Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Why & How of the Homeschool Trimester Schedule

Scheduling our homeschool year is something I love doing, but has always been a struggle.  Do I plan out the entire year at once?  Should I plan monthly?  Weekly?  Just let it happen amidst life?  Ah, NO! Definitely not the last one.

The struggle comes from having so many awesome ideas, and wanting to fit it all in.

I once heard of a mom who booked a hotel room for one weekend in August and planned every detail of their homeschool year.  Every lesson was was given a date.  Workbook pages were torn out and stapled together by week.  Holiday crafts, morning read alouds, individual chapter books correlating to history lessons were all decided upon and given a specific day for completion.  Wow!

I tried that for a semester once, but life happened and I ended up discouraged that my well thought out plans were falling apart.  It felt like we were always behind, trying to catch-up.

My way of homeschool planning has evolved over the years.  When our three oldest were in the primary grades, the planning and schooling looked very different than it does today.  And if I learned one thing over the years of homeschooling, it's to be flexible.

Since we homeschool through our local school district's virtual learning program, I had to turn in grades for my highschoolers according to the trimester schedule last year.  I was not prepared to give grades by mid November.  We were working with the semester schedule at home.

2 semesters = 1 credit
2 trimesters = 1 credit

So, I was all confused as to how to give a grade for math if we were stretching it over the entire year.  Did that mean they received and extra half credit?  Did it look like we were slacking off so it took us all year to complete something that should've been completed in 2/3 of a school year?

Fast forward to 2nd trimester - I was a little more prepared, and had settled my mind on the fact that we'll do what we do, how we do it.  I'll assign grades for the district and not worry about semesters and trimesters.

Midway through trimester 3 and I thought this would be a great way to plan for next year.

Why am I using the trimester schedule this year?

Basically, because breaking the year into 3 trimesters rather than 2 semesters allows for greater flexibility.

Now for the HOW.  This is the fun part if you like planning and organizing your homeschooling year.

First, I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the months of our school year with some space between.  Our year is September - May.  That's nine months, which easily breaks down into three 3-month trimesters.  I've had 7 babies so I'm good at the trimester math thing!

Trimester 1

Trimester 2

Trimester 3

Blue ink and pencil are original.  Black ink indicates changes in progress.
In the blank space under each month I numbered from 1-5.  Focusing on 5 subjects/books/projects each month sounded appropriate and manageable.  Using the trimester schedule means every core subject won't be on the schedule all year.

I made up a page in my notebook for each of my kids I'm homeschooling.  This year I have one in 12th, 9th, 6th, 2nd, and 2 in Pre-school.  Yeah, Emily graduated so one less plan for me this year.

I already had our curriculum choices made, so I made piles of textbooks, science project kits, novels, art kits, workbooks - really anything I intended for them to accomplish this year.  I started with Nick's pile, dividing it into 3 smaller piles - one for each trimester.  Then I assigned each pile a trimester and started writing in the subjects and novels in the appropriate month.

For example:  his focus for trimester 1 is Algebra 2, Chemistry, and reading 5 novels/biographies (all historical).  He also takes 6 credits at our local technical college.  Any extras can be added in the extra blank space.  Extras for him include scheduling ride alongs with police officers, weight lifting, and preparing blinds for hunting.

Amber's pile was the next to tackle.  Nick and Amber are teaming up on Chemistry this year so I had to plan accordingly.  Besides Chemistry, her first trimester focus includes:  Algebra 1, U.S. History, Stories of the Saints, and various novels.

Once all the piles were assigned trimesters and then divided by month and written in the notebook, I was done.  The year was loosely planned.

Once the school year got started I had a trimester 1 conference with each child.  We planned out the details of what needed to be done by the end of September and wrote it on the master plan.  For example:  Nick and Amber need to complete 2 chapters and 2 labs each month in order to finish their chemistry in 2 trimesters.  Amber needs to complete 2 saints per month.  Sam needs to complete 4 steps in All About Spelling in September.

We only wrote in the details for September because like I said, life happens.  We get interested in something and end up spending a morning reading books about nothing on our list.  Or, perhaps the van needs a tire rotation and possibly some brake work, but turns into a multiple day stay in the shop and requires some creative carpooling to get everyone where they need to be, therefore, keeping me away from home more than I'd like.  How is that a school problem?  Well, even the most obedient and diligent children get off track when Mom's not around and then schoolwork doesn't get done the way it should.

Anyway, this trimester scheduling is working well for us this year.  I love the flexibility it offers, and to be honest, breaking the school year into three bites instead of two allows for 2 do-overs instead of one.  Because, let's be real now, sometimes the most researched curriculum and well-chosen read alouds turn out to be duds.  And I typically don't realize it until nearly the end of the first semester; I only have one more chance(semester) to get it right.  But, the trimester schedule gives me two more chances to get it right.

I made a much prettier version of my Trimester Planner to share with you.