## Elementary Algebra: A Review

by Apryl

A Review of Elementary Algebra by Harold R. Jacobs

also used:

Solutions Manual for Elementary Algebra By Harold R. Jacobs with Cassidy Cash

Elementary Algebra Test Bank By Harold R. Jacobs

Elementary Algebra Teacher’s Guide By Harold R. Jacobs

We have had Elementary Algebra by Harold Jacobs floating around our homeschool since my oldest child was in 7th grade.  It has been used as a reference, a supplement to another curriculum, as a review, and is now being used as the main Algebra I curriculum for my 9th graders.

Although this text is out of print, it is widely used and can often be found on websites that sell used books and curriculum.  There are also companion books available such as a complete solutions manual, a teacher’s guide, and test banks.  We have never used it, but there is also a DVD course that uses this text through “Ask Dr. Callahan.”

For the purpose of this review, I will focus on using Elementary Algebra as our main Algebra I curriculum.

Jacobs presents the lessons in a conversational style, addressing the student directly.  Each lesson starts out with a “real world” example and leads the student through several worked problems.  The lessons are presented in a discovery method, with the student learning more about the topic as they work through the exercises in a set.

The topics on the book progress and build upon the previous topics, so grasping a concept is necessary before moving on.  There are plenty of opportunities to practice new concepts in each problem set, and the Test Bank also offers additional problems and multiple tests for each chapter.

This text is word problem heavy, often building on the topics within the word problems themselves in a discovery style.

My 9th graders prefer to do their work independently, only coming to me when they do not understand a lesson or are struggling with a concept.  They have been able to work through most of this text in this manner, but do occasionally run into an issue of needing a teacher to fill in some gaps in order for them to grasp the concept.  This text was written for classroom use, and this is very evident in some lessons.

There is a teacher’s guide that gives additional lesson material, but personally it hasn’t been useful to me.  I often use other sources to flesh out a lesson if I am having trouble explaining it to my students.

I feel like this curriculum is working very well with my students who do not struggle with math in general.  This text couldn’t have been used independently with my older child as it does not mesh with her learning style at all, and she needs more direct instruction.  If a parent is very comfortable with teaching Algebra, then this could be a good fit for a student not as strong in math when taught one on one.

News and Notes

## Thank you, HSBA! StS: a Top 10 New Homeschooling Blog in 2013

Sandbox to Socrates is thrilled to learn that we are part of this illustrious company, the Top 10 Best New Homeschooling Blogs nominated for this contest in 2013!

We began publishing this collaborative blog in 2013, but the concept and vision go much farther back. We’ve been talking about it for years!   We’ve been rewarded for our hard work in so many ways: We’ve had the fun of knowing what it’s like for friends to grow into a team centered around a cause. We’ve had the chance to hone our mission and consider our opinions, and look back over our own experiences as classical home educators. We’ve learned that we have hidden talents and strengths, and a passion for sharing our love of learning.

We will cherish this award from the homeschooling community. We’re proud to be here, and excited to meet new friends in the blogosphere as we gear up for a wonderful year of blogging together here at Sandbox to Socrates in 2014.  Thanks again, Homeschool Blog Awards!

## Education as a Commodity, by Jen W.

“Enlighten people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” -Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America is a country in which we purport to hold education of the young as a most treasured value. We work to hard to educate our own population. During the 2009-2010 school year, federal, state and local governments in the US spent over \$638 billion dollars on elementary and secondary schools [1]. We have risked the lives of our soldiers to build schools in Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of the Taliban, only 32 percent of Afghanistan’s school aged children were enrolled in school–only three percent of girls. The US worked to build and refurbish hundreds of schools, resulting in millions of children (including a large percentage of girls and young women) being allowed to enroll in school [2].

Another important principle dearly held is the lack of government censorship in the US. In fact, we sanction other governments when they impose censorship upon their people. Recently, the US imposed sanctions upon Iran for engaging in satellite jamming and limiting access to the internet by their populace. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in her press release dated 8 November, “Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights. With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an “electronic curtain” to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.” [3]

Americans generally hold the view that education is always a positive. Therefore, one would think that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would be viewed as a boon to our civilization and a great benefit of technology to the modern age. Coursera is one such provider of MOOCs to students around the globe. It came as a surprise to many when the US sanctions intended to punish the government of Iran included the blocking of Coursera [4] and other MOOCs to Iran. We are going to punish the government of Iran for blocking access to internet information from its people by blocking internet educational information from its people? On what planet does this make sense?

