Guest post by Tara Vos
There is a peculiar thing the homeschool world does this time of year. Before the completion of the current year, flyers for homeschool conventions with the promise of curriculum sales invade inboxes. Facebook curriculum swap sites are a buzz with people looking to pawn old books, and we begin planning the upcoming year while still trying to keep our heads in this year!
Next school year I will be teaching kindergarten, 2nd, 4th, and (gulp) 6th grade. We will take turns chasing the 2 year old. He’s cute but so loud and wiggly! It feels me with equal amounts of both fear and anticipation as I think of the books we will read and truths we will learn in the upcoming year.
I look at school planning like giant puzzle that I put together each year. I always begin staring at a million broken pieces in the bottom of the box, feeling overwhelmed. I look at my husband and say, “I do not know how I am going to do this!” He assures me, “You will figure it out. You always do! Don’t stress; you’re fine. It’s going to be great!” His encouragement bolsters me through my fears.
There are some homeschool parents who can pick a random spelling curriculum and run with it or have one chosen math curriculum for their whole family and is works well. That isn’t how it has worked for me. As more of our kids have grown into school age I have had to adjust my teaching methods to accommodate independent work on subjects that require a level of mastery and more group learning on subjects that can be taught spirally. At least one of my kids has dyslexia so learning styles must be carefully considered. Every year putting together our curriculum takes on like-puzzle process. First, I take time to study the big picture. Second, I dump the box out and sort the pieces. Finally, I get to assemble the puzzle!
Look at the Big Picture
Pray. This is the thing that every Christian, homeschool mom says to do first. It can sound a little cliché, but I cannot let it become that. The Martha in me wants to skip this step because it doesn’t look like I am doing anything when stop to pray, but I must pray. Spending time with the Lord, praying over our homeschool is a balm to my soul. I place my children and their education into the hands of the Father, that is where they belong. He loves them more than I do. He has a plan for their lives, and it is best I do not try to superimpose upon it. I am often tempted to act solely responsible for my children’s education, but this only leads to more anxiety on my part. He is the potter; we are clay.
In prayer I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me and to my children. He knows just what we need when we need it. Time and time again I have ‘stumbled’ upon the right book, academic practice or class that fills a need our homeschool. He has faithfully provided out of his abundant goodness and wisdom. When I pray over our school I offer a sacrifice of praise and thankfulness for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do in our homeschool.
Look at what is right. Looking ahead at all of the subjects we “should” cover and projects we could do can be unnerving. There is a temptation for me to feel that I am failing everywhere and coming up short. Truth be told, there are some areas that are really working for us right now. When I stop and look at what is currently working, the anxious feeling that I need to do or be more dissolves. I also need to remember that while curriculum companies want to help, they also want to sell something! I must be sure that I do not create a need where there is none. Our morning time has been a huge blessing to our homeschool, my son’s math was a great fit this year and our history curriculum is really working for us. I avoid searching out other curricula in these areas where God is already blessing.
Plan the school calendar. We school in 5-6 week terms (depending on the holidays) and we take a week break after each term for field trips and rest. We begin our year in the heat of August and take off to enjoy the beauty of May. Calendar planning is a time to give the year shape, structure, and boundaries so I can see which term might be best for smaller unit studies and memory work. Calendar planning is like finding the outside pieces of my puzzle so that the picture can begin to take place.
Start with the little ones first and special needs. I learned this from Amy at Raising Arrows, and it was revolutionary. Naturally, kids grow in their ability to work autonomously as they learn and mature. When I begin planning I consider the little ones first, then look at special needs or weaknesses that will require individual tutoring. It becomes clear what subjects must be addressed either as a group or with a curriculum that accommodates individual learning.
Accept limitations. There is one of me. There is five of them. There is dyslexia. There is a toddler. There are laundry and meals. There are only 24 hours in the day. Accepting my limitations takes humility and faith in a God that is bigger. Accepting my limitations usually takes me back to step one, and I am back at Jesus feet asking for guidance and mercy. (That is where I should be anyway!)
With all the ground work laid it’s time to put the pieces together. I love this part! It takes me a while to get here, but it is time to assemble my puzzle. I am an old-fashioned paper and pencil list maker. Each kid gets a list of the subjects they will be studying individually (like math or spelling) and I also make a Morning Time list of subjects we will be enjoying together. With groundwork laid, it quickly becomes pretty clear which curricula will and will not work in the up-coming year. Lesson planning will come later, but for now let the deal hunting begin!
Tara Vos is a homeschooling mother of 5. She and her husband Jordan have been married for 15 years. As a family they enjoy music, walks in the neighborhood and taking field trips. Tara’s ebook Relational Recitation is designed as a tool for homeschool moms who desire to add the benefit of memorization.