Tips for Homeschool Planning

Having 10+ years of homeschooling/teaching under my belt (in the U.S. and overseas) has given me a unique perspective on homeschool planning.  None of my school years have EVER looked the same!  I have tried everything from All-In-One Curriculums, Textbook based learning, Unit Studies, Living Books, and almost anything else under the sun I can think of! 

So what does my homeschool planning for each year look like?  Walk with me through my thought process, planning, and choices for the next school year with 2 Middle Schoolers and a Toddler.

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First Things First:

Before I start any homeschool planning, I need to sit down with each of my children and discuss a few things.  When they were small, I chose things based on what I thought was good for them, or what I knew their interests were.  Now that they are older, its important for them to take a little more ownership of their learning.  I will typically ask questions like this:

  1. What are you most interested in learning next year?
  2. What did you like from this year?  Would you like to do it again?
  3. What didn't work for you this year?  What would you like to do differently?

After getting these basic questions answered, I will start researching and find things that I think meet their needs and wants, as well as work for me and what I need for the new year.  Then, I share my findings with the children.  I find out what they think about the choices.  Once we are all agreed, I start ordering!  

Homeschool Planning Goals

This year I am completely changing everything I have done in the past.  1) I will be teaching middle school for the first time!  2) I will have a toddler added to the mix.  3) My two middle schoolers have completely opposite learning styles, so I am going to be going with completely separate plans, instead of trying to teach them together. 

Once I realized how this year needed to be different, I came up with goals for each of my children.

Caleb: Caleb will be 14 over the summer.  He has always struggled with school and was diagnosed with a visual and auditory learning disorder in elementary school.  The last several years he has attended a small mission school close to us.  Even though he enjoys being there with his friends, his education has left him very negative toward learning.  He has forgotten that learning can be a joy, and it breaks my heart.  My goal for Caleb this year is:  Remember that Learning doesn't have to be a bad thing and develop skills to prepare him for learning on his own in High School.

Reagan: Reagan is my almost 11 year old and our mathematical thinker. She loves to learn.  She does great with textbooks and has more motivation to get things done. She is also extremely creative and often it takes her forever to finish an assignment because she is busy making up stories, doing her own projects, or talking.  My goal for Reagan this year is:  Learn to have more ownership and organization with her learning and encourage her outside-the-box thinking skills to learn on her own.

Brett:  Brett is my extremely busy 2 year old, that has a lot of trouble keeping still.  My goal for Brett this year is:  Provide enough activities and guided learning opportunities to keep him busy without putting him in front of a screen.  Oh, and also potty train successfully.

Caleb's Plan for 8th Grade

Because of my goals for Caleb, I realized that a somewhat unschooling approach was going to be best for him this year.  I am planning on providing him with choices and options, giving him the parameters he must follow, and let him take the lead in his learning.  

  • Math & Science:  Caleb always complains that math doesn't apply to real life.  Life of Fred math does a good job showing just that and the Life of Fred pre-algebra series also includes Biology, Physics, & Economics, so we will have a 2 for 1!  SKrafty is offering Life of Fred choices this year.  It is a fantastic online education program that uses Minecraft as part of the learning.  Each week the students will be given a Minecraft challenge that goes along with what they are learning!   Caleb will be taking  Pre-Algebra Life of Fred Math classes on SKrafty.   (Even if you don't take any of the classes offered, there is a safe Minecraft server that they monitor to give students a chance to play in a safe environment. Check it out!)
  • History: This is the one area that I couldn't find a program for what Caleb wanted to study.  He decided that he wanted to study wars throughout history, but not just the facts.  He wants to know reasons behind war, theory, and strategy.  And we can't forget weapons.  I am in the process of putting together unit studies going through the major wars that the U.S. was involved in.  They will have a lapbook/notebooking option as well as prompts for deeper learning.  We will also use this study for reading and writing as well.  I will be posting the units in my store as I finish them!
  • Spelling: This year we started using a remedial spelling program to help Caleb fill in the holes that we noticed in his spelling.  All About Spelling from All About Learning Press has been the perfect fit for him!  I will be doing a more thorough review of this program as we get deeper in, but for now I will just tell you that it has been an awesome program to do with an older child and NOT be too babyish.  We did Levels 1-3 the second semester this past year.  We are hoping to complete Levels 4-7 next year.  (Although I do expect to start going slower as the levels get harder.  We'll just see how far we get!)  
  • Grammar: I picked the grammar for this year without student input.  I felt that both of my children needed to brush up on their grammar.  Get Smart! Grammar Revolution has video lessons and uses diagramming for teaching.  I love sentence diagramming!  I even created some Basic Sentence Diagramming Posters.  It really gives a well rounded view of how grammar works within a sentence.  

