It’s that time again. About halfway through summer most people start thinking about next fall. When we didn’t school year round, I used to spend most of the summer reading all the curriculum catalogs I could get my hands on. (Catalogs? That is so 2002!)
Now that we are living in the future, you can browse anything you can think of online. Most companies have sample PDFs, and even if you don’t go to a convention you can get a good idea of what’s what. If you’ve been at this gig for a while, you probably know what you want to teach next year. If you are open to suggestions or are just plain new at this, I’ve got some ideas for you.
The first order of business is to simply figure out what you want to concentrate on next year. We’ve had years that have been mostly about one subject. What does that mean? It means that we will spend more time on X than on Y right now. Sometimes, toward the end of the school year, I’ve realized that one thing really needs to move to the forefront. That might be a traditional academic subject, or it might be simply a passion that we build around. If you have a kid that is interested in flight, maybe this will be a science-based year.
I am a huge fan of interest-based learning. To me that doesn’t mean complete unschooling. It means that I guide the kid through age-appropriate skill sets for what he needs to know at that age. And that is why I can’t use any of the convenient labels of homeschoolers to describe myself: Classical, CM, Waldorf, unschooler. I’m a different teacher with each child. Sure, they all will graduate knowing how to read, write, add and subtract. The details are different with each child. That makes planning both harder and easier.
It’s all in how you look at it. If you plan for change, then you aren’t even flip-flopping. See what I just did there? All three trimesters can have a different focus. I’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t even have to decide the second and third trimesters now. See how the first one goes and tweak from there. I do plan all three at once but give myself permission to tweak after trimester one. Now if I could solve the problem of every single stranger asking me why I decided to homeschool, I’d be a happy camper!
If you are looking at curriculum for next year, this is my advice for Academics:
Grade level materials are completely subjective. Don’t just look at the grade level on the cover. At home, kids are free to be all over the board grade-level wise in a way they can’t in an institutional setting. One thing homeschoolers have in common is their confusion over what grade they are in. I love hearing kids say, “I’m in fourth grade English, fifth grade math, and third grade spelling.” Check for a placement test, even if your child has been homeschooling all along. You might be surprised.
Understand that everything you choose is written with the author’s bias. Read about the author and decide if their worldview meshes with yours. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that I could use a book despite some major philosophical differences with the author. I almost always ended up selling or donating the book. There are plenty of alternatives out there; don’t set yourself up to be annoyed on a daily basis.
If you can’t see the book in person, check around for a sample online. Many times, a sample will contain just enough info to rule it in or out. Ask other homeschoolers if they have the book or have seen it. Don’t know anyone else homeschooling? That’s OK. Ask online:
While you are in planning mode, don’t forget to plan to your strengths. I don’t need to spend a bunch of money on language arts because I have so much compiled from the last 15 years of homeschooling. I do need to purchase science kits with all the supplies; otherwise the hands-on fun stuff just doesn’t happen. You’d think we would have a straw, masking tape, and a C battery, right? We don’t. Ever. At least not during the week I need it.
So take some time and really think about what you want to accomplish next year and spend your budget in those areas. Don’t discount the library and free resources online either. You’ll be surprised at all the new stuff out there if you poke around a bit.
Whether this is your first year or your tenth, make this year a balance of what needs to be done and what wants to be done.
Photo by Stefan Gustafsson