a month now, and I know what we’ll be doing next year. The books have all arrived, the pieces fit together, and now it’s time to work out the details.
My youngest will be 5 in November, and so she’ll start easing into some school routines besides Morning Time with the family.
PreK is pretty casual around here – even when I’ve had early readers, they are early readers despite me, not because of me. 4-year-olds do need books and language and outdoors, but they don’t need lessons. Still, my 4-1/2-year-old is asking to learn how to read, so instead of waiting until the second half of the year to work that in, she and I will do 3x a week couch lessons for 20ish minutes that will include 5-10 minutes of phonics. She is also starting to write letters, and so someone should be having her practice starting from the top.
My oldest will be 14 in August and starting high school!
So that’s new.
But it’s not really too different. He’ll be continuing in math, reading and writing in history & science, doing the next level of logic. His year this year really won’t look too different from last year.
So, they’re all a year older and we’re all moving upward and onward, but it’s always just the next step.
Goals & Priorities
This is my 10th year of homeschooling, and I feel like I have the scope and sequence, a bookish liberal arts program, pretty well in hand. We love poetry, Shakespeare, and Tolkien. We read, draw, and read. Thanks to a friend who schedules them, we have regular nature walks.
But the worst thing to do at this point is to sit back and think I’ve got it figured out. I don’t. So far, so good, but it’ll only continue to be good if we all – myself included – continue to grow. Repent. Rejoice. Repeat. Every day, and also every school year.
The curriculum might have been easy to pull together, and the checklist routines were figured out last year, but this year brings its own challenges.
My temptation in the face of 5 students, classes, and an online business hobby will be to treat each child like a checkbox and to move through the ropes as efficiently as possible. Yes, each child will get time and attention, but I know I will tend to dole it out as the next thing on the docket without taking the time to look into eyes and care – not about the books read or the work done, but about the person right in front of me, right then.
So these are my own goals for my own teacher-self, which are much more important than any student goals on the list.
- Whenever I sit next to a child to help, I will begin by looking into their eyes and smiling.
- At least once per day, I will work in at least a side-hug or shoulder-rub while each child is doing work.
- Every tutoring session must elicit at least a chuckle from the student, or it’s a dud. Full laughter is better.
On my notecard, daily to-do, or school plan – whatever I’m looking at – I’ll be summing these tactical, practical, relational goals as “Look. Hug. Laugh.”
On the Docket
Everyone has math, piano, Morning Time, artist study, and Shakespeare.
- 9th grade – modern history, biology, music appreciation, early modern literature, essay writing, logic, Basic Christianity
- 7th grade – ancient history, science history, informal logic, poetics, grammar, ancient literature, study through the Bible
- 4th grade – modern history, science topics, Gospels, studied dictation, beginning writing, mapwork, Latin
- 2nd grade – modern history, science topics, Gospels, studied dictation, mapwork, Latin
- Pre-K – phonics, basic penmanship, beginning catechism, picture books
The best thing about short lessons is that you get concentrated lessons, do strong work, and it doesn’t drag out all day. We do short lessons, and Bible, Morning Time, piano practice, and math are the only things that happen every day. So even with the following list – with a nature study morning a couple times a month – we’ll generally be done by 1:30, with a lunch break.
Knowing the end is within sight – both daily and in terms – helps us all keep focused and dig in. Everyone gives up when they think their checklists are life sentences. So discouragement usually first gets a time management pep talk – because I’m a fun mom like that.
The pieces of planning
When I plan, these are the pieces I am pulling together:
- Each person’s books
- A yearly plan with dates for each six-week term
- A weekly time budget with class times, school times, errands, and life necessities (like meals) plotted out – does it fit?
- What subjects and books we’ll do in the mini-co-op classes I teach
- A Morning Time procedure plan with the binder contents chosen (i.e. poems, etc. for the whole year)
Then, once those pieces are in place, I start getting more granular:
- Plot out how many pages of each book needs to be read per week
- Figure out how to assign each book or subject
- Create & print anything (and everything!) that needs to be printed – yes, for the whole year if I can manage it
- Order everyone a math book at least 1 level beyond the one they’re in now
- Set up everyone’s Morning Time binders
- Print & page protect & organize the memory work for each term
- Create each person’s master Trello checklist
- Create a teacher’s weekly summary master list
- Create a Monday Meeting agenda checklist for each child
- Create a teacher’s weekly review checklist for myself
- Walk through each day of the week multiple times in my mind’s eye, looking for logistical snags I can bypass with planning and tactics.
- Buy school supplies!
- Set up the bins of books and supplies so they’re convenient, orderly, and ready-to-go.
That might sound like a lot, but really I walk through the planning as described in Plan Your Year – once piece flows into the next, and by the end of June, I’ll be open-and-go ready for the rest of the school year. I do plan down to page numbers, but in a “flow chart” sort of a way. Our school calendar has 34 weeks of school, and most subjects I’ve planned for 32 weeks. After all, life happens and we don’t want to drag school on into the lovely spring because we were sick for a few days in January.
The process of planning
I could try to go into a big, long article on how to go from blank paper to a completed school plan that’s ready to go, but I’m not going to because my friend Pam already has done so, more thoroughly and more helpfully than a blog post ever would be.
If you need planning help, you need the Plan Your Year Planning Kit.
And if you’re discouraged by your own planning efforts so far, check out this great article she wrote:
The four keys she outlines are pretty much the entirety of any homeschool planning secrets I might have – so I guess they weren’t really secrets. :)
Seriously. Plan Your Year is awesome because Pam is the best at step-by-step instructions and keeping concepts approachable. If you need some help pulling together a complete and thoughtful school plan, there is nothing better out there than Plan Your Year.
Plus, a little birdie told me that the price is going up on June 20th – so if it’s school planning time for you, you’ll want to get the manual on homeschooling planning now.