Planning and preparing are important to many aspects of your life. If you are already living off the grid, you probably planned your garden, planned your budget, and prepared in every way before diving into this new lifestyle. Educating your children at home is likely another part of your planned-out, self-sufficient family life. Even if you are not off the grid yet, planning for homeschooling is one way to start to get out of the rat race.
Homeschooling is immensely rewarding, but it is also incredibly difficult, at times trying, and can leave you feeling so frustrated you want to cry. Some days are better than others, but the key to getting more of the former is planning and preparation. Of course, you must remember that even the best-laid plans can go wrong. Especially when the plans are for working with your kids, you need to know that your plans may run aground at times. Maybe your toddler is having a fit while you attempt to teach long division to your eight-year-old, or maybe your stubborn pre-teen simply refuses to do the assignment you have set before him. While recognizing the importance of a plan, you need to also keep in mind that flexibility will keep you sane.
What the Heck Am I Teaching?
If you are brand new to the idea of homeschooling, the whole idea is probably very overwhelming. The first question you are likely asking yourself is, “What am I supposed to teach them?” You have vague recollections of what you learned in school, but do you really remember what you learned at each grade level? Surely you have a basic grasp of what they should know: reading, writing, history, math, and science. You need to be much more specific, though.
Your homeschool planning should begin with a thorough understanding of what your children should be learning. There are a few ways you can tackle this. Expect to do a lot of reading to fully get a grasp on what kids need to know. You can contact your local public school district for information, or you can go directly to the sources. Through the website for your state’s education department, you should be able to track down the state standards. These will list everything a child is expected to learn in each subject from kindergarten through high school. You can also consult the national standards  or the Common Core . The latter represent a more recent initiative to make education standards more uniform across states. Some states have adopted these Common Core standards and others have not yet. They are a useful resource whether or not your state is using them.
Now that you know what your children should be learning, you can begin to plan and map out their education. Start with a loose outline of each child’s entire education. A rough guide of what your children will be learning, spread out from toddlerhood to the end of high school can help you keep track of where each child is and how they are faring. The emphasis is on rough. One of the great things about homeschooling is the flexibility that it gives you. You need not follow a strict timeline, but having a big picture guide will help you to stay on track.
Once you have the big picture, you can plan the year ahead. Make a list of each standard you want your child to learn in the next year. Allot an amount of time, for example one week or one month, for each standard. This yearlong plan will help you see if you can realistically fit in all the standards you chose for the year. If in making this year map it seems unlikely that you will achieve all of the standards, trim it back. Or, if it looks sparse, jump ahead and add some more. If your child is ready, there is no reason not to go ahead into the next year.
With a whole year mapped out, you can go smaller and smaller. Plan each month, then each week, and finally each day of learning. Do keep in mind, however, that you need to be flexible. Starting each day with a schedule is a great way to stay on task, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go as planned. Like all teachers, you need to be prepared to adjust.
Plan Your Resources
In addition to knowing what your children will learn, you will also need to plan for resources to facilitate that learning. While much of the knowledge will spring from your brain, your kids will also need books, planned activities and assignments, projects, practice problems, and more. Educational resources are a crucial part of your homeschooling plan. You need to decide what types you will use, and you need to get them. Some homeschoolers like to use prepared resources. These could be online materials, lesson plan books, or textbooks with accompanying activities. Decide what you want to use and make sure you have everything you need for the year ahead. The more work you put into gathering these resources now, the less stress you will have throughout the year.
Online resources will undoubtedly be a major part of your educational strategy. Many websites and online sources of information and activities are free, so you should take advantage of them. Set aside time at the start of each school year to hunt for and make a list of the websites you want to use. Find sites for each subject and grade level. Find activities and projects to supplement your child’s learning. Taking the time to do this will not only eliminate your stress later, it also gives your child structured time online. If you set him loose to simply look up a subject online, who knows what he will come up with. Give him preapproved websites to use, and you have more control over what he sees online.
Involve the Kids
Depending upon your child’s age and maturity level, you may be able to involve him in the planning. This is a great way to help him appreciate his education and the work that you put into it. Show him your yearly plan and ask him to help you adjust it. Maybe it’s time for him to learn world history. Ask for his input as to where he would like to start. What aspects of world history interest him the most? Unlike traditional schooling, you have the chance to allow him to guide his own education. Doing so makes it much more valuable.
Lesson Plans: Necessary or Going Too Far?
You will definitely want to make a flexible plan for each day of schooling. A daily plan, although it may require adjusting throughout the day, is vital for keeping you and the kids on track. Look at it over the course of a day and make sure you are not going way off course. The basic plan is important, but are detailed lesson plans really needed? Teachers in public schools make lesson plans for every day of school. They outline the standards to be taught, the method of instruction, the reinforcing activities, and any reteaching or homework. These teachers have strict timelines to follow and must prepare their students to pass rigorous standardized tests set on specific days.
You have more flexibility. Whether you make detailed plans for every lesson and standard is up to you. Online resources  are available to guide you through making lesson plans. The value in lesson plans is that they help you ensure that you are teaching all of the standards and that you have activities, assignments, and practice lined up to reinforce the lesson.
Don’t Forget to Plan Breaks
When planning your child’s education, his year, his week, and each of his days, you may forget that he needs breaks too. And so do you! Public schools are in session for around 180 days each year. They take breaks at Christmas, in the spring, and of course throughout the summer. When planning your school year, bring the whole family together to decide when you will take breaks. You may choose to mimic the traditional schedule, or you can take more frequent breaks that are shorter in duration. The wonderful thing is that you get to do whatever works best for your family.
©2012 Off the Grid News