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Thursday, June 5, 2008

How I Plan a Year

Length of the Year
First I determine how long our school year will be and our starting date. For third grade and preschool, we have a proposed start date of September 15th and the year will be approximately 40 weeks long with most of the subjects ending at 30-36 weeks.

The curricula we use determines how long the year is but also how we approach our lessons. In keeping to a 4 day week, the year gets extended.

I use Tapestry of Grace as our weekly organizer, it has 4 units which allows me to create 4 quarters of our year easily. I've decided to take at least a week off in between quarters and plan for the next quarter within that week off. I also account for usual times off like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Curricula Weekly Approach

-Explorer's Discovery Genesis= 30 lessons, each lesson is broken down into days so it will take 30 weeks to finish

-Horizons 3 Math= 160 lessons. Since we want 4 lessons a week, this will take 40 weeks to finish.

-Prima Latina= 30 lessons, 1 lesson a week will take 30 weeks to finish.

-Explode the Code- books 7 and 8 have 28 lessons combined which will take 28 weeks to finish if we do 1 lesson a week, I plan to start Simply Spelling after we finish these.

- Primary Language Lessons will be at Camille's pace but I aim to do 2 lessons a week, which will allow us to be done with PLL by the end of 3rd grade if we stay on track. I'm not too concerned about finishing on time with this.

-Écoutez Parlez French Oral Program is designed to cover 1 unit per 9 weeks so that is what we'll do.

-TOG is designed to cover 1 unit per 9 weeks.

- Science is *my* subject to design so aligning it perfectly isn't very important to me but if I were using a curriculum, I would schedule this out according to quarters, 9 weeks each.

- Classically Cursive= 1 page a week as needed, no plan needed for this.

-Building Critical Thinking Skills Book 1= no plan needed, this is informal, I've given 1 day for this as much as Camille wants to do in 30 minutes.

-Art and Music= Drawing with Children will be organized, 2 lessons a week and the finish date is not important to me. Music is organized by quarter with an informal approach.

- Poetry Memorization= I just schedule these as I think Camille will be able to handle them but having a master list of poems to memorize for the year helps tremendously. I also took the time to schedule them according to content and when we'll approach them during the year, for example poems about Christmas happen during Christmastime, poems about Spring will be done during Spring.

Once I've figured out how each curriculum will fit into my year, I created an overview (pictured above) of the subjects I want to keep track of our progress with. History, Math, Poetry, Music and Science are the most helpful for me to have on a schedule to glance at. The rest can be "do the next thing" for the most part.

How to figure out how many lessons during the week:

Products like Explorer's Bible Study and Prima Latina have instructions or are formatted to have daily lessons so all I need to do is figure out how often we want to do them. I have chosen to do both daily which makes it easy to follow their format.

Horizons has 160 lessons, which could be 5 days a week for 32 weeks (160 divided by 5=32) but I've chosen to do 4 days a week (160 divided by 4= 40).

How many lessons total= 160
How many days a week you think you want to do the lessons= 4
Divide those and you have how many weeks it will take to finish the total lessons (160) by the number of days (4 days a week).

Creating a Daily Routine
After I have our overview of the year, I create a proposed daily routine.

I figure out what time to get up, how long it will take to get the kids ready for the day (realistically) and how much time to spend on each subject. I plug in the information about how often lessons will be for each subject to complete our yearly schedule and then work out any kinks I see. Everything after lunch is really extra, this year I'm going to try a purposeful use of our afternoon time.

Organizing for the Plan
After I have these foundational plans for the year and the week, I approach organizing each curriculum to fit what I have planned. This year that includes creating 4 quarter binders for me but it also includes figuring out how to approach each subject during the times of the week.

History has 4 days planned a week: I plan out what I think will be doable each day.

Day 1: Read core book, start weekly project
Day 2: Finish core book, do mapwork, work on weekly project
Day 3: Read supplement book, work on weekly project
Day 4: Finish supplement book, finish weekly project
If at this stage you don't have enough time to finish the workload, then you need to reassess. Which is more beneficial? Having more time to finish the workload or downsizing the workload to fit the time allotted?

I know I probably go further than most in planning: I organize our workload to fit the plan, including creating notebooks pre-filled as much as I can. This allows me to be organized but also to "do the next thing" without much thought while we are DOING.

This part is hard work- tearing apart workbooks, 3 hole punching them, copying pages if necessary and putting a cohesive notebook together, I also put in empty handwriting paper with lesson numbers on them for non-consumable products like Primary Language Lessons. If we do not do the particular lesson on the paper, no biggie, it's just crossed off with the correct lesson number. This will be a reminder of how behind/ahead we are for what I planned at the beginning of the year.

I think the most important thing to remember during planning is that the plan will most likely change. I've accommodated that by setting up our year in quarters so I can reassess what we're doing each 9 weeks and make changes accordingly.

Happy Planning!



Jeremy Olson said...

Thanks for the detailed article. I always like to learn about how other homeschoolers do their planning because I'm trying to make a web application to help my mom (and later others) in their homeschool planning. There are a few programs out there already but homeschool planning is quite involved so most planning software is hard to use. The toughest part about making my web application is making it easy to use, but I think I'm making progress.

If you've got any suggestions or ideas in what you would like to see in planning software, please let me know.


G3 & Mom said...

I'm off to my first hs conference today to meet a gaggle of vendors. I'm curious about your reaction to Apologia science for little ones (if you've seen it). I appreciate your science for earth and solar (I'm a "certified" secondary classroom teacher in a past life for those subjects), but I'm interested in the direct relationship between science and the Creator addressed in this Apologia curriculum.

me :) said...

We'll be doing TOG next year and while I haven't nailed my planning like you have I wanted to share an interesting link with you -

I love the way she has her unit notebooks planned and printed before each quarter starts. I think it would be really helpful. Anyway - wanted to share! Hope the move's going smoothly!

my5wolfcubs said...

I love reading about how you plan. I do things similarly but would never be about to write it up in such a detailed and readable manner! :)

Just last night I planned my 8th grader-to-be's science. At first I was thinking 4 days a week but I was nearing the end of the book and had only 20 weeks! So I could either double up/condense some lessons and make it a semester course OR change to 3 days a week and stretch it out. I chose the latter and it came out to 32 weeks -- perfect! And this will give her more time each week to work on her self-directed tree study that she wants to do. :)


PS Noticed you're moving in less than 2 weeks!!!!!!

mom24 said...

Your planning is always so encouraging to me! I love to have plans detailed like this because it gives me structure. I don't use it to add stress if we don't hit the mark - it's just that I need something to go off of. I'm not the type of teacher that can wing it!
I like to have as much of the nitty gritty out of the way as possible ahead of time. If that means tearing apart books and putting blanks sheet where they belong than it's worth it!

That said, I STILL haven't started this planning for next year! Yikes! We have 1 more week of school left and then I'll really dig in!
Again, I am so thankful that you offer your advice for others!

Chris in VA said...

This is so very helpful to new homeschoolers (and others!). I'm going to link to your post on my blog, bc it's so goood!!!
Happy moving,
Chris in VA

Demetria said...

This is absolutely helpful! I'm in the middle of writing an ebook about scheduling, and your post sounds so much like my typical days.

I'd love to have you come give some insightful tips at our Christian Ladies Connect teleconferences!
Drop me a line if interested - demetria *at*