Finally, the time has arrived to actually start planning the homeschool year. There are a few things you should do each year before planning out curriculum. I’ll give you a checklist to follow in a little bit but, let me talk about these steps first.
Every year before planning the next homeschool year you should check in on the state that you live in to see if any requirements have changed. One of the simplest ways to stay in the know on your state laws is to be a member of HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association) They do an excellent job keeping you informed of state laws that are changing and can be your legal defense for a homeschool situation if one were to arise. You want to make sure you are complying with any and all state laws for homeschooling - this would include numbers of days, required teachings, and any other laws your state requires.
If you have a child near or in middle or high school it is also very helpful to keep a list of required credits for graduating from high school. I’ve found considering high school requirements helpful as I plan the middle school years. It helps me decide what I don’t want to include in middle school to keep from repeating subjects in high school.
Next, write out a basic list of subjects you want to accomplish with each child in the school year. If you have children close together in age, then decide if any of these subjects can be combined. As a general rule of thumb, math and language arts should not be combined as they need to be geared to each individual child’s level. However, subjects like science, history, geography, and Bible are wonderful subjects to combine and participate in together. Simply gear assignments for these subjects to each child’s level. Not having to teach separate lessons to each child is a way to keep your homeschool year simple and sweet while maximizing your time. I have loved keeping everyone together for these subjects which keeps the dinner table lively with discussions on what we are learning as a side benefit.
If you have young children, then keep the list of subjects short, simple and to the point. I know it’s exciting to think about all the things we want to teach our children, but your little children also need time to be children. You want them to enjoy learning. Let them discover, play, touch, and feel. Life is learning and most of it happens through play and reading great books in the younger years.
One of my favorite books that gives a great guide on what Christian homeschooling can look like is written by Clay and Sally Clarkson called “Educating the Whole Hearted Child.” I recommend this book to every homeschool family. New and experienced homeschool parents alike will find great information to apply.
Making a list of life skills, character traits, habits, and memory verses you would like to accomplish with your children throughout their years of homeschooling, along with a running list of what you have taught, is a great idea too. You can add to the list as you think of other skills to teach. There are many life skills you can teach to your children through the years. I try to keep in mind that the long term goal is to grow and nurture children who will, Lord willing, become well rounded adults. That being said, I try to make sure the life skills I’m teaching are things they need to know to be functioning adults someday. Give your children a hobby or creative outlet that they love. Sometimes it takes trying a lot of hobbies to find one that sticks. With time and intentionality you will find something that clicks with each child.
Next, review curriculums you used in the previous year. Which of these curriculums would you like to continue to use next year? Be sure to take a look back in your notes from the previous homeschool year. Ask yourself, what was working and what wasn’t both for you and your children? I would recommend if the curriculum is working, meaning you like it and your children like it and you feel like it is a good fit for your family, THEN DON’T CHANGE IT!!! It’s always tempting to chose the flashy, new, pretty curriculum. Believe me I know. I’ve changed curriculums when I shouldn’t have simply because I wanted to try something new. This became a big mistake that I regretted the entire next school year.
If your curriculum wasn’t working this year try to figure out why before you start looking at new curriculums. One of the biggest issues I seem to come across in homeschool families who aren’t liking their curriculum is that they simply picked a style of curriculum that doesn’t match their “why” or who they are. There are many styles of curriculum available (far more than when I started homeschooling) Understanding these styles of curriculum and which style you want or need for your family helps narrow down what curriculums to look at. I encourage you to look into the different styles or philosophies of curriculum to determine which is best for your family.
You will find that curriculums usually fall into one of the following categories:
1. Online homeschooling: Classes are all taught online (some in a live classroom and others that are prerecorded) A few examples of this would be: Alpha Omega Publications (AOP), Veritas, or Memoria Press. Some families use these classes exclusively while others pick and choose a class or two for their students to do online while the majority of the teaching is done at home. Online classes are an excellent way to handle courses you don't feel confident in teaching yourself or for classes like foreign language!
2. Unit Studies: is a form of learning where your family will learn about a topic of interest and study it from many different angles. For example taking one time period of history and learn about the history that surrounds that time, what scientific discoveries happened around that time period, artists and composers from that time period, and literature written during the time period. The sky is the limit on how far you dig into the interests of study. A few examples of this style of teaching would be Five in a Row, Notgrass History, or Tapestry of Grace
3. Classical: is a form of learning based around the three stages of learning - grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In these three stages of learning, the focus is on the child's cognitive learning development at that stage. Memorization of facts, critical thinking, debate, and studying the greats of the past are just a few things you will find in classical curriculums. A few examples of classical curriculums are Classical Academic Press and Memoria Press.
4. Charlotte Mason: Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the early 1800's. She created her own style of schooling. The Charlotte Mason way includes learning through living books rather than text books, nature study, character habits, studying fine ares in composers, poets, and artists. A few examples of classical curriculums are Simply Charlotte Mason and Sabbath Mood Homeschool.
5. Traditional: is a way of homeschooling at home that uses mostly text books or workbooks and is similar to an education you would be given in a private Christian school. A few examples of these types of curriculums would be Bob Jones, Abeka, and, Accelerated Christian Education.
Narrowing down a style or two that you are drawn to can help you decide what types of curriculums to look at. Remember to look back often at your why as you are looking for curriculum to make sure the curriculum you are choosing matches your why. Try making logical decisions based on what works rather than on what is pretty.
Once you have made your decision - don’t do anything! Don’t purchase - wait for a few days. In the next chapter I’ll talk about when to purchase. For now make sure you’ve gone through this simple check list: