How to plan a homeschool year with a large family without losing your mind or taking all summer? Well, I am excited to breakdown and share my method with you in this post!
I think the real question most folks are wondering about how I plan a homeschool year is how I teach all those grades times x number of subjects?! Well, the answer is, I don’t teach that many subjects! I use a straightforward and simple method of subject combining and grade grouping!
First things first
Our educational philosophy
Feel free to hit that button above and jump straight to the planning our homeschool year section if you like, but I do think it would be helpful to give you some background and foundation for WHY we homeschool the way we do and the philosophy behind it. I think before we try to follow WHAT anyone is doing, it is equally important that we know the WHY for our own selves first. Here area few questions to consider as you navigate forming your own philosophy before you move on to read ours.
A few questions to answer when you plan a homeschool year:
- Your reason for homeschooling?
- Goals you have for your children’s education?
- Tools and skills you would you like your children to have when they are finished with their formal education?
- Your mission in raising your children?
- What is your family rhythm? (Late nighters? Early risers?)
- Your teaching style
- Your children’s learning style
We don’t fit into any one educational philosophy perfectly. Although I have been inspired and influenced by many different educational philosophies, we are primarily classically based with a Charlotte Mason approach. Which essentially means we have a living book, literature based education but also aim to teach the 4 pillars of educational taught according to the Trivium.
The Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is a way of spreading the feast of great ideas, people and places before the children so they can form connections and relationships with these ideas, people and places. This philosophy also involves narration, a retelling, of what they’ve read which enables them to absorb and process those ideas and concepts and helps facilitate their ability to write those thoughts down later.
Favorite books on Educational Philosophies
Here are some of my favorite books on varying Educational Philosophies if you want to dig deeper. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, rather these are the sources we have used over and over again and found to be the most helpful.
- Charlotte Mason’s entire works
- Teaching the Trivium by the Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
- Educating the Whole hearted Child by Clary and Sally Clarkson
- The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
- For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Other Resources on these Educational Philosophies
- Simply Charlotte Mason
- Veritas Press
- Classical Academic Press
- The Well Trained Mind
- Ambleside Online Curriculum
- A Gentle Feast Curriculum
Our primary goal is to help shape biblically based critical thinkers and Christ followers, for that reason, we don’t just want them to memorize rote facts and dry information. We seek to aid them in becoming excellent communicators. This will equip them to bring value to the world and engage with the thoughts and people around them.
Also, we desire to give them the tools to apply these ideas and knowledge, in this way knowledge applied becomes wisdom. This is where teaching the subjects such as math, phonics, grammar, logic, writing and the like come in. It is important to us that we give them useful tools that they can use to engage with the ideas they come across and the culture around them. We don’t want to “fill” their minds, on the contrary we want them to learn to interact with these ideas through the biblical lense of scripture.
Steps for how to plan a homeschool year
Now we’ll get into the nitty gritty good stuff you’ve probably come here for! 🙂
Late Spring is my preferred time of year to do my planning. The year is drawing to a close and the load lightens as we’re finishing up books. At this time of year I have a bit of breathing room in my schedule but not so much that I get carried away. I find that it is easy to think we can do EVERYTHING next year! If I let the planning happen over the whole summer I have a tendency to be too idealistic and UNrealistic. The end of the year is also a great time to still have the previous year’s books and curriculum fresh in my mind and gives me time to order or sign up for classes in the fall.
1.) Year End Audit
At the end of the year is the perfect time to sit down with each child and ask them what worked and what didn’t. I do this with a printable we call an “Year End Audit”. I go through it with my grade school kids and let my older ones fill it in on their own before discussing it with me. We go subject by subject and talk about the wins of the year, and reflect on all they’ve learned and accomplished. This is a wonderful time to encourage my child and gives me more insight as I plan the upcoming year!
2.) Review my Scope and Sequence
Next I look over my scope and sequence to see what is on the trajectory for each child in each subject. I also check what history year we’ll be studying together. This gives me a general idea and starting point that I can then adjust as needed. I don’t put my children into grade “boxes” because they, honestly, just don’t fit in them perfectly across all subjects! The beauty of homeschooling, though, is in it’s flexibility. Each year, I reassess and adjust as needed. Having a plan in place makes this much less overwhelming and more strategic.
