“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King
Getting started can truly be the hardest, most terrifying, overwhelming part of home schooling. Many people just never start at all, so the fact that you are here, preparing and planning is amazing.
Take a moment to congratulate yourself!
“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
Everyone has their own planning style, curriculum preferences, and subject loves/hates. We can, however, collectively focus on the core aspects of planning out our school year. The key to getting started is to simply start…wherever you are. Getting started might look like;
- going through the remnants of last years curriculum and completed work
- cleaning and organizing the school space
- going through materials collected in closets
- researching curriculum
- perusing pinterest for inspiration
Whatever this “getting started” looks like for you, once you take that first step you will find yourself gaining momentum!
My Best Teaching Advice for Home Schoolers
*Disclaimer. I have never home schooled my own children before now. I am a teacher. My experience comes teaching and from starting my own elementary program at a small Montessori school. I gathered materials and supporting curriculum mostly at my own personal expense. I often felt like I was homeschooling other people’s children.
Choose 3-5 words that describe the look, feel, and purpose of your home school.
Mine are: relaxed, discovery, hands on, child-led, and fun! (Remember I have a pre-schooler and a toddler.)
These words will help you gain your purpose and vision for homeschooling: The “why” behind the “what”.
Decide what type of home school you will have.
Your choice will depend on who you are as a teacher, who your children are as learners, and a million minute variances of what makes up your home life and schedule. Based on what I have read about home schooling I think there are three types of home school that rise above the rest (yes, there are more than three types out there). I think these three are clearly different streams:
- Traditional- looks most like a traditional school with a purchased curriculum, grading system, and formal tests.
- Eclectic- borrows from different curriculum and methods to create your own look and feel.
- Unschool- follows the interests of the children completely and has no curriculum or lesson plans.
This year I will use Montessori with my girls. It is what I am most familiar with and already have it set up. I may also use non-Montessori curriculum like Explode the Code or non-Montessori materials. For this reason I see myself as an Eclectic teacher.
Decide what curriculum you will use.
This will depend on what type of home school you have. You might purchase a complete curriculum, piece together different curriculum, or make up your own curriculum as you go along.
Again, I will use the Montessori curriculum with my girls. I really love the work and curriculum plans made by Montessori For Everyone.
Find out what your state’s laws are for Homeschooling.
You can do a google search for “home school laws in my state”
- How many days of school does your child need to have on record? Usually it’s around 180 days of school. You can choose to school year round or take a summer break.
- How will you keep track of how many days of school you have completed should you ever need to prove it?
- Do you need to register, let your local school know you will be homeschooling (always a good idea), or keep any records?
Find out what your state’s standards are for the grade level of your child(ren).
You don’t have to go by them, but it is nice to see what is required so you can fill in any gaps in your chosen curriculum or method if needed. It can also give you great ideas and reminders for teaching your children.
I googled “preschool requirements for Alabama” and the first link was a PDF file titled “Developmental Standards for Preschool Children-Alabama”.
Get out your planner.
Even if you are one of those people that make it up as you go along, take the time to buy a planner or simply make one using Word. I promise you it will save you time and headaches as you go along through the school year. You are not bound to your planner, rather it is a tool you use to get direction and experience more success. It is also a simple way to document how many days of school you have completed.
Go through the year and schedule the holidays and breaks. You can align them with your local school system (you can view their school calendar on their website) or schedule them conveniently for your family. As long as you have 180 days of school scheduled (check with your state’s law for the number of days required) you are good to go.
Break down your curriculum by subject.
What will you cover this year for each child/grade? For example I plan to teach:
- Language: Letter sounds and names, phonemic awareness, beginning sounds, ending sounds, middle sounds, the movable alphabet, writing letters, rhyming, etc.
- Math: Rote counting, recognition of numbers, writing numbers, linear counting, etc.
- Reading: Read aloud, talking about books, beginning/middle/end.
- Writing: Collaboratively writing creative stories, collaboratively writing non-fiction, illustrations, story telling, handwriting practice (Dot to Dots for Tiny Tots).
