THe Big Picture
I am a big picture person, so I planned my home school by months, not days. I wish I had some of those plans now! I knew I wanted my months to be meaningful, but I am performance-driven too. So I knew I would have to prioritize the fun, meaningful experiences. I prioritized museum trips, plays, the nature time in my planning, month by month. I started with months, then broke those into weeks as each month drew near. We didn’t really plan by day until the beginning of the week. But I had rough ideas of what needed to be done on free days. In this way I prioritized learning.
The monthly schedule tended to revolve around a few key elements:
· Social events
By life I mean that I quickly realized that if we were going to succeed, and do something better than traditional school offered, we were going to have to move with the rhythms of our lives. I planned for travel, holidays, and busy months, so we all could enjoy them and be less frustrated.
September would be a new start and a return to co-op, with two family birthdays. We had traditions around visiting the apple farm and cleaning up the garden. We made photo albums of our vacations and created art outside.
October would include planning costumes to fit our history themes, because my kids liked Halloween. We planned for going to the Zoo, hiking, and enjoying the autumn beauty.
November would include writing stories about family, food or travel-based writing projects, and art for Thanksgiving travel or company. We would cook and add to our homemade recipe books. We explored cultural traditions.
December was given completely over to the holiday: baking, writing stories, and creating decorations or gifts. This was usually a huge art and music month! The kids always needed extra music practice time due to their holiday recital, too. And it is a short month with the holiday.
January was poetry month. We read and wrote poetry all month, year after year. This became one of our favorite parts of home school. Each year, the kids wrote poems, picked their favorites, then went on a shopping trip to select various decorative papers to fit each poem. They painstakingly re-wrote their favorites (after editing sessions with mom) onto the paper of choice. These were added to a poetry collection year after year. At the end of the month, the poetry books were wrapped up and given to their dad for his birthday. My husband would sit with each child, discussing and reading their poems together.
February was Shakespeare month. Every year we read a play, with some volunteer time ushering for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. There are fantastic picture books depicting plots, as well as great movies to choose from. Sometimes we compared famous scenes to see which actor we liked best in a given role. We drew out plot arcs, quoted famous lines, and engaged in any fun Bard activities we could find. My kids actually thought Shakespeare Month was a national event--they never realized it was just a title I gave to February. (By the way, I did not intent to take away from Black History Month. Rather, I tried to incorporate multicultural stories throughout our learning, month after month, depending on our areas of study.)
March and April tended to include a focus on all things science—this would be a big time to catch up on science projects, experiments, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. We created lap books and formal lab reports. I just found spring seemed to inspire us all to hunker down and catch up on science, with nature being a big part of it all. We also covered Health in the spring, and I used my local YMCA’s classes as a resource.
May became a self-study month. I wanted my kids to have some time to determine what they wanted to learn. I wasn’t an un-schooler, but I did appreciate the notion that self-directed learning is a critical ingredient for developing an intellectual drive. My kids tended to pursue reading and writing, but they also developed wonderful plays and built imaginative worlds. My oldest loved all things biology, so she pursued her interests in those areas, as well. They spent extra time with music and art, and they tended to recruit friends into their plans.