If you are an American, please urge your government officials to exempt MOOCs from government sanctions upon Syria, Iran, Cuba and other countries in which a free, expansive alternative educational system is advantageous to a populace that otherwise hears only government ideology in the vacuum that exists when the free exchange of ideas is taken away. Education in this case should not be considered a commodity to be blocked from the people of Iran or any other sanctioned government, but be considered valued knowledge and information which will benefit the global community.

Contact the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control here:

http://www.treasury.gov/connect/Pages/contact-us.aspx

http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school. Jen has two more children who are equally smart, but learned to read on a more average schedule.

Homeschool Wisdom

## What Is This Rest, And Where Can We Find It? by Briana Elizabeth

There have been a few blog posts around the internet lately on a phrase that Andrew Kern is famous for, “teaching from a state of rest.” It’s one that has left many a homeschooling mother scratching her head for hours; frankly, I’ve only been able to understand it as a few ideas have come colliding together in my own heart. Though there are many soft and grace-filled posts on the state of rest out there, this is not one that is soft. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adopted sons, and partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. Sometimes grace comes in the form of a clue-by-four: this post is for those who need a little more definition in how this works out in our lives, people like myself.

Other blogs have wonderful posts on this idea and how to attain it, but I’m going to come at it from another angle: that rest starts with observing our unmet expectations and what those expectations mean, and what they shine a spotlight on. I’ve written before on Sandbox to Socrates about homeschooling being a spotlight on what can be wrong in our households; in this case, homeschooling can be a spotlight on what is wrong in our hearts.

There is a great homily on Audio Sancto called  Sloth: the Vice of Homeschoolers. When I didn’t understand the meaning of the word sloth, I was pretty taken aback by that title.

## sloth

noun ˈslȯth, ˈsläth also ˈslōth

: the quality or state of being lazy

: a type of animal that lives in trees in South and Central America and that moves very slowly

Sloth is often summed up as laziness, but a truer definition is not doing what we are supposed to be doing, when we are supposed to be doing it. The cure for being slothful is knowing our place (you will hear more on that in the audio homily), which is doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are supposed to be doing it.

Meaning, if your house is spotless, but the children’s education has fallen off the pier, that is sloth. If you have been running around like a chicken with her head off, but you are supposed to be resting, you are being slothful. If you are bound up in unmet expectations of your child’s education, are buying heaps of curriculum in hopes that it will be THE thing that gets them into Harvard, if your heart is anxious (when you are supposed to be resting in trust) you are being slothful. If you are piling worksheet after worksheet in front of your child because more of any work = success, you might be slothful.

Sometimes when sloth doesn’t look like laziness, it is shining a spotlight on our idols. What makes us anxious? Impatient? Angry? Bitter? Most of the time, it is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations of what? That our children would be gifted students and they are ‘only’ average? That the work would be easier? That our days would look like some fictionalized ideal in our heads? That the monotony of the day wouldn’t make us think that if we were out there, with a career or job, we would be doing something useful with our lives? That someone, anyone, would be a better teacher than we are?

Do we have more pride in our teaching ability, rather than trusting our children’s needs being met through us? Are we anxious and fearful of doing the wrong thing because everyone else is doing something different? Comparisons lead us to constantly question ourselves and the paths our families are on. Are we questioning our vocations as mothers and homeschoolers because the outside world looks prettier and more rewarding when our egos are are bruised because we’re ‘just’ stay at home mothers?

Look, sometimes we DO need to just clean up the house, and get the meals on the table, and put our noses to the grindstone, to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because we’ve fallen. But even then, there is rest. There is rest because of trust. There is trust in the calling, in the vocation in our lives that is marriage and the upbringing of our children; trust in the love of Christ because he will not lead us astray; trust that when we DO get off track, He writes straight with crooked lines.

