After confessing my lack of planning to you last week, I needed to get down to business. The great thing about using a flexible curriculum is that you get to decide what you’re going to cover and when you’re going to cover it; the awful thing about using a flexible curriculum is that you have to decide what you’re going to cover and when you’re going to cover it. There is no wrong way to plan. Everyone does it differently and I really enjoy seeing how others approach it because sometimes you can find a great idea that makes a difference for you!
In case you’re not familiar with Five in a Row (FIAR), the main curriculum we use, each week’s lessons (language arts, social studies, science, and art) are based on a picture book that is read—you guessed it—five days in a row. We have really enjoyed FIAR, though we don’t always use it as it is written. My main goal in elementary grades is exposure to a wide variety of topics and to help my kids begin to see the connections between those topics. There isn’t much your child is going to learn about in elementary school that’s not going to be visited again later. This is the time to lay the foundation. Literature-based unit studies like those from FIAR or HomeschoolShare are wonderful because they make it easy to cover almost any topic!
So where do you start? I pull out my calendar. Seasonal books like Cranberry Thanksgiving or Katy and the Big Snow are fairly easy to schedule, so I mark those down first. Then I check for other holidays—you know, the made-up fun ones! I decided to plan our Mr. Popper’s Penguins unit to coincide with Penguin Awareness Day—January 20, in case you want to mark that down for next year! Birthdays are another thing to check for on the calendar. We used They Were Strong and Good to talk about families and genealogy during the week of my grandma’s birthday. When we studied Pablo Picasso we had a birthday cake for him!
I also plan our units according to events in the community. The Medieval Fair is a great go-along for The Duchess Bakes a Cake; Touch a Truck fits well with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. This year we’ll be using Truman’s Aunt Farm when it’s time to go to the Bug Out. I also try to find any special events that are going on, such as the time we went to a rodeo when reading Armadillo Rodeo or the circus when we read Andy and the Lion. Special events are fun and your kids will remember them for years to come!
After all that, I look at my blank weeks and plug in odds and ends. When I was deciding when to plan for The Giraffe That Walked to Paris, I knew we’d go to the zoo, which meant fall or spring so we wouldn’t have to worry about snow or heat. Some books are just good books with no particular calendar tie-in and can be used any time.
Now that I’ve got our spring planned out, I’m ready to start the detailed planning. That will be a lot of work, but now that I have the general plan, I am feeling much better!