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It is spring in Utah!  The tulips are budding, the clothesline is out again, and it is time to start looking at what the next academic year will bring.  Because conventions and vendor fairs occur during the summer, it is a good idea to know what you want to study as a family before you attend.

I have always tried to have a basic plan of attack before the convention, and then I do the actual planning after visiting the vendor fair.  I plan one year at a time, otherwise I seem to have a hard time fitting everything into the our study schedule. ( I have never found a pre-planned curriculum that I felt met the needs of my family, so I would pick and choose from the best I could find, and assemble it myself.)

There are many ways to do it; this is simply how I put a year-long plan together.  I pick a two-week period during the summer between gardening and canning projects and focus solely on school.  I plan ahead for this time so that I have simple meals already planned or I assign a family member to cook, and spend minimal time cleaning. During this time:

1. For older learners, I determine which history block will be the basis for this year’s study.  (For younger children, I plan foundational academic goals and build activities around those.)

2. Gather everything I have for that history block.  This includes books (reference and literature), kits, games, math activities, art supplies, videos, music, and anything else that would apply.  Look for scriptures and religious history to be included.  This mountain of stuff lives in our library/schoolroom until I have finished planning.

3. With the help of the resource guide in The Well-Trained Mind and the librarians at the local library, find supplemental supplies to fill in any obvious gaps I found.  Make purchases if you desire.

4. Put together a plan in eight-week blocks.  (We skip traditional curriculum in December and July, so there are five blocks.  During those months, we focus on the primary holidays for that time of year.)  I plan lessons for six out of the eight weeks in each block.  With rare exceptions, we will need the extra two weeks for further research in order to dig into something in the block that sparked our interest.  Or someone will be sick and then we will all be sick. Or there can be some other kind of emergency. (Just remember that emergencies that get in the way of schooling need to be just that- emergencies!  Heart surgeries, Grandpa in the hospital, the neighbors house burns down, etc.  They have all happened to us. )  I also plan to get four good days of study in per week.  I leave one day for errands, appointments, catching-up, cleaning, and cooking.

5.  Other ideas for year-long blocks can be things such as holidays throughout the year, take a year and travel around the world at home (learn about each country, learn a few phrases, read their literature and history, try new foods or music, etc.), learn about your own family history going back multiple generations, or perhaps study music/fine art and build your history and literature around that.  For teens, study the various governmental systems around the world-who started them, how  it worked for the “common man”, what documents did or didn’t they have, etc.

Note-while I am not a fan of co-op learning as a primary, on-going method throughout the year, often in my planning I will find a topic of interest that I cannot address adequately during the years’ study time.  When this happens, I plan a four to eight-week block for the summer to allow for concentrated time on that subject.  Summer classes have included: Constitutional Studies, Comparative Literature, and American Ballads.  Often we invited (home and traditionally schooled) friends of my children to join us.  So much fun!

However you teach your own, be sure to have a plan so that you know where your home school is going.  Otherwise you might end up where you do not want to be.

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