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The Organized Mom’s Guide to Beginning Homeschooling Part 3: Curriculum, Schedules, and Planning

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Welcome to Part 3 of the Beginning Homeschooling series. Now that we’ve discussed how to get started, let’s start! Let’s talk about planning, schedules, and curriculum. One of the beauties of homeschooling is its flexibility. You have the freedom to choose curricula that suites the needs and interests of your children, to create a schedule that fits your family’s routine best, and to map out a homeschool year that is unique to your family. And, you also have the freedom to change any part, at any time.  Ah, sheer beauty!

Choosing Curriculum

Choosing curriculum…ahhh, how wonderful that sounds! It makes me practically giddy just thinking about it, even though my two students are all grown up now.

Choosing curriculum is personal. Choose faith based curricula, whole packages, individual subjects from a variety of publishers, co-op classes or online classes. Or, try a combination of the above resources for a truly eclectic approach.  Be wary though, because there are a LOT of homeschool products and curricula available. No worries. The 3 Cs of curriculum shopping to the rescue:

  • Conversations: chatting with fellow homeschoolers is a gold mine of information.
  • Curriculum Fairs: attending a local or state curriculum fair is an excellent opportunity to view curricula, products, and online academy classes firsthand as well as shop for gently used books.
  • Catalogues: even though print and online catalogues are a more passive way to view curricula, websites often have samples and customer reviews for your consideration. Mary Pride’s Big Book of Learning books, big catalogues in disguise, offer great insight: Volume 1-Getting Started, Volume 2-Preschool and Elementary, and Volume 3 Middle and High School.mary-prides-big-book-of-learning-2

Creating a Schedule

When creating your homeschool schedule, consider your family’s normal routine. Do you have early birds who are up with the sun , ready to “catch” their assignments? Or, do you have sleepy heads, content to doze away the early hours in dreamy slumber? Thankfully, it doesn’t matter. You’re a homeschooler now. No worries about missing the big yellow bus!

Whether or not your state requires you to keep a daily log, I highly recommend doing so. I always favored a traditional teacher’s lesson plan book (one for each student), and these days, there are a multitude of homeschool specific lesson planners everywhere. A quick google search, and planners of every style are at your fingertips. Choose from among traditional planners, free downloadable planners, and editable online planners. Schedule week to week or pencil in the whole month.

Now, you can more easily create weekly schedules for your students. Think about subject and time arrangement. Most states do not dictate how you arrange your week. You don’t have to teach all subjects every day, nor do you have to homeschool 5 days a week (see your state law). We homeschooled year round, but did take some time off in summer as well as eased into learning with 2 or 3 day weeks in August. During our 5 day weeks, I liked to add a little spice to the week with special days as mentioned above. We’ve had Read-a-thons, Movie-a-thons, hands-on project-a-thons, etc. Nature appreciation days, explore another culture days, and practical skills days are some other great ways to have great fun while learning.

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As my students got older, I gave them the option of creating their own schedule. As long as they completed all of their work by the end of the week, all was well.

Planning the Homeschool Year

Now, let’s plan your homeschool year from start to finish. Yikes! I know. But, remember, it’s simply just a map to guide you. When driving to a new destination, a GPS or paper map guides you, yes? So, think of your yearly plan as your homeschool GPS or your Guidance for Personal Scholars.

Personally, I’ve found that a simple blank month template works wonders. I simply download, print and make 12 copies. Both WinCalendar and Calendar Labs offer a wide variety of free downloadable and printable calendars. This calendar or map, will note the following important information:

  • Days you plan to homeschool: some state laws require that learning takes place on a specific number of days, so the simple act of numbering your days can be a big help. Mark down co-op days, online class schedules, and the like. This handy map can also help you to keep track of sick days or family emergency days, so that you can make up lost time later.
  • Holidays
  • Field Trips: labeling field trips or prospective field trip days gives you something to look forward to as well as ensures you don’t forget a cherished activity or a new activity posted in the paper or community bulletin board.
  • Special Days and Activities such as family birthdays, visits with grandparents, Read-a-thons, trips to the library, etc.
  • Volunteer Commitments: just as important as academics, this is a great place to keep track of everyone’s volunteer commitments.
  • Notes on Scope and Sequence: taking the time to plot out the course(s) of instruction for each homeschooled child sounds like a major undertaking, I know. Again, it’s just short notes. These little post it note-like reminders will truly help you to keep on track, especially when homeschooling multiple children. Notes can be as simple or as detailed as you like. Even just a textbook and chapter number is sufficient, a subject abbreviation plus chapter number, unit study project title, experiment title, chapter # or vocabulary lesson # test, etc. Well, you get the picture.

When you’ve completed your yearly plan, punch holes in each month, and secure them in a binder. Whether you homeschool year round, follow a traditional school schedule, or march to the beat of your own unique schedule, this map will guide you well. It feels soooo good to be organized, doesn’t it?

Happy planning! Happy homeschooling!

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Karen Doll

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