Homeschool Planning

One of the keys to starting our homeschool year well is my before school planning. For many years I winged it (not by choice, it was usually due to a new baby or a move, sometimes both) and I always felt unprepared, behind, and my kids missed out on a lot of cool activities because we didn’t have the materials to complete the projects.

For the past few years I have purposed to spend two to four days homeschool planning. My kids are now old enough to babysit themselves and my husband was also able to take all the kids out of the house on the final planning day so I could finish everything before school started.

It is important to begin planning with a plan. That sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you don’t know what you are doing I can assure you, very little will get accomplished during these planning hours. For the homeschooling moms I know, time is limited, so it is important to make the most of your planning sessions.

Here are the things I set out to accomplish during my planning time.

Familiarize Myself With All the Curriculum

There is no way I can read every page of every book for each child before the school year begins, but I do look through everything and make sure I understand how to use the books. Since we have been homeschooling for a while there are a few subjects that I am very familiar with like 1st grade math and the Explode the Code Books. But there are a few, such as Pre-Calculus and Latin, that I need to learn a little more about before we begin.

Make Copies for the Year

I find that making copies during the school year never works well for me. The kids and I will be sitting down at the table, ready to work on school and I realize that they need a page copied out of the back of the teacher’s book, or we need a duplicate of something. I get up to make copies and by the time I change ink in the printer, find paper, and make the copy, my kids have left the table and are busy doing something much more interesting than waiting for mom.

Two classes, Rosetta Stone Spanish and Personal Finance publish all the worksheets on CD’s, so having those printed, hole punched, and ready to go before the first day of school makes a big difference throughout the year.

Finalize Curriculum Choices

There is always one subject in limbo until right before school starts. This year it was Bible. I asked on Facebook and Twitter for suggestions and was overwhelmed by the great responses. I also talked with a few homeschooling friends locally and got their opinion on my high school Bible choices. I spent a few hours looking at books online and going through the ones we already owned. I didn’t make the final decision until about a week ago.

Begin the 2010-2011 Paperwork

I like to have all my paperwork ready before school begins each year. My planning time allows me to set up grade books, hours sheets, attendance forms, book lists, as well as forms for the county and our umbrella program. My favorite site for forms is DonnaYoung.org. I am so thankful I found that site years ago as it has saved me hours and hours of time. Donna Young is a free resource with many downloadable forms. It isn’t just a site for homeschoolers, you can find calendars, chore lists and more on this site.

Create Curriculum Supplements

I have a hard time going strictly by the book, so I usually end up adding to or changing our curriculum. This year I really wanted to do the The Original 21 Rules of This House with all my kids. I thought it would be a perfect way to begin the school year by making sure they all knew what my expectations where for their behavior. The problem with this book is that it is definitely geared toward younger children. I spent some time creating supplemental material for my older children so they could participate in this study without feeling like preschoolers.

Out With the Old in With the New

Since we reuse folders and notebooks, I make sure they are all empty and ready to go for the new school year. Papers are sorted and filed or thrown away, books are packed away for another child, and old crayons, pencils and markers are tossed. My kids usually help with this part of the planning.

Find and Print/ Bookmark Supplemental Curriculum from the Internet

There are so many awesome FREE homeschool resources on the internet. I like to have extra coloring sheets, cutting practice worksheets, and games printed and in the kid’s binders so they have something to work on if I need them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I also bookmark websites that I have approved for them to play on during school hours. For a list of great free websites visit Five J’s homeschool downloads page. This is my go to page when I am looking for good homeschool web content for my kids.

Relax and Remember that School is Fun

Depending on which state you live in and its homeschool requirements, homeschool planning can often feel like a chore. This year I felt like I spent almost as much time on paperwork as I did on the planning! (Not really, but it felt that way) As you look through the books remember, they are a guide not your master! If you wake up to a beautiful day, ditch the books and head out for a nature walk. Take advantage of the homeschool days in your area and go on lots of field trips.

Homeschooling is more than books and paperwork, it is a way of life. Live it.


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Homeschool Traditions

I think it is important to establish traditions with your home schooled children. A few traditions we have are school supply shopping and first day of school celebrations.

Every year the kids and I go shopping to pick up some back to homeschool supplies. This usually means notebooks, pencils, and a little something special. This year my younger children picked out some very inexpensive calculators as their special purchase. I was hesitant at first to buy these calculators because I could see them ending up in our junk drawer, but my kids have been playing with them all week. Even my preschooler is adding numbers and having fun while learning!

After the school shopping trip we head out for a special back to school lunch. We talk about the upcoming year, expectations, favorite subjects, and anything else that is on their mind about school. The kids really look forward to this special time.

We also have a first day of school celebration. This year it will actually be a second day of school celebration, but we’re taking the whole family to a baseball game. We like to do something with dad to kick off the school year and this year we were able to get some baseball tickets, so that’s how we’re celebrating.

I also try to get pictures of the kids on the first day of school. It is fun to look back over the years and see how much they have changed. My oldest reminded me this weekend that this is her last year of “official” homeschooling, as next year she will take classes at a community college. Wow. I can’t believe she is almost finished. It seems like just yesterday we were pulling out those green Bob Jones Reading level one books! I know when your kids are little and you’re surrounded by Cheerios and dirty diapers it is hard to believe that time flies, but trust me, it does.

Whether you homeschool or not, creating traditions with your kids is a great way to create memories that last a lifetime. I still remember baking cinnamon rolls and pies with my father every December to take to families in our church. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, just something the kids know they can count on happening year after year.


