July is upon us and my thoughts are caught up in the planning of this up & coming school year.
King James Version (KJV)
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
For everything, there is a season; the season of goal-setting and curricula organization and school event scheduling is upon me. Is it upon you too?
I do not know how you run your home school: whether you have a state program or a state department that you must answer to and / or submit information to; if you are an Alaskan Independent Home School that means you answer to no man other than your children, your spouse, and yourself. My background comes from the former but I now partake of the latter. Regardless of where and who has ultimate control and authority over your home school, much of what I would like to share about planning and organizing will apply and can be utilized. I’ve tried to summarize the basics of organizing a home school year into three steps.
Step One: Goals
Every summer I take an assessment of my family as a whole and of each, unique individual that makes up the whole. It is the time to make new and adjust the old goals. We take each June and July to set new family goals and personal goals for the year. During the family assessments, I look over each child’s individual needs and set my goals for them. Each child also gives me a list of the topics and subjects that they want to learn about along with any of their own personal goals. Once these lists are in hand, I find I am armed with the best ammunition necessary to go to battle with the second, and oftentimes most overwhelming, part of organizing and planning our school year: the curricula.
Step Two: Curricula
So many choices, so many styles, so many methods, so little time! What is a mother (or father) to do?? Forget the hype and what worked for your neighbor. When it comes to planning what curriculum you intend to use, pick up your goals lists that were created in Step One! If you do not know where you want to go, how do you plan on getting there? I like how C.S. Lewis put it; a ship on the high seas must ask itself why it is out there, how to keep from sinking, and how to keep from bumping into other ships?
If you have many children of various ages and grade levels, often the concept of the one-room schoolhouse is popular. This is the perfect arena for many of your family goals! Many one-room school homes utilize unit studies. Unit studies are a great way to integrate family goals with structuring of individual goals. Do not underestimate the power of individual study time. Here each child’s list plays an invaluable part; structure and plan the curriculum or books that will aid each in the pursuit of their personal needs and personal goals.
Once you have outlined who does what and when, start looking at curriculum if you haven’t already. See which ones meet all of the needs set forth in the above paragraph. This means not just ages and grade levels, but all of the goals that are listed (both personal and family). If you are a very textbook, school at home type of person, you may be disappointed. Yet, this is precisely the area that homeschoolers excel. We do not have to follow the same textbooks that the public schools do! Most, if not all, curriculum will need tweaked here and there to fit those needs and goals that have been outlined.
Step Three: Scheduling
What do you want your school year to look like? Independent home schoolers thrive in this area. We call it flexibility. We need not follow the public school calendar! We can school all year round or just the winter months. We can take November through January off for holidays! What do you want your school year to look like? When do you want to “start” and “end” the current grade year? Do you want to schedule 6 weeks followed with 2 weeks off? For more hands-on and field trip oriented families, do you want to schedule one week of academics followed by one week of activities and field trips?
Once you figured out what you want your school year to look like, you can begin to narrow things down. First, set aside dates for special events or holidays. This is where you schedule down time, such as “Christmas Vacation” or “Grandma’s Visit.” Next, figure what you want your typical month to look like. Are you actively doing “school” type activities all seven days a week, or are you following the traditional 5-day workweek? Figuring out a typical month should be less stressful than picturing the entire year.
Once you have your “typical” month figured out, time to look at a week. Are you planning to cover all academic subjects every day or do you want to rotate or alternate? For example, one year our family did Social Studies on Mondays and Thursdays, Science on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Wednesdays were project days. The “3 R’s” were covered daily.
Last, you need to figure out your daily schedule. How do you want the “typical” day to look? Note, I did not say the perfect day! When I say “typical,” I am only meaning a basic outline, not an ideal. Take a good look at mornings vs. afternoons. Don’t forget to include priorities, such as chores vs. academics vs. activities. My family functions smoother if basic chores are completed in the mornings. Depending upon the day of the week, we have group studies in the morning right after chores.
I hope this post is found useful. The internet is abounding with information; often so much that it is overwhelming. I would like to list a few of the online resources that I have found most helpful in my years as a homeschooling mother. This list is by no means all-inclusive, nor am I trying to sell any of the products available on these sites. Please feel free to suggest any sites that you have found helpful, too!
http://donnayoung.org – lots of planners and print-outs here.
http://www.cindydownes.com – creator of “The Checklist” which is a very comprehensive list that is great for folks putting together their own unit studies or for people who want to add to an already published unit study.
http://notebookingpages.com – must register to be able to get access to free stuff; our family uses notebooking for all subject areas.
http://www.tjed.org – website about the philosophy and method of “A Thomas Jefferson Education” by Oliver DeMille.
http://www.dollarhomeschool.com – website for the EES curriculum; includes useful information for any homeschooler and has other useful links.
http://simplycharlottemason.com – website devoted to the late Charlotte Mason and her educational approaches.
http://robinsoncurriculum.com – website for the Robinson Curriculum yet has much useful info for any one homeschooling and other useful links.