This is the first part of a seven part series on home school planning. I'll be posting a couple times a week so check back soon or better yet, subscribe to my RSS and you'll be sure not to miss a post!
The “5 W's and an H” aren't only for kids' writing assignments. They can help you effectively plan out your school year whether you're
a new or experienced homeschooler. Thinking through the questions,
“Who? What? When? Where ? Why? and “How?” is a powerful tool for
planning out your very first school year or your sixteenth!
The obvious answer to “Who?” is, “Well, my children of course!” But beyond the obvious “who” question is “Who are your kids?” The beauty of homeschooling is that you can take into account “who” your
kids are. Take some time to think about or determine their learning
styles, personalities, readiness levels, special needs, talent and
Also, ask “who” will be teaching. You as mom will most likely be doing the lion's share of schooling but there may be others in the
mix. Is your husband willing to teach a subject? Don't forget that
“Life Skills” is a subject! Your husband may not be into teaching math
or history, but does he have a skill or hobby that the kids can get in
on? More “whos” may include co-ops, friends, other relatives... anyone
who will end up contributing to your child's formal or informal
education this year.
There are many "whats" to think of:
What subjects will you be teaching this year?
What subjects might need a little more focus that last year?
What will you need? This is a good time to make a list to prepare for those awesome “back-to-school” sales that will be coming soon.
Also, what do you already have on hand? Do you have leftover supplies or materials from last year you can use up, or maybe a stash from last year's sales? Stocking up at those “back-to-school” sales can be a great way to save money, but not if you forget about your stash and end up buying duplicates! (experience talking)
If you are a new homeschooler, what are your state requirements? Each state has its own list of required subjects, days or
hours of instruction time, record keeping requirements etc... It's
best to know about them before you get far in your planning.
Here's where we think about schedules. What do you want the year's schedule to look like? Learn about different school year models –
traditional school year with the summers off, four weeks on and one
week off, three months on and one month off, year round... there are so many ways to schedule a year. Think about what would work well for your family, keeping in mind any state requirements that might restrict your choices.
Also, think about your weekly schedule. Does the typical Monday through Friday school week work just fine or would something different
suit your family better. This year our school week is Tuesday through
Saturday because of Dad's work schedule so he can have more time with
the kids on his days off. Homeschooling gives you this flexibility!
And of course, don't forget your daily schedule. Some families like fairly well scheduled days, some like lots of flexibility. Look at
which subjects you'll be covering and think about how much time you
think the kids should be spending on them on a daily basis. Of course
none of this is set in stone but it's nice to have a starting point.
Where will your primary instruction take place? Will you have a room pretty much dedicated as a “school room” or does the dining room table work nicely?
Where would be a good place to do those messy projects that need space and time to complete. Your dining room table might not be the best place for those!
Will you let the kids have their own spots for quiet study, whether it's the family room, the basement, their bedrooms, or even the garden?
Take some time to set up these spaces for optimal learning. We
generally work and learn best in quiet, uncluttered places with what we
need close at hand.
Will you be participating in activities outside your home like co-ops, nature centers, libraries, or a friend's house?
Does your home school have a “mission statement”? It should! You don't necessarily need a formal mission statement all typed out and
signed, but you do need to know “why” you're homeschooling. For one thing, when curious friends and family ask, “Why are you doing that?”
it helps to have a ready answer rather than standing there saying
“Well.... um....” and trying to figure out why in the world you are
homeschooling, especially if you're having a bad day! On a more
serious note, you may be called to give your reasons to authorities, or
other possibly-not-so-friendly people. Knowing your “whys” will make
this experience much less traumatic.
Thinking about why you're homeschooling is also a good tool for evaluating your other “w's.” It's good to know why you're homeschooling a particular child,
especially if you start to struggle with that child midyear. Similarly
it's good to ask yourself why you're teaching particular subjects, using
particular materials, following a certain schedule... You may run
across an item and think “Hey, that doesn't really fit in with why we
homeschool!” and save yourself much frustration. It might also lead you
to a resource, a schedule, or a method that better fits what you're
really trying to accomplish.
So many teaching methods, so little time! Traditional school-at-home, unschooling, relaxed schooling, Charlotte Mason,
Classical, Eclectic... Investigate lots of different methods. Books,
websites, and magazine articles abound on different homeschooling
methods and it's interesting reading! Pick a method that fits your
child's learning style, your teaching style, your child's readiness,
personality, what your end goal of education is... If you're just
starting out, just pick what sounds good and if it doesn't work out as
well as you'd like, you can always tweak or change next year! If you've
been homeschooling for awhile, do you need to re-evaluate based on
changes in your family, teaching more children, special needs, or
Once you've decided on your method, look at the different curricula out there. Some can be adapted to many different methods, some can't.
This is where being able to talk to a seasoned homeschooler comes in so
handy! There are local and online support groups, forums, and e-mail
lists where you can ask other moms about particular methods and
curriculum and get invaluable input.
Thinking through the 5 W's and an H, just like you tell your children to, can help you plan your best year yet and help you enjoy the journey of the 2010-2011 school year.