The start of school begins to draw closer and closer. You have your curriculum picked out. You’re excited to start your homeschooling year! And then… you look at the stack of curriculum sitting there…
All of a sudden, this overwhelming feeling starts to take over…
You start to think about the scope of the massive task of getting through all this material…
And you wonder how in the world you’ll be able to accomplish all of this in one school year!
If you’re not careful, this daunting, overwhelming feeling can take you straight into panic or procrastination.
So what do you do? How do you stop yourself from panicking or procrastinating? How do you plan without getting overwhelmed? You break it down.
You start by creating your yearly framework. If you missed this post all about Creating Your Yearly Homeschooling Calendar, click here to read how you can set up your school calendar to work with your family calendar. You’ll discover how to identify the weeks and dates you plan to have your school days. Knowing your framework will be incredibly important as we talk through creating your curriculum plan!
But when it comes to the daily details, the daily list of tasks for you to accomplish in your school day, working off a yearly calendar that only shows you what days you’ll homeschool just doesn’t cut it!
So how do you do it? How do you break it down?
Your Need A Curriculum Plan
You need to create a curriculum plan. Now, this phrase may sound big and impressive, but the concept is really very simple. Create a plan so you know what small piece of your curriculum you will work through on any given school day. You want to create a plan that will work for you. A plan that will help keep you on track and on task. When you have this plan in place, working on a small piece every day, it becomes very easy to work through and complete that huge, intimidating stack of curriculum throughout the course of your school year.
Let’s break this down piece by piece, shall we?
When it comes to creating a curriculum plan, let alone the exact style of curriculum plan to use, you’ll find many different opinions.
Some people think you should have no plan whatsoever. The night before or even the morning of their school day they figure out what lessons they’ll accomplish that day.
Some people create a very strict teaching schedule and stick to it no matter what.
Some people create a curriculum plan so they know where they’re headed and they know the path to get there, yet they build in some flexibility for those unexpected things that arise.
Keep in mind: None of these different approaches are wrong. They’re just different! For my family, creating a curriculum plan gives us our road map for the year. I’ve found that if this framework is not in place, our tendency is to get nothing done! Additionally, I’ve found it much easier to be flexible when the unexpected arises if we have our school plan figured out and written down.
Now, it’s very possible to have a big idea of where you want to go for the year and put together your curriculum plan day by day or week by week. However, I’ve found the best approach is to create a yearly curriculum plan before the school year even starts. And that’s the approach I’m going to walk you through today.
Now, I know the tendency is to get intimidated, but stick with me on this one and we’ll take it step by step, okay?
Planning for Multiple Children
Before you get into the details of planning each subject, you need to answer this question: What do you do when you have multiple children? Do you have to plan out each and every subject for each and every child? No! Not at all! Do you remember the One Room Schoolhouse Approach? Essentially, the concept is to do as much as you can together, then work individually on the subjects you can’t combine. You can click here to read more about this approach.
Planning your homeschooling curriculum is one of those places where the sheer brilliance of this concept comes out. Instead of planning every subject for each and every child, think through the subjects you can work on together. Now, this idea might feel tricky, so I created something for you. I’ll talk more about this free printable pack and tell you how to get yours in Step 3, but I want to let you know about a certain page in this pack. It’s called the School Subject Planning Page. I recommend you print out one page for each child you’ll be homeschooling. On this page, you’ll list out the subjects you plan to cover with your child and the curriculum you’ll be using to teach that subject.
Once you fill out the subjects and curriculum for each child, lay your pages out side by side on a table. You’ll see you have an option to mark whether this subject is an individual or a group subject. Before you start planning out your curriculum, take a few moments and determine which subjects you’ll work through as a family group and which subjects will be taught individually.
History, science, geography, reading out loud, and art or music are all great subjects to do together. While math, individual reading, spelling, grammar, creative writing, and typing are not feasible to do together because everyone’s on a different level.
Okay, now that you’ve determined the curriculum subjects you’ll cover in your school year, let’s start walking through creating your curriculum grid.
A Year by Year Approach
Planning your homeschooling curriculum year by year gives you the opportunity to fit what you want to accomplish into a time frame. For example, if you’re going to study Astronomy for science and you want to get through the entire Astronomy curriculum in one school year, you know you have to plug in all the Astronomy lessons into one school year.
Now, this sounds great in concept, right? But the big question remains: What are the practical steps to make this happen with each subject? Let’s dive in!
Step 1 :: What Subjects are Yours to Plan?
Do you remember the School Subject Planning Page we just talked about? Make sure you have that page for each child in your hand as you work through this first step.
Take a look at your list of curriculum. Which of these subjects are yours to plan? In other words, which subjects will be taught or facilitated by you?
For example, if you’re a part of a homeschooling mentoring program or a co-op that follows a set curriculum schedule, you’ll need to follow the curriculum schedule laid out for you. However, if you are including additional subjects not covered by the mentoring program or co-op, you’ll need to create your curriculum plan for those subjects.
If you’re not part of a group or program that sets your curriculum schedule, you’ll need to put together your curriculum plan for every subject.
So, which subjects will you need to plan? As an added bonus, there is a place on your School Subject Planning Page where you can mark which subjects are yours to plan.
Remember, when it comes to creating your curriculum plan, you can only plan for the subjects you are able to guide.
Step 2 :: Determine the Number of Days
Before you begin creating your curriculum plan, you need to determine how many days in your week will be school days. Now, this depends on the age of your children, how much you plan to do each day, and what extra activities you’ve committed to.
Ask yourself these questions to help you pinpoint your number of school days:
- Have you committed to a co-op or mentoring program? How many days a week is that commitment? How many days will you need to work through the at-home portion of the program?
- How old are your children? Are they preschool age? If so, having school 3 days a week might be more than sufficient.
- How much do you plan to accomplish each day? Does it work better for your family to work through smaller chunks of material spaced out over the week? Or would it work better to have longer schools day 4 days a week with another day for catching up on any assignments or projects?
Remember, this is your homeschool! You can set the schedule in a way that best fits your family! You need to make sure your children are learning and progressing in their education, absolutely! But you can do it in a way that meshes with the rhythm of your family and allows everyone the greatest learning advantage.
One last reminder here: Make sure you check the homeschooling laws in your state so the number of your school days stays compliant with the law. In some states, you may have the flexibility to have school 3 or 4 days a week, while in others you may need to adjust the length of your school day to have school 5 days a week. If you’re not sure about the requirements for your state, check out HSLDA.org/legal for the most accurate information.
Step 3 :: Creating Your Grid Framework
The most helpful tool for creating and planning out homeschooling curriculum is to create a grid. Now, don’t let the idea of a grid scare you! I’m not going to tell you to make a grid and leave you here. Don’t forget, we have a few more steps left! I’ll help you fill in all those grid squares.
Before we start talking about how to fill in your grid, I have something for you: Remember that free printable pack I mentioned before? This is where you can get it! Along with the School Subject Planning Page I already talked about, this pack contains a grid you can simply print and start using to plan out your curriculum. On top of that, there are three different sizes of grids included in this pack so you can choose the one that works best for you. Tell me where to send your Curriculum Planning Pack in the form just below and it’ll be on it’s way to your inbox even as you continue reading!
Now that you have your grid, what do you put in it? The big idea is really simple: Give each week its own page. The subjects you’re going to cover will run down the left hand column and the days of the week will go across the top row. You now have a box for each subject on each day of the week. Again, if you’re looking for a ready-made grid to get you get started, claim your free printables in the form just above or you’ll have another opportunity to claim your Curriculum Planning Pack at the end of this post.
As you look through your curriculum and figure out the lesson you want to do for each day, you simply write it in the box. By the way, I highly recommend using a pencil as you do this!
Remember, there are many different ways you could write down your curriculum plan, but I find using this physical grid gives the best results. When you look at your grid, you can see all the things you need to accomplish in a given day as well as seeing the big picture for your week.
When you sit down to plan out your year, it’s very helpful to print a page for each week right away. This way, as you begin to break down the lessons in your curriculum by week, you can plug them into your grid right away. One last tip: Once you print off these grids, 3-hold punch them and place them into a 3-ring binder! This keeps them all together – and in order – without you having to worry about keeping them in order or someone shuffling your stack of paper!
Step 4 :: Subjects with Set Lessons
So now that you have your grid, how do you begin to fill it out? Let’s face it: Looking at your curriculum and looking at your empty grid and trying to figure out how to break it up into weekly and daily lessons feels overwhelming, right? Don’t despair, my Friend! You can do this! Just take it step by step, deal? And a good cup of coffee while you plan always helps!
The big picture here is to take the curriculum for one subject, history for example, and break it down to a lesson a day. Now, if you’re using a curriculum that’s already broken up into individual lessons, this step is fairly easy! You simply take the daily lessons the curriculum has identified and plug them into your yearly grid.
In some cases, the curriculum might be set up into weeks or units with lessons within that week or unit. For example, Unit 1 contains Lessons 1-3, Unit 2 contains Lessons 4-6 and so on. In this case, look at the grand total of units in the curriculum. Is it that number the same as the number of weeks in your homeschooling year? (If you missed it, you can check out this post on How to Create A Yearly Homeschooling Calendar which will help you figure out the number of weeks in your school year.) If both the curriculum and your year have the same number of weeks, all you have to do is plug the lessons into you grid. If your homeschooling year has more weeks than the curriculum, you can determine what weeks will be a break from this particular subject.
But what happens when your curriculum is broken up by lessons, but not broken up by weeks or units? Well, this requires you to break out your calculator! Take the total number of lessons in the curriculum and divide it by the number of weeks in your school year. This gives you the number of lessons you’ll need to cover in this subject each week.
Let’s use the example of a history curriculum. Say there are 72 lessons in the curriculum and you have a 36 week school year. Well, when you divide 72 by 36, you get 2. So, you would go through 2 history lessons each week to complete your history curriculum in one school year. Simple enough, right?
