It gets easier each year.
Planning our homeschool year is so much less stressful than when I had to submit annual lesson plans as a public school teacher.
I plan our homeschool year every spring and we school year-round.
First, I pray for discernment and guidance. I keep a prayer journal where I record which goals and milestones I hope to achieve personally and with each of my four kids. I also write about heart issues and pray through tough times. It’s such a blessing to be able to go back through and write the date when a prayer is answered!
Our main curriculum is Tapestry of Grace which encompasses the bulk of our studies: social studies (including history, geography, and government), literature, and religion (including Biblical worldview, church history, and philosophy).
We’ve completed the history cycle twice now with my eldest, Elizabeth. Going through the cycle a third time, it’s finally feeling like it runs smoothly. It doesn’t require a lot of planning on my part, with weekly lessons mapping out the threads. It’s a great color-coded visual. I love the book lists and I love reading and learning along with my children.
We also use The Story of the World as a spine text with our younger three kids. It’s easy enough for them to read on their own. It offers a narrative view of chronological history.
What I do first:
I gather our main books from our shelves for each unit, check the library to reserve supplemental books each week, and gather other materials as needed. I keep articles saved on Pinterest so I can refer to these ideas each year and match them to my kids’ abilities and interests.
Each year, I loosely plan out four main units around the topics listed in our curriculum.
Each unit is nine weeks to follow a 36-week “school year.” Sometimes I spend more or less time on certain time periods, socio-economic issues, or events I want to focus on. Some lessons we skip entirely until the next cycle.
I print relevant notebooking pages for the people, places, and events we’re studying.
I try to coincide our art lessons, nature study, field trips, and even science topics to our studies when possible.
- Astronomy fits in well with Ancient Studies.
- We love studying Botany when we learn about the Middle Ages.
- Zoology is a good choice during the Renaissance period.
- Physics and Chemistry work well during the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and Modern Times.
We love reading biographies about scientists and mathematicians. We always include living books when we learn about science and history. It makes it more real.
I add in the ancient and modern foreign languages we learn each year.
Math just flows on its own, usually a lesson per day with Singapore math workbooks. We also love reading Life of Fred. We use Videotext for high school. As the kids get into more advanced math, my husband, Aaron, takes over teaching the kids in the evenings a few days per week. Whew! We also do lots of practical math with cooking and everyday activities.
We take breaks from academics as needed, traveling frequently and relaxing around various holidays.
We love to explore places we learn about. Sometimes, these are spur of the moment field trips and other times, they are longer – day trips, weekend getaways, or weeklong vacations, well-thought-out and planned.
We visited the Bodyworlds exhibit after studying human anatomy.
We recently traveled to Florence, Italy, for Renaissance studies.
We’d love to go to Wittenberg, Germany, to learn about Martin Luther during our Reformation unit.
We often take a SUN day, putting aside the books and rushing outside to enjoy the sunshine since it’s so rainy and cloudy here. We don’t keep to a traditional school year schedule: September to May. We often begin a “new” school “year” in March as we complete the last “year’s” curricula. We take plenty of time off to relax in summer, staying up late and playing outside when the sun stays out until 10. We still read lots. We complete the bare minimum of school work, often rushing through lessons during the heat of the day when it’s too hot to do much else.
The girls are learning to budget their time with student planners I created for them.
I fill out the planner for my teen with her reading assignments each week so she has no excuses to fall behind and it helps me keep track and prepare.
She volunteers in the hospital maternity ward on twice a week, so those days are blank. She usually does physics and geometry with her dad in the mornings those days. We actually fill in the lessons completed after she does them so I can keep a record.
I make sure the kids have plenty of free time to play, create, and ponder.
All my kids love to read and our trips to the library are almost a chore due to the amount of books (for school lessons and fun reading) that we return and check out! I think I need a trolley or something to haul them all to/from the minivan.
I encourage my children to create freely and keep plenty of supplies around for their art and handiwork projects. My teen loves to crochet and the middle girls are learning embroidery and cross-stitch. The three younger kids are loving weaving yarn with this loom.
Almost every day (even in “bad” weather), they go outside for at least 30 minutes. It is very important to stay connected to nature, set their body clocks, get fresh air and vitamin D. They need the exercise. They ride bikes or go to the village playground. They know they can hike the circular forest trail around our village. It’s ok for them to get bored. They watch clouds, airplanes, the wind in the trees. They learn to be imaginative, making up worlds and vivid characters in games. They explore and discover and bring home treasures they find – flower and leaves, eggshells, rocks, even “rubbish” they find interesting. I don’t want my kids to have nature-deficit disorder. I often join them on more specific nature hikes further into our forest.
We wind down in the evenings and limit screen-time before bed. We read and pray together as a family. The kids are off to bed most nights by 9-10 PM. This is a good routine. They’re often tired, but perhaps not incredibly sleepy. I remember lying in bed awake, as a girl (it seemed like hours) and I still do it most nights – pondering about books I’ve read, thinking about the future, replaying conversations and events in my head. We need this quiet time to assimilate information we learn.