You’ve decided to homeschool, you may have even picked your curriculum, so what’s next? If you’re unsure about homeschool planning or want to try something different, then read on. Here’s how to plan your homeschool, Charlotte Mason style.
Homeschool Planning the Charlotte Mason Way
If you’re not already familiar with the Charlotte Mason method, you can read more about it here. There are plenty of good curriculum options out there, and many are open and go. Some allow for more customization and can be intimidating for beginners. Whichever curriculum you choose though, there will still be some planning involved.
Start With the Big Picture
In my journalism program at college, I was taught about the upside down triangle outline. When writing an article, one way is to start with the most important information first. Then as the article progresses you include increasingly less important (though still necessary) information. Lesson planning is a little like that upside down triangle.
Start with the big goals and work your way down. Here’s what I mean:
- Goals for your child’s overall homeschool experience
- Goals for their form or age (pre-K, elementary, middle school, high school)
- Goals for the year
- Goals for the semester, trimester, or month
- Goals for the week
- Goals for the day
If we went to the bottom of that list and started planning out every school day from Kindergarten through high school it would be way too overwhelming. And likely impossible. By getting the important, big picture items in first, we can add on as needed.
Before you start homeschool planning too far ahead though, it’s important to first look at your state or country’s laws. Some states require certain subjects or hours, while others just have attendance requirements. If you’re in a state or country that requires assessments and testing, then note when those are on the calendar.
Where I live I’m required to keep attendance records and provide an “equivalent education.” Stricter areas necessitate more planning though.
What Are Your Homeschool Goals?
It can sound intimidating if I ask you what your overall goals for your child’s education are. You don’t need to know exactly what they’re going to need during their entire educational experience. Analyze their talents and their strengths and where you stand as a family.
Do you want them to have lots of quality literature and time in nature? Do you want them to cultivate kindness, respect, and other biblical virtues? Are they fascinated with math and science and are interested in a STEM career?
Each child is different. The beauty of homeschooling is we can tailor their education to them. It’s important to spread a wide feast of subjects for our children to learn from. However, they’re going to want to eventually hone in on subjects that really interest them for their future.
Right now your preschooler’s life goals may be to be a dinosaur princess, but you’ll eventually figure out what their strengths are.
Homeschooling Planning by Form or Age Group
Charlotte Mason used forms instead of grades. This makes it a lot easier to combine subjects when there are multiple children. Right now my son is in form 2 and going into 5th grade. The lesson templates I’m using for him will cover his 4-6th grade years. Certain curriculums, like A Modern Charlotte Mason and A Gentle Feast are really good at combining certain subjects across multiple forms for larger families.
- Form 1 – Grades 1-3
- Form 2 – Grades 4-6
- Form 3 – Grades 7-8
- Form 4 – Grade 9
- Form 5 – Grades 10-11
- Form 6 – Grade 11
Planning High School
Planning in segments is especially important in high school for students who may go to college or a trade school. I have several homeschooled friends who never went to college and were unable to get a good paying job. They didn’t have the educational background and never met the college requirements to go further, even though they wanted to.
Not every child will go to college, and they don’t have to. But it’s important to give them all the tools they may need for their future. See what subjects are required for their interests so you aren’t blindsided when it’s time to apply. If they want to be an engineer and never went past Algebra 1, that’s a problem.
Look at your state’s standards and requirements to see what subjects are necessary or recommended. If your child is interested in a certain program or college, ask them what they require. Do they need 3 years of a foreign language or just 2? It’s best to interview several different colleges to get a good feel here.
Homeschool Planning Your Year
Now that you’ve looked at the goals for your child’s season in life, let’s look at the year. This is what most people think of when they start planning curriculum. First, consider what your schedule will be for the year and when you plan to take time off.
Charlotte Mason’s schools did trimesters with 12 weeks of education, then 1 week off. Many people opt for semesters or even year-round homeschooling. Are you going to take several weeks off at Christmas and 3 months off for summer vacation? Some moms plan their time around the arrival of a new baby.
In the past, we’ve done trimesters with 12 weeks on and a 1-week break. This year we’re doing more of a year-round schedule. Figure out what works best for your family and be practical with yourself. And make sure you’re following any legal requirements.
Plan ahead, but not too far ahead. Leave room for unexpected interruptions and sick days. Leave room for field trips and events. Be realistic with yourself.
Homeschool Planning Semesters/Months
This is where things start to require more detailed planning. Once you’ve decided on your curriculum and subjects for the year, you can further break those down into semesters, trimesters, or months (for unit studies).
For example, your family could cover 1 Shakespeare play per year. Or you could do 3, 1 per trimester. We do hymn study every week, but I choose different hymns each trimester. If you’re using a pre-planned curriculum, then this will be laid out for you.
If you’re creating your own curriculum, then there’s a little more math involved. Decide how many times per week you’re going to do each subject. We do math every day, but Shakespeare is only 1-2 times a week. To make sure you’re getting through your living book selections and textbooks spread them out over your chosen time. For example, if we have 144 math lessons to get through and we have 144 instructional days that year then we’ll need to do 1 lesson a day.
How many pages or chapters are in a book and how many weeks are you doing school? Divide the number of lessons/pages/chapters by the number of weeks, and then divide that by the number of weekly lessons. For example, if I have a book with 36 chapters in it and we’re doing school for 36 weeks, then I’ll need to schedule 1 chapter a week. If we’re only reading that book for the 1st semester (12 weeks), then we’ll need to cover 3 chapters a week.
Planning Weekly and Daily Schedules
From here we can move on to planning our weekly and daily schedules. I like to plan a week at a time off of a lesson template. This way if something changes and we don’t get school done on a Monday, it doesn’t throw off my entire plan for the month.
If you’re using a curriculum like A Gentle Feast, it’s mostly laid out for you and is more open and go. For those of us making our own curriculum, the scheduling cards from A Delectable Education are very helpful. These lay out what subjects Mason did for each form, and how many times a week that subject was taught.
A Charlotte Mason Homeschool Planner
It doesn’t do much good to plan everything out and not have it organized somewhere. You can plan your homeschool on the computer, a spreadsheet, a paper homeschool planner, or a bullet journal. I have all of the books we’re using for the year and a weekly lesson template in a document on my computer. I keep a copy in a 3-ring binder with my detailed daily lesson plans that I plan out every week with pencil.
If you don’t want to make your own, there are plenty of homeschool planners available. These ones work well with a Charlotte Mason style homeschool.
- Well Ordered Homeschool Planner from Caroline and Sean Allen
- My Homeschool Planner from Pam Barnhill
- Charlotte Mason Homeschool Planner from Artful Homemaking
How do you plan your homeschool year? Any favorite resources I missed? Leave a comment and let me know!