Planning Results in Less Stress and Increased Efficiency
With September behind us, we hope your homeschool is speeding happily down the track and has not yet derailed! As former homeschool moms, we found that as carefully as we planned, there were many times that our homeschool train took unexpected detours. We’d like to convince you, though, that planning ahead has its benefits.
Did we hear anyone say, “I don’t have time to plan?” We thought so.
|Both of HSLDA’s high school consultants homeschooled their children from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Learn more >>
Have Plan, Will Travel
Without a plan, it will be difficult to see where you’ve been and what’s ahead. But a plan will encourage both you and your teens as you track your progress throughout the year.
A four-year plan form, is a helpful tool to give you an overall picture for designing your teen’s high school program. Use it to show your teen the progression of courses and how the completion of them will help him meet his post–high school goals. Giving him choices and enlisting his ideas for future courses will give him ownership of his high school plan which will likely motivate him!
At the beginning of each course, discuss with your teen the objectives. This can be as simple as looking through the table of contents or taking a peek at the module/chapter summaries. Although it’s a small thing, understanding a broad survey of the course may fuel enthusiasm for it. If you haven’t already done so, decide on a method of evaluation for each course and be sure that your teen knows how you’ll determine his final grade. Evaluating her work regularly can give her a sense of accomplishment. (See our grading guidelines for ideas and resources if you need help in this area.)
Some courses lend themselves easily to mapping out assignments. If the math book has 130 lessons, you can determine how many lessons you’ll need to complete each week to finish the material. We aren’t advocating a strict adherence to a formal classroom type of schedule; however, knowing how much material you’d like to cover in a certain time frame is incentive for your teen to not slack off but to be diligent on a daily basis. There will be times when your teen may choose to work ahead so there is a cushion when balancing sports activities, debate tournaments, or visits from out-of-town guests. Likewise, if things are going slowly in one subject area, you can make adjustments in your schedule and lighten up in other subjects.
Here’s an example: if your teen is enjoying the poetry unit and churning out haikus, make an adjustment to your plans and perhaps delete the short story unit. Don’t become slaves to your curriculum; instead, make it work for you. If your teen is busy with an English composition, waiting until the following week to assign his next history paper may be the way to go.
Throughout the school year at regular intervals (perhaps quarterly), it may be helpful to set aside time to review how the year is going. If it’s mid-year and your teen is currently on chapter 10 of a 30 chapter science text, then it’s obvious that you'll need to decide how to pick up the tempo. The elective you planned for the second semester might need to be shelved completely, or it may need to wait until the following year. On the other hand, if math is going better than expected and your teen is flying through the book, you could add an elective the second half of the year. Putting a little thought into how well your plans are matching with reality will enable thoughtful adjustments and pacing of your teen’s schedule, leading to a more peaceful environment for everyone.
The high school years are an opportune time for your teen to begin keeping a personal calendar in addition to your master schedule. Help her plan out the week to account for the hours she’ll work that part time job, practice for that drama part, and still manage to complete her school assignments on time. If you are looking for an elective, a time management course may be just what you are looking for!
It’s also a good idea to plan with margins in mind. Some authors call this “white space.” The goal is not to fill up each day to the brim, but to actually schedule down time and free afternoons where you can catch your breath or deal with unexpected situations.
Up and Out of the Classroom
The beginning of the school year is a good time to scope out possible field trips that will add some spark to high school courses. Will you be studying the judicial branch in your government course? Check out the possibilities to give your teen an opportunity to watch a trial in action. Would a trip to the local art museum complement your teen's art history course? As you discuss possible careers with your teen, arrange for several days of job shadowing with various professionals so that your teen encounters the work environment first hand. Setting up these learning experiences takes time and advance planning but are well worth the investment.
As you teach your teen good planning skills, he will come to see that a well–structured lifestyle usually results in more accomplishments and less wasted time. Colleges find that students who work part time, are involved in a few extracurricular activities, and make time for social events actually are better managers and have higher grade point averages than students who are not as involved or squander away precious moments.
Combine, Consolidate, and Simplify
Planning your own schedule will involve some fine tuning when your teens hit the high school years. Until they are driving, it will sometimes seem as though your main duty is chauffeuring! Think through your week and plan your school and non-school activities to make the best use of limited time. Although you may have always done your grocery shopping at a particular store, is there another store handy to your son’s baseball practice that you could frequent while you wait for practice to be over? Is your daughter’s piano teacher just a few minutes away from the public library where you need to return books on a weekly basis or will your next history unit necessitate videos that you can pick up from the library? Is the co-op where you teach a short drive from the art supply store? Be intent on saving time and money by planning out your trips in advance and not making quick “dash and run” excursions on the spur of the moment.
Look ahead to upcoming lessons and make a running list of items that will be needed such as science experiment supplies or math tools such as compasses and protractors or graph paper. Purchasing these items at one time or in combination with other errands conserves energy—and makes for more productive teaching time!
Are there high school history or literature lessons that your younger children can benefit from sitting in on? Having your 2nd grader busy with a Civil War coloring book while you discuss the Battle of Gettysburg with your teen is good use of everyone’s time, but it won’t happen without prior planning. (It’s amazing what those little ears pick up and remember when hands are busy.)
If you take time to write out your teen’s assignments, your brief notes can double as a recordkeeping device. Again, consolidating tasks improves efficiency.
Put It in Reverse
Decisions made in haste are usually poor choices. That’s why making an effort to “back up” and give yourself plenty of time to make decisions is part of well-organized planning.
- Do you put off making curriculum decisions until you are under the gun and it’s too late to take advantage of used book sales or investigate what may be available in the HSLDA Curriculum Market?
- Do you delay in signing your teen up for online or dual enrollment courses and thereby pay a premium, miss out on early discounts, or miss the enrollment deadline?
- Could you make better use of your summer by reading a couple of novels that your teen will tackle in lit class? Summer gives you good time to check out free resources, or watch a couple of videos from Khan Academy that may help your teen with his upcoming math course.
Here’s a possible timetable to use for planning:
January—investigate outside classes that may have early registration/discounts
February—scope out curriculum
March—make plans to attend a state homeschool conference
April—check out used curriculum sales
May—order new curriculum
June—take time during the summer to read novels/look over curriculum and begin or update the high school transcript
July—clear out, unclutter, and recycle old school materials
August—plan several field trips for the school year
September—purchase school/art supplies
October—enjoy a breather and watch the change of seasons
November—set aside a planning day to review how the year is going
December—begin to think about next year's courses
Not everyone will plan in the same way. But, coming up with a method that decreases your stress and increases your efficiency is beneficial. If forms are helpful to you, Donna Young’s website offers many reproducibles. The key results of planning are focused goals, a relaxed pace, and an organized atmosphere. You’ll soon benefit from the advantages of planning and get better with practice.
Next month, we’ll tackle the question: What are my teen’s high school requirements for graduation?
Busily planning our next newsletter,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants