homeschool planning

Each year for the past five years, I have taken the time to write a blog post about our plans for each upcoming school year, the curriculum and tools we plan to use, and some of my reflections for what I hope and pray will be a successful academic year.

You can read more about my personal philosophy of education here. (And if you’re new to the idea of homeschooling or curious about the endeavor for yourself, I’ll direct you here; a post I wrote in response to literally dozens of repeated inquires I received that began with “So…I’m thinking about homeschooling…”)

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As a predominantly Charlotte Mason homeschooler, the ideas that we are educating the “whole child” (mind/body/spirit) and that education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life…” influence nearly every school-related decision we make.

Those things in life that are important to us are the things we are constantly evaluating and aiming to improve. Homeschooling is one such priority in my life. Each year as my kids grow and mature, I am looking for avenues to stretch them, grow them, and ultimately refine our schooling experience.

It’s why I allow for lots of free play and discovery. It’s why we spend quite a bit of time out-of-doors and out of the house at museums, plays, exploring historical sites, and pursuing hobbies . It’s why I favor succinct, short lessons, and ultimately why I am constantly working toward empowering our children with the confidence of their own independence. It’s why I believe in a dynamic, “living” curriculum and exposure to a variety of methods of delivery in our approach. I’ve said it for five years now, but I am setting a feast before my children; I’m not filling a bucket, but hopefully I am lighting a fire!

Filling-of-a-Pail-2

{William Butler Yeats}

In that spirit of being a fire starter, here’s what is on tap for the Wood Academy of Christian Kids for the 2015-2016 school year:

Our weekly rhythm will include big chunks of the day at home, a weekly PE class, some built in time for field trips and an educational cooperative in the purest sense of the term.

This year, our co-op is very different from past experiences. This year, our children (Thomas in particular) will be receiving quality, qualified instruction in most academic subjects with a rigorous work load, high expectations, and stringent oversight. The girls will too! I’ll just be supplementing a bit more at home for them.

For the past four years, I have done all of the academic teaching. I have used a unit study curriculum for our “core” of Bible/social studies/science. I have added in math, language arts, literature and electives.

This year, that academic load is being shared and shouldered by other teachers. Instruction takes place one day a week (two days a week for my middle schooler) and I come alongside the other days of the week to keep the ball rolling. Because of the beauty of this situation, I am able to relinquish some of the burden (let’s face it, some days it really is a burden) of the nitty-gritty academic planning, implementing, and doing. The other days we are home, I still have the flexibility to manage and supervise the learning AND there’s still time built in for those must-have’s/must-do/must-experience aspects of homeschooling that I love.

I am prayerful, hopeful, and very excited about this new rhythm. To me, it feels like the best of both worlds. I’m getting some much needed reprieve from the sometimes daunting academic delivery (especially with a middle schooler who is needing more advanced math and science courses) and yet, I still have the flexibility (there’s my favorite word again) to be the CEO of my kids’ education.

Thomas: (age 11, rising 6th grader)

  • Pre-algebra (Saxon Math 87)
  • Spanish (Spanish is Fun)
  • General Science (Exploring Creation with General Science-Wile)
  • Literature (The Yearling, The Light in the Forrest, Johnny Tremain, My Side of the Mountain, Where the Red Fern Grows, Alone Yet Not Alone, To Kill a Mockingbird)
  • Art (Meet the Masters)
  • History (History of the World)
  • Geography (World Atlas and Geography Studies)
  • Writing (IEW Bible Based Writing Lessons)

(outside of co-op)

  • Wordly Wise (Book 6)
  • Intermediate Language Lessons
  • Typing Instructor

Mae: (age 9, rising 4th grader)

  • math games (various drills, skill building)
  • history (TBD)
  • writing (Imitation in Writing: Fairy Tales)
  • science (Apologia Elementary Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy)
  • literture (TBD)
  • Bible (Grapevine)
  • Geography Through Art

(outside of co-op)

  • Wordly Wise (Book 5)
  • Teaching Textbooks (Grade 6)
  • Handwriting Without Tears (Cursive Success)
  • Intermediate Language Lessons

Kate: (age 7, rising 2nd grader)

  • math games (various drills, skill building)
  • history (TBD)
  • writing (First Language Lessons)
  • science (Apologia Elementary Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy, Jr. Note booking Journal)
  • literture (TBD)
  • Bible (Grapevine)
  • Geography Through Art

(outside of co-op)

  • Wordly Wise (Book 3)
  • Teaching Textbooks (Grade 4)
  • Handwriting Without Tears (Printing Power)

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More than textbooks and ordering and organizing and spreadsheets and closets full of new and ready school supplies, I have ONE THING that I do every year that is (in my opinion) THE MOST IMPORTANT thing I do in preparation for the upcoming year.

In addition to much prayer and wisdom seeking and input from Ryan, I TAKE SOME SERIOUS TIME TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE OUT (in ink and on paper) MY GOALS FOR OUR YEAR. These aren’t really academic goals, but rather those “educating the whole child” kind of hopes for the year. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages; it doesn’t have to cover every little thing. Just give yourself a True North to fall back on when you may need some extra motivation or reminders.

My job as the primary educator and CEO of Thomas, Mae, and Kate’s education is one I take seriously and hold in high esteem. No one, NO ONE, knows them better or loves them more or wants to see good things for them than me (and Ryan). Having that insight into their hearts and needs makes what I do even more of an opportunity to disciple and train them.

I can’t reiterate enough just how important it is to make a plan, have some goals, and figure out your motivations. I write out some overall school goals for myself and some character/personal goals for each of my children.

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I also spend considerable time mapping out a “master week” so that my kids know what is to be expected and when; what the “next thing” coming is; where we are and when they can anticipate breaks in the day. {Habakkuk 2:2}

I also know that life never follows a predictable, color-coded diagram and that being fluid and flexible is the name of the game. However, I’m a big believer in having a system in place, a schedule prescribed so that when we invariably do have to hit the “reset” button, there’s a landing place.

As I have done all year with my Teach Them Diligently Series, I am aiming for our school day to run smoothly with very little coaxing and pleading and frustration. Ultimately, I’m putting as much personal responsibility on my children as is reasonable and taking off as much pressure and frazzle and “now what” from my own plate as possible.

Like I’ve been preaching over here for years, we aren’t just learning math and nouns and verbs at the Wood Academy of Christian Kids. We’re raising arrows and equipping the three children in our care with a strong and firm foundation academically, socially, and spiritually.

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What are your tried and true tips for back to school? Do you have any practices you follow that ensure “smooth and easy days?” I’d love to hear from you.

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