Homeschool Planning: What We’re Learning This Year

Our 2020 Plan for 10th grade, 7th grade, 4th grade, and Kindergarten

*I am writing these posts for my friends, workshop attendees, and personal homeschool coaching clients. If you have found your way here from the Google, welcome.  I hope you will find some useful information and encouragement. I love hearing from other homeschoolers, so please feel free to reach out.

I’m very excited to have finally finished my overall Curriculum Plan Grid and the Course of Study plan for each of my children. I wanted to share the “final” product with you, and talk you through some of the struggles and roadblocks I hit with this step this year.

First, I want to reiterate that what I’m sharing here is my process. I do not want you to look at my plan and decide you need to change what you were planning to teach. If you have done the pre-planning process I recommend (posts on that to come!) then when you come to this step, you should have confidence that you have properly discerned your big picture plan for the year. Stay that course.

In this post, I’m just going to talk about the Curriculum Plan Grid and the Course of Study plans. This is where you take the “what” (biology, ancient history, phonics) and turn it into the “how” (Kolbe biology, 5 days a week; Story of Civilization, 2 days a week; Sing Spell Read and Write, 4 days a week).

So without further ado, here’s my Curriculum Plan Grid.

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There are a couple of things I want to point out here.

First, this document is not actually an accurate reflection of what ended up on my Course of Study plans. You may catch some changes that I didn’t bother to update in this document because, ultimately, when I do my lesson planning I will be working from the Course of Study plans and not this grid.

The main purpose of this grid is to make sure I’m checking all of the major boxes. For my older kids this means math, language arts, science, history, and foreign language. For my later elementary kids this is math and language arts. For my Kindergartener, it’s really just learning to read, and only because she’s begging me to teach her. Otherwise, I’d probably let it go another year.

This grid focuses my curriculum search. This year I’m not planning to teach art history or formal grammar or any number of amazing and worthwhile subjects. When I go to my curriculum publishers’ websites, this grid keeps me on the right track and (hopefully) keeps me from buying more than I can actually use (and spending more than I should).

From here, I go to those publishers’ websites and look very closely at the curriculum I planned to use.

This step derailed me this year. I realized I hated the biology curriculum I thought I was going to love. And I spent 3 days obsessing over finding the right curriculum. At three different levels. That would blend together seamlessly and delight each of my children while also preparing them to be Nobel Prize-winning biochemists.

Guess what?

I didn’t find it.

I ultimately realized that unless I wanted to put zillions of hours into planning an already teacher-intensive subject, I was just going to have to choose something really good instead of perfect. For my 4th grader, I ended up deciding to use the science component of a box curriculum set that I check out from our enrichment program each year. It won’t align with what the older kids are doing, but it’s all planned out for me, I have everything I need for it, it’s free to me, and he will enjoy it.

Something similar happened when I looked closely at what I had always assumed I’d use to teach logic. I just didn’t like the look of it up close. So that let to another couple of days of obsessing over what to use for that.

I’ll link to each of the course plans in a minute, but first I’m going to show you what I’m using for my 7th grader because it is 1) the most complicated and 2) a good example of how I use the Course of Study worksheet.

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Let’s look at the first column. It’s pretty straight forward, but I’m going to share some of the other ways you can use it. Here, I’ve just labeled the first box “Language Arts.” On my high schooler’s plan, because I was having a hard time seeing the balance in his Language Arts program and because he has a lot of Language Arts components, I actually labeled each component more specifically – writing, literature, etc.

I’ve also opted not to worry about listing Helen’s violin lessons or other extracurricular activities on this form because I don’t need to do any planning for those things. For my high schooler, I will probably add in “all the things” so that I can have a record to use to build his transcript.

The second column, “resources,” is where I list all of the curriculum, books, video resources, etc., that I will be using. For Helen, this is pretty straight forward, but note that I listed “History Vault” videos. This is to remind me that I paid for that subscription, and I should use it intentionally for this purpose.

Those first two columns are basically just copied from the Curriculum Plan Grid (except where I had major freakouts and chose something new). Columns three and four are where this sheet moves us forward in terms of planning weeks and days.

The third column, schedule, is where I think about how I’m going to fit that particular subject into the weekly plan. Some things are very straight forward. Math, for example, is a lesson a day. I will probably check in periodically to see if we can skip a lesson if I feel like we’re “falling behind,” but for the most part, that one is on autopilot.

Others are on more complex schedule. Let’s look at Elegant Essay in the Language Arts row. That is something I’ll be teaching to my two older kids at the same time. My oldest attends an Options programs on Mondays, so he’s not available that day. When/if Helen’s Options program returns to in-person learning, she will not be available on Fridays. So I am planning to teach that particular subject on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdys.

But Elegant Essay is not a full-year program. I am combining it with Secret Code of Poetry. There are a number of ways I could do tht. I could teach one first semester and the other second semester. I could teach them on alternating days. What I’ve opted to do is to teach a lesson of one and then a lesson of the other. A “lesson” in these programs is meant to take about a week. I’m not going to hold myself to that. If it takes us two weeks to get through a lesson, that’s fine. If it takes 4 days, that’s fine. I’m just going to switch back and forth throughout the year. Also, if we don’t finish one or both books, that’s fine too. We will have worked consistently on writing and poetry all year long, and that will be beeficial to all of us.

Finallly, we have the last column, Lesson Plan Procedre. This is very important. When I go to do my lesson plans for each week, this tells me where to find the assignments. For many things it’s simply the next lesson or the next chapter or the next assignment in the curriculum’s instructor guide. But for some things, I have some work to do up front.

This year, I have chosen a lot of open-and-go curriculum. This makes life easier in many ways. So long as I don’t worry about staying on someone else’s schedule or “falling behind,” I appreciate having someone else lay out the details for me. But there are a few things I need to figure out. The History Vault videos, for example. I will need to make  list of the videos I want to share with my kids organized by historical topic, so that when it comes time to watch the video, I’m not searching around looking for the right one (and then inevitably showing them something too violent or otherwise “adult.”

I will also need to create a lesson plan procedure for her Phonetic Zoo curriculum. This is supposed to be open-and-go, but I like to add in some extra actvities to reinforce the spelling through visual and kinesthetic learning. So I will make a checklist of things to complete for each new lesson. This will be something she keeps on her clipboard or in her binder and refers to each day. I only have to do it one time and I’m set for the year.

So this is the stage of planning where I feel like I’ve won. Decisions have been made. Curriculum has been ordered. Schedules are rough drafted. With all of these big things taken care of I will now move into drafting our daily and weekly schedules. And then I’ll move on to lesson plans, procedure lists, and assignment sheets. Woo hoo!

Stay tuned. Sharing this process with you motivates me. I hope it inspires you as well!

Click on the tiles below to view our Course of Study plans for this year.

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