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Beyond the First Day: Building a Homeschooling Plan for the Year

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is a great field trip!
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is a great field trip!
Emily L. Goodman

So—you made it through the first day. Congratulations! Homeschooling is starting to seem like a good idea again…at least mostly. You’re learning how your child learns, how your new day is going to go, and how easy it can be to teach your child at home. More than likely, you’ve consulted Google with a crazy question or two, but you’ve also realized that for the questions to which you do not know the answer, the internet already does.

Now, you’re able to take a step back and look at the big picture. Homeschooling day to day, or week to week, is fine for a while; but sooner or later, you’re going to need to take a look at those state standards again and make sure that your child is measuring up.

Sit down with a calendar. In general, your child will be working for approximately eighteen weeks a semester, or thirty-six over the course of a school year. Tennessee state law says that you have to complete at least four hours of educational work during those days, and they don’t want it broken up into two two-hour days, so that’s your starting point. Of course, as a homeschooling parent, you can put those days whenever you want to. Prefer to learn on Saturdays, when Dad is home and you can all go on field trips together? Great. Friday is now your official free day! (Or Monday, or Tuesday, or any other day that you want to declare as your free day.) However, that thirty-six week schedule is a good basis, since you’re likely going to want to take time off for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and your child will probably want a fall and spring break like his public schooled peers.

Look over that state standards list again. Count them. Take a deep breath, and remember that you have an entire year to accomplish them all. Now, decide how many standards you need to cover each week. Keep in mind that some topics may take longer to cover than others, so allow yourself a little bit of room; but once you know how long you have to cover each item, you can begin to create a loose schedule.

Always keep in mind, however, that the key word in the above sentence is “loose.” You aren’t aiming to design a rigid calendar that will last the entire year—you’re just attempting to give yourself some guidelines. Assign those specific standards to specific weeks so that you have some idea of where you should be and what you should be accomplishing at any given time; but keep in mind that if you get lucky and jump ahead, or run into a sticky spot and fall a little behind, that’s okay, too. You can always modify this schedule later.

Take a look over those standards. Are there any of them that seem to go together? This might be a good place to create an interdisciplinary lesson. Do you have any unit plans in mind: an aquatic life unit, or something that covers solar systems, or a particular period of history that you want to cover in depth? Assign those to times on the calendar to keep yourself accountable. You can have all the great ideas in the world, but if it comes down to the end of the year and you haven’t made the time to make them happen, then they aren’t going to do your child any good.

Commit to looking at this calendar regularly. It will let you know what’s coming up and what you need to get done. It will also let you know when you need to take a little bit of time to prepare ahead of time and when you might need to pick up some extra materials.

As you’re creating this schedule, make notes about any activities that you particularly want to do: field trips that you want to take, or crafts that you want to do, or websites that you want to visit. You may find that when the time comes, you don’t remember those ideas off the top of your head; but if you’ve written them down, they’re there where you can access them again when the time comes. Before you know it, you’ll have a working homeschooling schedule for the year; and you may be surprised by just how detailed it already is.