- Geography: Creation, solar system (sun and planets), the globe, the continents, land, air, water, land and water forms, experiments with water.
- Botany: Plant vs. Animal, Parts of a plant.
- Zoology: Plant vs. Animal, parts of vertebrates: fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, parts of insects, habitats.
- Other Science: The human body
- Art: Cutting, Primary and secondary colors, painting, lines.
- Bible: Bible stories
- Music: Stewart Piano Method, singing children’s songs.
- Practical Life: Cleaning up after herself, dressing herself, scooping, pouring, tweezing, whole hand transfer, etc.
- Sensorial: Gradations of length, thickness to thinness, biggest to smallest, color hues, roughness to smoothness, sound cylinders (loud to soft).
- Physical Education: Throwing and catching balls, kicking a ball, jumping on a trampoline, running, galloping, hopping, skipping, balancing.
- Sign Language: Learning important words to communicate.
Get out your planner again.
Using your curriculum breakdown, begin to assign specific lessons and concepts that you will introduce for each month. The goal is to spread out your subject matter over the course of the 9 months/180 days you will be teaching. Make sure to begin the year with a review of concepts they already know. Children feel successful and empowered when they can demonstrate knowledge and mastery. This sets them up with a feeling of success! Also remember that children need to practice material they have been introduced to many times before they reach mastery. Each month you will have many new lessons in each subject, but you will also assign practice for concepts already learned. It is also a good idea to periodically assess your child to see if they have retained concepts. If they show you they have not retained a concept, you will re-teach that concept.
Decide how you will plan weekly.
Let’s face it, plans change! You will find as you go along through the school year that you will not get to some material, your children will go faster or slower through the curriculum, opportunities will come up that you will want to add into your curriculum, etc. You will need to have a method of planning weekly. You could use your monthly planner or you you could break each week down with specifics of what you will teach and what concepts you will assign your child to practice using a Word table (I am a fan of this one. I can create a template and copy and paste from one week to the next changing plans and assigned work, or leaving it the same if we didn’t get to it. This is also great for keeping a record of what you have covered/completed.
Decide how you will show student work/progress.
You can use your yearly and weekly planner to show progress, but what about samples of your child’s work? Sample work can be used to show progress (also know as a portfolio), but also is a great keepsake for your children as they grow older. You can also think about collections of work as a student resource for the upcoming year. If they created resource charts/ notes based on research or an introductory lesson, they can simply look back at their work to refresh their memory when completing work that builds on that basic concept.
Decide what your daily/weekly schedule will be.
Every home school schedule will look different, because every family is different. I think it really helps to have some sort of structure. It can be relaxed or regimented. One important thing to keep in mind is the needs of your children. You may like to be really relaxed, but you might have a child that needs rigid structure, or vice versa. My suggestion is to write up your daily and weekly schedule. Post them in your school space. Talk about them.
Procedures and routines are important to a smoothly flowing schedule. Procedures are steps we go through to complete necessary tasks. Routines are procedures that have been practiced so well we don’t even think about them as we do them.
Because my children are so little I will spend a lot of time teaching them how to carry things from the shelf to the table, how to put their work and materials away, and how to choose a new piece of work independently from me. I will have to time big lessons for my 3 year old when the 1 year old is not there to distract her or mess up her work. It also takes us at least an hour and a half to have breakfast and get dressed right now! We will have to work on that!
Decide what you will do the first day.
Whatever you do, make it a special event! I love seeing everyone’s first day of school pictures, so that’s definitely on my list! Give a tour of your classroom set up. Explain the procedures you want your children to follow.Set the ground rules and tone for your classroom right away. It’s O.K. to ease your way into school. Do some fun activities! I always loved to get a first day (or week) hand writing sample and creative writing sample from my students. I was always amazed by the improvement seen when I would do another sample mid year and again at the end of the year!
I have a lot more planning to do, but after writing this post I feel excited and inspired! I’ve got the wheels turning.
Have you started yet?!
Do you have a planning style or method that has served you well?