26 July 2014

Planning Our 2014-2015 Homeschooling Year

Truth: I am completely nerd-giddy over planning our school year. This is an outline of the process I use. 

First I look at what our state guidelines require. We are in the process of moving from a state with fairly "easy" regulations (send a letter of intent once, keep a portfolio, submit annual evaluation) to a state with crazy obsessive red tape somewhat more complicated regulations (send a letter of intent each year, cover specific subjects, file quarterly and annual reports, standardized testing in some grades).

Subjects we are required to teach for both first grade and third grade are as follows:
  • Math
  • Language Arts (including Reading, Writing, Spelling, and the English language)
  • Geography
  • United States History (including Patriotism and Citizenship)
  • Science
  • Health Education (including Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Misuse; Highway Safety and Traffic Regulations; Bicycle Safety; and Fire and Arson Prevention and Safety)
  • Music
  • Visual Arts
  • Physical Education
My evil plan {insert maniacal laughing here} is to use the exact same curriculum/schedule for both Senior Agents as much as possible and adjust as needed.

For instance, both girls will work on addition at the same time, but Agent E will be doing three- and four-digit addition with carrying while Agent J is nailing down adding up to 25 and fact families. As another example, when we study a particular science topic they will both be reading, writing, and learning about the same thing (e.g., dinosaurs, plants, energy) but the chosen texts and related writing will be geared toward their individual grade levels.

Since they are so close in age/grade I'm hoping this makes things more engaging for them and easier for me to keep track of.

Now the real fun begins: Actually figuring out exactly what we are going to study, keeping in mind the compulsory subjects outlined above.

I like to write things down. I like lists. I like tables. So, that's where I start.

I open up a new document in Pages and create a table with the following columns: Subject, Specific Topics, Book List, Websites, and Additional Resources. Then I add all the main subjects in the column "Subject" (giving each of them their own row). So now I've got a five by nine table of blocks to fill in.

Next I add in Specific Topics. This incorporates the specifics outlined above as well as the Agents and I simply brainstorming what kinds of things we might like to study. I also like to check the World Book Typical Course of Study for additional ideas. (Of all of the "what students learn when" lists out there, this is my favorite.)

I try to include at least twelve items for what I consider the primary subjects we will probably do daily (e.g., math, language arts, science) and at least six items for the subjects we will likely cover a few times a week (e.g., geography, history, music). Why at least twelve? Because we want to homeschool year round and that gives us one focus area per month. Not that we won't have a lot of overlap, but this is how my brain thinks, so just go with it.

Once that is done, I continue with the Book List, Websites, and Additional Resources columns, filling in materials we have (either because we are re-using from last year or Momma went a little nuts in the Target dollar section). Some blocks fill up nicely and others end up looking a little naked. But that's okay, because this document is a work in progress.

Book List will be the last column to take shape, because our basic plan here is Go To the Library and Take Out All the Books. I don't know exactly what books we will be reading for each topic until we get them (weekly or monthly). I also include a note in the Language Arts Book List section to "see separate reading lists" because those will take on a life of their own (like the ones here and here). 

Here's an example; this is what we have planned for Math right now:

Specific Topics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percentages, money, place value, greater than/less than, skip counting, time and calendar, temperature, estimating and rounding, charts and graphs, perimeter, area, volume, and measurement

Obviously some of these are more suited to third grade (multiplication, division, perimeter and volume) while others are things we'll be working on more in first grade (greater than/less than, skip counting, telling time). But, I include them all together because hello! simplifying!

Book List: Empty right now but will fill up as we go. Here are some math books we've used in the past.

These are all places I like to score free printables from, but we may add here to include websites they might play math games on as well.

Additional Resources: 1st Grade Math workbook by Workman Publishing (J), 4th Grade Math Basics workbook by School Zone Publishing Company (E), Kindle Games: Splash Math, Math Bingo, Planet of the Stolen Math, Madagascar Math Ops, DragonBox Algebra

Note: Never underestimate the power of a Kindle game to spark interest in all things math.

And that's pretty much how we do it.

We will be picking up again in September (even year round homeschoolers need a summer break every once in a while) and writing about our journey as it unfolds. Of course, I probably won't be able to resist sharing a few homeschooling-related posts between now and then anyway.

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