Friday, August 14, 2009

Homeschool Planning

Homeschool planning. Two seemingly innocent, non-emotive words. Yet, amongst homeschoolers, these two words can invite a gamut of emotions, from pure bliss to pure misery. Whether your homeschool is an “unschool” or is the exact replica of a standard school room, planning is a necessary evil – or, perhaps for you, like me, a necessary joy.

The planning bug usually bites me at the beginning of May each year. I’m more than ready to be done with the current school year, and I start to eagerly look forward to the next school year – dreaming of how I can do things differently and better than what we’ve done this year. I start doing my usual search of curriculums, which, as most homeschoolers know, can quickly become overwhelming. The choices available to homeschools for top-notch, quality curriculum are seemingly endless. In fact, I’ve tired of the game of trying to find something “better.” After three years of trial and error curriculum shopping, I’ve settled on the materials that are right for our family and I’m going to stop looking. Really.

Anyways, once the planning bug bites, I’m off and running. Old materials are re-sold or put away for our younger daughters; new materials are purchased. The glee of getting boxes of new books and teaching materials in the mail can only truly be understood by teachers. It’s hard to describe to those who don’t teach just how much fun it is to unpack boxes of new school materials. For me, it’s even better than birthday presents. (But, shhh, don’t tell my family that!)

With the new materials in hand, I start planning for the next school year. Before I start the process, I make sure to first stop and remind myself of our reasons for homeschooling our daughters. When we first started homeschooling, I made sure to write down the purposes and goals of our homeschool – great advice I found on countless websites. The main purpose of our homeschool is to glorify God by teaching and training our children for His purposes. Therefore, it is important to me that I submit my planning to God so that He will bless my efforts in educating our daughters. I take comfort in His Word that if I “commit [my] work to the Lord, [my] plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

When I first began homeschooling, I tried to “keep up with the Joneses” by attempting to perfectly plan out every minute of our day using a very popular daily schedule program. Guess what? Utter failure. We are just not a schedule-friendly family. However, I did realize the need to make some sort of plan to get us through each day and keep us on task. Since I’m still fairly new to homeschooling – our family is only three years into it – there’s still a lot of tweaking going on. I haven’t quite found the perfect plan to fit our family, but I’m getting close.

This year, I’ve stumbled on a system that I’m very excited about. It’s the Sue Patrick Workbox System. This is one planning/organizing system worth checking out, even if you’re unschooling. Basically, the idea is that you set up a certain number of workboxes (twelve are recommended) for each child in which, each day, you put their school work and extra “fun” activities. Each child is given a schedule strip and they work through the boxes one by one, either independently or with mom depending on the work in the box. The system keeps you, and your child, on task. And, you can use the system with any curriculum. There are many, many ideas floating around in cyberspace concerning the workbox system. It can be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of your homeschool.

Homeschool planning can be fun. Maybe it won’t ever be pure bliss for you, but it surely doesn’t have to be pure misery. Having the right focus and the right attitude is crucial. Before you begin, call to mind the purposes and goals of your homeschool. If you haven’t yet written them down, do so. Then, grab a piece of paper and pencil, or your computer keyboard, and start making a plan for the new school year. A plan that fits you and your family, a plan that you can live with, day in and day out, for the next 180 days. A plan submitted to the Lord that He may establish your steps.

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