Now here’s where the grouping and combining comes in so well! I group grades by what Charlotte Mason calls forms, and in the classical model they are the 4 pillars of education. Basically, there are 4 groups with 3 grades in each.
Looks like this..
I have found this combination to be very effective in knowing which grades/ ages of children to group together. For example, if a child is reading at a 3rd grade level, but otherwise would be at a 5th grade level , I would put him in Form 2. This way we can catch him up on his reading skills, while he listens in on readings with the older sibling. This ends up being very helpful to minimize my load as a teacher while also benefiting the child.
Conversely, if a child’s comprehension and ability is beyond what his “grade” would dictate, I can give him the higher level readings in his form for more challenge. Or, I can easily bump him up with an older sibling without changing EVERYTHING in his curriculum.
I find this method of grouping simplifies the logistics of combining subjects. It also is adaptable to each child’s capabilities.
(Ambleside Online also has curriculum setup by groups that is a similar concept here.)
Choosing a Curriculum when planning a homeschool year
I primarily use A Gentle Feast Curriculum to source my books. This is a literature based curriculum. She has a schedule you can purchase alongside a lovely booklist. I have used her full curriculum in years past, however I just use the booklists now. If a book she has listed won’t be a great fit for a particular child, I will then check Ambleside Online. We have found AO to be a bit TOO heavy by grade for some of my kids and A Gentle Feast can be too light. Most of mine have fallen somewhere in the middle, for this reason I plan per year for each child.
Subjects I combine
These subjects lend themselves well to group grades together in.
- Social Studies
- Foreign language
- Most any book that can be read aloud or to themselves
- (More in the upper grades- i.e. logic, economics etc)
I begin in Form 1, because it’s the easiest, and just start filling in a spreadsheet with the books we’ll be doing that form per subject. Then I move on to Form 2 etc. I fill in all the subjects that I combine first and then move on to the individualized subjects.
A NOTE ON HISTORY ROTATION:
We follow a history rotation cycle, essentially each student cycles through a time period at least 2 times during their education. I combine ALL forms under the same time period, as best as I can. Each form will have a corresponding Ancient time period they will study coorespondingly, but everyone else is in the same period.
This makes for lovely connections and conversations among the children through the year. They are reading different books and at differing levels, but get to make connections about who, what and where they’re reading about. This means no matter where a child comes in as he’s beginning his formal education, I can rest assured we will circle around enough he’ll be able to learn more later. I find this takes the pressure off me worrying too much about cramming everything in the first forms, knowing they will be able to go more in depth in later years.
History Cycle Example
Here is an example of how the cycle could look depending upon where the student begins. As you can see below whichever year they come in at, they will get to cycle through again later!
|1||1-2||US (Local) History||–|
|2||4||Early British/ American||Greeks|
|2||6||Modern Times||Middle ages/ Medieval|
|3||8||Early British/ American||Greeks|
|4||10||Modern Times||Middle ages/ Medieval|
|4||12||Early British/ American||Greeks|
Subjects I don’t usually combine when I plan a homeschool year
- Reading comprehension/ practice
- Writing/ copywork/ penmanship
- Vocabulary+ Spelling
Here is where the assessment I’ve done ealier comes in handy. I can reevaluate what each child needs specifically AFTER I have put in all the other subjects. I start a new form and fill in per child one at a time here. This makes it fairly simple to be able to get my planning for the year done and still be able to customize what’s needed for particular children.
So that’s the basic overview on how I plan a homeschool year as a large family! I will get more into the details of what we do in particular forms and grades in future posts, so be sure to subscribe to stay updated on that!
Thanks for joining me here today! I hope this post was helpful! Be sure to leave any questions you have for me in the comments below or ideas for future content!
Here is my youtube video from 2020 discussing the same things here- I just have updated the templates!
Thanks so much for staying to learn more about how we plan a homeschool year as a large family!
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