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Planning Your School Year

Transitioning Into Home Schooling

The transition from public education or Christian school to home education can be quite challenging for inexperienced parent/teachers. It can be difficult to organize your home school without a suitable model. The failure of many home schoolers can be traced to inconsistent and extreme approaches to organization. We do not recommend trying to organize your home school exactly like a traditional classroom. The demands of such a rigid approach can quickly lead to home school burnout. Unfortunately, many home school parents overreact to this problem and decide to do away with structure altogether.

This experiment in extremes seldom yields good results. A significant number of families do not survive their first year in home education because they feel they have failed to establish a reasonable school schedule.

Relax. Allow yourself a realistic amount of time to transition from a traditional schedule to a more flexible home school schedule. Your goal is to develop a structured but flexible learning environment that promotes self-discipline and personal achievement. If your schedule achieves these objectives and seems comfortable to you, dismiss the critics—even those in your own mind. Your plan is the means to an end, not an end in itself. Planning your work and working your plan must be tempered with adaptability and flexibility. It may take some effort to relax at first—but you can do it.

Daily Schedule Options

You are probably familiar with the rigid time slots of traditional day school schedules such as the one shown in the table below. In making up their own schedule, most people attempt to follow a similar pattern. While this schedule may be familiar, it seldom works for home schools. A great advantage of home schooling is that you are not bound by schedules and bells. You can adapt your schedule to fit your family’s needs. After considering your students’ ages, attention spans, abilities, and possible educational deficiencies, you may find that a modified traditional or flex-time schedule will prove more realistic for achieving your goals.

Listed below is a typical traditional day school format followed by two possible alternative schedules. Either alternate adds flexibility to your home school environment (you may view these schedules in a comparative chart format). Note: Subjects are listed in a suggested order only. You are not required to keep them in this order.










Traditional schedule features:

  1. Periods are rigid and of identical length.

  2. Courses are scheduled at the same time each day.

  3. All required courses are taught each day, with the possible exception of art and music.


















Modified traditional schedule features:

  1. Periods can be expanded or contracted as educational needs dictate. For example, if a math lesson is finished in thirty minutes, the student may go immediately to the next subject or take a break.

  2. Subjects are still scheduled at about the same time each day, but with flexible starting and stopping times. Difficult courses will sometimes require more time each day; easier subjects may require less time.

  3. All courses are taught each day unless indicated otherwise.













** In the flex-time schedule, you may combine time blocks for related or difficult subjects.

Flex-time schedule features:

  1. In place of rigid traditional class periods, think in terms of flexible blocks of time which can be adjusted daily, weekly, and with each grading period if necessary. Let educational needs dictate how you spend time. A difficult diagramming lesson may require ninety minutes one day, but an easier grammar lesson may require only thirty minutes the next day. You have the flexibility to allow for such differences.

  2. The number of subjects you cover may vary daily. A student may be able to cover six subjects one day, but only three the next day. For example, a morning may be spent drafting and completing a book report, or several reports, with only a short time remaining. Here a student may choose to complete an unfinished spelling lesson not normally scheduled at that time. Periods may vary in length. You may teach a subject during a different period. Your schedule is dictated by your educational needs. The schedule is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

  3. Required courses do not have to be taught concurrently within one semester. Courses may be staggered. That is, a concentrated study of history may be taught the first semester, followed by a concentrated study of literature the second semester.† Both subjects require much reading and written work. Staggering such courses may be a more efficient and rewarding way to study. You may also stagger courses daily; three days per week may be devoted to science and the two remaining days spent in Bible study. There are a number of ways to complete your course requirements while meeting your student’s educational needs. You can achieve both goals with a flex-time schedule format.

† Not recommended for all subjects. See the Smaller Portions section below for more information.

Organizing Your School Year

For each student, your first step should be to gather together all of the texts and workbooks which that student was assigned. Make a list of these items on a separate sheet and, after each title, write down the number of pages in it. If a course has multiple texts, add them together. Also, list the total number of tests that are required for each course (this information can be found in the course instructions for each course).

With this information in front of you, you are ready to plan your school year. First, decide how many weeks out of the year you want to teach. This is your decision! A typical school year reduces to the following: 







Next, divide the number of pages in each textbook (as well as the number of tests) by the number of weeks you have determined to use for instruction. This will give you an approximate weekly goal. Divide this number by five to determine your approximate daily goal.

You may use the number of chapters instead of pages to determine your student’s progress. However, you should first check to make sure each chapter is of similar length. If the number of pages per chapter varies widely, then you may run into problems when your student suddenly encounters a large chapter that will take longer than your pre-planned time to complete.

Finally, return to each textbook and check how the chapters and/or sections are laid out. If you need to average five pages per week in grammar and Chapter One is 15 pages long, then this chapter should be completed in three weeks. If Chapter Two is 18 pages in length, then you should plan 3 1/2 weeks for this chapter, etc. 

The following example walks through these steps.

