As homeschool mamas, we have a deep desire to do this education thing right by our littles. We look around at the ever-growing homeschooling world and we see all these choices–curriculum sales, free downloads, dozens of teaching methods–and we want to make them all. At every turn, we question ourselves: Should we be using that method or this curriculum?? We look at blogs and tweets and pins and Instagram photos and wonder why our homeschool doesn’t look like another family’s. And, if you’re anything like me, you want to teach your littles Everything There Is To Know, so they will be fully prepared for the life coming to them.
The question becomes this. How do we decide what to teach each year? You know what a big fan I am of Hirsch’s What Your __ Grader Needs to Know series. Though I rarely use them these days, I own all of them from kindergarten through 6th grade. They helped me tremendously when I was starting out, especially when it came to ensuring my Littles were keeping up with their grade level in public school. That was a thing for me at first. I knew a family who had lost their kids for six months over a lackadaisical homeschool education, and I would never risk losing my kids for any reason. However, my Littles surpassed their public school grade levels years ago, and over time I have loosened up. I’m sure they appreciate it.
Even so, those books are a great place to start figuring out what you’re going to teach for the year. They can be gotten on the cheap on Amazon, too, so if you feel like you need the help, look into them.
Nowadays, I go about things a little differently. One of the very first things I do when I start thinking about a new year is create a book list. Not a text-type list, but a Read-Aloud List. I try to match a couple up to things we will be learning in other subjects, but mostly I just try to narrow down our options to a doable list. Because it’s always longer than the school year has days. Here’s what this year’s looks like so far:
- Tom Sawyer
- Huck Fin
- Animal Farm
- Ruby Holler
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Number the Stars
- David Copperfield
- Great Expectations
- The Jungle Book
- Treasure Island
- Moon Over Manifest
- Fahrenheit 451
- The Halloween Tree
- Brave New World
I am not done making this list. As you can see, we couldn’t possibly fit all of these into one school year of reading a chapter aloud a day. But I will keep adding to it until about mid-June, then I will sit down with it and figure out which we’ll read during summer session, and how many we can fit in during September through May. Then I’ll change my mind. Then I’ll start making novel studies. I’ll be slightly mad and extremely busy during that phase. Think the Mad Hatter on speed. Yup.
Next, I’ll look over my notes, like I mentioned yesterday. See, throughout each school year some rabbit trail that they show keen interest in will make me think, “We should study this in-depth.” So I’ll write up a new schedule for the next year. A couple weeks later, the same thing will happen, and I’ll either add to the schedule or change it entirely. Then I’ll read a blog post that inspires me and think, “No, we should do That.” And more notes will be made. Once we’ve completed a school year, I have to wade through all of that and make a concrete plan.
Here are the subjects I would like to cover next year. In a perfect world, I would be able to fit them all in.
- Reading (i.e. reading aloud and studying the book together)
- Africa Unit Study (just like this past year, with the history, science, art, etc., of each country)
- American history: WWI through Civil Rights Movement
- The Industrial Revolution
- Spanish (we’ve had several years of Spanish, but I like them to have at least a little every year)
- Biology (I have a brilliant college text that has language simple enough for them to grasp and I Really, Really want to read that thing. We had a Science Question of the Day every day this year, and we cracked that book open often to get a little more in-depth answers. We loved it.)
- Long essay/research writing (I would like very much to continue our summer studies throughout the year)
- Romantic Poetry
- Art history
- Learn an instrument
- Math (of course)
Kind of looks like an AP high school schedule, doesn’t it?
Now, I know from this year that the Africa unit will take a lot of our time. But I fully believe that learning all about a country makes its location stick firmly in their heads, and I have seen the proof of that this year. Also, I really want to continue this line of geography, because we’re on a roll now and I think it would be cool for them to have that info to build on when we pick an historical period to study later on. For instance, studying India and surrounding countries set us up for the Industrial Revolution and colonization studies. Which is why I’m burning to study that in detail.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to study two or three different historical periods in one year–that could get confusing. So if we’re doing Africa, the IR and American history will probably have to wait. But I have all these super cool books on that period of American history and I Really want to use them. It’s a quandary.
Also, if we’re studying Shakespeare, studying another era of poetry is a bit of overkill, no? So maybe I should drop that until next year. And art history would be included in the Africa study, so I can drop that from the list, too. So I narrow it down some.
- Africa unit (including history, science, art, garden, and government)
- Essay/Research writing
Looks more doable, doesn’t it? But reading Shakespeare And reading a chapter book? Is that feasible? And studying geology and animal science for Africa and Then studying biology? Is it too much?
Looks like I have some more thinking to do.
At least you can see my thought process. When you homeschool without a curriculum, you might have more options, but you also have more responsibility. When you want to teach them Everything, you can make the mistake of over-planning. Having too much on their plates can kill a school year quicker than anything.
So make a list of all the things you want to teach them. Then decide which are most important to you, most interesting to them, and if any are similar enough that you can choose one and still be covering the subject. Before you ever take out your planner, narrow the list down 2 or 3 times. Then, once you start filling that planner out and realize you’re going to be in school for 12 hours a day, narrow it down again. Get your littles’ input. It helps me to find out which of the chosen subjects the Littles would like to study most. Because you want them to learn Everything, but this is supposed to be fun, right? Because it’s easier to learn when the learning is fun.
If this didn’t help you at all, I hope that entering the chaos of my mind at least entertained you for a few minutes. Lord knows it amuses the hell out of me.
And keep in mind, I always end up chucking at least one thing once the school year is in full swing. I already told you–I’m a plan-a-holic.
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