Friday, October 25, 2013


It can be intimidating to try to figure out what (exactly) your student should be learning...but whats even more intimidating is trying to put that information into a teaching plan for the school year. 

Here are some tips that can help:

To make sure that I cover everything that my student would learn in their grade level at public school, I reference my state’s education requirements by grade (see #4 in a seperate post about this here). I use the state-provided "learning standards" as a curriculum-planning guideline. 

I copy every requirement that relates to my student over to a separate word document so I have everything together on a master list. Then I add on what I want her to learn on top of that when I'm planning the year. This is where your curriculum/subjects for the school year come from. It will look like a lot at first, but you may also be surprised at how little time you have to spend on each subject when you are able to spend one on one time with your student/child.

The state's requirement for Washington State History for Grade "X" might be something like "Learn about the contributions of Lewis and Clark to the development of the Pacific Northwest" and "Learn about the symbols of Washington State, including the state bird and the state flower" These are made up examples, of course, but it will be things like that. So your list of History requirements for your student in Grade "X" would be something like this:

  • Lewis & Clark contributions to Pacific Northwest
  • Washington State symbols (state bird, state flower, etc)

(If you are only interested in the basics, you're done making your list!)

However, if you are interested in expanding the experience of learning these basics, you could come up with ideas for what are called, "Unit Studies" (basically, you enhance the learning experience by using multiple medias and subjects to add to their, instead of just reading a book about Lewis & Clark, you could have them do a painting of Lewis & Clark (art), write a report about them (English/Writing), visit a historical site (Field Trip), calculate the distance of their journeys (Practical Math), etc. It's kind of fun!  

If you are interested in advancing your student (perhaps to the next grade level), you can look ahead to the next year's requirements and add some of those to your list for this year as well. Or you may want to include some completely different things (such as sewing, community service, model trains, etc) that are not necessarily part of the standard curriculum. You can add whatever you want your student to learn. But I do recommend making sure that you cover what is being covered in public school (because, again, these things will be on the annual standardized test!)

I also check out books like "What your 5th grader needs to know" (they have those for all grades, kindergarten +up)...there are several other similar book series they're each slightly different, so I usually get them all (they have them at the library or you can buy them). Then I make big list of everything that needs to be covered. Information in these books will be general (like “learn multiplication tables from 1 to 10” and won’t include specific requirements for your state, so MAKE SURE you find out what your state requires by grade- because those things WILL BE on the test!
The next step is the toughest - I try to map out what we're going to cover for the whole year, month by month. Later on (as I go), I break it down further by week (more on that in a second). Its time-consuming because I have to try to keep things evenly distributed across the year. For example, learning to convert mixed numbers to improper fractions is going to take a lot longer than learning what a number line is.

The main reason I wait to plan each week/day until later is that it takes a long time. The other reason is that if we get off-schedule for a few days (because we get the flu or something) it messes up the whole plan. Its a big problem because some things (like certain math skills) build on previous lessons, so if I get off schedule when things are rigidly pre-planned, I have to push back everything for the whole year. If I've planned the whole year by month, but only planned the weeks in an individual month for the upcoming month, its not that huge catastrophe if I need to rearrange things for just one month.

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