Lesson planning used to be something I dreaded intensely. Partly because there was so much to do our first year. Too many individual subjects and books, and so many kids! I’ve since learned to simplify.
The grades I’ll be teaching this year are 5th, 6th, 8th and 10th. What I would have done a few years ago, is purchase curriculum for at least 7 subjects, for all 4 grades. That means I’d have to get 28 lesson plans ready, and because of my excessively OCD, I would have scheduled all 180 days of all 28 subjects for all 4 girls. What was I thinking? No wonder I was ready to quit before I’d begun!
Again, by trial and error I found what works for our family. There’s no one size fits all homeschooling approach. Today I’d like to share how I lesson plan, and I hope it it’s helpful if this is an area you are struggling with.
1. Combine subjects that can be learned as a group.
Many curriculum developers write curriculum that can be adapted to multiple grades. When you combine multiple grades, you save planning and prepping time, and you only have to teach the lesson once. The amount of reading, research or project work, will depend on the age of the child.
In the past all 4 of my girls have learned science, Bible and history as a group. This year, we will be using History Revealed World Empires, World Missions and World Wars, the Picture Smart Bible and Second Form Latin as a group. Because of specific interests and high school requirements, science will be an individual subject this year. If you’re looking for a science curriculum that can be adapted to several ages, we’ve used God’s Design For Science quite successfully in the past.
2. Divide the number of lessons or assignments by week.
Once I’ve figured out all the subjects I divide the number of lessons according to the number of weeks we will be schooling. For example if Life of Fred Advanced Algebra has 105 lessons, and we’re schooling for 36 weeks I know that we have to complete roughly 3 chapters per week. Now there are weeks where my 10th grader will do up to 15 chapters in a week, because she’s enjoying reading about Fred and Kingy, but there are also weeks when she’ll have extended theater rehearsal or extra basketball practice and she may or may not do any math at all. Dividing the book this way gives me an idea on the pace we ought to keep to complete the course in a year.
Now, be careful to avoid the same rookie mistake I made. In the beginning I had the kids read every page and fill in every-single-blank of every book and workbook, because that was my way of ensuring ‘they were getting it’. What I didn’t realize was that this was just busy work, and because it was no longer interesting, they stopped paying attention.
If your child gets the concept, there’s no need to keep pushing until they’re numb and just want to quit. My kids had to constantly remind me they never read every-single-page or filled out every-single-blank when they were in public school.
Both OCD and inexperience were to blame my first year.
3. Watch out and prepare for anything that will require extra time.
Once I have a pretty good overview of how much work I’m expecting us to complete, I quickly go over the lessons themselves, and look for science labs or history projects that might require extra time. I make a note on my calendar as a reminder of when I expect to get to these so I can purchase any necessary supplies.
4. Write it down.
Finally I type out the ‘plan of attack’ as we call it and add it to my homeschool planner. Here’s what my 10th grader’s year will likely look like:
5. Familiarize yourself with the subjects.
When I can see the lesson schedule (visual learner here), I do more detailed planning by the quarter, and revise as needed.
During this part of the planning process I look more closely at each lesson ahead (one quarter at a time). This time I look for anything that requires me to brush up on a certain skill (math eek!), or periods of history I’m not too familiar with. I take notes when needed so I’m ready when we get to that particular section. I also look for read alouds, YouTube videos or Netflix documentaries that can enhance the learning experience. Please be sure to always preview any audio or media you’re not 100% sure of. It’s our job as parents to protect our children’s innocence.
6. Schedule field-trips, research or projects.
Finally I add as much hands on experience our time and resources can afford. This is usually our favorite part. We put on skits, build models and make clothing at the end of each history unit.
This entire process typically takes only a day, when planning for all for girls. Planning ahead gives me peace of mind and structure as well as flexibility to make changes when necessary.
Do you plan out the entire year before you begin, or just take it one day at a time?
For more on this series, click on the image below.