Successful planning strategies are unique to the individual. A method that works well for one person may not work well for another. Some people don’t plan at all. That’s not me. I like to have something written down that I can refer to at any given point in time. On the days when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I can look at my plan and be reassured that we have actually accomplished many things.
When my children were young, I didn’t think too much about planning. Reading and interactive play were the basis of their early education. Periodically, I would review our state’s educational curriculum standards to make sure they were learning the skills that they were “supposed” to achieve. This meant my planning was basically a list of skills that I crossed off as we went along. This planning method worked well for several years.
As the kids progressed each year, the list grew longer. I created multidisciplinary unit studies to cover some subjects and used textbooks for the others. Planning began to get a bit more complicated.
When my kids reached the upper elementary grades, unit studies no longer worked well for us so we switched to using more textbooks. Not being a fan of prepackaged curriculum, the books we utilized were from many sources. Publishers often suggest a plan for how to use their curriculum. Since we were using bits and pieces from several publishers, I had to come up with my own plan. After some experimenting, I devised a planning method that works well for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.
The first thing that I do is decide what subjects and topics we will learn about in a given year. If I don’t already have the books or other sources that we’ll need, I either purchase them or borrow them from the library to review. Once I have decided on the resources, I begin the more detailed planning. I decide on a designated start date and projected end date for our school year using our state’s required number of days and then adjusting for anticipated days off. That gives me a set number of weeks to use for a plan.
Next, I look at the resources we will utilize for each subject area and decide how much of it we will use. Do I want to cover an entire textbook or just some of the chapters? Generally, I consider the number of pages and not just the number of chapters or topics. Some textbooks are fairly consistent with the number of pages devoted to each topic, but others vary quite a bit. I like to keep our work level at a steady pace, so I try to plan accordingly. Some subjects, such as math, I plan according to topic. For those that I plan by pages, I divide the total number of pages that I want to cover by the number of weeks in our school year. This gives me the pages per week. Then I divide the pages per week by the number of days in the week. This would be 5 if that subject is taught every day or a lower number if it is not. Once I have the pages per day number, I look at it to see if it is realistic for our family. If it is too high, then I either have to dedicate more days to this material or adjust the amount of pages we will cover that year. If the number is low, I may adjust the number days of per week or decide to use the material for just part of the year and maybe add something else for the rest. Once I’ve decided on the pages per week for each subject, I’m ready for the last step.
Lastly, I write my plan, using a pencil. I like to work with a basic plan first that divides the year into quarters and then work on a more specific plan that is broken down into weeks. I created forms that I use for this purpose. I complete the entire basic plan and just the first quarter of the weekly one. On any given day, I can erase and adjust the plan if I need to. Since sometimes things don’t pan out the way I planned, working with one quarter at a time has its benefits. During the year, when it is close to the end of a quarter, I fill out the next one. That’s it. In a short period of time, I have a plan for the school year that allows me the flexibility to change it if I need to and reflect on our progress when I want to. Below are the forms that I use. Maybe you will find them helpful. Enjoy your planning!