Summer Planning: Key to a Great Homeschool Year - Part I
First, I figure out how many weeks I can allot to summer planning, and divvy up the tasks by weeks. The specifics of what this entails has varied somewhat through the years, but in a nutshell it involves:
• Evaluating the past year
• With Tim, setting goals and objectives for myself and each child
• Determining workable monthly, weekly, and daily schedules
• Working through content areas, one by one, doing as much prep work in each as possible
• Gathering supplies, materials, books, and making lists for those items to gather later (i.e. perishable items, library books)
When I've tried to plan monthly or weekly during the school year, I've found daily life crowds out time to think and prepare sufficiently. Yes, some things must be prepped immediately before teaching, and certain subjects such as math cannot typically be planned months in advance, so some prep and planning time must be built into the regular weekly schedule. But the more I get done in the summer, the better off I will be, and the more we will accomplish through the year. Finding the time to do this can be a challenge, but it will pay off! Some years when quiet moments were very rare, I occasionally had to grab time in the middle of the night after feeding a baby.
STEP 1: TAKE STOCK OF THE PAST YEAR
The first piece of the summer planning puzzle is to figure out where you have been so you will know where to aim next. Unless this is your first year teaching, evaluate the year you've just completed. My least favorite, but essential, part of summer planning is spent writing reports, transcripts, course summaries, giving grades, etc. Even though Indiana doesn't require any annual reporting, keeping records is necessary for my children. As they get older, record keeping becomes even more important.
As I look over the past year, I'm able to get a broader view of what happened than while my eyes were focused on the day-to-day slog. Often I'll see that we ended up with a terrific emphasis in one subject, but something else got shortchanged. I evaluate what worked well and what areas need some new strategies. This birds' eye view of the recently finished work helps me set goals, choose curriculum, and plan a workable schedule for the coming school year.
Another reason to spend this sometimes tedious time in review is that it will be an encouragement to you and your children as you look at the progress they have made. For example, I keep book lists through the year, but compiling the final lists helps us see how much each one read and reminds us of the books we shared in family read aloud. Building a portfolio of written pieces or seeing advances in math also can spur children on. (“Do you remember this? At the beginning of the year you hated long division, but now it's easy for you!”) At the end of the year I pull together samples of each child's work into a family portfolio, or I have each individual make his own portfolio.
After this is done, (whew!) it's time to move on to setting goals. I'll write about that in the next Summer Planning post.