HOW TO PLAN YOUR SCHOOL YEAR
“The Teacher’s part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the work of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupil’s mental activity.”
(Charlotte Mason,. School Education, pp. 180-181.)
Planning the school year is a lot like cleaning: some moms find it therapeutic and look forward to it; while others find it overwhelming and procrastinate as long as possible. Either way it must be done, and hopefully this simple process will make it easier (and maybe even enjoyable!).
I prefer to spend one full week in the summer planning the whole year, purchasing materials, and organizing the schoolroom. I also spend some time planning lessons for the first term. In December, I spend a weekend planning the lessons for the next term, and again during spring break in March.
ASK FOR DIRECTION
Pray for each individual child. Ask to understand their individual needs and how you can assist the Spirit in teaching what your child is ready to learn. Write down your impressions.
GENERAL PLAN | BY YEAR
Start by determining the broad framework you’ll work within. Each year has a theme, or cycle. History is studied as a four-year cycle and each year is assigned a time period. For example, in history you might study the period of American History from 1700-1800. In nature study you might focus on aquatic biomes, and in religion the Book of Mormon. This is also a good time to determine the artist and composers you’ll study for the year, one each term.
NARROW DOWN TOPICS | BY TERM
Charlotte Mason divided the school year into three terms, three months (12 weeks) each. You can divide the year’s broad subject by topics into those terms. For example, the historical time period 1700-1800 might be divided like this:
- American Revolution/Declaration of Independence
- The Constitution/A New Nation
Nature study (aquatic biomes) and special study topics could be divided like this:
- Winter (hibernation, birds, mollusks)
- Spring/Summer (amphibians, insects, water plants)
- Fall (reptiles, wildflowers, fish)
LESSON PREPARATION | BY TERM
Some subjects are better studied in a group setting; like history, literature, Shakespeare, and singing. Others are learned line-upon-line and are better acquired at an individual’s pace, like math, language arts, and drawing. Most subjects benefit from both! Scripture study must happen at an individual level, but is also enriched by discussing with others. Keep this in mind as you plan lessons for each subject — will they be studied as a group, children in the same form, or individually?
When making lesson plan for each topic follow these steps:
- What are the “captain ideas?” for each topic? i.e. What are the main principles? Why is this story or topic important? How can I present these ideas to help my children learn?
- Pick books, pictures, music, and objects that can be used to support and elaborate more on the topic. These may also be used as a question focus.
- Create a list of open-ended questions for use in delayed narration and exams.
- Formulate a question focus for students to generate their own questions. (see Question post)
With this in mind, I created two planning sheets to organize a term’s worth of study. You can download the PDF at the end of this post. The first sheet is for a year’s overview of topics your family will study that year. The second sheet is used to plan more specific topics within a subject – the materials, questions, and tasks you plan to use.
You do not need to create a topic planning sheet for each lesson or even every week of study. Simply fill one out for each topic, which is two to three times per term.
The beginning of each topic is spent asking and recording questions that the child wants to pursue, or generating solutions to a new math problem. Consider these your learning objectives. Daily lesson time is spent reading, narrating, discussing, and recording answers to those questions. For skill-based subjects–like math, language arts, and drawing–habits and knowledge are gained at an individual pace. Once a skill or concept is mastered, simply move on to the next. Creating a rigid schedule for these subjects can cause urgency to move at a certain pace and frustration for the child.
Once a lesson plan is made I make notes on my Monthly Calendar — I pencil-in the nature object lessons, field trips, mapmaking lessons, etc.
MAKE ADJUSTMENTS | BY WEEK
At the beginning of the week I look over my monthly calendar to see what I have scheduled. I also glance at my lesson preparation sheets to see if there is any materials and/or books I need to gather for the week. This is also the time to preview the lessons in math, nature study, and geography to ensure I understand the concepts I’ll be teaching. I mark everything in my Weekly Calendar that I glance at each morning. I set aside an hour on Sunday night to do this work. It helps to set a recurring alarm as a reminder.
This is just one method of planning–many families use apps and other digital tools to plan and schedule their school year.
How do you plan your school year? What tools have you found helpful?
PLAN + PREP CHECKLIST
- purchase Come, Follow Me manual
- choose and print scriptures to memorize
- choose hymns and folksongs, print lyrics (if needed)
- print Shakespeare play, or borrow book
- choose and print poems for recitation
- choose poet and at least 6 poems to study that term
- choose artist and 6 paintings to study. Print or purchase artwork.
- choose composer and 6 pieces. Make playlist.
- choose family read alouds (buy or borrow)
- print schedules, checklists, child’s goals and put in folding menu
- put all the Family Gather materials in a binder and/or basket.
- break down historical time period into smaller topics, 2-3 for each term. Fill out lesson plan for each topic.
- choose biographies and historical fiction for that time. Buy or borrow.
- print artwork or maps to go along with books.
- choose nature special study topics, and read about them in Handbook of Nature Study. Fill out lesson plan for each topic.
- purchase and gather science and/or nature study supplies.
- pick living ideas to present for math—biographies, interesting problems, etc.
- review how to teach the math concept in Arithmetic for Parents, or chosen math curriculum
- prepare “at the ready” math activities (see truthandbeautymath.com)
- print word sorts for spelling
- purchase and gather materials for mapmaking lesson.
- purchase and gather materials for drawing, painting, and handcraft lessons. Put each set in a box or basket.
- purchase notebooks, chalk, pencils, paper, blank books, etc. And organize your space!