In the end, with sloth it all comes down to ego, to what we think what should be–and wasn’t pride the first sin? Us forgetting who God is and our place. In Him.

So. How do we teach from a state of rest? By repenting. Sometimes when we think of repenting, we think of sackcloth and ashes. But that’s not what it is. It means to turn around, to change your mind. Doesn’t that sound much easier–to walk toward something better? But part of repenting is acknowledging that we need to change our minds. Let’s not be so stuck in our ways that we are unable to change our minds.

“‘The beginning of salvation is to condemn oneself’ (Evagrius). Repentance marks the starting-point of our journey. The Greek term metanoia…signifies primarily a ‘change of mind.’ Correctly understood, repentance is not negative but positive. It means not self-pity or remorse but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity. It is to look not backward with regret but forward with home–not downwards at our own shortcomings but upwards at God’s love. It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see. To repent is to open our eyes to the light. In this sense, repentance is not just a single act, an initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of the heart and will that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life. In the words of St Isaias of Sketis, ‘God requires us to go on repenting until our last breath.’ ‘This life has been given you for repentance,” says St Isaac the Syrian. ‘Do not waste it on other things.’” Met. Kallistos Ware

Nature Studies

## June 2013 — Deep Winter

by Rose-Marie

Our old mate the swamp wallaby features again…

Daughter kept mixing up moss and lichen, so we went a-wandering to try and fix that, and to see if it all looked healthier than last time we looked. It certainly did. Yay for rain!

This picture really doesn’t do the experience justice. Imagine standing on a hill just before dawn and seeing shooting stars, that fade as the sun rises and brightens the sky…

Look, it was worth going outside in the freezing cold to see feathery patterns on the windshield. I don’t know if Daughter was really impressed, but I convinced her to draw it in her journal, and she is pleased with the journal entry.

Remember that brightly coloured waterfall? This time it is blue.

Out of everything we saw on our trip up to Terrick Terrick National park and the Hattah Lakes, all she wanted to draw was the pelican we saw for all of two seconds as we drove past at 80km per hour. Personally, I was hoping she’d be impressed about the moss growing at Hattah Lakes. Who knew moss would even grow on sand? Maybe everybody, but I didn’t!

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.

How We Make it Work

## The Secret of Homeschooling, by Melissa

When I first thought about homeschooling, I envisioned happy children, eagerly learning from the vast array of materials I would lovingly provide for them. Crafts, field trips, music lessons, our world of home education would be glorious. They’d excel at everything, all veritable geniuses and perfectly behaved children, and my home would be filled with the sounds of children’s laughter, the smell of home-made meals, and always neat before my husband came home.

I don’t know whose children I thought I’d be homeschooling, but it evidently wasn’t mine. I also seemed to believe that homeschooling would cause me to have a complete personality change.

Needless to say, I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with the added responsibility of educating my children.

If my inherent personality flaws weren’t enough, then LIFE had to happen.

Winds of change have gusted through our life, some wonderful (new babies) some ill (chronic pain disability, job loss). I’ve had people ask, half in awe, half in horror, how I can possibly keep homeschooling through it.

How? I don’t know. I just do. I have what I call “Dory days,” those days when all you can do is keep swimming. Not that you seem to be actually getting ahead in any way, shape or form, but motion, even if it’s not seeming to get you closer to your goal, is better than complete inertia.

The fact that I’m more stubborn than the average definitely helps. The fact that my children have inherited this trait is a mixed bag. It depends on if they’re with me, or against me. Tazzie, our soon to be nine-year old, deciding that he can’t read, doesn’t like reading, doesn’t want to read, absolutely has been working against me, but I’m more stubborn than he is. I think.

One thing I’ve absolutely had to do is pack up my idea of what ‘should be’ and deal with ‘what is’. A curricula that I thought would be wonderful just didn’t work for my kids. My careful plans were shredded by chaos. I’ve had to learn flexibility, patience, and to quit daydreaming of dumping my kids on the steps of the local public school, yelling, “They’re yours now!” and fleeing, cackling wildly.

