It’s that time of year — the most exciting, for every DIY homeschooler mom!! It’s curriculum-designing time.
We’ve been homeschooling for ~18 years so I’m way more confident now than I was years ago when I first tried to do this. Back then, I was always petrified of picking the wrong book or resource and — horrors!!! — permanently damaging my child.
Psssh. I’m on the fifth child now, and while I won’t say I’m a pro at this, I’ve relaxed quite a bit. (Understatement of the year.)
So I thought I’d share a bit of my process, though I won’t go into too much detail, because I’m too excited to get back to my lists and spreadsheets and book piles as soon as I’m done here.
- Shop your shelves. See what you already have. Make book piles by subject matter.
- Consider where your child is in his/her learning, and determine what “next step” means for each subject. For instance, if you just got done with Ancient Egypt in History, then a natural next step would be to study Ancient Greece. If your child has mastered multiplication, then a logical next step would be division. And so on.
- If you haven’t yet, decide your main areas of study that you’d like to cover this year. Every year starting in 3rd grade, I try to cover
i. Practical Arts
- Now, that list right there may look overwhelming, but several of them can be combined into one subject. For instance, I usually group Religion and History together, and throw in Geography for good measure. Some of these subjects don’t have to be studied intensely all year either, so we may decide to do Civics for a month and that’s it.
- Pick areas of concentration for each subject, e.g., for Religion, do you need to do Sacramental Preparation this year? Would you like to focus on saints? What liturgical celebrations are “musts” to include in your year? For Music, does the child want to focus on one musical instrument? Field trips to the symphony? The lives of five composers?
- Start making your book and resource lists, incorporating what you want your child to learn, but more importantly, what your child wants to learn himself. I often ask the child to write out a wish list of 5–10 items he’d like to learn this year. I use catalogs, if needed, to help us out with this — I hand the child an educational catalog and have him circle items that interest him, telling him beforehand that we will pick only a few items to do/buy.
- Spreadsheet your booklists so you can see what can realistically be covered through the year. For instance, if a book has 12 chapters and you’d like to cover 1 chapter a day, then you know it will take 12 days to finish it. Or 12 weeks. Note: I love spreadsheets. If you don’t, use what works for you. Now, I put together spreadsheets to LIMIT myself, because I tend to go overboard with expectations of myself and my child, so for me it’s a good visual to see things spread out over 40 weeks, or 52 if you school year round, or whatever timetable works for your family. A spreadsheet is just a GUIDELINE for me to kinda keep track of where we are from month to month. I also calendar things like field trips or performances, and block off times for seasons like Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, when I know we need to slow down a bit on academics and focus on liturgical celebrations instead.
- If my child is old enough to start/maintain a planner, AND if the child is interested in planning his days, then I teach him how to set it up.
- And then I shop, if I have to. Or schedule purchases for when the book/material is needed. I reserve tickets for events (like symphonies and museum visits) if needed.
- And then I have a cup of tea. And/or a piece of chocolate. Usually both.
Happy Curriculum Planning!
(I promise a Part 2, where I share with you my favorite planning materials and resources.)