You have just received your student’s curriculum. After checking to make sure you have all materials (see When Your Books Arrive if you do not know how to do this), gather all texts and make the following list:


Using a typical school year of forty weeks (where each subject is taught five [5] days per week), we arrive at this approximate progress list:










Now that you have this information, you can begin to fill out your lesson plan, modifying the actual number of pages you need to cover (per day and per week) based on how the lessons are presented in the texts.

Remember that a progress list is only a guideline. It should just be used as an indicator to help you stay on track throughout your school year. It should not be used as a rigid schedule. Strict adherence to the example above would force your student to complete 18 pages of math each week regardless of how the chapters are structured or whether he understands the material—which defies common sense.

Shorter Subjects

As you plan your school year (or within the first few weeks of teaching), you will find that some courses can be completed much more quickly than others. For these courses, we offer the following suggestions:

  • Work in all courses concurrently, planning to complete them at the end of your school year. If they are completed in less time, use the newly available time slot to finish other subjects.

  • Work in all courses concurrently, but space out the shorter courses so they are taught on only select days of the week (e.g., MWF). The remaining days of the week can then be used as study periods, time for other subjects, or as an opportunity to supplement the subject with material of your own choosing.

  • Choose to complete some shorter courses during the first part of your school year (first semester courses), and complete other shorter courses during the second part of the year (second semester courses).

Smaller Portions

We do not encourage you to spend the entire day on one subject in an attempt to complete a week’s work. You would be imitating the folly of a man who eats all day on Sunday to meet all his nutritional needs for the week. Difficult subjects, such as mathematics and grammar, are best mastered by studying a portion every day. Daily exercises and drill work aid in understanding and are a necessary part of the lesson. The principle of smaller portions holds true with learning. We need time to digest and assimilate facts so they can become true knowledge.

Mathematics and grammar, in particular, should be taught throughout the school year and not in a single-semester format. Because these courses constantly build on previous lessons, extended time off between lessons makes it more difficult for the student to learn new concepts.

Difficult Subjects

Difficult subjects should be studied first, while you are still fresh. It is a real boost to know that “Mount Everest” is behind you, and the rest of the day can be devoted to easier, more enjoyable material.

If you are teaching several students, we suggest you stagger the difficult subjects so that only one or two students are working on hard courses at a time. This flexibility balances your load and makes it easier to give individual attention when it is most likely needed.

Hours Per Day

For each weekday (M–F), we suggest that you plan a full day—similar to a traditional school day—for instructing older students. For kindergarten children, plan a half-day of class time (usually in the morning). Kindergarten teachers should study their Kindergarten Instruction Sheet for additional details.


Suggested School Supplies

Listed below are school supplies that you may wish to obtain. It is intended only to provide you with a list of materials that may be helpful while teaching. These are only suggestions; the list is not prioritized. 

  • Daily planner (for example, the At-A-Glance To Do Today planning pad that fits the average three-ring binder)

  • Teacher’s grade book or class record

  • Chalkboard, blackboard, or dry-erase board

  • Blackboard erasers, chalk, etc.

  • Pencil sharpener

  • Large dictionary (Larger and more complete editions are better. These can often be picked up at used book sales.)

  • Small paperback dictionaries (one for each student at his desk)

  • Encyclopedias, art books, reference books, etc. (Check used book sales for inexpensive sets of these materials.)

  • Catalogs and website links from everyone and everywhere listing school supplies and text materials.

  • One large bulletin board, or several small ones

  • Charts and maps (Old National Geographic maps are ideal for most situations.)

  • For each student, depending on age: scissors, 6-inch ruler, 12-inch ruler, compass, protractor, notebooks, pencils, erasers, crayons, colored pencils for map coloring, etc.

  • Stars, smiles, and other stickers (for extra-good papers)

  • Paper clips, stapler, gummed reinforcements, colored markers, thumbtacks, rubber bands, colored pencils for grading papers

  • Tuning fork or pitch pipe for singing classes

  • Triangles and other geometry aids

  • Paper punch (a paper cutter is handy but expensive)

  • Stopwatch with a second-hand for timed tests and physical education activities

  • “In” and “Out” baskets for homework papers

  • Clipboard for each student old enough to use loose-leaf notebook paper

  • Loose-leaf notebook with subject dividers

  • Chalkboard staff liner to make equally-spaced lines for work in music, penmanship, and math

  • Large alphabet cards for the wall (These will help remind beginning readers how to make their letters—both manuscript and cursive.)

  • A Bible for each student and the teacher (A good translation [not a paraphrase] Bible should be selected. You may also want more than one version for comparing translations—especially for Bible classes.)

  • Bible aids, such as a comprehensive concordance (make sure it matches the translation of your Bible) and a good Bible dictionary

  • A thesaurus for your older students

  • Science laboratory equipment

  • CD player with earphones for phonics programs, foreign language studies, and music appreciation recordings

  • Art supplies, such as: paper, pastels, watercolors, tempera paint, old magazines for bulletin board displays, Elmer’s glue, rubber cement, any craft or hobby materials, etc.

Most supplies can be purchased at a local department store (e.g., Wal-Mart or Target) or office supply store (e.g., OfficeMax, Office Depot, or Staples).

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