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What's your planning process?

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I have just about all my curriculum in hand and I want to roughly plan out our year seeing how it will all go together. Anyone want to share how you plan out your year? I've always had boxed and just plugged in extras. This y we have sources from all over the place!

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I research and select the curriculum I want to use for each course. that is my planing process.


I let my children lose with the materials I have selected, keep an eye on balance so that they don't spend all their time on one subject only, keep an eye that we spend enough school time total, and we are done when we are done.


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I make my calendar in a spreadsheet, selecting starting and stopping dates, and marking out holidays, likely travel or visits from family, our required standardized testing, etc.


Assuming I have my primary materials in hand, I look over each item meant for the whole year and see how to spread it out--many can be done with a chapter a week and a catch up/review week once every six or eight weeks. And I fill in one week at a time.

For example, next year's Spanish book has 32 chapters. We will be on an extended field trip one school week, focusing on history and not bringing Spanish; I don't want to plan to have Spanish during annual testing or when my ILs visit in November; not the week of Thanksgiving, nor that of Christmas; and I want to leave an additional week open in case of travel opportunities or another grandparent visit in the spring. I can therefore set aside about four weeks, scattered, for review. And so on for every subject.


Then I stick supplementary materials around that in an order that makes sense.

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Once I have the materials in hand, I go through each subject are and decide a basic, overall plan for the year.


For a subject like math, this is fairly simple: see how many lessons there are and how many we need to accomplish each week to finish the course in a year. Usually I come up with a strategy to work in some "wiggle room" for concepts we need to spend extra days on, so that we don't end up feeling pressured to "hurry up." 


For a subject like Literature Read-alouds, I would look through each book, assess about how long I thought it would take me to read it aloud (so many pages or chapters each day), and then assign it a number of days/weeks for reading. Then I decided the order of the books. If they related to the history we were studying, I put them in time-order. If we had some "fun" books to mix in, I tried to put a fun book after a harder or meatier book. If I had a Christmas book, I tried to guess about when Christmas would come in the list--and so on. I put the approximate week that I thought we would start each book, so that I had a rough idea as I went through the year, whether we were ahead or behind of what I expected. I also put some books on an "optional" list. These books were ones that I added in if we got ahead of schedule or for summer reading. I asterisked books in my one-page list that were most important, "don't skip" types of books--if we needed to cut something, I didn't want to cut something that was very important to me. As I went through my year, I could check off what we read and cross out any we ended up not having time for.


I came up with a one-page (or less) "strategy" for each subject, and put it in my Teacher Binder.


I did not take the time to write out daily lesson plans--I just worked off of my yearly plan. 


If you are wondering about creating a daily routine, here is a blog post on that. HTH some!

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My homeschool planner is called A Simple Plan and it has pages and pages of "yearly planning sheets" that I love for planning because it is so user friendly. Each sheet is basically a 9x4 grid with each square marked Week 1, Week 2, and so on through Week 36. Every time a new piece of curriculum comes in, I figure out how many pages or lessons a week I need to finish each book by the end of the year. I jot down the lessons I want to cover each week in the appropriate square on one of the planning pages. If the subject has "themes" like history or science, I write in the themes, too so I can use those pages to plan out coordinating field trips, creative projects, read alouds, and readers on other planning pages.


When I plan for the year, I also make a  point of scheduling in "light weeks" throughout the year for catch up days and during December when we'd rather have light days and spend more time preparing and celebrating! If I can, I try to finish certain subjects, like spelling, math drills, most of our writing curriculum, and grammar before Easter because my kids start running out of steam after Easter vacation and standardized testing, which happens to always fall a week or two after Easter for us.

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1.  Select courses and content decided after researching district course lists. I may or may not follow their structure, but it is a starting point. 

2. Select textbooks and curriculum. Decisions are based on course goals and cost.  Cheaper, older editions with lots of online supplements are favored. Purchased as available at price point.

2a.  Plan out rough schedule of read aloud books to supplement literature texts, content areas, and current events along with several 'just because' and fun titles.  Plan on ~100 books for 6th & 8th grade.

3. Plan out quarterly and/or weekly pacing chart.  The textbook has 28 chapters, plan on a week per chapter.  12 chapters?  3 per quarter.

4. Weekly/Monthly planning is done on the fly. Plan out individual lessons including reading assignments, papers, and tests. Scheduling and preparing materials for projects and labs, selecting and reserving read aloud books, videos and field trips happens now.  Pencil in planner usually a week or two in advance.