For me, it’s the small accomplishments that keep me going.   For example, Princess, our seven-year old, finally *getting* how this whole phonics gig works gets me through trying to teach Tazzie long division. His constant cries of, “I don’t geeeeeet iiiiittttttt!” and the wash, rinse, repeat, of showing him, yet again, how it works.  If it wasn’t for the bright moments of what I think of as “the Click,” I’m honestly not sure how I would manage, but I suspect it wouldn’t be in completely socially acceptable ways. I know they’ll get there, eventually, though. After all, the Grand Canyon started out as a river over some rocks, right?

I have some good friends who just awe me with their homeschooling. Honestly, they intimidate me too. I think we all have those folks in our lives, who from the outside seem to have it altogether. They’re who we want to be when we grow up: we want to parent like them, teach like them, keep house like them.

The reality of that is, they’d probably be completely horrified by the idea.

And that right there, folks, is the true secret of homeschooling. There’s not a single one of us that’s convinced we’re doing this all right. There’s not a homeschooling family that hasn’t made some compromises along the way, who’ve had to identify what their priorities really are, and let other things slide. We can’t do it all, and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. We need to give ourselves grace. This is especially important when challenges hit. And challenges *will* hit, no matter who you are. They may be huge, such as relocating, job loss, health issues. They may be small, such as folks wandering around in bathing suits in the winter because laundry hasn’t been done in recent memory, or having toast and cereal for supper for the third time in a week because all available kitchen work space is consumed with science and art projects.

Having a sense of humour, giving yourself grace, and being patient and kind to yourself are survival skills when it comes to homeschooling. These are also valuable life skills to give your children, giving them a cornerstone for their future that’s as necessary as math and reading.

When not home educating, attempting to control the chaos that is every day life, and dodging bears and deer, she can be found blogging one armed at Not A Stepford Life

## Our Journey Down the Dual Enrollment Path, by Heart Cross Ranch

This semester marked a milestone for our family: all five of our children have either graduated or are currently in college. It’s been an interesting journey.

We started thirteen years ago, when our oldest daughter was a sophomore in high school. We had no idea what we were doing, and neither did the college. We decided it was wise to begin with a class where our student knew most of the material, in order to learn “classroom”. We hit on “Fundamentals of Music,” basic music theory. Then it got complicated. We started with SAT/ACT scores (which were high enough for admittance to the college) and a homemade transcript, and I trudged up the stairs to the registrar on the third floor. I was told she needed instructor permission as she was underage. I tracked down the professor – not too hard as he was her orchestra director – and then trudged back up the stairs. Then I was told that we needed this and that, and I swear, I lost ten pounds on those stairs! The final straw was being told, “The school won’t pay for it; she’s not a junior.” I whipped out my checkbook and exclaimed, “HER school will pay for it. Do you want this money or not? If not, I’ll be speaking to the college president.” The tune changed dramatically. We finally got her accepted and registered, and the college figured out how to put her in the computer.

All was good: she had the highest grade in the class; and she learned how to deal with folks wanting to borrow notes and other students trying to cheat off of her. She went on to graduate high school with over 31 credits, all of which transferred when she began her undergraduate degree at Hillsdale College. Hillsdale even helped design her senior year to insure credit transference. It allowed her to graduate with Honors in four years.

We learned something new with daughter #2: to be cautious with the college as, unexpectedly, they matriculated her (i.e. they declared her a high school graduate and a degree-seeking student). This made her ineligible for high school sports and could also have fouled up NCAA eligibility. We learned to check EACH year that they hadn’t graduated her, again. We ran into another unforeseen question: if she was a full-time college student,  would she be ineligible for high school sports? We could not get a response in writing from the high school athletics association, so she dropped a class. We also navigated placement tests with this daughter, as she wanted to take math classes. She took some music theory, several science courses, battled some calculus, and took a bunny trail of several architectural classes.

She added something new to the mix: several overseas classes from Hillsdale College. The course on WWII was a life-changer. She was standing under the Eiffel Tower on the 4th of July when she recognized Sgt. Malarkey of “Band of Brothers” fame. That chance encounter set her on a new path, one that lead to appointments at the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. She chose to sing “Anchors Aweigh” and now flies helicopters for the US Navy. None of her dual enrollment credits transferred, as the academies don’t accept outside credits, but we were told her 45 DE credits were what got her accepted.

Our middle child’s interests did not lie in academic pursuits, but in more hands-on experiences. With that in mind, she began her college career with Lifeguard Training. Again, we picked a course where she could excel as she was a strong swimmer. It was a tough first semester, with 3 hours of swimming for lifeguarding, coupled with 2 hours a day of high school swim team, along with an hour per day of diving. We could smell the chlorine on her from across the room. She did some academic classes, such as science, writing, and programming, but she much preferred Emergency Response and Firefighter I. Again, we kept a close eye on matriculation status. She graduated with 29 credits, most of which transferred to the University of Wyoming.

Our son has thrived in the college setting, taking such things as academic writing, three physics classes, four programming classes, three math classes, Emergency Response, and the ever-popular Lifeguard Training. He will be just under full-time status this final semester. Again, the university matriculated him. With a change in how high school students are registered, we are now paying far less per semester hour than previously. That’s a relief, as he’ll graduate with 47 credits. We found that having a wide range of professors to write recommendation letters is a very good thing. We purposely chose our son’s courses so as to have English, science, and math teachers. He also took the WWII class from Hillsdale College, and again, it was a profound experience. He wrote one of his college application essays on his thoughts while standing in the American cemetery at Normandy Beach.

This brings us to our youngest. She’s begun her college career at 14 with Music Fundamentals, earning the highest grade in the class. She’ll tackle Lifeguard Training next semester, keeping up the tradition of reeking of chlorine. Next fall, she’ll jump into computer applications. From there  we’ll see where her interests lie.

The kids have learned a wide range of subjects and have been taught by some leading experts in their fields. It’s exciting to hear my son come home jazzed about the presentation from his physics professor or the latest cool trick from his computer science professor. They’ve learned time management skills, group dynamics, deadlines, and organization. As parents, we’ve learned to have early ACT/SATs, to have strong up-to-date transcripts, to pick the first few professors carefully, and to keep on top of the registrar. We’ve learned to be flexible with home school courses during college midterms and finals. I’ve been there to show the kids how to navigate a college bookstore, explained the importance of keeping the syllabus, and what prerequisites mean.

Dual enrollment has been a very successful part of our homeschool journey, and we’re grateful that our children have had a chance to experience it.

Heart Cross Ranch is the mom of five children, three of whom have graduated. She is in her 26th year of homeschooling, with just three left to go! She lives high up in the Colorado mountains, in the nation’s icebox, on a cattle and sheep ranch. She enjoys being heavily involved with Boy Scouts, taking sports photos for the local paper, and anything chocolate. She confesses that much of her “homeschooling” consists of throwing interesting books at her children.

## StS Goes to the Moon and Back!

Our own Jane-Emily is guest-blogging today over at To the Moon and Back! As a librarian, Jane-Emily definitely knows the best ways to introduce our early elementary-aged children to the skills and knowledge they need as they learn to see the library as a home away from home.  Please drop in at To the Moon and Back to read Jane-Emily’s suggestions!

Thanks again to our good friend Dusty for hosting us today on her lovely blog where she discusses all things pertaining to homeschooling, marriage, parenting, and faith.

Holidays

## Observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, by Mrs. Warde

It is not easy to me to explain about hatred and intolerance to my children. They have lead a somewhat sheltered life; the idea of treating people differently because of how they look is a foreign concept to them and one that I would prefer not to teach them about. But you cannot teach bravery without teaching about fear; you can not teach about Martin Luther King Jr. without explaining injustice.

Our lesson plan for this MLK Jr. Day includes reading the books Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo and Young Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” , a Troll First-Start Biography by Joanne Mattern. The BrainPOP video for Marin Luther King, Jr. is free to watch, (please pre-watch, especially if you have younger children) and you can watch the footage of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech here, below. It’s almost 17 minutes long, so while my kids are listening to it I’ll have them coloring a picture I got from this website that will encourage the kids to look for other skin-tone crayons to color with instead of just “peach.”

