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Homeschooling Thru High School
You can Before H.S. During H.S. After H.S. Resources FAQs Blog

Carol Becker

Diane Kummer
Diane Kummer

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

We hope to meet you
in person!

September 17, 2016: CHEC High School and Beyond Seminar—Parker, CO (Carol)

January 28, 2017: Home Educators of Grove—Richmond, VA (Diane)

Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? Purchase a recording of HSLDA’s High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality event and watch sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and more—with lots of encouragement!

Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.

The Inside Track on Lesson Planning

Dear Friends, September 1, 2016

The new school year is here, and the thrill of opening all your new resources now gives way to questions about how to use all of these wonderful materials. The way to get the most out of your homeschool curriculum is strategic lesson planning. If your homeschool follows the traditional model for certain subjects, then you may have purchased textbooks, teacher’s manuals, lesson plans, and chapter tests. Some families gravitate to unit studies, which combine multiple disciplines (i.e., history, English, and Bible/theology). Your family may prefer a less structured approach, which allows parents and teens to pull together resources from a wide variety of sources. Realistically, many families adopt an eclectic approach, which combines the best of traditional curriculum, unit studies, and less traditional methods.

Wherever you are on this spectrum, we encourage you to make the most of this school year by harnessing the power of lesson planning.

Plan for success

The new school year brings a lovely vision of homeschooled students raring to tackle interesting subjects and discuss them around the family table. If this is your first time homeschooling a high schooler, then you may have lots of questions about how to accomplish this. As you endeavor to raise independent learners, here are some questions to help you evaluate last year and set appropriate lesson planning goals for this year.

  • What types of assignments caused confusion or apprehension?
  • Can your student break up large assignments into manageable daily tasks?
  • Can your student manage his or her time to meet reasonable deadlines?
  • Did outside activities, personal habits, or disorganization cause your student to feel overwhelmed?
  • What proved to be the most effective method for teaching new skills?
  • Has your teen developed study habits?
  • Did your student manifest some learning disabilities that need to be addressed?

Your answers to these questions are invaluable as you think about lesson planning. If you have a struggling learner, please visit the Struggling Learners section of the HSLDA website for more information. If you’re an HSLDA member, you can call our Struggling Learners educational consultants for curriculum guidance, teaching modifications, and specific advice.

Purchase or create lesson plan assignments

Parents use lesson planning to organize a course into weekly or daily assignments to ensure that students cover all of the required material. You may purchase lesson assignments or you can create them. Remember that the structure of a lesson plan governs a subject’s pace and productivity.

Traditional textbooks and unit studies generally come with lesson plans created by the publisher, and these include the assignments students must complete to earn high school credit. Generally, we recommend that students complete at least 75 percent of the lesson assignments. This doesn’t mean that students should stop after completing lesson 90 of a 120 lesson textbook. Instead, students should complete the textbook, but parents should realize that students don’t need to do 100 percent of the problems in each set.

In any subject area where parents have specialized training, educational background, or work experience, we encourage them to create their own lesson plans. If history is your passion, then find books that make this subject come alive for your teen. Gauge the appropriate amount of material to cover each week so that students will read selected books and complete purchased resources within the school year. Finalize your planning by listing the skills your student should learn and then refining your lesson plans to include regular evaluation of your teen’s understanding and retention of course material.

Chart the school year

Make sure that you understand the number of instruction days or instruction hours required by your state’s homeschool law. For a free summary of your state’s homeschool law, click here. Families can choose a year-round schedule or a traditional school year schedule. The year-round system offers students about 40 weeks of instruction while the traditional school year offers about 36 weeks of instruction:

  • Year-round: Five eight-week sessions with a one-week break in between (44 weeks) and eight floating weeks for major holidays or a summer break.
  • Traditional school year: Four nine-week sessions (36 weeks) with four weeks of floating holidays and 12 weeks of summer break.

Once you decide how many weeks will be in your school year, divide the assignments by the number of weeks to discover the pace required to stay on track.

Manage assignments

Peruse the publisher’s lesson assignments to see the various skills students will use or develop in areas such as reading, writing, problem solving, summarizing, outlining, researching, presenting, reviewing, studying, etc. Then you can make appropriate adjustments for your student.

Consider a composition example.  Your teen may have already learned the necessary steps to outline and write an essay, so assignments that frequently require writing skills would be a good choice. However, a student who has not yet learned or honed essay skills would find this frustrating. In order to increase your teen’s skills, you could reduce the number of assigned papers and stretch out the time required to outline and write each paper as your teen practices these writing skills. Then you can reassess the paper load for the second semester.

In math or science, students who have already mastered certain concepts can cover these quickly when you combine related lessons. This gives students extra time to spend later when more challenging concepts arise.

Create a margin

It’s important to build margin into your school year, so you don’t let one or two difficult weeks or months derail your year!  For some teens, one subject may require a year-round schedule (40 weeks) to complete; whereas, other subjects will drop off the schedule after 36 weeks. Teens who compete in sports often need a lighter workload during periods of intense practice and competitions.

Another means to build in margin involves how you schedule electives . Consider taking advantage of planned breaks for students to concentrate on electives such as physical education (PE), life skills, and visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, etc.). Musically inclined students can take advantage of the full year for voice or instrument lessons. When drama and musical theater opportunities arise, see where you can lighten the course load until performances end.

We hope all your academic subjects stay on track this year, but sometimes a subject can get derailed. Homeschooling gives you flexibility to accommodate a student’s area of strength and bolster areas of weakness. Consider stretching a problematic subject into a year-round schedule. Asynchronous scheduling can give you the margin you need to help your student succeed in difficult subject areas.

Organize with deadlines

Both parents and teens benefit from deadlines, and meeting deadlines ensures progress.  Parents have flexibility to move deadlines, but constantly changing them should not be the norm. In some subjects, students may need daily deadlines. For example, you could set a deadline for math problem sets to be completed by a certain time each day. You meet the same deadline by returning yesterday’s graded work. For subjects with daily deadlines, we recommend that you don’t assign a problem set on the same day that you give an exam.

Other subjects like history, English, foreign language, and science benefit from weekly deadlines. Just as your teen would complete homework assignments for a co-op or online course, you can set a weekly deadline for each course you teach at home. Begin with one subject and give your teen a week’s worth of assignments to complete. Observe how students respond to managing their time and breaking up bigger assignments into more manageable daily assignments. This is a critical life skill, which teens master by doing. Knowing when students will have their assignments completed helps you to schedule reading discussions , quizzes, experiments, and tests.

When you take time to plan your teen’s lessons, each student benefits by not only learning the course material but also improving study and time management skills. Both you and your teen will see progress throughout the year because you have prepared to meet goals and complete courses on schedule. Lesson planning provides the track to keep your homeschool headed towards the finish line!

Join us next month as we tackle grading guidelines to give you methods to grade systematically.

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants