Wednesday, May 16, 2012

L is for... Lesson Planning

One of my favorite parts of the homeschool year is lesson planning! Believe it or not!  I know not everyone gets enjoyment out of mapping out how they will cover all the schoolwork for an upcoming year or semester, but I do.  Some years I'm positively giddy about it.  And most years at right about this time, I am really having to restrain myself - I have to force myself to completely finish this year's schoolwork before giving myself up to the delights of planning next year's.  Yeah, I'm weird like that. And I need to be completely honest and say that I don't always stick to the plan one-hundred-percent; but this is one case where having the plan laid out saves me lots of worries and headaches later on in the school year!

Since I can't allow myself to actually start my own lesson planning just yet, I will indulge myself in sharing a little about how I do it.  

Clearly, the first step is to gather all the books and materials, some scratch paper and a calendar. (I'm being Captain Obvious here, I know. Sorry.)  

The calendar:  Our school year generally runs from mid-August through the end of May, but it's very flexible.  I do have to submit grades to my oversight group, and those quarter and semester cut-offs follow the public school calendar, just to keep it easy. However, I don't really worry much about evenly dividing the schoolwork among all four quarters - the main thing is to get the work done (or at least to 'completion' standard) by the official end of the school year so I can submit final grades that accurately reflect the year.  I mark those deadlines on my calendar, mark off any family vacations I already know about, and right at the beginning of the school year I assume that about a week at Thanksgiving and another two weeks at Christmas will be school holidays.  At minimum.  Then I can look at the calendar as a whole and decide when we need to start school in order to comfortably complete 36 weeks (or 180 days) by the official school-ending date.  I give myself plenty of wiggle room, because I know there will be plenty of days when nobody feels like doing school, or when we don't get our schoolwork done at home because we're on a field trip, or whatever.  

The schedule:  We participate in a weekly phys.ed. class one afternoon a week in the fall semester.  There's one day every week that we will only have the morning hours to get schoolwork done.  In the spring, we do an 11-week co-op one afternoon a week.  So for most of the spring semester there will be one day a week with only morning school hours.  So I try to plan for the year assuming a four-day school week, even though those mornings will usually be spent working on school.  But it is an abbreviated day, and I do need to take that into consideration.

The schoolbooks:  For the curricula we use that is already laid out in some kind of daily or weekly lesson format, all I need to do is enter those lessons into the Homeschool Tracker (more about the Tracker in a moment).  For those that do not have obvious lesson divisions, or for courses I am designing myself, it takes a bit more time to divvy them up.  We have used Alpha Omega LifePacs for Language Arts for a number of years.  They aren't difficult to divide into a scheduled lesson plan, but it takes a bit of thinking.  Generally, a year's worth of a LifePac is 10 workbooks, with each workbook having an average of three sections.  Each section is followed by a Self Test, and at the end of each workbook is a Unit Test.  I count up the total number of sections and plan on approximately four or five schooldays for each Section including its Self Test.  This coming year I will be using a classical astronomy text that is not divided into obvious daily lessons.  In order to plan it in advance, I will probably have to count pages or sections and figure out how to spread it over the year appropriately.  

The Homeschool Tracker:  I use the Homeschool Tracker Plus to help me keep track of lesson plans, grades, assignment lists, and more.  (I shared about it in a previous post: Keeping Track)  Once I've penciled in all the dates and off days on my calendar, and used the scratch paper to jot down notes on how I'm dividing up the books over the year, I'm ready to sit down at the computer and plug all that information into the Tracker.  I've been using the Lesson Plan feature that is only available on the (paid) Plus edition, and it is truly a time- and sanity-saver.  Especially if there are younger students that are likely to be doing the same textbook or study in future years.  I can use the Tracker's features to automatically assign the due dates and copy a sequence of chapters or units using criteria I put in.  Then when I'm ready to start a new school year, I move the Lesson Plans into the Assignment Grid and I am pretty much ready to go.  The due dates can all be adjusted as needed, and I can modify the Lesson Plans as we go as well.

Selling it to the Students:  For the subject areas in which my kids work on their own, I do print assignment lists for them, that included due dates.  I print about a month's worth of assignments at a time.  I also encourage them to figure out what an average day's work will look like.  For instance, if there are 50 chapters in your assigned novel, and you have two weeks to finish reading it, how many chapters will you need to read each day?  If there are 350 pages in your math book, about how many pages will you need to finish each school day?  We also talk about what a typical schedule for our schoolday should look like, and how much time they should devote to each subject per day.

I wish I had pictures to share, but even if I did, they probably wouldn't be that interesting.  

In reading blogs this week, I noticed that Unionvale Homeschool is doing 5 Days of Lesson Planning for the Blog Hop.  Visit her and see her thoughts on lesson planning!


Do you love lesson planning or do you dread it?  Leave a comment and let me know!


Blogging through the Alphabet is a weekly link-up hosted by "Ben and Me". Please visit to join in and to see what thoughts this week's letter has prompted for other bloggers.


Jenn H. said...

Eek. Lesson planning is my favorite part and I truly love it, but the idea of pulling homeschool Tracker back out terrifies me. I paid for the plus, but never got the hang of it. I felt so guilty, trying to make it work, but never could. This makes me want to pull it back out and try again. I don't know if I can handle the stress of it though! I want so badly to like it. And i have 3 more students coming into the same plans someday, so it really should be ideal for me!

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

Uh, that whole "finish this year before planning next year" thing? Yeah, I get that. LOL It's so much easier for me to plan great new things rather than following through on the same old stuff we've been doing. ;0)

Stefanie said...

Homeschool Tracker is the best!!! The lesson planner and reschedule feature are lifesavers.

It's nice to know I'll only have to tweak stuff for Kaylegh when the time comes.

Unknown said...

I'm great with lesson planning. I'm a total failure at the follow-through though :(

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