Planning Season. I mention that here every year about this time. I don't know if it is daunting to readers when they see me write it... or if it peaks curiosity. I know I am naturally curious and I love peeking into how others get it done. So, I thought I would share how I roll out lesson plan season today (and the next 2 Fridays in part 2&3)
Before I get started I also want to acknowledged the pre-packaged prepared curriculum does all this for you but reviewing lessons is always helpful so you know what to expect. ALSO, unit studies and lapbooks tend to cover the spectrum of subjects and save a lot of leg work as well. These are ideal for younger years and still somewhat possible for high schoolers. My kids actually like book-work (weird, I know) (and I love teaching it) so we are more eclectic meets a Charlotte Masony traditional homeschool!! Read on if you are intrigued....
What is Lesson Planning
For different people it can be different things. For me, it is usually 2 straight weeks at some point in July where my husband practices patience with me while all our school books and worksheets are spread across the dining room table, not to be moved until I am done going through all of them and compiling a comprehensive list we can proceed to live the next 9 months by! Sound chaotic? It actually isn't and with my list-making personality type, I actually find this to be therapy!! But even the most list leery person can draw some usefulness and encouragement if done to their fitting...
I actually start around April or May by estimating what we will be studying the coming year. I don't commit these estimations in ink yet, rather, I draw up a general idea I can take with me to curriculum sales in May (in my area) and begin ordering the books. I like to have all my main curriculum no later then the beginning of July. There are usually some inevitable last minute purchases but the crux of our learning tools are on hand while I begin planning.
Shortly after we finish our school year, while it is fresh in mind, I like to sit down with a binder I keep of their records and notes on learning and assess how our school year was. What worked for us, what didn't and make notes to myself as to what I want to be sure to try for the coming school year. Once my notes are done I tuck my binder back for a month or so. Moms need schooling breathers too!
After a few weeks off and usually by July, I pull back out my binder. I pause and I pray for God to show me what I need to see and guide me in what we need to do. I review my notes not just from the school year we have finished, but from previous school years as well so I don't repeat the same mistakes! I then add to my list of what I want to shoot for in the coming year both personally and academically. I set goals which are reasonable but also a bit challenging. For example, one year I had a hard time with my son injecting silliness into more serious learning segments. I set the goal for the year for him to learn to listen better and hold silliness for more appropriate settings. I also drew out HOW we would work towards meeting the goal.
With all of these things in mind, I finally pull out the materials I have planned to use for the next year along with any other extension material which may be useful (i.e. worksheets or articles I have collected which pertain to different areas of study we will be covering). I like to sort my potentials into piles based on subject. And then, within each subject, based on student. Sometimes I have multiple materials for one subject I am considering, for example, this year I was considering between 3 different spelling/vocab programs for Brooke. They all went into the language arts pile to be considered and dealt with as I fine tuned my lesson plans This phase is that simple: sort.
Getting my plan on...
Once my piles are sorted, I consider how long it will take me to plan out each subject. Some subjects come with their own lesson plans I will just follow. In those cases, I still like to set aside some time to review what will be expected of me and if there are any additional supplies they will need for the course. Other courses I tend to pull from multiple sources and lesson planning helps me make sure I know what we are doing with each lesson (this is most common with us for History and Science since there are so many extension activity potentials with these). Honesty moment here: I tend to be forgetful. If it isn't written down it may potentially be spaced out!
Once I have estimated how in-depth (or not) I need to go with each subject then I consider how much time I have each day for planning. Some subjects will take multiple days to plan, and that is ok. Hence the monopoly on the dining table!! Wherever I decide to start, I grab that curriculum pile and jump in. I will sort through any books I am trying to decide between (like my spelling this year) and narrow down to the exact ones I am using, skim them, and write out what pages and topics we will cover each day (more on this next week)
Don't forget the extras...
As I plan out lessons and resources I also keep a running list of school supplies. You know, like the one the public schoolers grab at all the stores right now telling them how many pencils and markers and boxes of Kleenex they need for the year?! Yeah, kind of like that. Pencils and paper are a given and I will often check my back-supply in case I have extra. However, you may realize you are doing a lot of maps this year and you need new colored pencils. Our Language Arts Program requests a binder with 5 dividers. I know Algebra will require graph paper at one point as well as a good calculator and ruler (the numbers are rubbing off on their old ones!) You get the idea. As you asses each subject, planning lessons, and/or looking over the curriculum requirements, be sure to get those supplies listed out and purchased while all the great sales are going on. (consequently, Office Max/Office Depot and Staples offer teacher discounts even to homeschoolers!)
Once I am done with lesson planning, and I try to keep each subject within a certain time frame (maybe 30 minutes long when they were younger and up to an hour now that they are high school), I look at our days. What time do we want to start? When do we want to be done by? What is the best flow for our day and their learning ability.... Math in the morning or after lunch? When do they start to phase out of learning for the day and which subjects require their best brain power so how can I schedule to optimize their learning. I will literally draw this up, print it out and post it in our schooling area. I even give a copy to hubby and grandparents so they know what we are up to! (especially if they are tempted to call during that time!)
Through this whole process, if at any point I feel overwhelmed in the decision making or unsure of what to choose, I pause and pray and Seek God's guidance. Sometimes I have to sit something down and come back to it later in the day or on the next day so I can clear my mind of all the jumbled mess. This is also why I start in July... I have plenty of time to work through it all.
As I finish my lesson plans for the coming school year I will take a lot of pictures and plan a final post in this short series so you can see how it all looks for me (the pictures above are from previous years).
This process may seem daunting but it isn't as overwhelming as it might sound. It is a measure of work, yes,... but it is worth it to be organized and ready for the year. Our first few years of schooling I wasn't as committed and I wish I had been... I think we would have been able to relax more knowing what we had going on, what to expect next, and not worrying about falling behind!
More next week!
As for today, however you plan or prepare for your year, I pray God guides you right where you need to be in it all!
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