Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Planning for Next Year - Part 1

              Two days ago, I took my habitual Sunday afternoon nap, which was wonderful, but it kept me awake much later than usual.  As I lay in bed, my mind turned to the next homeschool  year, and I couldn’t help but grab my laptop and start making plans.  I typed until 2:30 in the morning, when I filled in the last of my boxes, and I can’t wait until August to begin our next school year!  Is it really necessary to plan for the next year?

“But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.”  ~ Isaiah 32:8

              According to the Bible, yes, you do need to make plans if you want to succeed.  In my previous blog, “Unschooling with a Plan,” I have explained how to make a plan, yet keep your flexibility.  If you have not read that article, I highly recommend that you do so.   If you have never made plans for your school year – if you’ve simply followed the order of a set of textbooks or unschooled on the whim of either your child or yourself – I highly suggest that you change that.  You will be surprised how much more your child learns if you have a plan at the beginning of the year.

              What could I possibly do between 12:30 – 2:30 in the morning?  Plenty!  I looked up my state’s PASS skills (the requirements for all public school teachers to teach in every subject, every grade) on-line. 

              Once I located the skills for Oklahoma, I looked up Math.  Since my daughter is not on grade level in Math, I looked up the age which I felt would be appropriate for her and used that grade’s skills as a topical map.  When I got to a skill which I felt was not developmentally appropriate (see the article, “Not Just a Little Adult” for more information on defining what is age appropriate), I just skipped it.  If I did not want to waste my time on something which I felt she could easily learn another year, and learn it much better, I skipped it.  What if I did it wrong and I skipped something I shouldn’t have skipped?  I’ll do what many school teachers do – I’ll tell the teacher for next year what I skipped so that they can spend more time on it if it’s needed.  Oh, wait… I will be her teacher next year.  J  That makes it much easier.  ..lol Leaving out so much that I felt should not be taught yet left me with 3 months without something to teach in Math, so I simply went to the next grade level and added the next step for our main math skills.

              At this point, I am not interested in planning day-by-day, just planning for the months one to two topics per month.  In another week or so I will start planning units – probably 1 – 2 units per subject per month.  My daughter is very interested in the same things children her age are interested in, even though she is behind in reading, math, and writing, so I use the skills required by the state as guidelines for most of the subjects I teach.  Believe it or not, there are skills for technology, PE, art, music, and health, besides the usual subjects.   

I’ve been wanting to teach Spanish (which I know a little of) and sign language (which I am fluent in), but last year just did not provide the right opportunities to start.  This year, I am making a plan for them.  There isn’t a good plan for foreign language in my daughter’s grade, since our state only requires that students 3rd grade and below be exposed to the foreign language rather than get full instruction.  I was able to find a list of topics which should be studied (things like friends, family, food, greetings), so I just assigned 2 topics per month for us to explore in both Spanish and sign language.  I had to make up objectives for other subjects, like Bible and organized writing, and I waited until I finished writing the others before I wrote those.  Since our homeschool will cover 10 months (even though August and December are only 2 weeks each), I decided to have the theme of the 10 commandments for Bible, studying one commandment per month.  For writing, I picked up a writing instruction book which lists topics.  I decided to take the first 4 months to learn how to effectively write sentences, then the rest of the year was assigned 2 topics for writing instruction per month.  I’m not against using prepared materials – I just don’t want to use them exclusively.

              Most subjects will have some form of daily practice, and I did not include this in our monthly planning.  Those plans will be done in either the theme plans or in the weekly schedule.

              Summer is the best time to start planning for next year.  I know I will need to write the plans and then “tweek” them as I think about what we want to accomplish a little more.  I still have a little more than a month before we start any school, but I am already starting to get excited about it!

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