It’s June and I have a completed plan for September. This has never happened before. Some years in agony, I am still writing my scope and sequence of homeschool lesson plans for the new school year, right up until Labor Day. Not quite procrastination as I was just making sure that I had examined EVERY possible curriculum. (I even did this when I was a teacher of the Deaf, searching every summer for one more perfect workbook.)
I know what books we need, and I have them. Not because I searched every book, but because in the process of decluttering our classroom, I have stacked up the books I loved from my older kids, and because I have a new focus about simplifying the amount of curriculum to the very best materials and using them more deeply.
Every year I have attended the regional curriculum fair at our convention center and brought home more “Stuff.” This is the first year that I am not even going. I have enough. I am still curious about what books are out there as I love books, I just don’t need more. In minimalizing our homeschooling I have simplified our lesson goals for next year; yet that doesn’t mean that the expectations are lowered. The bar is still set high, but rather than a book report every other week, I want a really good quality report once a month, and a deep conversation and analysis for the second book. Not everything will be about producing evidence. Not everything will be assigned to match my expected grade requirements. Some assignments will be for the love of learning and the process of obtaining knowledge.
Sharing this with two new homeschooling families, I see them in the newbie stage of ordering tons of materials and searching for one more perfect workbook. When asked to advise, I usually give them the standard seven topic areas to focus on, and from there we build a scope and sequence for the year. (Scope and Sequence — long term and short term goals and objectives):
English/Language Arts (Reading/Literature, Writing, Grammar, Phonics/Vocabulary/Spelling, penmanship)
History (History, Social Studies, or Geography)
The Arts (Music, Theater, Fine Arts, Dance)
PE (PE and Health)
Second Language (a.k.a. Foreign Language or World Language)
For us, the PE is usually the seasonal sport, and music is the ongoing music lessons, both taught elsewhere. That brings us down to five focus areas; English, Math, Science, History, and 2nd Language. Fleshing out each of these subject areas could be its own posting, which I will save for another time.
The old Homeschooling Me, had two or three math programs going at the same time, making sure that everything was getting covered, because no program was complete enough. Same went for spelling for our second child, as she struggled and nothing seemed to be clicking, so more must be better. Science was instructing through two different programs each week, because both were incredible, and I couldn’t choose one over the other.
New Minimalist Homeschooling Me–I might still do the three spelling books, but now they are pursued sequentially. For Science, one unit study of chemistry and then the following month may be astronomy, no more half weeks of each. Math still has flash cards and timed sheets for our youngest, but there is only one curriculum program used–our favorite. The bar is still in the same place, but the visual clutter of doubled curriculum on the shelf, or the chaotic lesson plan book with double the entries has been reduced. The pace of the week is calmer with more focus, yet the same number of hours are instructed.
Where did this hyper curriculum rotation come from? My teaching days. Our school used several curriculums to meet the needs of all the various learning styles, making sure that something would click with the kids on every subject. Present in three different modes, kinesthetic, visual, and auditory, to make sure every student was covered. I know my own family’s various learning styles, and I really don’t need to teach every lesson in three modes. It’s good to expose them to learning in an alternative style than their own, but for new materials, I only need to pick their learning style for initial presentation.
(For a quick and easy learning style assessment and teaching style explanation, check out the chapter on learning styles in Cathy Duffy’s “100 Top Picks for Homeschooling Curriculum.”)
It’s June and I have the whole summer to do projects and go on vacation with the family. I am still sorting through my “stuff” from the past (check earlier posts) and I am daily eliminating one book from our shelves to create my favorite homeschooling resources. Each step in minimizing our homeschooling is bringing more quality time back into our lives.