New to Homeschooling? Here’s How I set Up My Year

Homeschooling for my daughter and I began only two months ago, and has been going amazing thus far. I believe the journey has been successful because of three major things: it being the path God created for us, support and planning! As I stated in my previous posts about homeschooling, Homeschooling: The Best Choice for Us and How To Get Started With Homeschooling, it has turned out to be the best choice for my family, and we also receive tons of support which makes our journey absolutely beautiful. However, had I not done the proper research and prepared like I needed to, I would probably be in the corner crying somewhere and feeling like I’d failed my daughter. When you’re new to homeschooling, there is so much to learn as the parent/teacher, and it’s a huge adjustment for the child(ren). I’ve set high standards for myself, and have failed to meet some of my expectations in many ways, but I’ve also exceeded the others in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I mentioned in “How To Get Started With Homeschooling” that it is great to connect with other homeschooling parents in order to get helpful insight on some of the methods of homeschooling that worked for them. One of my huge questions for other homeschooling moms was, “what does setting up the school year for your child even look like?” Where does one start?! The most neutral answer I received for choosing your first steps was, pull out a calendar and search for a curriculum. So I pulled out my general calendar (with all of the holidays), notepad (this allows for ideas to be written and edited freely), lesson planner (for when you’re ready to plan your subjects in detail) and laptop (pull everything together). If you don’t wish to purchase a personal or lesson planner, there are helpful apps out there that provide calendar and lesson plan templates.  I also received a helpful tip from a friend and printed out the calendar for the public schools in my state in order to see what their breaks were like. Once you have those items, you can then proceed with planning your school year!

Choose what your first and last days of school will be. Lawfully, there has to be 180 days of school. The public school calendar assisted me with this step. I looked over when the state would take their holiday breaks, when they would have professional development, half days and holidays that were only one day. My calendar is altered throughout the year because we may take a day off throughout the month, but it doesn’t hurt us because I have no need for a professional development day. On the rare occasion where we miss more days than expected, I add an additional day to our school year.

After those few steps, I went rogue. I mentioned in my posts from earlier that I took the unconventional step and chose to create my own curriculum and lesson plans rather than purchase one. If you plan on purchasing a curriculum, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! There are so many available, you want to make sure you’re choosing the best for your child(ren). Look at the reviews, search YouTube responses to the curriculum, visit the website, participate in free trials, use the free the samples and call the publisher if you need to! You’re investing in your child and into the curriculum. As a frugal parent, it’s best you do your due diligence before purchasing, but there are cases where you will purchase and the curriculum just doesn’t work for your household. It’s called trial and error…it happens! It’s not favorable, but you live and you learn.

When creating my curriculum, I worked through each subject one at a time. This is where your notepad comes in handy. I used my working knowledge of what Taniya learned in her subjects during the school year, and then thought about what I wanted my daughter to know, and found appropriate for her age. This is a tedious process, and isn’t the route most will take, but it worked for me. I thought about all the things Taniya found interesting, things I wish I learned in school, and things I wish Taniya was able to spend more time learning while in school. For example, I wish children had more than a month to learn about Black History. I remember feeling terrible as I got older and realized I couldn’t remember the significance of the many heroes in Black History. I then thought about how children are given a project that focuses on one person, and then they learn through the presentations of the other students, or through a program. That’s ok, but it’s not enough for me. In one months time, Taniya couldn’t tell me what she learned through her peers presentations. I decided that Black History would be taught through each subject all year round. It’s the theme of my curriculum. In science, she learns about plants, animals and sea life and more, in addition to Black scientists and inventors. In music, she learns about different instruments and Black musicians. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I knew Taniya would have the general knowledge of what is taught in school so that she would be able to have an understanding when going out into the world, but it was vital that she had thorough knowledge of her history. Another example of having a recurring theme throughout your subjects is relating everything to science or technology. You really have to let those creative juices flow.

Once I had pages worth of notes, I googled what the common core standards were for the grade level my daughter would be entering. You want to be sure that your set up matches what is required by the state. I saw there were only core standards for English and math, which was perfect! Those were the two subjects I wanted to have more structure in, and needed a little more guidance in. Everything was clear and concise on what your child should know for each grade level.

Afterwards, I used my calendar in order to give each topic for each subject, a month for learning. I allotted for days where there is no school and months where there are specific holidays where we can learn about certain historical events tied to that month. I also selected days where I wanted to use them for field trips. When you’re done with all of that writing, you should have pages of notes with points scratched out, notes on what you need to do further for a subject and more. I’m pretty sure you’re able to read it, but you’ll struggle trying to understand what you meant when reading and creating lesson plans from some of those points.

Grab your laptop and create a spreadsheet! I love spreadsheets! You’re able to organize those thoughts, put them into tables, create graphs for progress, keep record of attendance and more. Spreadsheets are so neat and organized. You can add notes without having jumbled thoughts across your paper. This year, I opted for my spreadsheet to show all of my subjects, the months, topics, and all of the resources that I can use for continued learning.

Although I use a spreadsheet, I also make use of great lesson planner that I got from Target for $5. I like to plan my lessons for each day a month prior to having to teach them. I use my spreadsheet as a reference in order to know what I’ll be teaching, what resources to use, and what field trips we can take to support the lesson(s). I choose one weekend out of the month in order to plan for the next month. It allows me to have an idea of what I will be teaching, and relieves me of having to make time each day to figure out what to do the next day. If we need more time on a topic or surpassed the time frame I had in mind, I adjust the days to reflect our needs.

As I’ve stated in my posts before, this was MY process, and it worked for ME. I do believe this method will work for other homeschoolers, but I’m also sure that some will frown their faces when reading. There are so many different techniques to teaching your child(ren) and preparing for the school year. Grab and take from this post and the other resources that you’ve researched.

If you wish to learn more (one-on-one) or to view my spreadsheet, please reach out to me through the either platform listed on the homepage and we can discuss further.

Happy Homeschooling!