Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Do you have a Homeschool Road Map? On Long-Range Planning

A couple of years ago, I realized it was time to move from phonics, handwriting and spelling, to learning how to really write for my oldest student.  Finishing up second grade and having a confident reader and good printer, I didn't really know what the next step was.  I began to do research on writing curricula, not really having any idea how to evaluate them or what I was looking for!  I was very quickly overwhelmed.  At the same time, I was digging deeper and deeper into understanding classical education, and it's a good thing, because identifying myself as a classical educator saved me from drowning in writing curricula. Because there's one classical way to teach writing, the Progymnasmata.  And a few years ago, I could only find two programs based on it. (here and here) That narrowed it down a LOT!

Looking at both those programs, I realized they were long-term investments, and you must start on time, or you're forever behind.  Ideally, you'd start in third grade.  Shew! I wasn't too late to the party, just in time! :)  But it made me realize, I need a game plan here. I need to look at the end, where do I want my children to be when it's time to graduate high school? Not just when it come stop writing, but in terms of their whole education and soul and person.  What do I want to have taught them? What programs and skills and knowledge and character do we as their parents want them to have developed?  And how are we going to get there? Yep, we were just finishing second grade, and I needed to be thinking about 12th right now.

So that summer, I spent hours and hours pouring over classical education resources, articles, podcasts, magazines, books, and I came up with our Road Map.  Of course over the past two years, it has morphed and changed slightly.  I decided I didn't like the science I thought I would use for the rest of elementary. A new progymnasmata writing curriculum from CAP was released, which I LOVED and switched to.  Minor changes.  But the over-arching goals and steps to get there remain.  I'm so thankful I put the time into creating the road map, because every year as I sit down to plan, I can consult it and ask myself what do I need to do *this* year to keep us on track with the end in mind.  I have a ten year game plan, people!  It's very liberating and confidence-boosting to proceed everyday with the end in mind.

Here are some ideas to get you started in creating your own Road Map: (disclaimer: my specifics are more geared toward classical/Charlotte Mason education)

-Read. Read widely.  I read The Well-Trained Mind, Trivium Mastery, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, For the Children's Sake, and more.  I subscribed to Memoria Press's quarterly magazine, and to Classical Academic Press's catalog, which always has excellent articles.  I scoured the Circe free podcast bank, and listened to several different Quiddity podcasts.  Lately, I've been gleaning a lot from the Schole Sisters; specifically Simply Convivial, Afterthoughts, and Amongst Lovely Things.

-I compared lots of curriculum companies recommendations. I made detailed notes of Veritas Press, Tapestry of Grace, Memoria Press, Classical Academic Press, and Ambleside Online.  I have a lot of respect for each of these companies and trust their recommendations.  I picked the very best things that I loved from each of them, and tried to work it all in to my overall plan.  I also asked lots of questions on forums of other classical educators about learning Latin and other languages, writing, anything I didn't know much about. I asked questions and got lots of feedback from others as I worked up my plans. (I even wrote curriculum authors themselves and asked them to explain certain "why's" in their programs as compared to others, and heard back personally from Dr. Christopher Perrin, Dr. Jay Wile, Christine Perrin, and a couple of others!)  I also looked at high school graduation requirements in our state and made sure that we were meeting those credit requirements as well.

-I made a spreadsheet.  It looks like this:

It's a monster. It has each grade/year of study across the top. I divided our studies into Language, Logic, and Content/Knowledge.  I drew a lot of this from a mentor who used to teach Latin at Highlands Latin School.  Language is basically all things related to language arts.  Logic is anything that teaches critical or ordered thinking, and I put science in there as well (because in my opinion, nature study and memorizing the orders of insects and trees is ordered thinking! :)).  Content is just the knowledge-based subjects I want to include, like Bible, History, Art, Geography.  Tacked on at the bottom is Formal Logic and Rhetoric.

Then I started plotting what programs I wanted to use.  This was so helpful for me to see on paper in little boxes how it was all going to work together.  Could I even do everything I wanted? Were my goals reasonable? If not, how could I adjust? If I wanted the kids to learn both Latin (well enough to pass the National Latin Exam), and to study Greek, when and how would we do that?  If I wanted to skip out on our chronological history rotation and dig into Roman government and politics for a year in high school, when should we do that? If we want to spend a year studying educational virtues and vices, what is the best spot to plug that in?

I cannot recommend this exercise highly enough.  Start as early as you can, thinking through the end goals you have for your children.  Every family's plan will look different, and that's what is really fun about homeschooling: getting to set your own goals for your children's education, and then accomplishing them together.  Don't be afraid if this takes you months, it did me. And every few months, I open this up and realize, uh oh, I've changed something and I need to update this road map. I think it's Road Map 4.0 by now. :)  But having something like this on paper can instill confidence and a path when you face doubt and opposition.  I know I've done my homework, and can trust that God has called my husband and I to this very different way of living and learning with our kids, and that He has equipped us and given us all the resources we need to accomplish it for His glory!

(*no affiliate links in this post, I just do it to be helpful, not to get something out of it! FYI!)


  1. Thank you, thank you for sharing this!
    So funny, I actually starting doing this a few months ago because I realized the same thing- I needed to know what the finish line was (at least the finish line of graduating high school) and then work my way backwards to make sure we made it there. I told a friend I was doing it and she thought I was crazy. (My oldest was only 8 at the time.)
    I didn't complete it, but I know I need to and really feel affirmed in it. It was very helpful to see yours.
    One of the reasons I stopped making mine was because I was overwhelmed with my multiple students and couldn't figure out how we'd do history and most likely science together but not graduate at the same time. My oldest two are starting 4th and 2nd grade and then my third child will start kindergarten next year and I have a baby who is about to turn one. Did you create a different one for Luke and Kiryn or since they are a grade apart are you just following the same plan? What about for your younger kids?

  2. Great question, Jessica! I'm glad this was helpful for you. :) This spreadsheet is pretty specific to my first and oldest student, but it also serves as the overarching plan for them all. I also have "Actual" spreadsheets for each of them, detailing what they've actually complete each academic year. Kiryn and Luke are doing all the same work with the exception of math, so she is a grade ahead of what this sheet shows. I haven't done much for Levi and Meryn yet, Levi's just barely doing first grade work this fall, so we're just getting started with him. To answer specifically about history, this is one of the reasons I love Tapestry. It's written to include all learning levels in each of its four year plans. We started with the first year plan when Luke was in first grade, and we'll just keep cycling through it every four years, each kid jumping in when they're old enough wherever we are in history. This means Luke will likely complete his third complete sweep through history his senior year, studying the 20th century. Kiryn the next year will complete her senior year with studying the ancient world, with Levi who will be in 9th grade, and Meryn, likely in 7th. I have another spreadsheet showing me where each student will fall each year for Tapestry. But it doesn't necessarily matter, because each year plan contains the work required for high school credits at different levels. Tapestry outlines how much work must be complete for regular high school credit vs. honors credit, and how to write course descriptions for things like English, Social Studies, History and Government.

  3. I think I'm too type A. I just need to get over the fact that Brian will finish high school right at the end of the 4 yr cycle and the girls may not.
    Did you create the spreadsheet with LessonTrek or with something else?
    Finally, I'm curious as to why you only did AAR level 1.

  4. That bothered me for a long time, too, Jessica! But I finally decided to get over it, because the alternative was teaching everyone a different time period of history each year! :)

    I made the spreadsheet in Numbers on my Mac. I can email the whole thing to you if you have a Mac and want to take a look!

    As for AAR, we actually didn't do it with Luke and Kiryn. I'm not even sure it was out yet 5-6 years ago, and someone had given me a Sing, Spell, Read Write kit. I used that, and once Luke was reading well, I wasn't sure what to do next. I found out about All About Spelling, and in using it, realized we had some gaps with phonics from SSRW. So I'm using AAR with Levi right now, he's done Pre Level, and is now in Level 1. In looking at it, I think he will have learned to decode most if not all of the phonograms by the end of Level 1. All About Spelling also teaches spelling and phonograms, so we will likely move into that and just do the spelling after Level 1. But he is intuitively picking up reading. If I had a child who was struggling with reading and needed more practice and repetition, I would definitely continue in the reading program while also doing spelling. I don't think he'll need that though. I already have all of the spelling levels, so don't necessarily want to invest in the reading if he can get the same concepts covered in the spelling. :)

  5. I don't like the idea of teaching 4 different histories! That'd be awful!
    I didn't use AAR with Brian either, for the same reasons, but picked it up with Lorelai at level 2 because we needed something else besides the primer I used to teach Brian how to read. She's a great reader now and we'll finish level 4 soon. I've made the investment now and will use it with my two younger girls.
    I didn't want to do AAS (time and money!) but once we got into AAR, I realized that the kids would benefit from AAS. Even though we started a little late for Brian and the first few levels were simple, I'm so glad we made the switch!
    I would love it if you emailed you road map. I have a Mac with Numbers. Thanks!!!