I’ve made all of our curriculum decisions now. (Insert welcome sigh of relief!) I still have some things to purchase (mostly the “spines” that can go with our history and science curricula), but for now I’m starting to turn toward planning out our lessons for the school year.
Now, the first snag you run into when trying to create a plan for lessons is HOW on EARTH are you supposed to plan everything out – knowing full well that you WILL fall behind the schedule??? You could simply write up a weekly plan at the beginning of each week. Then again, you need to have a good grasp of how MUCH you will need to plan for the entire year. For instance, if you don’t have an overall idea of how many math lessons are in this year’s text, you can’t know how to break it down into a 1-week or 1-day chunk. Ditto for all the subjects.
So the first reasonable step, it seems, is to take each subject one-by-one and determine how many days or weeks it will take to cover the lessons inside the text. Most schools use a 180-day system, give or take a few days. So you’ll need to see if you can stretch (or shorten) the curricula to that time frame. In doing this, I discovered one of my subjects (Five in a Row Volume 1) only covers about half of a school year. So now I know I’ll need to also purchase Five in a Row Volume 2 this year. Likewise, we will be doing the Prairie Primer for a 2-year stretch (even though the book is written to be done in 1 year), so it took some creative work to stretch it to fit a 1-year schedule just right. With subjects that won’t be done every day, you’ll need to have an overall idea on how to fit the curriculum into your year’s time frame. With subjects that fall just a little short (140 lessons instead of 180 for instance), you’ll know you could schedule that subject 4 times a week instead of 5.
All of these things will help you come up with an overall game plan. First we have to think BIG before we can condense things down small and into day-sized chunks of work. So I made up a list of each curriculum followed by how many daily lessons I had to work with in each book.
Next you’ll need to decide if you’re going to do this on paper or on the computer. Are you going to purchase a planner? Use software like Homeschool Tracker, Simply Charlotte Mason’s CM Organizer, or Homeschool Skedtrack? Or are you going to make your own?
I’m opting to make my own on paper. I don’t want to be tied down to the computer any more than I need to. I like to sit on the comfy couch with my books and my paper and make notes that way. I will be using the free planners and papers available at Donna Young’s site. There are SO many commercial options available that one could get overwhelmed at the possibilities (and the cost at times!). Keep in mind that often the fancy, pricey planners just add a lot of unnecessary fluff. You might not need motivational quotes, reminders to drink 8 cups of water, and a menu planner in your homeschool planner, but maybe you do! If you need a planner that does all that and more, I’m sure you’ll find one out there for you!
There are MANY different ways to chart your course through the school year, but I’ve chosen to make subject planners and weekly planners. I will have a large binder with 4 main dividers: General, Together, Jacob, and Evie. The General divider will contain certain information such as book lists, curriculum choices, a daily schedule, chore list, etc. The Together divider will include the subjects that we do together as a family – mainly things like Bible, Scripture memory, Artist study, Art, etc. The Jacob and the Evie dividers will hold information for each child’s subjects. Each divider will then have the subjects tabbed along the side according to subjects. There are lots of cute options for binders, dividers, and tabs. You can get real crafty with it and end up with something just as fancy as the commercial models out there!
Subject planners are neat-o because you don’t run into the problem of “Oops, we didn’t finish this week’s lessons!” (FYI – this is called the “quarter planner” if you are searching for it on Donna Young’s site.) Each subject is planned out fully for the entire year on 4 sheets of paper (organized by each quarter of the school year). You don’t give each lesson a “day” though! Therefore, when you finish a lesson, you simply move on to the next lesson throughout the year. If you get hung up on one lesson for several days, you don’t have to stress about screwing up an entire schedule! To fill this out, write the numbers of the week going down the side. Along the top, use some designation – just not the days of the week. I used A, B, C, D, E …but I’ve also seen Roman numerals used as well. Truthfully, you don’t need ANYthing along the top, but it might be helpful for some to have “coordinates” to use for reporting purposes.
Okay, so let’s say all of the subject planners are done now. It would take a LOT of flipping around to find out what is going on for each child each day, right? No worries! You can create a weekly planner FROM your subject planners. Basically, before a new week starts, you’re going to take 4 or 5 days’ worth of lessons from your subject planners and condense them onto 1 weekly planner. This time you WILL write the days across the top of the page and the subjects along the side of the page. The weekly planner will be placed smack-dab in the front of the binder and checked off as the subjects are done each day.
This will allow you to see your days at a glance, but there isn’t a ton of stress if you happen to fall behind because you know that you can always re-write things before next week starts. You could also do a daily planner for each child the same way, but I think that might be an unnecessary amount of planning for me. We’ll see though!
As you make decisions on how best to plan YOUR school year and school day, here are some links that I found helpful:
- Trivium Academy: How I Plan a Year
- Magnum Opus Academy: Yearly Planning
- Homeschool Freeb: The HSFB Charlotte Mason Planner
- The Happy Housewife: Tips to Planning Your Homeschool Day
- Hearts for Homeschooling: Free Schedule Planners
- Seeing the Fingerprints: 180*365 Lesson Planning
- And of course, the fabulous Donna Young’s Homeschool Printables and Resources