Are you ready to plan a new homeschool year?
It's that time of year when homeschooling moms are getting ready to plan a new school year. Follow along as I take you through each of the steps I take to plan a successful homeschool year!
New to homeschooling? Find everything you need to know: How to Homeschool.
Step one: Setting Homeschooling Goals
The first step in planning a successful homeschool year - goal planning.
What's the first step you take when planning a homeschool year? Usually, it's sifting through that pile of homeschool catalogs sitting on your shelf. Or maybe it's asking what other homeschool families will be using. Maybe you're not too sure about your teaching abilities for a certain subject so you buy 2 or 3 programs to cover one subject.
But there is a better way to begin the process of planning for a successful homeschool year. The first step - deciding on the most important goals for each child.
Why should you set goals?
- They provide a set parameter for your homeschool days
- They keep you from overbuying curriculum
- When times get busy you'll know where to put your focus
- They give you achievable points to work towards
- They provide tangible markers of your child's development
Here are the goals I set for TJ's 4th grade year:
As you can see they aren't anything particularly special. But they help to keep me on task. Instead of getting off track I know where I want to put my focus. I want her to improve her recall of math facts and writing in cursive in every subject by the end of the year. I don't need to buy piles of curriculum to meet those goals. Finding ways to work through those goals a little bit every day and every week will give tangible results in the long run.
How do I know what goals to set?
There are a few things to consider when setting goals. First is what your child has already learned. Have they learned their basic addition facts? Then perhaps the next goal is to drill those facts for quick recall and then move on to learning subtraction. Many skills follow a natural progression so it's easy to see where you should go next.
Another tip is to consult your favorite homeschooling books. I flip through my favorite books (here's a list of my favorite resources) and jot down notes about things I know we need to work on.
Now that TJ is getting older I also spend time talking to her about important goals. As she gets older, I think that much of this will move to her shoulders as she becomes more independent in her learning.
Ready to set some goals for your new homeschool year?
Step Two: Choosing Curriculum & Evaluating Plans
Are you getting ready for a new homeschool year?
That's what's happening here. We're nearing the end of TJ's 4th-grade year and I'm in the middle of planning 5th-grade! The last few years have gone so quickly and I'm still a bit in shock that I'm planning middle school lessons now.
My first step was to sit down and read through some of my favorite homeschooling books and list out my goals for 5th grade. While I'm refining my goals I start looking at curriculum. We really enjoy the programs we use so, for some things, it's just a matter of moving on to the next level. Sadly, some of our favorite programs end with 4th grade so I have been researching new choices for those subjects.
After setting specific goals it's time to shop!
When I know my goals for the year and I have a good idea of what we'll be using it's time for my favorite step - shopping! I make a list of what we'll need and the places I shop. There are a few stores and vendors that I purchase from so I take a look at their catalogs or online stores. I note prices and get my finalized lists ready. Then I place orders and wait for those shiny new books to arrive!
What to do while you're waiting...
While I'm waiting for my packages to arrive I start the next step - mapping out a general course of study for the year. Most programs have free samples online so I can see how many chapters or lessons each book has. I use this information to fill out a simple chart. If I can't find a free sample I'll wait until the book arrives before mapping out the year.
The formula is very simple - divide the number of lessons or chapters by the number of weeks you plan to have school. A general rule is 36 weeks (we have a few extra weeks tacked on at the end for the odd day or two that we miss).
This serves a few purposes:
- Number of lessons or chapters we need to cover each week to finish by the end of the school year
- See at a glance how much work we'll be covering each week and adjust accordingly
- Provides a rough estimate of how long the school year will take
- Keeps a clear record of how much we've completed by certain dates
Evaluating your plans
Once your books arrive it's time to evaluate the course of study you've decided upon. Look through 5 days of lessons and make sure you can cover the amount you set per week. Of course, once you start the school year you might realize that you need to adjust things. But since the year is plainly mapped out on one page it's must easier to see how you should readjust.
As we work through the year I check off each week. If we don't get to a subject one week (which has happened with Latin) then I can see at a glance how that will affect our end of the year date. In our case, I can see that we would be finishing Latin early so it's okay if we miss a week or two. We'll still finish before our 36th school week.
Here's a blank course of study form to get you started:
Do you create a yearly course of study?
It's an important step for me and I refer to it quite often through the year. No matter what method I use for the day-to-day planning I can always get a quick look at what we've accomplished, what we have left to finish before the end of the year, and any adjustments I need to make to our schedule.
Step Three: Planning, Printing & Preparing
We have set goals, purchased curriculum, and mapped a course of study. Now it's time to get down to the heart of organizing for the year.
Planning, Prepping & Printing
This step takes the most time but it is really worth the effort. Instead of having to prepare and print pages or gather supplies each day or week, I do it all before school starts. It's a lot of work but, when it's February and just getting through the homeschool week takes effort, I appreciate that I don't have to search for random supplies or make photocopies.
The method looks the same for every subject. First I start flipping through the teacher's manual and student book. I make note of any pages I need to photocopy. I create a supply list (usually divided by term). I print necessary files if there is a CD involved. Each subject gets the same in-depth treatment.
After I've finished looking at each book I make the photocopies, print the files, shop for supplies, and get things organized for the year.
What's your method?
There are a variety of homeschool scheduling methods. Workboxes, loop schedules, checklists, we've tried them all. But I've found that I like simple systems. Having to fill workboxes each night is a chore. Loop scheduling is great for large families but I just have one. Checklists haven't stuck (TJ will be getting one next year though - time to push a bit more independence). So I keep it simple.
I have a weekly schedule that I fill in on Friday afternoons for the next week. That goes on my clipboard with other papers I like to reference (course of study, days off record sheet, reading log, and 13-month schedule). We've settled into a daily routine that works for us. No strict schedules with enforced time slots here. Certain things get done before lunch. Other things get completed after lunch. That's it.
We each have a box that holds most of our books. There are two more bookcases in the living room that hold reference books, binders for storing completed work, boxes for math and science supplies, a crate for craft supplies, and a shelf of index card boxes and pencil cases. It's not rocket science but it keeps us organized.
Now it's time to think about a schedule.
Creating a school calendar is the next step on my list. I use a 13-month calendar from Donnayyoung.org and highlight our vacation days and plan our terms accordingly. We have 6 terms a year with each being 6 weeks long. Between each term we take a week off with longer breaks at Christmas, Easter, and summer. I cross-reference this with our course of study and confirm that we're on track.
My last step is to organize our boxes, my clipboard, supplies and do one final check to make sure we're ready.
So there's a peek at how I plan a homeschool year.
It's quite a bit of work up front but worth it in the long run! Each week I just need to make sure all our papers are put away, write down books read, record any days off, and schedule the next week. No need to gather supplies or photocopy pages because it was all finished before the school year began.
The last step?
Taking a break before the new school year begins! During this time I love to listen to some homeschooling audios - they are my "summer teacher training" before the new school year begins.