I’m a planner. I love to plan. When my babies were little, I was already planning their kindergarten year of homeschool…seriously. That may sound a bit extreme, but I guess it was the teacher in me or something.
There is something about planning with the end in mind. No, you don’t need to plan EVERYTHING out. You don’t even have to “get it right.” I can’t tell you how many times I have changed our plans since those initial years. However, thinking through where you want your child to be when he/she graduates from high school can have a significant effect on how you plan your homeschool year-by-year. So let’s take a look at 5 steps to planning your homeschool with the end in mind.
5 Steps to Planning Your Homeschool With the End in Mind
Step 1: Create a Foundation of Education
I remember one of the first education courses I took in college. It was all about understanding the different philosophies of education and creating a foundation of education to guide our steps as we became teachers. Because of that experience, when I began to think about teaching our own daughters, one of the first things I did was to sit down and create our Homeschool Foundation which has since guided our decisions regarding curriculum, priorities, and extracurricular activities.
If you would like to create your own foundation of education, a good place to start is with the following questions.
- What/who do you want your child(ren) to stand for?
- What do you want your child(ren) to believe?
- How do you want your child(ren) to be prepared once they complete their homeschool education?
- What do you believe is your role in your child(ren)’s education?
- What style of homeschooling appeals to you and/or your child(ren)? Charlotte Mason? Classical Education? Unschooling? An eclectic view? Research those different styles to determine the best fit for your family.
For more ideas, feel free to use our homeschool foundation as a guide. (I will link to it in the show notes). The importance of family, hard work, love of our Lord, and a desire to always learn are among the most important things to us. Pray about it. Ask God to guide you as you analyze your priorities and work together as a family to create your homeschool foundation.
Step 2: Look Up the Latest High School Recommendations
You may be thinking, “but my child is going into kindergarten, why does knowing what is expected of high schoolers matter?” I agree on one hand, but our goal today is to think long-term.
Look up what is currently recommended for high schoolers in your state. You might also look at what are colleges currently looking for on their applicants’ high school transcripts. If you live in Oklahoma, I will provide a link for the current high school graduation requirements as well as the current requirements from the University of Oklahoma in the show notes for you to use as a reference. If you live in another state, google “high school graduation requirements,” and I’m sure you will find a similar list.
The goal as you plan your homeschool is to look up those requirements and then begin to think backwards about how you can help your child(ren) accomplish those goals by the time they graduate.
Let’s take a look at math as an example. For us, we wanted our girls to be taking calculus by their junior year of high school, if possible, so they could be best prepared for their college entrance exams their junior year. Knowing this, we used a well-known curriculum to count backwards to when we wanted to start math concepts with our children. Yes, we have switched math curriculum multiple times, but even when we’ve switched, we were still able to keep the end in mind and stay on track. And right now, our girls are not only on schedule but excelling in their mathematic studies because we began with the end in mind.
Step 3: Create a Long-Term Scope and Sequence
When you look at curriculum, one of the things that is often included is the curriculum’s scope and sequence. A scope and sequence outlines the standards or expectations presented throughout the curriculum as well as a suggested order in which each course should be presented.
As you plan your homeschool, begin to think backwards (beginning with high school first) to create your ideal homeschool scope and sequence. Remember, this is NOT a fine-tuned science. This is your scope and sequence in an “ideal” world. Your child is not “ideal” so you will most likely NOT follow this scope and sequence exactly (like I said earlier, I’ve changed ours a lot over the years), but it will be a wonderful source to guide you along as you proceed.
As you prepare your scope and sequence, ask questions like: When do you want your child to learn about American government? What kind of history cycle would you like your children to work through? Do you want history to start over every 3 years? 4 years? 6 years?
What kind of math level do you want them to have completed by graduation? Algebra II? Calculus? AP Calculus? Do you want to leave time in the schedule to allow them to study additional topics of interest if they so desire?
While they may not obtain the goals you set today, if you want your children to have the option to complete a certain level of education, plan for the opportunity. For instance, we have assigned very few courses to our girls’ senior year in our Scope and Sequence to allow them time to explore and/or accomplish some of their personal goals whether that is cosmetology school, local college courses, technology courses, extra CLEP tests, or AP curriculum. As such, we are trying to finish most of their core course work prior to 12th grade, and we have planned accordingly.
Since I created our Scope and Sequence several years ago, I have changed things numerous times as I’ve learned new ways of doing things, found resources that better fit my children’s personalities and gifts, and new curricula have been released. Yet, I am so thankful to have taken the time to create a Scope and Sequence because it has saved me hours in the planning stage each new year. And it reminds me of where we are headed.
As you plan your scope and sequence, think about what subjects you might you want to include. There are several subject options so let me share a few you might want to think about.
- Recitation or Poetry
- History and Social Studies
- Critical Thinking
- Foreign Language
- Technology and Business
- Physical Education
- Home Economics
- Life Skills
Keep in mind as you plan your homeschool that not all of these subjects are completed every year and some eventually morph into other subjects (like phonics into reading, spelling, and vocabulary). Break it down so that it is most helpful for you and choose your priorities wisely.
So let’s recap what we’ve talked about so far:
- Create a foundation of education—Establish the WHY of your homeschool. Why do you do feel it is important that you teach your children?
- Look up the latest high school graduation recommendations. These provide the WHEN of your homeschool. When will you be teaching what subject?
- Create a long-term scope and sequence. This is your how. How do you plan to accomplish your homeschool goals.
That brings us to number 4–The WHO. Your children.
Step 4: Analyze Your Child’s Learning Style
Cathy Duffy provides a good simple analysis of children’s learning styles as they pertain to homeschool curriculum in her book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias is also a good book to read when determining your child’s learning style. There are several different ways to look at learning styles, but the simplest usually compare auditory, visual, and kinetic learning styles with social and independent personalities.
To begin, take a look at your child’s personality and gauge how you think they would learn best. Would they be most motivated with a hands-on curriculum or a strong literary curriculum? Would they prefer to learn independently through a self-taught curriculum or in a group through a parent led coop? Or would they benefit most from some combination of all-the-above? Knowing your child’s personality will help you to choose a curriculum that will be a good fit for your child. Be sure to check the show notes for several resources to help you as you try to accomplish this step.
Finally, let’s look at the WHAT.
Step 5: Find Curriculum That Best Matches Your Scope and Sequence and Your Child’s Learning Style
Now comes the fun part–choosing the curriculum. What curriculum or resources can help you accomplish your year’s goals with your child’s learning style and YOUR teaching style in mind?
Do you need a planned curriculum like My Father’s World to help keep you on track, or would you like to mix and match curriculum from multiple publishers to best fit your child? Would you rather teach each subject independently or would you like the subjects to interact with each other as in a unit study?
Having the end in mind as you plan your homeschool can assure you that you are headed in the right direction. You are tackling the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of your homeschool. It’s kind of like that old saying, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” By completing these 5 steps you are creating a plan so you won’t fail!