For a sweet activity to explain how even though we look different on the outside, we’re the same on the inside, we will snack on M & M candies. First we’ll bite them in half to see how while the outside shell is different colors, they’re all chocolate inside. Then I’ll put an M & M in their mouths and ask if they can tell what color it is just by the taste. We’ll do that several times to make the point that they all taste the same.

Older relatives are a great resource for first hand experiences from this time period. We’ll be interviewing Grandpa over the phone to add to the lesson as well.

I don’t know how or if teaching about this will change how my children look at the world. They are only 7 and 4 1/2. But I hope that this will set a good foundation for further learning when they get older.

## A Year-Long Approach to Lesson Plans, by Lynne

I have been told that my lesson plans are intimidating.  At first glance, it might appear that way! If you take a peek into my lesson plan binder, you will see that I have every subject planned out down to the page numbers of the books we are using that day.  I have learned not to show my lesson plan binder to folks who are considering homeschooling, since it has sent a few of them into a panic about how they are possibly going to take on this gargantuan task.

At that point, I have had to backpedal and tell people that this is MY way of doing things.  I need to have a detailed and highly organized lesson plan to follow, or I won’t be satisfied that we are covering all the things we need to cover.  This is my way of keeping tabs on all the interesting curricula I have chosen for the kids, and my way of making sure we use all those cool extras I found to incorporate into the lessons. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that each parent gets to choose what he or she deems to be the best method of organization and planning.

In some cases, parents choose not to have any lesson plans at all.  They choose quality materials, and let the children investigate the materials at their own pace.  Parents can encourage children to move on, slow down, dig deeper, etc.  This is a great way for self-motivated kids to really get into the nitty-gritty of a subject that fascinates them.

There are also programs that are referred to as “open and go.” These curricula provide  built-in lesson plans, which means that you just do each lesson in the program sequentially. Once you’ve completed that day’s lesson, just continue on to the next lesson on your next school day.  This is an extremely uncomplicated way of going about homeschooling.  This method works for many busy homeschooling families.

A homeschooling parent can find a variety of planners, both online and in print, that can help with daily, weekly, or even monthly lesson planning.  Many homeschoolers have created their own planners and have shared them with other parents.  Just glancing through some of these planners can often help you to figure out how you should break down the work. I queried some of the homeschooling moms who participate in this blog, and along with just your basic lined paper and pencil, here are some of their favorite homeschool planners:

Google Drive (An example of one mom’s schedule)

The Well Planned Day

Donna Young Planner Pages

Homeschoolskedtrack.com

7 Step Curriculum Planner

Scholaric

Evernote

Homeschool Helper App

Urthemom.com

As you can see, there are many options to help you with lesson plans.

I am one of those parents who has created her own planning system.  I will outline for you exactly how I go about doing lesson plans.

First of all, I carve out a significant amount of time during which to work on my lesson plans.  This usually involves the cooperation of the household.  Personally, I require peace and quiet to concentrate on the planning.  I cannot be constantly interrupted by boys jumping off furniture, demanding to be fed, or otherwise disrupting my homeschool planning zen.  I am fortunate to have lots of family members who can help me out with this.  However you can manage to work it, I recommend setting aside a time to plan.  That’s not always possible, I know, so just do the best you can.

My primary objective is to plan out the entire year all at once.  This is NOT a common way of doing things.  This is my way.  Take what you will from it, and leave the rest.  I just want to reiterate that this is what I have found to be helpful to my style of teaching, my children’s style of learning, and our homeschool atmosphere.  I hope that it may provide insights and guidance for others that may have a similar working style.

To start my planning, I assemble all the materials I have acquired and make stacks for each subject.  If I have online resources, I print out a list of those resources for each subject and put it on top of the stack.  I have some sort of anxiety that I will forget to include something vital or really interesting, so it helps me to have everything all together in one place. I also use three-hole punched paper and a large three ring binder for my yearly plans.

I work on each individual subject separately.  I begin by spreading out all the materials on the table (or couch or floor) around me.  Using the table of contents, any plans that came with the materials, and just my own skimming of each item, I break the entire subject down into daily chunks.  I write each day out by hand on a sheet of lined paper.  For example, a week’s worth of science would look like this:

Day 17: Read Biology text pp.  200-211.

