The box of curriculum is finally here! You spent countless hours researching, comparing, and considering all of the options out there. But now what? How do you turn this pile of shiny-covered tomes into actual, productive learning with your kids?
Don’t worry. You’ll get there, and I’ve got some easy, actionable steps to help you.
One at a Time
Take out the materials for just one program, and get an understanding of it before you do much looking at the others. You won’t feel so overwhelmed, and you’ll be better able to focus your attention on digging in and understanding the particulars of each curriculum.
Know Exactly What’s Inside
Give each program an in-depth preview. If the program has more than one component (such as student workbooks, teacher’s guides, readers, etc.), lay out each component for easy access so that you can do a scan of the corresponding materials when the teacher guide mentions them. If there’s a note to the parent/teacher, this is a perfect time to read it and catch the tone and context of what’s to come.
Look over the table of contents. Observe how many units are included and how many daily lessons there are per unit, look ahead to all of the exciting things your child (and you!) will learn as you complete the program, and consider if there’s any information you might need to brush up on so that you can teach it with confidence.
What else is in there? Is there an appendix with additional activities that would be fun to intersperse or reteaching materials that could be used in the event that your child struggles with a certain concept? Are there activity pages or worksheets that you’ll need to copy?
Scan through a few lessons. Do they share predictable parts? Maybe your math program has a daily fact fluency check, or maybe your reading program always starts with flashcards. Knowing the program’s routine will go a long way to helping you feel that you’ve got things under control.
A Place for Everything
Homeschooling can easily become a sprawling, cluttered mess, so decide where each material for the program needs to go for now. Math manipulatives that won’t be used until the spring might not need a space on your homeschooling space’s shelves, especially if your homeschooling area is short on space. Just be sure to store them in a sensible, logical place where they can be easily accessed when they are needed.
For the things that do need a place now in your homeschool area, carefully consider which materials your kids will be retrieving for themselves frequently. You’ll want to make it excessively easy for them to access those materials. Think about shelf height and ease of access – maybe flashcards in a rubber band on the top of the rolling cart rather than inside the box they came in that’s inside a pencil box that’s inside a storage cube.
Plan 1 Week – ONLY 1 Week
You’re excited, as you should be. BUT, truly and for real, reign yourself in when it comes to making daily lesson plans. It’s GREAT to come up with a vision for how you want the year to go and to write learning goal statements for your children: “By the end of 3rd grade, (child’s name) will be able to __________.”
Do NOT, however, write a semester’s worth or even a month’s worth of lesson plans. Here’s why.
- Somebody is going to get sick, a field trip opportunity is going to come up, or somebody is going to get frustrated or overwhelmed with a lesson and you won’t be able to finish everything you had planned for the day. There is a 100% chance that this will happen.
- You’re going to realize that some part of the program isn’t working for you, or you’ll realize there’s something you need to add.
- You’ll want to adjust pacing to accommodate the interests of your child.
- You’re not going to want to hear this, but it’s true. This curriculum you’re so excited about now… you might decide that you hate it. It happens to all of us. The thing is, though, that even though it hurts to feel like you’ve wasted money and it’s hard to give up on something you were once so excited about, it really is best to just move on to something else when you realize a curriculum is a bad fit. After all, what’s the cost of being miserable every day? What’s the cost of damaging your child’s love of learning?
Make Copies and Assemble Materials
Nothing puts a hitch in my giddyap quite like looking at my lesson plan during school time to see what’s next and realizing that I totally forgot to make the copies or pick up a material we need for a science experiment.
We’ve already gone over the possibility that your curriculum choices could change, so while it’s not necessary to make preparations for the entire year, it’s a good idea to prepare for an entire unit by printing off any documents you’ll need and running through required materials lists to make sure that you have them on hand and making a shopping list for anything you don’t have at the ready.