Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind. —Charlotte Mason
Now on to ground-level lesson planning . . .
Can you find two to three hours of uninterrupted time? Being able to really focus without interruptions will make it go faster and more smoothly.
You’ll want to have handy the four things that will help you rock your planning session and the answers to your questions from Lesson Planning Part 1.
Of course, you’ll need some way to keep track of your lesson plans. (If you’re not sure how you want to do this, you can get a quick overview of popular homeschool planning options here.)
Breakin’ it down
Just like so many other aspects of homeschooling, in lesson planning you get to plan your own adventure! You may want to think about your homeschooling style and curriculum:
- If you are using a primarily textbook-based approach this year, take a look at the curriculum you have chosen.
- What if you’re using a curriculum that is focused on living books (like Charlotte Mason), or
- What if you’re using a hybrid approach such as a co-op, cottage school, or university model?
- What if you’re building your own curriculum completely from scratch, using library books, printable worksheets, or even creating your own worksheets, quizzes, and tests?
Is there any lesson planning that’s already done for you?
Ask these questions:
- Are you using a curriculum that provides lesson plans? (Lesson plans may be provided in a teacher’s edition, a textbook, or a separate booklet.)
- If your child is attending a co-op, are the classes supplemental or do they involve core subjects? Does the co-op require daily or weekly work to be done at home?
- Will you teach each child individually or will you teach all of your children together for one or more courses?
PRO TIP: Be sure to keep the syllabus with the material your children will be covering. If you don’t write these into your own planner, make sure you keep them with your planner.
Now roll up your sleeves . . .
Curriculum doesn’t include lesson plans? No problem! Here’s how to cover the material you want to by the end of the year.
How many weeks will you be homeschooling? ________
How many pages are in the textbook or resource? ______
Divide the number of pages by the number of weeks—this is how many pages you’ll cover each week for this course.
So, what will this look like each week?
Let’s just take the first four-to-six-week chunk and start charting it in your planning tool.
- Decide which days you’re teaching which subjects.
- For subjects your child will study at home, you might use the subject and page numbers to indicate what you’ll cover on a day or in a week.
- You can indicate co-op, hybrid school, or other group learning days with a simple word like “co-op,” and, if you’d like, you can add your child’s assignments (such as brief book titles with page numbers) for each gathering.
- Remember to leave days open for tests, writing assignments, or projects.
- Field trips, reading days, and some service projects may also count as school days.
For elementary age children, math and language arts involve skills that benefit from or require daily reinforcement to “stick,” so you will probably want to cover these subjects four to five days a week. (By the time your child is in junior high, they may not need as much repetition and they may prefer working through their subjects in blocks.)
Other content subjects like history or science can often be taught two days a week. You could also decide to teach science one semester and history the next. (This can work well even for K–6 students.)
PRO TIP: Traditional textbooks often review the previous year’s concepts in the first few chapters. And in the final few chapters, they introduce new concepts so that next year, when it’s time for your child to learn the new concepts, they’ll seem familiar. Depending on your child’s needs, you could skip either the review at the beginning or the introductory material at the end. (If this idea worries you, take a minute to list all the textbooks you totally finished while you were in school. It might not take long!)
Now you’ve got a plan for your first four-to-six weeks of school.
After a victory lap (or a celebratory piece of chocolate), repeat this process for the next four-to-six weeks. Before you know it, the school year will be completed!
A Couple More Tips
- Make sure you’re tracking progress consistently in the same place. If your curriculum offers lesson plans, you can note completed work on those pages. Or you can record it in your planning tool. If your co-op has a syllabus or assignment list, you’ll want to keep these together with your completed work records.
- Include your children in the planning process as much as possible. You want to develop independent learners who seek to own their education.
When Homeschooling Meets Your Life
You will have some wonderful days where you will be amazed at all you have accomplished.
You will also have some awful days where all your schoolwork is derailed—by sickness, home repairs, bad attitudes, and even unexpected guests. (You can also have really good days where all your schoolwork is derailed—seize the day!)
It’s OK to push your assignments back a day or two, for instance from Tuesday to Wednesday. If you miss a day in some subjects every once in a while, it is not the end of the world.
At home, you can make up a lost day fairly easily. You can combine two days’ worth of problems or questions and work with your child orally to complete them more quickly. Or you can reduce the number of assignments for the days you are combining.
If your child is struggling, you can spend more time to help them really get the concept. Or move on more quickly if your child has mastered the material.
Everybody needs a change of pace occasionally. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house for a field trip or off-site study day. Do you have something going on every day of the week? Declare a reading day at home! It’s amazing what switching things up can do.
There are minor interruptions . . . and then there are natural disasters, chronic illnesses, job loss, or the death of a parent. These types of catastrophes will take some regrouping and major re-planning.
The books we choose are our curriculum. The interruptions are God’s curriculum. Some of life’s hardest circumstances will become some of your children’s best teachers! — Educator Ray Vander Laan
What If I Need Help with Lesson Planning?
Feel like you’ve reached an impasse? Here are a few suggestions:
- Find an experienced homeschool mom whom you respect and ask for help.
- Contact HSLDA’s educational consultants if you are a member. They’d be
happy to help you with general or specific planning, such as high school or special needs.
- Reach out to your curriculum provider. They may offer educational consultants to help you decide what material to buy, how to use it, and how to plan.
- Connect with local support groups or a statewide homeschool organization—they may be able to connect you with veteran homeschool parents or even provide educational counseling and support for members.
How Can I Involve My High Schooler in Planning?
If your student is in high school, you may want to have a separate planner for them—and invite them to participate in curriculum selection and the planning process as much as possible.
This allows you to walk them through the planning process starting with their 4-year plan and gradually transition them to recording what they need to do on a daily and weekly basis in their own planner.
When your high schooler gets to help pick out their curriculum and design their schedule, they’re enjoying more freedom and taking more responsibility, which can give them a deeper sense of ownership of and excitement about their educational journey.
Here are a few things to consider when planning for your high schooler:
- Do they want to go to college, and if so, where? Make sure you find out what the admissions requirements are. The same applies for employers or the military.
- Does your student need to take the ACT, PSAT, or SAT?
- Will they take dual-enrollment classes or attend a co-op?
- Would an internship be of value?
- What service opportunities will they participate in?
- What are their special interests—music, art, sports, politics, etc.?
- Do they have or need to get a job?
4 Key Items to Always Record
Regardless of your student’s age, always keep a record of the following:
- The books they read
- The places they travel to
- The extracurricular activities they participate in
- The service activities they perform
If you make a habit of recording these things early on, you will have a remarkable record of what makes your child’s education unique and engaging.
These records become particularly important in high school.
(And if you want to do something extraordinarily painful, try to reconstruct all of these things from planners, emails, and text messages at the end of the year. Just the thought of this should make you scramble to get out pen and paper now and start recording!)
That’s a wrap!
You’ve planned out your year and you’re ready to dive in! Way to go!!!
As you and your child embark on this adventure, please take a few minutes here and there to stop and breathe and ask yourself and your child, “How are things going? Any stuck places or obstacles we need to try to move?”
Feel free to adapt, adjust, and switch things up to address areas that aren’t working. Got any “wins” that deserve a high five? Celebrate the accomplishments in a memorable way! You got this!
Looking for a planner? Read on: Part 3—Choosing Planning Tools that Work for Me