Homeschool Lesson Planning: a Simple Approach

Lesson PlannerI’ve been asked to share how to plan lessons for homeschool, and here are so many ways to plan lessons that this is just the first of many approaches I will post on this topic.

Let’s start with the simplest possible approach.  For demonstration purposes, I am going to use Math U See’s Primer level, which I will be using this fall with my youngest, so these are my actual plans. I’ve used MUS (Math U See) many times over the years, and most levels of MUS are organized into 30 “Lessons” which resemble chapters. Within each Lesson, there are a few things that typically happen: taking time to teach the concept, 6 pages of practice (pages A, B, and C on just this Lesson and pages D, E, and F with this Lesson and reviewing previous Lessons), and (at higher levels) a test.

We have 175-180 school days (35-36 weeks) a year. (That may be different for you.) We also do field trips and activities away from home fairly often, so I never plan on math taking place from our curriculum every day. Even if we stayed home every day, I’d want to break the monotony with some hands-on activities to explore math concepts without limiting it to book work, so I only plan on 4 days a week working from the curriculum. Simple math says that I will have approximately 140-144 days to cover the 30 Lessons in MUS.

Each “normal” week, my goal will be to spend the first day introducing the topic and doing page A for that Lesson. On the 2nd-4th days, we will go over pages B-F, doing about 2 pages a day, spending as much time as we need to review anything that didn’t “stick.” On a good week, that leaves us a day for a field trip, baking (a.k.a. applied math), or whatever awesome idea I saw this week on Pinterest. I love having a plan, but I never want the checklist to be more important than the child, so I love the built-in day of flexibility!

If you’ve followed my logic so far, you’ll probably notice that there are only 30 “Lessons,” we cover about one Lesson each week, and I plan on 35-36 weeks of school. This, too, is part of my planned flexibility! When we get to the concepts that stump my child, we slow down. We re-teach the concept daily and take time to find multiple ways to talk about it, especially with manipulatives. If there’s a song or cartoon on the concept, we YouTube it too! (Schoolhouse Rock is one of my favorites, but I find new resources every time I look.) Our access to information is so vast that there is no reason we cannot find at least a dozen ways to explore a new concept if our first explanation didn’t “click” with our child.

In less than half an hour, I have planned math for one of my kids for a school year. If you use a computer program for your lessons, you can go ahead and enter the lessons in and move them to shift your flexible days as needed. If you love putting things on paper, a simple note in a composition book about the pacing of the lessons or jotting them on a spreadsheet might be more your style. Personally, I love charts, so I make an Excel spreadsheet that has most of the information preprinted, knowing that I can still make adjustments closer to when we do the lesson.  (The blank column is for recording grades and other notes I want stored here.) Here’s a peek at mine for one semester of this subject:

School year subject planner

Either Friday afternoon or sometime over the weekend each week, I will finalize the lessons for the following week and transfer it to our assignment sheet for the week. In a computer program, this would be when you shift assignments to the correct days based on what your calendar says you have this week. If you’re frugal and want it all kept in a spiral planner, the cheap planners that are in dollar stores, Target, Wal-Mart, and teacher supply stores will work. There are also many awesome planners designed for homeschoolers out there, and I’ve used many of them, but I am lazy about writing the same thing over and over unnecessarily, so I tend to make my own Excel spreadsheet per student and then pencil in the assignments for that week sometime before we start each week.

When I’m transferring lessons to the assignment sheet each week is also when I evaluate whether we need to slow down, spend a couple of days on related enrichment to reinforce the lesson, take a day to do something away from home during the coming week, or anything else that affects our school week. For example, the week of Thanksgiving, we won’t even open the books, opting to do math together in the kitchen instead. I can check my Pinterest board to choose something I saved for “one day” and insert it for a fun change of pace, and I can put it any day of the week (not just Friday as the schedule shows). Or we may have had so many recent sick days that I need to review for a week before introducing anything new. Or maybe we have dental cleanings, eye exams, orthodontist appointments, clubs, activities, or classes away from home that we need to plan around.  If I have a basic plan, I can adjust it for all those things that deviate from the plan!

Curriculum that has a nearly planned structure like Math U See makes planning extremely quick and easy. One of the best things about homeschooling is flexibility, but we also need to have a goal of what to cover each year, adjusting it for interests and abilities. The years that I have done this, either at the beginning of the year or once a semester, have been far easier and more successful than the years we began without a plan, and we ended up having so much more time for the fun extras.

Soon, I’ll write lessons for something a little less straight-forward to show you how to estimate lesson plans when the pattern is less obvious.

-Tina Kaye

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