26 January 2013

Education At Home, Part 3: Homeschool Lesson Plans

Dear Lissy,

We've come through the worst of the brutally cold weather, and I'm taking a few minutes to wrap up a letter I've been writing to have an excuse to sit by the stove for the last week.

 The subject of lesson plans often comes up when I'm with other home schooling moms.  Some feel that they need to write formal lesson plans for each child for each subject every week (yikes!), others feel a plan can be stifling, and choose to move along at the child's pace (yawn), most fall somewhere in between the two.

  • A formal lesson plan is a vital tool for a classroom setting.  Teachers are dealing with state assessments, discipline issues, substitutes, and different children each year.  The teacher may also have days that another faculty member or substitute covers her class.
  • A formal lesson plan is not a vital tool for a home where the parent  who knows the child intimately works with them one on one over long periods of time.   
Even a home school needs direction and drive, though, and that's where these thoughts come in.  This is the way I've chosen to create order and discipline in our school and ensure you get an excellent education.  There are hundreds of other systems that are just as effective.  If you home educate, I highly encourage you to use a curriculum for a year or two that provides daily lesson plans pre-written for Mom until you gain the confidence to relax into a routine like ours.  After just two years of A Beka, I was confidently adding in Latin, swapping out their writing program for IEW, and making other changes to cater to your abilities and weaknesses.

Scope and Sequence  

A scope and sequence (S & S) is a document that states the scope, or extent, of what you plan to teach and the sequence  in which you will cover it from K-12

 I choose to use a professionally developed S & S and modify it to fit each student.  This will be updated year-to-year, but gives a "big picture" plan for their school career as well as the year.  

Most states have an "S&S" they will send you free upon request.  These are large documents written by and for professional educators.  Do not be intimidated or overwhelmed by them.  They are for reference purposes only.

Many textbook publishers have a free PDF.  I used the A Beka Scope and Sequence, the Bob Jones University Press Scope and Sequence, and the Veritas Press catalogs/website to create our family's traditional  S & S with Classical education elements.

Whether you are following a traditional approach or using unit studies, an S & S will ensure that you cover the topics thoroughly and in an orderly fashion.  It also allows you to swap out materials from your curriculum that aren't meeting current needs without creating "holes" in a child's knowledge or skills.

Weekly/Daily Routine

A parent is already aware of their child's learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses.  Rather than creating a lesson plan for each day, I choose to create routines at the beginning of the year for each child based on their individual needs and interests.  If I am ill, you each know the routine, and keep on the same schedule.  Used in conjunction with a well-planned assignment notebook, the need for daily lesson plans for each child in each subject are eliminated.

Middle Elementary weekly plan
Subjects are completed in the order listed to maximize attention and energy levels.  Times are approximate.
Bible (30 minutes) 
Arithmetic (45 minutes)
Language Arts: Grammar, Spelling, Reading (45 minutes) 
Break (20 minutes)
Language Arts 2:  Writing and Handwriting (30 minutes)  
History (30 minutes)
Science or Health (30 minutes)
Art, Music, Science, Home Arts(30 minutes)

Middle Elementary daily plan for each subject
Basic facts drill or flashcards
  • Each subject is different:  Bible verses, math tables, being verbs, states and capitols, etc.
  • Each child responds to different methods:  games, challenges, puzzles/3d manipulatives, computer, etc.
  • Keep it fast paced and fun.
Review of previous day's concept or homework
Learn ONE new concept.  We don't double up lessons.
Practice new skills, complete experiments, or work on hands-on activities
Independent work  - Mom checks work is done neatly, quickly, and completely!

Beginning in 6th or 7th grade we transition to textbooks, DVD, and online courses that are self directed.  We plan your daily routine together at the beginning of the year, and any changes have to be approved.
  • For classes that are self or computer directed I tutor, review, proctor quizzes and tests, and perform experiments/demonstrations with you.  I also check that work has been accomplished satisfactorily at the end of the day, 
  • For classes that are still being taught traditionally, I follow the same format as elementary, but require you to pre-read the assignment so we can discuss on higher levels than simple recall.

Assignment Notebooks

The assignment book is Mom's written record of what work each child is going to accomplish during the week in each subject. In elementary school we use mostly A Beka which has the lessons all pre-planned for the teacher/mom.  Once we transition to other textbooks, we simply divide the number of lessons  and determine how many need to be done each week.  I will often skip one or more units if the material has been covered recently or will be covered the following year (this is where an S & S is vital). I write the assignments and gather teaching materials during the day on Monday for Tuesday through the following Monday.

Early Elementary:  Daily or weekly folders/boxes with worksheets and necessary materials.
Middle Elementary:  Assignments for each day in planner.
Bible: Begin verse review for Friday
Math:  Lesson 66 Speed Drill, p. 167-168
Language:  Pp. 103-107, Read 3 chap. in book report book, take notes.
Spelling:  Copy List 15, Recite The Children's Hour every day 2x
Reading:  Oral Quiz over HW,  read Adventures pp. 13-21
Handwriting:  p 153, concentrate on slant of descending loops
Writing:  "How to make pancakes"
History:  Read pp. 117-119, Comp check ? 4.7, Maps 12 &18, Preamble 2x
Science:  5.7 Soundwaves, Comp ?, Tin Can telephone demo
Art:  Origami snowflake

Upper Elementary - Middle School:  Assignments for week recorded by subject, students have to prepare daily work plan and log.
Week of 1/15 - 1/19
Bible:  Cumulative Verse Test Friday
Math:  Lessons 61-64 (inc. Speed drills) Test 15
Grammar:  Lesson 20 & 21
Spelling and Vocab: List 15 w/ test
Literature:  Finish Across Five Aprils, prepare for discussion Thursday compare/contrast AFA with Uncle Tom's Cabin.
History:  Unit 14, all review ?, Quiz 14, Writing assignment #2
Science:  Biology Unit 6 reading, lab list, notebook check Fri.
Robotics: Fund raising letter mailed by Friday.

High School:  Nate's first online class required him to produce a "pace chart" for his teacher.  I probably would have still been writing weekly assignments through high school if I hadn't seen their method and realized how much better it prepared him for college and life.  I now give high school students semester or yearly syllabuses, and then the student writes a weekly pace chart for teacher/mom's approval.  I teach each student how to do this exactly the same way I taught you Math problems in third grade.  I require a weekly plan and a daily work log/check in as well.
American History:  
  • Final exam Part 1 January 25th, Part 2 May 27th.  
  • Worldview discussions and paper rough draft eval with mom on Thursday afternoon.  
  • Weekly papers must be submitted by 2 pm Friday for grading.  
  • All required resources must be read and logged each week.  Reading will be spot checked.
  • Unit exams will be administered the last Wednesday of each month unless change is requested and approved.

In order to work with three students simultaneously, I work with each one individually reviewing and teaching new concepts.  Often we combine classes for two or even all three of you.  The others work independently from assignment notebooks while they wait.  Once each child's teaching time is complete, I am available on a first come, first serve basis.  Each of you is required to show me completed work before you put away school books at the end of the day.

Again, this isn't the "right" way for every family.  One of our main goals is to teach discipline, and we felt that this method works well to accomplish that purpose.

I love you bunches and hope that you will one day have the joy and reward of educating your own little flock.  Sweet, sweet times, these.

Ancora imparo,

Linked up at Homestead Barn Hop #96 and Raising Homemakers

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