Originally Sent: 5/21/2015

HSLDA's Toddlers to Tweens Newsletter

May 21, 2015


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Is It Really Time to Plan for Next Year Already?

Vicki Bentley Vicki Bentley

Facing that huge pile of curriculum for a new school year can be daunting! I remember being reduced to a sobbing mess that first year when the box of materials arrived and the reality of the homeschooling decision set in. So how can you stay calm as you organize for your upcoming school year?

Rough-sketch Your Year’s Plan

First, take a deep breath! That pile of material is just your toolbox, not a test. Outline a plan for the year—you may take some detours, but at least you had a route mapped and can be headed in the right direction!

For each subject, decide what you want to accomplish (and nobody says it has to be every page of every book), then divide that roughly by your nine months and jot down those chapters or topics or units. While I would have a basic overview for the year, I’d actually lesson plan only about eight weeks at a time—and be sure it’s in pencil, because it’s bound to need some adjustment!

The first year I homeschooled, when the box of materials arrived, I was so overwhelmed, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. But the year went relatively smoothly, and by the end of the year, homeschooling was just a natural way of life for us. God gives you the grace you need!

Make It as Relevant as Possible.

Subjects are always more interesting when they are relevant to us or can be tied to something we are passionate about. Knowing our children’s interests can help us as parents get more excited about presenting a topic.

For example, your roller-coaster enthusiast might become more interested in physics introduced in the context of amusement park rides and the science behind them. The budding storyteller or novelist can be inspired to learn editing and revision, literary style, vocabulary—not to mention word processing and keyboarding—as he develops his own composition. In a room makeover, let the child pick his own paint and then calculate his room’s square footage, and the amount of paint needed, then the total cost of the project.

Check out the curriculum section at Toddlers to Tweens. Lots of materials are written specifically for homeschoolers; many are literally scripted, some are lesson—planned out for you—something out there is a good fit for your family.

Generate Some Enthusiasm (His and Yours!)

What does your child enjoy when he’s not doing schoolwork? Look at his interests and his passions, and find ways to capitalize on those. For example, a friend taught her son to alphabetize in one afternoon by teaching him how to organize his favorite baseball cards alphabetically. It would have taken her weeks using her standard language arts lessons, after he’d slithered to the floor from his chair in despair.

Read up a bit on learning styles, and try to include some work that is “up his alley,” so to speak. Depending on your child’s interests, you might sometimes offer a pick-your-own-topic unit study. Or maybe celebrate some holidays as homeschool curriculum!

Some of the motivation factor depends on the age of the child. For an older child, consider including him in some of the decisions—what science or history topics does he want to know more about? Would he prefer to write a report or do an end-of-section project? What foreign language sounds interesting or useful to him? Even a younger child can tell you what he knows and what he’s wondering about a topic.

It helps to dangle the occasional carrot of fun family project for closure, such as a medieval feast to finish a Middle Ages unit, or a few off-the-wall holiday celebrations, such as Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Keep things light occasionally with fun and games in your homeschool.

Be excited about being with your children as they learn—your enthusiasm can rub off on them!

Life Happens; Be Realistic

You are a family, not a school, so have realistic expectations. It helped me to rough out a routine or pattern for the day, allocating certain amounts of time to different tasks or school subjects to be sure I was not trying to cram more into our day than was humanly possible! (I love Renee Mosiman’s encouragement in The Smarter Preschooler to create an intellectually stimulating environment, not an intellectually demanding one.)

You don’t have to be SuperWoman. Build in some down time. If math is a tough subject for your kids, try math lessons on four days, then math games on Friday—if they’re done with the week’s math lessons, they can play math games (for us, anything with points or money); and if they are a bit behind for the week, they use that day to catch up.

On the occasional catch-up-the-house days (yes, it’s okay to plan for those periodically—just keeping it real, folks), let the kids sort the Legos and the Matchbox cars and the puzzle pieces. After all, classification and organization are science, math, and language arts skills!

If it drives you bananas to have dishes in the sink and the beds unmade, take care of those quickly in the morning before you start. Home management training is part of a well-rounded homeschool program. When you feel that your homemaking is somewhat in order, then you can have hope for another day of language arts and math and science!

And if you feel that life has simply broadsided all your efforts this past year and you are way more than a bit behind, you may need to start by re-defining “normal” for your household.

If this is the case, “You can’t change what you have or haven’t already done the last year. Just start where you are, ask the Lord to make you a “joyful mother of children,” pray for grace and wisdom (and strength and patience), and move forward.”

Keep Your Eye on the Goal

Some days it’s hard to keep our eyes on the long-term goal of homeschooling—it’s so easy to get bogged down in daily life! How can we start the year joyfully and finish well?

Sometimes the roadblock is that we don’t have a finish line for the day or for the year. Set attainable and—most importantly—measurable goals, then break those long-term goals into smaller chunks that you can actually check off your to-do list!

For example, a long-term goal such as “teach Susie to read” can be broken down into baby steps such as (1) Add 20 minutes of read-aloud time to each day, (2) Research phonics programs, (3) Call ABC Company for pricing.

Sit down with your spouse to complete a “Lessons Learned” worksheet to evaluate specifically how this year has gone, to help determine what to do the same and what to adjust for next year.

The definition of finishing well will surely vary by household; for us, finishing well means we’ve made not only academic progress, but more importantly, spiritual progress and character development. A wise friend once challenged: What good does it do for our children to make it into Harvard but not into Heaven?

I must ask God to continually renew in us His vision for our family. Working in my own power is so overwhelming, but I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! “We can make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Walking one step at a time,

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant

(Portions adapted from a previously published Homeschool Heartbeat episode and from earlier articles by this author.)

"Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens" is a newsletter of the Home School Legal Defense Association. All rights reserved. For more information on Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens or the Home School Legal Defense Association please contact us at:

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