On the other hand, if you wanted to split the lessons up and do a smaller portion each day, you could take 2 days to cover each lesson and work on your history 4 days each school week.
But what if you wanted to do your history lessons 3 days a week? You absolutely could! If you take those same 72 lessons and divide them by 3 (the number of school days you want to study history each week), you’ll get an answer of 24. This means you’ll need to work through your history curriculum 24 out of your 36 weeks of school. But here’s the beautiful part: You can determine which 24 weeks you’ll work on history! You can work on history for 4 weeks and then take a break for a week or however you choose!
Wow that was a lot of math! Are you still with me? I hope so! Are you beginning to see how you can adjust this to work for you?
Here’s the big idea: You want to figure out the lesson size that will work for you and your family and then put the lesson into your curriculum grid. Looking at it from this big, year-long perspective gives you the ability to break things up into weekly and daily segments that will work for you. This way, when you look at your grid on a daily basis, you’ll know exactly what you need to accomplish in that subject on that day.
Step Five :: Subjects that Require Mastery
Now we come to the subjects that require mastery. These are subjects like math and grammar where you want your child to master the lesson before moving on to the next one. These ones can be tough to plan ahead of time because you don’t know how long it will take you child to master each lesson.
For example, we use the Math-U-See curriculum for our math. This entire program is based upon mastering a lesson before moving on to the next one. My child watches the teacher present the material via DVD to start a particular lesson. Along with the teaching DVDs, there is a workbook that contains 7 worksheets corresponding to each lesson and a test book with not only a test for each lesson, but unit and semester tests also. Once my child watches the lesson, it’s up to me as the parent to assign worksheets so my child can practice and reinforce the concepts presented in the lesson. But here’s the thing: My child does not have to do every worksheet and every test for every lesson! The worksheets and tests are available for me to use and assign, but once I see through my child’s work that they’ve mastered the lesson, they move on to the next lesson.
Now, this method is brilliant but it requires flexibility in planning! There have been some lessons in this curriculum my child has spent 2 days on. In those 2 days they’ve shown me they completely mastered the material and we’ve moved on. There have been other lessons where we hit a sticking point and we’ve hung out in one lesson for 2, 3, or even 4 weeks until they mastered the lesson. On average, each lesson takes about a week to cover and master, but we do not move on until they’ve shown me they’ve mastered the lesson.
Well, what does this look like when planning out our school year? Because the curriculum is set up like this, I don’t fill in what my child will do in their math lesson until the day before they do it. I make sure I have a grid box in my curriculum plan so I know there will be a math lesson, but the exact details of the lesson (the specific worksheet or lesson they watch) is not known until we are walking through it.
Step Six :: Time Allotment verses a Set Lesson
There’s another group of subjects where you may not have specific lessons laid out for you to accomplish. These include things like individual reading or creative writing. Now, when it comes to reading out loud to your children, it’s easy to determine a number of chapters you’ll read out loud and plug that information into your curriculum planning grid.
However, when it comes to individual reading, sometimes it’s better to require your child to read for a set number of minutes a day (according to their age) and keep a log of the books they read. Depending on how quickly your child reads, they may get through an entire book or even multiple books in their 10, 15, or 30 minute time allotment. Or, if they are reading a longer book, they may take multiple days to complete it.
When it comes to these subjects that are very dependent on factors you cannot control (for example, the speed of reading or the length of the book), it may be easier to set a time parameter for the subject.
Another option is setting an amount allotment to be completed. For example, having your child read 10 pages or setting a limit on how long their creative writing needs to be.
Step Seven :: Plan All Your Subjects
As you walk through these steps to create your curriculum plan, you’ll need to fill in your grid for each subject. Now, this can feel very daunting, particularly when you’re looking at an empty grid! But take it one step, one subject at a time. As you do, you’ll begin to see your grid filling out and your homeschooling curriculum plan taking shape right before your eyes.
Final Thoughts :: Be Flexible
The most important thing is to keep a flexible mindset. Now, I’m not saying don’t do the work. I’m not saying that you stop teaching your child. What I am saying is to use your curriculum plan as a guide, not a taskmaster. You want to accomplish everything in your plan, but don’t forget you‘re working with people. If your curriculum plan becomes a taskmaster. If the grid becomes more important than the people you’re teaching – your children – a dangerous shift has taken place.
Yes, the grid is important. Yes, you should work the plan you’ve created. But always remember people are more important. If your child is not understanding a lesson, don’t push on into confusion. Slow down.
Remember, the ultimate goal of homeschooling is learning. Not getting through a set course material. When you keep this mindset, when you keep learning and learning how to learn as the ultimate goal of your homeschooling, all the other pieces will fall into place and your child will continue to learn and grow and thrive!
- Learning: The Ultimate Goal
- How to Begin Homeschooling Your Little Ones
- How to Create a Yearly Homeschooling Calendar
- The One Room Schoolhouse Approach
- How to Create a Daily Homeschooling Routine
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.