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:

Monday: NEED TO PREPARE FOR JANICE VAN CLEAVE EXPERIMENTS
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 65-70 Go over spelling words. Write spelling words 2x
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Watch MUS Lesson 21 and Do 21 A&B
History Listen to Ch. 19 The Vietnamese Restoration Society. Complete the Outline SP 75Map SP 77
Science Janice Van Cleave #182 Toothy-Gears. Write about it.
Latin Grasp the Grammar p. 36
Health Read Nutrition 101 pp. 97-108. Do questions p. 18
Logic Connections p. 17
Extra
Tuesday:
Co-Op Day
Wednesday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 71-76Do Word Search & Parts of Speech analysis pp. 71 & 72
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Do 21 C&D and E&F
History Listen to The Mexican Revolution Ch. 20. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 81
French Simon Says game with body parts
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 WedgesWrite about it
Extra
Thursday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 78-83Play 3 different Spelling City games online. Cursive book pp. 68-69
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Test 21
History Listen to Ch. 20 World War I. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 82
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 Lifter- Incline Planes. Write about it
Latin Vocab Review
Extra
Friday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Spelling Test CE4. Read Building Poems p. 104. Write a poem with near rhyme or slant rhyme. Start working on All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters
Reading BOOK CLUB
Math Measurement p. 54
History Do Spanish Flu Maze Timeline AG 87, SP 85 & 86
Logic Unlocking Analogies p. 9
French Do p. 36 Vocab., Grammaire, Dialogue
Science Janice Van Cleave #185 Ramps. Write about it
Extra

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

Liberal Arts Light, by Lynne

 

When my oldest child was a toddler, my sister handed me a book and told me to read it. “I think you’ll really like it,” said she. This book was The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. My sister, you see, had already decided to leave her job as a school teacher and become a homeschooling parent to her two children. She had read The Well-Trained Mind and it had influenced her thinking on how exactly she wanted to approach the education process for her children.

I had never given a thought to homeschooling my kids. We moved into a community with top rated schools. My intention was to send my kids to the public school and work outside the home.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d give this book a look. ‘A Guide to Classical Education at Home,’ it said on the cover. Classical Education. Hmmm. Frankly, it sounded a little boring. I began reading the introduction, blissfully unaware of how this book would change the course of my life. By the time I had finished the introduction, my world was turned upside down. Where had this book been all my life? I had been so bored at school. I was so unprepared for the small liberal arts college I attended. I would have killed for an education like one described in this book. I felt truly and deeply cheated.

At my small, private liberal arts college, I immediately discovered that I didn’t know anything about anything. I soaked up my college experience, because I had a desire to learn and be part of the world’s knowledge base. My professors stirred up a passion for learning and discovery. I later attended a large state university for my graduate degree, and came to appreciate my liberal arts background. It made me into a whole person, a thinking person, an integrated person. Until I read The Well-Trained Mind, it didn’t dawn on me that this process could be started much earlier in a child’s education. Why wait for college to learn how to learn?

I was so excited to share with my husband my discovery of this incredible way to teach our kids at home. The ensuing arguments are definitely a topic for another article. The bottom line is that he did not agree with me that homeschooling in a classical manner was the best idea for our kids. Many frustrating arguments later, we enrolled the children in the local public school. I was determined to afterschool them in the best way I could, using advice offered in the book and with support from the Well-Trained Mind online forums. After two years of mostly negative school experiences, my husband agreed that we couldn’t leave them there, and grudgingly agreed to let me try homeschooling for a year.

We spent the next three years learning at home. When I say we, I mean that I learned right along with them. We grabbed the grammar stage by the horns and did memory work, narrations and dictations, and lots and lots of reading of literature, history and science books. My older son has some challenges that were not handled effectively at school, and this new method of schooling was a definite advantage for him. Family and friends could see him calming and blossoming before their eyes. My younger son stepped up to the challenge of doing the same work as his older brother. They both made tremendous strides and accomplished fantastic things. Their enthusiasm and curiosity continue to amaze me.

We’ve had some changes in our family life, so my kids returned to public school this fall. It only took us a month and a half to recognize that it wasn’t going to work out for our older son at all. We brought him home. We will be bringing our other son home, soon, because we don’t want to completely lose the momentum we had built with our classical education at home. My boys have such a solid base. In my opinion, it would be a shame not to continue to cement that base into their hearts and minds even further by progressing into the Logic Stage. My younger son would survive and do fairly well if we left him in the public school, but I really think he could do so much more by being at home and persevering in the classical education model.

I am so excited for both of my kids to go to college and not be at the huge disadvantage that my husband and I were, because on that my husband did agree. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Our children will already be a part of the “Great Conversation” and beyond. They will get so much more out of their college experience by being completely prepared for it. That’s what a classical education means to me- liberal arts learning as a lifetime endeavor.