Day 18:  Complete worksheet on p. 212 and read Library book about life cycles

Day 19:  Do color by number p. 33

Day 20:  Read Biology text pp. 213-220.

Day 21:  Visit life cycle exhibit at the Natural History Museum and draw in notebook

Math might look like this:

Day 52:  Watch Video of Lesson 24 and do workbook p. 56.

Day 53:  Do workbook pp. 57-58

Day 54:  Practice Math facts with Mom

Day 55:  Lesson 24 Quiz

Day 56:  Math games workbook p. 19

I try to break each subject down into 180 days of material, since that would correspond to our public school system’s schedule.  Some subjects are only one semester, or unit studies, so those are just broken down into manageable chunks.  Once I have each subject broken down into the daily chunks, I put those sheets into my large binder that is separated with tabs for each subject.

This large three-ring binder becomes my go-to book for the entire year.  Obviously, I cannot foresee what is going to happen over the course of an entire school year, so I need to be flexible and willing to change my lesson plans.  But, having this gargantuan year-long plan helps to keep me on track and not lose sight of our goals for the year.

My next step in lesson planning is to put the subject plans onto my weekly planner.  I normally do four weeks at a time, because by then, I usually know what our schedule looks like, and I can plan around field trips, outside classes, holidays, and the like.

Quite simply, I have created a table on my word processing software for weekly lesson plans.  For each day of the week, I have a two column table. The left hand column lists the subjects and the right hand column is where I fill in the assignments from my big yearly planning binder.

 Monday Language Arts Read poetry book pp. 98-102.Write poem using alliteration.Read book club book for 20 minutes. Copy spelling words 3x Math Workbook pp. 33-34 Science Read library book about butterflies History Listen to SOTW ch. 7 and do Map on SP 45. Latin Workbook pp. 20 -21 Music Practice three songs on your recorder Other Swim & Gym today at CSU

I have a table like this for each day of the week.  I can add things to the tables or take them out as necessary.  Once I have added an item from the big, yearly planning book, I make a red check mark through it so that I know it is already accounted for in my weekly plans. I usually print off the weeks in four- week segments and keep them in another binder of weekly lesson plans. I’m old-fashioned, and I like to be able to cross things off of a paper list when we finish them.  You could just as easily leave the plans in digital form, and cross them off on the computer screen.

Below is a week from my actual lesson plans from last year:

As you can see, I make notes for myself in red so that I can see in the beginning of the week if I need to gather any materials or otherwise prepare for any of the lessons.

There is a second portion to my lesson planning which, to me, is just as important as filling in the binder and tables.  Once I have my four weeks of lessons printed out and put in my weekly binder, I insert pocket folders for each child behind each week of lessons.  In those pockets, I place the actual worksheets they will be doing, and any papers or maps we will need.  Basically, I get as many of the materials prepared ahead of time as I can.  We are ready to go with lessons as soon as the breakfast dishes are cleared.  We rarely waste time looking for materials.

This system has worked very well for us.  We all work well when there is a routine and a schedule. I homeschool my two sons, and they are only sixteen months apart in age, so I am fortunate that they can both do the same work.  If I had children working on different levels, I would probably do something similar to this, but have separate printouts for each child.

Doing the bulk of the planning up front has been quite a boon to me.  Last year, I was struck with a very unexpected illness, which kept me bedridden for a couple of months.  Fortunately, I didn’t feel too panicked about our homeschooling situation, because I had already done most of the work.  All I had to do was plug the daily chunks into my weekly tables and make sure all the materials were ready to go.  I’m a fairly decisive person.  I deliberate over curricula, then choose one and stick with it through the duration of the school year.  I re-evaluate after giving something a full shot.  I’m at peace with my lesson plans.  I know not everyone will want or be able to do things the way I do, but I don’t think I could homeschool any other way.

This quote sums up my philosophy of lesson planning:

“Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882);
Philosopher, Poet, Author, Essayist

Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism, who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon to be revitalized blog at http://www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com