How to Create Winning Lesson Plans for Homeschooling
You’ve assembled your homeschool curriculum for the year, as well as other resources and online programs you’ll be supplementing with. Now, you're ready to get a solid plan and, lesson plans for homeschooling, prepared for the school year. Even if your plan is loose, or you intend to utilize Unschooling or child-led learning, it’s still a plan, and you can make the most of it.
It can be intimidating for some homeschoolers to consider creating their lesson plans. Laying out an entire year seems daunting, and like a lot of work, but there are some steps, tips, and tricks that you can use to help with the process. I do want to say, however, that you should never feel your lesson plan lineup is chiseled in stone. Above all else, remember to give yourself the grace that, should something arise that causes you to deviate from your plan, you can do so without regret. After all, homeschooling is to be a liberating experience that helps you make the most of not only of your child’s education but your lives together.
Why Have a Lesson Plan in the First Place?
When you decide to cook a new dish, would you consider doing it strictly from memory, with no recipe in hand? Unless you're a seasoned cook and have your dishes memorized, of course, you wouldn’t! You need the recipe to help you figure out the ingredients, the steps it takes to best put them together, and how long to cook it. The same holds true for lesson planning. Making lesson plans is simply a type of “plan of action” that helps to lay out steps, gather supplies, and allot a certain amount of time so that you’re not completely covered up each day. And with just a bit of preparation and planning, you can have a clear plan of action for your homeschool year that will make for smooth sailing each and every day, no matter the grade level of your children.
Having a lesson plan helps take the big picture and break it into smaller, more manageable pieces. For instance, the long-term goal of “Complete fifth-grade spelling” can be broken into short-term goals, let’s say, to complete spelling words in weekly increments, or list by list until the curriculum is completed.
Tips for Making Lesson Plans
Homeschool planning also helps to be able to get back on track if things happen or pop up that you can’t avoid. The fact is, life happens, and it doesn’t care whether you’re ready or not. Illnesses, little household emergencies, or car repairs can often leave us reeling. And by the time we get back to our homeschooling, the first thought in our mind is, “Now, where was I?”. Having everything planned out can help avoid the educational breakdown, even when unforeseen things happen.
Tip 1: Make Homeschooling Breaks a Priority
There are some things that simply do not change throughout the year. Holidays, for instance, are constant, and you can easily look at your calendar and schedule which days or weeks are going to be best for your breaks. Some families homeschool right through them, adjusting schedules and lesson plans to reflect the added activity and travel plans. It’s easy to do this when you’re sure of your plan, and especially if you’re traveling to a location where you can take advantage of new museums, libraries, historical landmarks, or even just a family business. Each of these allows for some unique lesson plans that can be added with ease.
Other families set aside days or weeks off when no schoolwork is done, and the family simply enjoys leisure time. Even then, if you keep a small journal with bullet points, you might find that your children are led naturally to many opportunities that qualify as educational because children are always learning. It might be as simple as a musical instrument they love to play, a favorite educational program on television, or a conversation your older child has with a mentor regarding their assumed vocation choice. And it’s all these little things that, once considered, you’ll find add up to lots of knowledge.
Tip 2: Plan Homeschooling Days and Weeks
Now comes the part of the process where you think about how each week should tentatively go. For instance, decide how many days per week you intend to teach each subject, and for how long. For instance, some subjects, like math, must be taught and practiced daily for the best results. English, or Language Arts, usually falls into this category as well.
As the educator, you should look at the specific subjects you plan to teach and determine if they are to be daily, or perhaps two or three times per week. Certain subjects and electives, such as social studies, foreign language, and home economics, can be broken down into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes, or alternatively, Tuesday and Thursday classes.
Once you know the day of the week for specific subjects, you can move on to what your school day will look like. Some families do better waking up a little later before getting started. For instance, if a parent works the second shift, this schedule is likely to work out better. If so, just plan the best hours for teaching, lunch, and be sure to include lots of breaks for going outside. If you’re adhering to the Charlotte Mason method, for example, it is often recommended that children spend a total of four to six hours out of doors.
As homeschoolers, we have the freedom that public school educators don't have in arranging our weeks to teach certain subjects daily, every other day, or a couple of times a week.
Tip 3: Homeschooling Lesson Plans Per Subject
One of the greatest joys for a homeschooling mom is having a great planner that feels comfortable, is easy to use, and easy to maneuver. (You can get one from Amazon, here, or a printable planner here!) For some, lesson plans are small enough and compact enough to include several, or all, into one notebook. Others choose to use one binder per subject, while still others use a digital means of recording lesson plans that they can keep and back up at their discretion.
I will say first that it’s not often that a homeschooling parent can sit down and schedule out an entire year in one sitting. Some parents simply plan a week ahead, but it’s very important to look at the entire year for each subject and make sure you’re not cutting yourself short. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of your school year only to realize you’re not finished with all the material you had planned for a specific subject.
Using a unique lesson plan software or an Excel spreadsheet format can truly make the planning process easier, providing an “at a glance” reference. It’s easy to move back and forth among these, especially if you have multiple children, and can make the process much more efficient.
To begin, start with core subjects that you do not want to deviate from. If you have a teacher’s manual, refer to that, starting with the number of total lessons that are included. The teacher’s manual should give you a guide for lesson plans, but also should note the average amount of time that students will need for each topic.
Simply adding in the title of the book, and page numbers are sufficient unless your local homeschooling regulations state that more is required. If more information is required, you can add short notes into the lesson plan about where to find that information.
Remember to factor in some time for your child to study, read on their own, and also some time for daily planning, grading, record-keeping, or meal prep. Making that a part of your lesson plan can help immensely and can keep you from becoming overwhelmed when you wind up having to do all those things anyway, at the end of a long homeschooling day.
Tip 4: Include Fun in Homeschooling Lesson Plans
Be sure to schedule plenty of fun activities, and interactive activities, such as field trips, crafting and cooking. As you make the lesson plans, be sure to set aside a separate piece of paper or a separate file where you can make notes about the specific supplies you’ll need to keep on hand, or the ingredients for recipes. You might even want to take this time to create a library list or a book list so that you won’t have to waste any time looking around for the materials you need for reading. Can you say Pinterest?
Tip 5: Look Back to Plan Forward
This might sound counterintuitive but look back to last year to see if it went the way you would have liked for it to go. Did you finish everything you had planned? Did you have too much written down - you were unrealistic in your expectation? These types of questions are valuable in planning how the upcoming year will go, and how you plan.
Even if you’re a mom that isn't exactly a whiz at being organized, with a lesson plan, you can create days that are much easier and simpler to get through. After all, if you can pull of things like grocery lists, recipe binders, and keeping up with all that your household has to do on any given week, then you’re more than capable of planning out your homeschool, even if you have to do so day by day.
So be sure to put together a planner that you’ll find easy to use, either digitally or on paper, and go ahead and jot down some ideas. The sooner you get started, the sooner it will be finished, and the sooner you’ll be on your way towards homeschool days that are smooth sailing.