Plan-It School Series
I like to begin planning for the upcoming school year by reflecting on the previous year. I ask myself difficult questions. What really worked? What really didn't? In what areas do my boys need extra instruction? In what areas do they need more independence? What did we enjoy? What made us miserable? I pray about these things and answer with brutal honesty… no sacred cows allowed.
For example, my husband and I both love the study of foreign languages. We introduced our boys to Latin when they were in 2nd grade. It was our hope that they would both follow in our footsteps as linguists; however, one son demonstrated a real lack of interest. Latin nearly killed his joy for learning the year he studied it. It's true Latin promotes vocabulary development. It's true that there are tons of very successful classical homeschoolers who teach all of their children Latin. It's true that one day he will have to bite the foreign language bullet and study a foreign language whether he likes it or not. However, in an honest evaluation of that school year, we had to admit that Latin was not profiting him and removed it from his schedule.
After I have evaluated the previous year, my husband and I have what we call our "homeschool conference". This is a specific time we set aside for evaluation and goal setting. First, we pray together for wisdom and direction. Then we discuss many things. I share with him my evaluation of the previous year and I listen to his. We talk about how our children are performing academically. We talk about areas that need more or less attention. We discuss what subjects will be taught and how each subject fits into the overall vision for our homeschool.
Finally, we set goals for the next year. There are spiritual goals. What sin problems do we need to address more consistently? How will we strive to be more consistent in our teaching of the Bible and doctrine? There are academic goals. We decide which subjects each child will study… not what curriculum we will use, but solely what subjects will be studied. We also decide how many days per week each subject will be taught. Some are allotted five days, others only one or two. We make this determination based on how high of a priority that subject has.
After our goals are set, I estimate how much time each week will be given to each subject. I do this before I purchase curriculum so that our goals will guide my purchases. If we have decided that science needs to be given more attention, I will make sure my schedule reflects that. If I decide to teach science every day for thirty minutes per day, I won't buy a curriculum that is intended for two days per week . Or if I have a curriculum that I know I will use year after year, like Tapestry of Grace, I alter it to fit our goals, not vice versa. For example if world view is a priority, I will buy all of TOG's suggested materials. Meanwhile, if we determine that I spend too much time on history, I will buy only the required materials or less. It is not a perfect system and requires adjustments once my materials are acquired but it does set parameters that I find helpful.
Once I have made these decisions, I create a block schedule. The first block of time starts after breakfast and runs until snack time. The second is from snack to lunch, and the third is from lunch to the end of the day. I will list 3-4 subjects that are to be completed during each block. For example, if we have decided to allot about an hour and half for Bible and History and about a half an hour for Science, I put those three together in the two-hour block between breakfast and snack. Some days, Bible and History will only take an hour, so we take a break or do some chores during that block. I try to over-estimate the amount of time I will need so that I will feel ahead of schedule and not constantly behind.
I also think about which subjects one child can do independently while I work one-on-one with the other. For example, Orville can complete his Literature study without assistance which frees me up to teach math and spelling to Wilbur. I color code my schedule, highlighting Orville's activities in blue, Wilbur's in yellow, and those to be completed together in green.
Once I plug everything in, if I feel anxiety just looking at the paper, I re-evaluate and adjust. This means sometimes we decide to postpone teaching a topic or decide to teach it fewer days per week. You can read our schedule for the 2009-2010 school year in the sidebar.
Last but not least, I pray for the wisdom to use my schedule well. A schedule that is not put into practice is worthless. On the flip side, I pray for God to rule over me and my schedule and not for the schedule to rule. I acknowledge that unforeseen events will arise and I will have to adjust as needed. I pray for the grace to trust God when those times come and to be obedient, not frustrated. In the front of my planner I write the reminder, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
I am praying for each of you as you plan for the upcoming year. Let us trust the Lord and acknowledge Him as we plan and praise Him as He directs us in the way we should go.
Return soon for Part Two: Selecting Materials
Return soon for Part Two: Selecting Materials
and visit Raising Olives for great tips for moms... Tuesday’s Tip for Mom is a blog carnival hosted at Raising Olives to allow moms to share what they have learned along the path of motherhood. Join us every Tuesday as we learn and share tips and ideas for spending time with, encouraging, training or relating to our children.