5. Daily - update planner in pen with actual work done and adjust as needed.  Record grades and reading done. 

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Oh man, I take the really long, painful route to planning. It becomes a bit of an obsession - there is always some issue I am trying to figure out or problem to solve.


First is choosing subjects - the hardest one is deciding what to cover in history. Math is the easiest, lol. Science is pretty easy because I know what works for us, but then I get sidetracked with supplements. LA is middle of the road. I do not exaggerate when I say I keep a very long-term plan for both of my HS'd kids. I take into account what they are ready to learn as well as what foundation I want to build for the future - like for my youngest son I want to cover world history in grades 5-7 and US history in 8th grade, so that helped me decide to do world geography in 3rd & 4th). High school is a whole 'nother monster. I keep a spreadsheet where I tentatively plan out which courses to do each year.


Then it's time to narrow down programs. I read reviews here, look for samples online, print out scopes & sequences and tables of contents, look at what's available as used, etc. If I can't find a copy locally to look at, I will see if I can get a cheap copy on Amazon.


When I think I have a winner for a particular subject, I create a tab in my OneNote notebook and make a page for each chapter. Then I start inserting supplements - videos, additional books, science experiments, etc. I see what's available on Coursera or EdX. I do more searches here. I start thinking of where writing assignments could fit in, with a goal of writing across the curriculum to some degree.


I then figure out how to divide the work among the weeks. The easy things can be scheduled for a chapter a week. Sometimes we have work spread over 3-4 week blocks (like world geography). I don't schedule math, we just keep moving forward, but everything else I try to fit into a school year.


Then I start filling out a weekly plan. How many days a week should we do science? Should I schedule in weekly art projects? My goal is to see how much I am over-scheduling, and figure out where to pare back. If I need to limit the scope of a class, I go back and compare my plan with what I'm required to cover through my homeschool program (our program's objectives for a psychology class only covers about half of the textbook I chose, so I can leave out the chapters that aren't necessary).


Then I work on figuring out how to organize materials - in binders? Folders? Packets? What can I send to iBooks and iTunes on the iPad? Should I buy a bunch of composition books or spiral notebooks?


Then I'm kind of sick of it all and think I should have just done a boxed program the whole time, LOL.

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Step 1: Figure out roughly what subjects I need to cover for this grade. 


Step 2: Figure out what I have on my shelves that I can use. See which are suitable and which simply will not work. 


Step 3: Figure out what I'm going to have to buy / borrow. 


Step 4: After I get all materials together, figure out how many schooling days we have in the year {we try to stay roughly with the PS calendar except for taking spring break a different week}, subtract 15 days or so for field trips / sickness / etc, then figure out roughly how many pages of each book need to be done daily. Normally I put a post-it note inside the cover that says "4 pages daily" or something similar.


Step 5: revise daily expectations when we never end up meeting them :)

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Well, after I have all of my resources in-hand (or what I need to schedule), I have two parts to my planning (1) the overall plan for each course during the year and (2) the actual weekly lessons which I usually plan about 6-9 weeks at a time.


1) For each course, I create a spreadsheet with 5 columns (lesson #, resources, lesson description, date complete, grade).

2) I number days for either 90-180 days (90 days for semester course, or a year long block-schedule, 180 days for a year-long, daily schedule).

3) Post it notes.  I take the number of total lesson days, subtract out test days, review days, project days, lecture days -- for my planning purposes, one hour = one day (if I have activities that are less than that I won't usually count it if it's less than 30 minutes).  If I'm using a textbook, I divide the number of pages in the book (or what I intend to cover) by the number of days left in the plan to give me an average.  I put that number of pages per lesson on the post it note with each textbook/work book we use.

4) Start entering lessons into the spreadsheet,  I list all resources and their abbreviation in the top section of the spreadsheet.  I list the assignments in the lesson description, resources contain books needed, or review, movie, project, test -- if it's a different activity.


I do this for each course (I don't do this for spelling, copywork, or things that are already fairly planned out like WWS, WWE, FLL)


In August, once I have our calendar for the first 9 weeks (camping trips, swimming trips, field trips -- anything I know is coming up), I use some sort of block-planner (purchased, hand-made, computerized) and first plan the "off" times.  Then, I go subject by subject and enter the lesson numbers which need to be done, list review, test, project, or whatever if it's a bit different from the norm.  My middle school and high school students receive the entire assignment book with their lesson schedule.  This is where I keep grades and notes for each course throughout the year.  My elementary students have a larger, hand-written planner -- I usually copy most of their assignments down for them.


I re-evaluate things every 9 weeks (or sooner), and may adjust expectations as necessary.  I've gotten much better at this over the years, so not as many adjustments on my side are necessary.

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