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Homeschool Curriculum 2010-2011

Here it is, coming down to the wire with less than a week before the “official” start of school, our 2010-2011 Homeschool Curriculum. Over the next few months I will be discussing in greater detail, why we do what we do, and how it works for our family. This list is always changing and doesn’t include any of the supplemental reading books we will use over the next year. To keep updated on what we are reading check out the Amazon widget in the sidebar as it will change weekly with our current reading list. Almost every book is a link that you can click on and find out more about that curriculum, look inside the book, or even purchase. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or email me.

Our 2010-2011 Homeschool Curriculum

4 Year Old Girl

6 Year Old Girl

Bible

Language

Math

History

  • Pilgrims (co-op)

Science

Art

8 Year Old Boy (delayed reader)

Bible

Language Arts

Explode the Code

Math

History

  • Pilgrims (co-op)

Science

Art

10 Year Old Boy

Bible

Language

Total Language Plus

Math

History

  • Pilgrims (co-op)

Science

Art

  • Co-op

Music

  • Piano Lessons

9th Grade (Boy)

Bible

Language Arts

  • Mythology/ Classic Literature Co-op (1/2 credit)
  • Grammar/ Vocab/ Writing (1/2 credit)

Math

Science

History

Electives

Foreign Language

11th Grade Girl

Bible

Language Arts

  • Mythology / Classic Literature Co-op (1/2 credit)

Math

Science

History

Foreign Language

Electives


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Our Homeschool

Next week I’ll be sharing some Back to Homeschool tips that help get my kids off to a great year at home. For my non-homeschooling readers, some of these ideas will work for public school too, so check back next week! This Thursday, I’ll be sharing with you my homeschool curriculum for the 2010-2011 school year. I have done this in years past and it seems to be a reader favorite.

As I have been preparing my curriculum over the last few weeks I have had some things on my heart regarding my homeschool curriculum post that I wanted to share with you, my readers and friends.

This is the curriculum that works best for my family.

Every child is different and every family is different. There is no one perfect way to homeschool your kids. Feel free to get ideas from my list and email me about my choices, but don’t feel like what is best for our family is the only way.

I’m all about eclectic learning.

Classical, Charlotte Mason, Principle, Unschooling, Montessori, Unit Studies, Textbooks, Lapbooks, Workbooks, Workboxes, Co-ops, Online Classes…. I embrace it all. I like a little bit of everything, so we do a little of everything. I don’t follow a particular method for every subject. If it works for our family we use it, labels are for public schools. :)

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I have a large homeschool budget (and a large family).

My homeschool budget is around $2500 for six school aged kids.  My most expensive student this year is my 11th grader. I spent about $800 on her curriculum, that is outrageous- but I know it will last through several kids. I realize many families do not have such a large budget for their curriculum. I feel fortunate that I am able to purchase things for my children this school year that I would not have been able to purchase five years ago. You can homeschool for less, I still use all of the tips I wrote about in that post, and even though this year I will spend close to the $2500 budget, next year I will not spend nearly as much.

There will be gaps.

Just as there are gaps in education for public and private schooled children, there will be gaps for homeschooled kids as well. There are many awesome choices out there for homeschoolers but you can’t do it all. The quicker you learn this the better off you will be as a homeschool teacher and mom.

I don’t do grade levels.

In our homeschool, we work at things until they truly “get it,” not pass a silly multiple choice test or finish the book. If it takes two months or two years it doesn’t matter to me. One of my children could not read well until they were almost 11. Does that mean they needed to stay in the first grade until they are wearing deodorant? Of course not! They moved ahead in some subjects and we continued to work on reading until it clicked.

I don’t do tests until they are at least 10.

Since all my children are one of one in their class I don’t see the point. Tests and grades are used to measure yourself against others. If you get a C- on the test and that just happens to be the highest score in the class, that is a pretty good score. If the teacher is grading on a curve you will end up with an A, but did you truly know the material? I check work for completion, effort, and competency. If I notice that a child continually struggles with a certain skill we go back and review it. The only reason I give tests at all is because that is what society uses to measure knowledge and I need to prepare my students for the life outside of our home.

It’s really all about character, isn’t it?

Sometimes, most of the time, I believe this. But a really great person who can’t read or balance a checkbook is going to have some problems in life. It is my hope to raise hard working, smart kids who are of strong character. I have seen many families focus way to hard on one or the other. I think you need to find a balance.

Different strokes for different folks.

We have never built a life-sized replica of the Mayflower, slept outside for a week surviving only on roots and berries, traveled the United States in an RV getting real life lessons in geography, or memorized an entire book of the bible. It is really hard not to compare yourself to other homeschoolers, especially in this day and age where message boards, blogs, and Facebook allow homeschoolers around the world to connect with each other. Just because the homeschooling family down the street has all eight of their kids in violin lessons and play concerts around town doesn’t mean they are giving their kids a better homeschool experience. Do what works best for your family!

Learning and living go hand and hand.

I often time think we, as homeschoolers, spend way too much time using curriculum when our children our little. I truly believe you don’t need to purchase a thing for your younger students. Children learn best by doing and they can learn so much from you! Read books, play games, cook, clean, take walks, live life!

Bottom line: One of the best things about homeschooling is that it isn’t a one size fits all approach!

Isn’t that the reason many of us started homeschooling to begin with?

  • Perhaps we wanted our children’s education to have a religious foundation
  • A child with learning disabilities is able to avoid labels and can thrive in loving home environment
  • Homeschooling affords a child who excels at gymnastics, tennis, or other activities the flexibility to develop that ability
  • Maybe dad travels frequently and homeschooling allows the whole family to travel together

As we begin another school year, my encouragement would be to spend some time contemplating what works best for your family. Try and sift through all the outside noise and focus on your children’s abilities and giftings. Just because everyone else is using a specific curriculum doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Isn’t that one of the biggest lessons we try to teach our children in life? Sometimes as parents we need a gentle reminder that the same principle applies to us too.



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