A fresh calendar year and a new semester means work for a homeschool mom. It’s time to regroup and make plans. To be honest, I enjoy the planning part.
I evaluate what has worked so far in the school year, how far we have gotten compared to my original year-long plans, and what is left to cover for the year. Then I sit down with pencil in hand and craft an updated plan.
As the years have passed, we have used fewer and fewer curriculum sets. Instead we are using a hodgepodge of living books, workbooks, and homemade lessons. Although I don’t use a prepackaged curriculum, that doesn’t mean that I don’t plan. (I always have a plan!) As I was making my semester plans last week, I thought it might be helpful for other homeschool moms to get a glimpse of how to make semester plans when you use an eclectic mix of curriculums and resources.
I have some overarching goals for Emma’s middle school years which I periodically review. It’s important to keep those in the forefront of my mind as I plan.
Then I list the academic areas I want to cover. Under each heading, I list the materials I have on hand to use for that subject. They may be workbooks, living books, PDFs, or curriculum sets. Or if I need something. I make a note of that too, and later search my local library system or Amazon.
I take the material I have, and give it an overview, trying to determine realistically how long it will take us to cover. Sometimes a book is conveniently divided into lessons, so it’s just a matter of counting it up. Other times, I have to mentally divide it and use previous experience as a guide.
I factor four days a week for homeschool so we have time for extra-curricular activities (drawing lessons, 4H, and the occasional field trip). When estimating how long something will actually take, I always round up. I like having slack built into my schedule so that we have time for tangents or time to catch up when we get off track. After all, flexibility is a primary benefit of homeschooling. Why not plan for that flexibility?
At this point, my list looks roughly like this. (Except it’s very messy, of course. And these are just a few examples of items from the list.)
Ancient Rome unit (Beautiful Feet) 6 weeks worth
math history biographies (livingmath.net) 8 weeks, 1 mathematician each week
4 poets — 6 weeks each
Wordly Wise 11 weeks left
Editor in Chief 16 weeks left
Figuratively Speaking 40 lessons, 2 per week = 20 weeks
Then I print out some pretty pages from my homeschool planner and transfer my notes. I am a visual person, and the little boxes really help me to see where I have gaps or where I’ve planned too much. In the photo I am using the quarterly pages (from The Schoolhouse Planner) to outline the two nine week periods of the semester.
Of course, it’s not a neat eighteen weeks in reality, but it gives me a foundation for my plan. I write over the boxes to indicate how long I estimate different units to take. Now I can see that I have a nice 3 week gap on my history line. I decide to leave that there to allow for overflow or for some new idea. These pages go into my homeschool notebook where I refer to them as I make my weekly plans.
Note that my plans are in pencil. They are merely plans. Things change, and I always reserve the right to modify mid-stream. My plans are my tool not my master.