Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together! {Back to Homeschool Blog Hop: Planning}

I have a love/hate relationship with planning.  For the most part I don't plan, but when it comes to lesson planning.... well, that word "lesson" makes a world of difference, because I love to do lesson planning. I'll get to that in a minute...  First, I want to offer a little bit of encouragement if you happen to be reading this and thinking about homeschooling through high school, because that can seem like a whole different ballgame when it comes to the planning and record-keeping.

For the early years of homeschooling, I think that planning ahead is largely a matter of personal preference and what works for each family.  Some kids - some moms! - do better when their days have a standard structure and they are following a clear outline for each subject.  For some families, trying to stick to a schedule that way causes more stress than it relieves.  Our family fell somewhere in the middle.  A couple of my students have needed to know what would come next before they could focus on what they were supposed to do now.  I needed some deadlines and an outline to keep me on task.  But we liked to have lots of flexibility day-to-day.

Many homeschoolers do need to focus more on planning and structure as their students get older and enter the high school years.  After all, if you are going to produce a transcript for a graduating student, you'll need to know what to include on it and you'll need to be able to meet the standards for graduation or college entrance that apply to your situation.  Meeting the standards isn't usually an issue, but planning ahead for those required high school credits and keeping the necessary records can cause some anxiety.  I know it did for me the first time around, and from my conversations with other homeschoolers, it seems to be pretty universal!  Here's what I've learned, and I hope it's helpful to someone.

Homeschooling through high school isn't much different from early grades, except that record-keeping becomes more important!  The first thing you'll need to do is find out what's required in your state, for your oversight/umbrella group, and for the colleges and further education that your child may be considering.  Having that information, you can plan your student's coursework through the high school years to cover those requirements and spread out or concentrate the studies as it suits best.  A high school credit is usually considered completion of the grade-appropriate textbook or curriculum, or 120-150 hours of study (hours are typically used for Phys.Ed. or music study - courses where there is not a textbook or the coursework is practical rather than written).  I recommend training your student to keep their own log of hours spent for coursework and to get in the habit of dating all written work.  Our umbrella group asks for proof of completion of the coursework for a credit in the form of a log of hours when students are receiving credits for music lessons, sports, or practical study.  

This is very general and based on what is required in my group, but for four years of high school study, we would plan something like this:
  • one English Grammar/Composition credit course each year (4 total)
  • at least three math credit courses, one of which must be Algebra I (Algebra II is the minimum requirement in some places)
  • two or three science credit courses
  • three or four social studies credit courses, one of which must be US History
  • at least one credit each in Phys.Ed., fine arts, and technology.  These credits can be awarded as half credits or quarter credits in order to spread them out over the four years.
  • at least five to seven credits in elective courses.  Foreign languages or additional credits in one of the above subject areas - and our group requires two credits in Bible.
For many students, knocking off the basics in the first couple of years will give them more time to devote to credit courses that are more specific to their interests and career goals in their junior and senior years.  Dual enrollment in a community college is a great option that many use.  

Many helpful planning resources are available online.  Check out or HSLDA-Homeschooling Thru High School.

Now, back to actual lesson planning for an upcoming school year! I doubt my method is new or different or particularly inspired, but this is how I get plans for the school year in place.  My software tool of choice is Homeschool Tracker Plus.

  1. Choose curriculum.  This happens on an ongoing basis, actually.  I'm always on the lookout for something that will be 'perfect' for next year or sometime in the future, and being able to review curriculum has opened up lots of possibilities to me.  I prefer non-consumable curricula too, so many times I'm planning to re-use something from a previous year, which saves money too.
  2. Plan my school calendar.  The umbrella group I'm in does ask us to submit quarterly grades so I plan my calendar keeping those end-of-quarter dates in mind.  Even before receiving the official calendar, I can estimate where the quarters would end.  I want to know this if I'm planning on completing a course in one semester.  We usually start our school year earlier than the traditional last Monday in August or day after Labor Day.  And we usually take a family vacation sometime in the fall.  I mark off whatever holidays and vacation days I know about in the Tracker calendar, and decide on a start date.  We usually wind up with well over 180 days available in the school year, so we can either spread things out or be finished our 180 days early.  (okay, like that ever happens.  We always hope, but never quite manage it for all subjects.)
  3. Enter the assignments for each course into the Tracker's Lesson Planner.  I love the Planner feature because it allows me to reuse lesson plans from previous years.  For example, I put the assignments from Harrison's high school history/lit/Bible (Notgrass) into the Tracker a couple years ago, but last year reused that for Spencer, and in the future I will reuse it for Landon and Kennady.  Big time-saver if the Lesson Plans are already in there.  Anyway, I entered all the assignments and then can submit them to the assignment calendar and let the program figure out how to fit all those chapters and reviews and tests into my calendar with the parameters I set.  
  4. Come up with a loose schedule for our schooldays.  This is what I'm working on now.  We have one computer with an internet connection, and six people in our house that want to use it at some point in a given day.  Some of those people need it for school and some don't. Two students will be using a computer daily for math.  So you can see how I will need to schedule that in order to keep our sanity!  Since we do some subjects all together, we need to set a standard time of day when we'll work on that.  
  5. Get started gradually, and tweak as we go.  We have started with a couple of subjects already.  We'll add a subject or two each week until we're at full throttle.  And if we find that something takes more or less time on average than we'd planned for, we'll adjust. 
Are you a strict planner, or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants (that's my preference, but I've had to adjust!)?  Leave a comment and let me know! 


Fellow bloggers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew share their planning styles and advice today in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop!


Stefanie said...

HST = love

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