How I Plan For A Year Of Homeschool

Oleanders and Books, Vincent Van Gogh Image courtesy of Wiki Art

Can you believe it’s already July? I can. I’m about done with Summer to be honest.

We finished our 16/17 school year way back in May, and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Thank goodness I plan to start us back to school August 1.

I originally intended to do a modified year-round schedule wherein we would school six weeks on/one week off and take the entire month of July as well as six-ish weeks off from Thanksgiving to the New Year. But since the girls were itching to start school early last year, and then we also forgot to take a couple of our scheduled weeks off (which I think speaks volumes about this lifestyle…we forgot to take a break from school…more than once…chew on that a minute)  we finished early this spring, which led to us having extra weeks off in early summer. (Although we’re still doing reading and Math…shhh, don’t tell the kids it counts as school…suckers!) It hasn’t been as structured as I need for my sanity though, so I think it’s time to ease us back into a Charlotte Mason Summer schedule, and then start back to AO in full force August 1.

That means it’s time for Mama to start planning and get some ducks in a row.

The first thing I do is set the dates for our school year.  I like printing free year at a glance calendars from Anny Studio for this.  I start at Thanksgiving and count back six weeks, then cross the 7th week off for a scheduled break.  Then I count back another six, cross one off and so on until I get to August 1.  Then I go to the New Year and count forward six weeks, cross one off etc. until I get to July.  Sometimes it works out to not quite six week intervals, but that’s okay as long as you get your 36 weeks in all.  (Or however many your state requires–find out here.)  We ended up with 37 scheduled last year, which gave us plenty of wiggle room.  Joy of homeschool in Washington State–we don’t have to report our schedule, so as long as it works out in the end I don’t worry too much about shifting dates, or taking time off as needed.

We follow Ambleside Online for our spine curriculum, so my next step is to print the book list and 36 week schedule for the year.  AO years don’t necessarily correlate with public school grades, so at this point I’ve chosen to keep my girls in the same year.  They still do Math and Language Arts at their own level.  More about that later.

Next I go over the book list and see what I need to buy.  Ambleside uses public domain books as much as possible.  Many are available free for Kindle, or as e-texts from Project Gutenberg, or audio books at Librivox.  They also provide alternative suggestions for the books that must be purchased.  Between what we already had on hand, and what I was able to get for Kindle, I will only need to purchase three books for the upcoming year!  I do prefer “real” books over ebooks, so I am always keeping my eyes open for quality hard copies of the Kindle books.

At this time I also take a look at Ambleside’s composer, hymns, folksongs, and artist studies for the upcoming year, so I can have prints made (public domain images can be printed on card stock by Walgreen’s or Office Depot very inexpensively) and create or find youtube and prime music playlists, and decide if I want to sub anything out.  I make note of these right on my 36 week schedule so that I don’t have to keep looking up what I’m supposed to be singing/looking at each term.

I feel like we floundered a bit with Math last year, mainly because I couldn’t decide on a curriculum.  I wanted something not too teacher intensive, like Teaching Textbooks, but the cheapo in me couldn’t spend the money for it.  We tried, Moby, and Kahn Academy (both free) but I didn’t feel like either of those was linear enough.  The girls would do their work each day, but the progress graph never seemed to change, so I was never sure if they were making any progress.  With a workbook, they bring it to me, we go over whatever might be incorrect and I can physically see where they are.  But I keep hearing such wonderful things about Khan Academy that I am giving it another trial for summer, just to rule out the possibility that the problem with it wasn’t my own lack of understanding on how it is set up.  This year I will likely get them some basic grade level workbooks and also use Khan Academy as a supplement/evaluation tool.

I’m also considering pre-planning this year’s copy work (This is the beginning of language arts in a Charlotte Mason style education) and scripture memorization, so that I don’t have to come up with those as we’re going along.  Last year we did it off the cuff, choosing whatever we liked best from what we were reading, or looking up inspirational quotes and scriptures.

Finally I plug everything into a Course of Study, to be sure I’ve got all my bases covered.  This wouldn’t really be necessary if one were to purchase a complete open and go curriculum, but since I’m pulling resources from several places, I like to lay it all out in one place so I can see how I’m meeting each of my states eleven required subjects.

Now all that’s left is daily and weekly planning.  For this I simply take 5 minutes each Sunday to look at the week ahead’s scheduled readings, as well as a look at any appointments etc.  I put a M, T, W, TH next to each reading selection, two or three each day. Again, I just scribble right on the 36 week schedule.  For Math we just do the next thing, so I don’t pre-plan that with the exception of giving errand days lighter workloads.  I leave Friday open for catch up, field trips, Nature walks etc.  This works well because the kids feel like we don’t have school on Friday, but I know that what we’re doing “counts”.  Once that’s done I just sit down each evening and write out a checklist including the next day’s chores, reading, math and copy work for each kid in her spiral notebook.  I leave these on the kitchen table with sharp pencils so they are ready to go first thing in the morning.  I really liked having most of the written work all in one place last year.  Minimal paper-clutter that way.  The notebook checklist also allows the kids to be largely self-directed in case I need to be out of the house or otherwise busy.  I wrote about our average day here.

That’s it!

Reading back through all that it sure seems like it would be easier to open a box and do the next page of the workbook, but that’s just not my style!  If I wanted to follow someone else’s plan to a T they’d be in public school.  😉

Are you doing any planning, dreaming or scheming for the upcoming school year?


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