Over the last two weeks, I've shown you how to homeschool for free using completely free resources in all of the major subject areas. We've covered Math, Science, Language Arts, History, Geography, Bible, and even some fun things like Art and Foreign Language courses. Now that you know about all of this amazing free curriculum, you might be asking yourself how in the world you're supposed to use it!
Most free curriculum doesn't come with a schedule, so you have to create one yourself. But where do you start, how do you plan out the lessons, and how far out should you schedule the resource.
What do you have to teach?
What you must teach your children will depend on the laws of your state. If you aren't sure what the laws are, you can find them at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website. Simply choose your state from the drop-down list.
In most states, you'll need to teach Math, Language Arts, Science, and History/Social Studies (but make sure to check your state laws).
What do you want to teach?
Once you know what you must teach, you can then fill the rest of your schedule with the things that you want to teach. These are the fun things like art, music, and PE. They aren't required in your daily lessons, but they are definitely necessary for a well-rounded education.
How often will you cover each subject?
In most states, the core subjects must be taught daily, but all of those extras don't necessarily need to be covered every day. Before you can begin scheduling any subject you'll need to decide how often you want to cover it.
A friendly word of caution! Don't overschedule your day. That's a surefire way to burn out (you and your kids!) and you don't want that. Always leave lots of space in your day for spontaneous fun, following rabbit trails, and those inevitable interruptions.
You'll need some sort of planner. This can be a premade planner that you purchased, something that you printed, or a simple spiral notebook. It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to be functional.
To save you some time (and money) I've created these free planner pages that you can download and print.
Obviously I can't schedule every free resource that I've shared with you in this series. That would take a great deal of time. What I can do is show you the planning process that I use on various different styles of resources.
Let's start with my personal favorite, vintage texts. I adore using these proven textbooks whenever I have the chance. They are academically sound without all of the "twaddle" that is so common in today's textbooks and literature.
We'll begin with Emma Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons. A quick look at the Table of Contents shows me that this book is separated into three parts. Part one has 99 lessons and a review, part two has 94 lessons and a review, and part three has 104 lessons and a review. That's a total of 297 lessons and 3 reviews. Obviously I'm not going to cover all of that in one year.
At this point, I look at the material and determine how long I think it would take my child to complete a lesson from the book. Since there are several different types of lessons—copywork, memorization, writing, etc.—they won't take the same amount of time to complete. My child might breeze through a simple copywork passage, but memorizing a poem will take more than one day. I don't want to spend several days working only on memorizing the poem, but I will need to make sure that my child revisits that poem while completing the next several lessons.
I don't typically schedule our resources in a very rigid fashion. I don't want to be a slave to our planner. Instead, I keep things very flexible and allow room for evaluating progress as well as the curriculum itself. If it's not working for my child, I will try to change things up a little to help things flow more smoothly, or in some cases, we'll just drop the resource entirely and pick up where we left off with something new.
Here is how I would schedule the first week of Intermediate Language Lessons for my daughter (click to enlarge).
I don't typically schedule more than 4-6 weeks unless it's a resource that we've used and I know that it works for my family. You'll want to give any resource at least that much time otherwise you won't have an accurate picture to evaluate. It usually takes that 4-6 week time period to really get into a flow, understand how the curriculum works, and know whether it will work with your children.
As a side note, don't be afraid to tweak a resource a little if needed. In the case of Intermediate Language Lessons, there are quite a few lessons in the book that I won't have my child do simply because I know that she already has a grasp on the material or I think it's something that would overwhelm her. You know your child better than anyone. Focus on their strengths.
Online curriculum or courses will usually have a built-in schedule, though there are some that don't. In those cases, I use the same method for determining a schedule that I used with the vintage textbook—look at the number of lessons, decide how often I'll have my child complete a lesson, and then schedule the lessons accordingly. Sometimes I will even combine resources by using some printables with a video course, for example.
Here is an example of how I would create a Bible course for my daughter using several different free resources together.
Main elements of the course:
- The Bible Project online videos
- God's Hand in Our Lives
- The Children's Great Texts of the Bible
I would begin by reading a short chapter from The Children's Great Texts of the Bible, followed by a video from the Bible Project, and end with a discussion and independent worksheets from God's Hand in Our Lives.
I'd then continue this scheduling as far in advance as I felt comfortable with. I don't always use every resource, and sometimes I will choose something different than what is listed above depending on what I need. The key is to make the resources work for you!
A few final tips to keep in mind when using free curriculum in your homeschool.
- Don't feel like you have to use every lesson. There might be some things that your child already knows, or that you know would overwhelm them or simply not play to their strengths. It's ok to leave out a few things.
- Tweak the lessons however you see fit! If you're using a science curriculum that calls for observing ants in a purchased ant habitat, and you don't want to do that, that's ok! Go outside and watch some ants at work in the garden, or find a video on YouTube of ants in their mound.
- Don't be afraid to scrap a resource if it isn't working for your child. There are far too many wonderful resources out there to be stuck in a boring curriculum that your child is learning nothing from anyway.