(Interested in other online options?  Read my post on The Convenience of Online Curriculum Choices!)

Reagan's Plan for 6th Grade

Since I am trying a more unschooling approach with Caleb, I decided to use some of the same principles for Reagan.  I have chosen some programs for her based on the answers to our sit-down talk, but I really want her to learn to take everything she does a little deeper.  

  • Bible:  For both children I will not teach a formal Bible lesson.  This year, we will be focusing on their personal quiet times.  I may give guidelines or suggestions, but I want them to develop their own relationship with the Lord this year.  We will incorporate Bible in other subjects as well, and we will still have Bible lessons as a family. 
  • Math:  Last year we started using Teaching Textbooks and Reagan loves using them!  We found them fairly easy and straightforward, so she finished 2 levels this year.  She will be starting pre-algebra next year.  She plans on doing higher math in highschool, and I am encouraging her to go at her own pace without pushing too hard.  
  • Robotics:  Reagan is fascinated with robotics.  She will be using the Lego Mindstorm EV3 Robot Kit as well as the EV3 Books that go along with it.  She is also planning on taking an Intro to Java Script through SKrafty.
  • History & Reading:  This past year, Reagan went through several of the American Girl Books, making lapbooks for each.  SKrafty is offering History with American Girl on their website.  She is so excited to take these!  Along with that, we will also use the guides from Girls of American History as a supplement and add-on for Reading. (There is also a fantastic NEW program for Boys as well based on the I Survived Books.  You can find the Historical Stories of Survival Series Here.)
    • Supplemental Reading:  Another of her interests is princesses.  I found an awesome series of books about real princesses, Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, that I will be creating short unit studies on for her this year!  They will become available in my shop as I finish them.
  • Language Arts:  Reagan will use the Get Smart! Grammar Revolution program with Caleb.  She will be using Spelling Power along with the Student Book for spelling.  Most of her writing will be throughout her subjects.

Extra Curricular Choices

  • Personal Finance: This year we are planning on doing Foundations in Personal Finance for middle school students by Dave Ramsey.  We will probably include other homeschoolers in our area in this as well.  This will include some economics and financial planning, as well as Bible.  Dave Ramsey always takes his financial insights straight from the Bible!
  • Music: We will be doing some of the great options for music classes from Music in Our Homeschool.  They have music classes that will fit the entire family! 
  • Family Read-Aloud & Study: We have chosen a curriculum using Pilgrim's Progress as a family study this year.  We will take this slowly and just do the activities and lessons as we have time.  All-In-One Curriculum for Pilgrim's Progress
  • IQ & Brain Games: This year I am going to have a lot of different activities to encourage brain development and growth.  I have brain games, strategy games, projects & activities that they can choose from.  These can be played as a break, before a tough subject, or on a Fun Friday!

Brett's Toddler Plan

Of course, homeschool planning is much different for a toddler! I plan on having a lot of learning toys, puzzles & games available for Brett.  I will do a workbox system for him, giving him one thing at a time to keep him busy during school time.  I will do an entire post dedicated to this plan and homeschooling with a toddler!  

Thoughts or Questions?  Comment below!  

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