For even more posts about planning from curriculum picks, to scheduling options, to setting goals, be sure to visit my homeschool planning guide.
Anytime you write a book there are bound to be misconceptions. Write a book on homeschool planning and there are SURE to be misconceptions. After all, the Internet is filled will homeschooling moms, each one an expert on their own home and their own children — as well they should be! These moms have their own ideas of what works and what doesn’t, and they are all exactly right for their families.
Which is why I wrote Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace with multiple disclaimers that my way is not the only way and there are thousands of ways to plan. That is why I put in the samples folder, included the audio and all those links to blog articles, for the reader to see that others do it differently than I do and that is awesome. Having said that, though, I am about to make a bold assertion and that is this: you need a prepared curriculum.
You can read or listen to this post.
Wait! Hear me out!
This probably already clears up one misconception about the book — that it is about planning your own curriculum. Nope, not even close. I could write that book, but it would be an entirely different one.
But I will be honest, I don’t have an interest in doing that right now. Curriculum writing is hard, and detailed, and involved. It should really be tested on more than four or five kids, and who really wants their own kids to be guinea pigs anyway? There are homeschool mamas who do it and do it very well, but for most of us it takes more time and energy than we want to spend.
Which is why I contend that you need a prepared curriculum. I contend this because sometimes homeschool moms fall into a group online (and maybe even in real life) where they are made to feel that if they are not writing all of their kids’ curriculum and lessons from scratch, then they are not giving their kids a personalized education. After all, how can an education be personalized if you are using the same book as thousands of other fifth grade homeschoolers?
I fell into that trap. For the first few years I tried to create my own extensive book lists, unit studies, and even hobble together my own math program. I did use a reading program, thank goodness, but for most other subjects we went through cycles of boom and bust where I frantically prepared, we would work well for a while, and then spin our wheels while I prepared again. It was no way to run an education.
I also went through a period where I chose curriculum that was marketed as being “gentler” and “more flexible” in meeting the child’s needs to make it easier to customize. I wanted to avoid those rigid, scripted, open-and-go curriculums that were so popular. What I found, though, was that these curriculums were less popular for a reason — they are also less effective. I talk more about how to evaluate curriculum in Plan Your Year.
Homeschool Planning with Prepared Curriculum
So what is a mom to do? How do we mold prepared curriculum with a personalized education? With a little creative homeschool planning it is really not all that hard to do. Here are a few tips:
Choose your pace.
The number one factor you can control with any curriculum is the pacing. Does your child need to move more quickly — then do it. Do you need to slow down or add extra practice? Do that too. You control the speed at which you work through the materials to best meet their needs.
I have one child who moves quickly through his math book, sometimes only doing two or three practice pages per concept. I have another who needs all six practice pages plus more from the internet. As the mom, I control the pace to make sure each child is mastering the material.
Seek out extra help.
The teacher’s guides of most prepared curriculum are a goldmine of tips, tricks, and information. (Side tip: Reread these from time to time. I find I often forget wonderful things that are in there and need to be reminded.) Most publishers also have websites and forums where you can get helpful answers from company representatives or other homeschool moms.
We were struggling some with the fluency pages in our All About Reading program. When I went to the forum, I found an entire post of helpful tips that have really made a difference in how we approach these, get them done, and our attitude about the process!
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
Finally, remember you are in charge of the curriculum and not the other way around. Don’t be afraid to move things around, and in non-skills-based subjects to throw things out entirely.
Most prepared curriculum are over-filled with good choices to give an abundance of learning opportunity. Sometimes you don’t need (or aren’t even expected by the curriculum writer) to do everything that is in the plan. So be sure to whittle down to a manageable amount and not let the good be the enemy of the best.
Homeschool Planning for the REAL World
You may find in the end that you become a more effective homeschooler by using prepared materials in your homeschool planning. The time you free by not writing your own curriculum can now be spent working with your kids — reading aloud together, having important discussions, making it personal.
Need more help with homeschool planning? Get your copy of Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace by clicking here.