Planning Your Homeschool
How do I set up my school year?
It's pretty easy. Get a calendar. Decide how many days your family would like to school this year--the standard public school year and most text books assume 180 days--but Oregon has no set attendance requirement for homeschooling, so you are free to schedule over as many days as you like.
Decide if you want to school year round with breaks (like college terms) or follow the standard public school year (September through June).
Decide what days your family vacation will be, what holidays you will celebrate, when you will have other activities that will prevent schooling, etc.
Count the days and adjust until you have your school calendar set.
Now take your school unit plans and textbook pages and divide them appropriately over your school year. You can mark date goals on your unit plan or even in your text book's margin or teacher manual. It's that simple.
We recommend allowing some "flex days" between units and around difficult chapters to prevent frustration if your child ends up needing a little more time on a topic or you discover your ambitions were unrealistic.
Save time by not over-teaching topics your child already has mastered and not over-assigning work problems or activity. Most text books, especially math, include ample review of previously taught topics in case a child in an institutional setting missed it. Almost all texts include excessive exercises for "seat work" to keep the class busy while the teacher roams the room to help those struggling.
Often the first few chapters of a textbook (like math) are review of last year's topics, and the last few chapters are a quick look ahead to next year (but will be covered in full next year). Skip those review chapters or look-ahead sections completely or only cover the topics in them which your child needs review or is ready for new material introduction. Giving the chapter test as an assessment tool can help you figure out if your child has any gaps in material previously covered without having to re-teach the whole chapter.
Remember, education is about mastering the subject, and developing your child's character, not checking off page numbers as completed.
How do I keep school records?
This could be as simple as an expandable folder with separated pockets for each subject that "catches" the school work as it is completed. Or it could be a folder which holds a photocopy of the table of contents of each textbook used that year with a check mark or note in the margin of what your child completed (and even when, and possibly a grade). You might add to this a list of books read, and a copy of any unit plan completed.
Many moms simply keep a daily journal in a diary fashion (especially for the early grades). Or you can type out a daily or weekly teacher planning sheet with what you desire to cover per subject to help you stay focused and then also use it to check off what each child has completed, when, and any grades given, thus turning it into a school record too.
As children grow older and shoulder more of the regulating effort, they can be given a daily or weekly assignment sheet which has columns for checked completion and grades.
There are many organizers and planners on the market from the hand-entered type to the computer generated. We recommend using whatever best helps you keep a handle on your workflow and is the easiest for you to faithfully maintain. We also recommend being as streamlined and easy as possible in the younger years, especially during the kindergarten/elementary grades when less record keeping is needed.
Remember, if you believe you will be re-entering the public school system, you will need to show what your child has completed. Also beware that school districts are under no requirement to accept anything you've done at home as completed work. Generally your achievement test scores will indicate a level of proficiency for that. So, you should keep a copy of standardized test scores and may consider testing annually to better track achievements.
The high school years require more intensive record keeping, and for that, see our High School articles.
For the self-generated, paper-type planner, Donna Young has planning tips and free downloadable forms for record keeping.
A Plan In Place is a local business in Salem, begun by two homeschool moms, which will create a customized lesson planner for your homeschool from information you give them. Their website also offers some planner ideas and a generic planning sheet to download.
You can see a CHOC Board article for further ideas of making your own personal planner in Notebook Planner
For several descriptions of manual planner systems to purchase, go to the Exodus Books website;
A computer software/online organizers in Homeschool Panda and Homeschool Tracker.
How do I assign grades?
Whether or not you assign grades is up to the preference of each parent teacher. Grades can be helpful in motivating children, or they can be a distraction, even discouragement. Often grades are assigned for at least the high school transcript.
How to do it is pretty easy. If using a point system wherein a point is assigned for each right answer, take the total number of points earned and divide by the total of points possible. This obviously gives you a percentage grade. The usual grading scale is:
A = 90 to 100
B = 80 to 89
C = 70 to 79
D = 60 to 69
F = anything below a 60%
Some colleges and private schools raise the demarcation line by 5% upward such that an A = 95% and above, etc. You can decide if you want to assign pluses and minuses or not (90 to 92 equals an A minus, 93 to 97 equals an A, and 98 and above equals an A plus, etc.)
But you don't have to use a letter or percentage system. You could assess by a portfolio system that indicates the following, using the common grade letter point value or even simply Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Failing.
A = 4pts = Demonstrated mastery of subject
B = 3pts = All basic concepts grasped solidly with beginning mastery shown
C = 2pts = All basic concepts grasped solidly and demonstrated fully
D = 1pt = Some to most of the basic concepts grasped and demonstrated
F = 0pt = Basic concepts not grasped nor demonstrated
Some school districts in Oregon have aligned with state core values and are assessing report cards with a 1 to 4 level:
4 = Highly Proficient
3 = Proficient
2 = Nearing Proficiency
1 = Working Towards Proficiency
However, by the time you are in the high school years, unless you are comfortable with supplying a portfolio with complete course descriptions and some kind of assessment system with explanation and support, most colleges are still expecting a transcript with typical grade points and letter grades.
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