Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Curriculum Planning, My Style ~ Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

So you know the method behind our homeschool and our curriculum of choice. Next up... what do I do with it all of this stuff? With school just around the corner, it's curriculum planning time. And guess what? I'm totally finished with my planning for the 2012-2013. All of it. For the entire school year. Every last assignment. For both of my children. Seriously... For realz... I'm really on the up and up. Done. And it didn't take as much time as you might think.

Do you want to know my secret to curriculum planning?

Stefanie's Curriculum Planning Secret

It's simple really... it's called Homeschool Tracker. Yep, that's the big secret. I've been using it for about 6 years. It's revolutionized my curriculum planning.  What's so great about it, you ask? Everything.  It tracks attendance, hours, books I own, assignments, grades (weighted or not), transcripts, scope and sequence, chores, field trips, appointments, and a thousand other things that I cannot recall.

There's a Homeschool Tracker Basic (free), Homeschool Tracker Plus ($49 plus free updates forever), and now they offer an online version. I have used Plus pretty much from the get go because it offers more features, including my beloved Lesson Plan feature.

However last year, we ditched all PCs and switched to Macs. A great move for us (and everyone in my NSOHO lol) but HST is only a Windows (boo) based program. Sniff, sniff. Mac users can still use the program but it involves partitioning your hard drive to create a Windows side. Which mean you run Windows on it. Which does two things 1) It makes that your Mac susceptible to viruses via the Windows side. Don't go on the internet on the Windows side. 2) You now have Windows on your Mac which bogs your system down as only Windows can do.

But I loved HST so much that this is what we did. Until they released the Online Version.  I've been Windows free for a month now. Now that Windows has been booted off, I'm back to warp speed baby!!! Woo-hoo!!!!! It's a bit different than the HST+ that I'm used to, but it does everything I need. They even moved ALL OF MY DATA from HST+ to the new program. All of my hard work from the last few years are locked and loaded in the cyber world.

Okay, enough gushing, on to how I do the actual planning.

Step 1

Pray. Got to give it to God first. He's ultimately in control.

Step 2 Create a New School Year

Creating Terms

I choose the start and end dates, number of required days, number of terms, add in known vacation days. Homeschool Tracker tells me how many days I have available. I usually schedule each year for more than 180 because we like to take days off when we like to take days off. It's how we roll. Flexibility is one of the many blessings of homeschooling.

Step 3 Resources

Resources, nice & neat
Next I add the resources that I plan on using for the year. This used to take me forever to type in. Then I noticed the little blue ISBN hyperlink. Type in the ISBN number and it will enter all the information about the resource: title, author, publisher, type of resource. Fabulous! Even better, go to Amazon and just copy the ISBN numbers from the site and just past them in. Saves a lot of typing.  And it even includes a little thumbnail of the cover. That thrills me to no end and it will come in handy seven years from now when I need to find the books for Kayleigh. I'll know exactly what I'm looking for.

Step 4 Create Plans

My Lesson Plans for the Year

Next on the agenda is to create the lesson plans using the lesson plan feature. First I name the plan. Generally I name it after the resource or the core. My Sonlight cores get one lesson plan per core. So all the Bible, history, readers, and read alouds will be under one lesson plan. All other resources get their own individual plans. That's just my personal preference that's geared to how my mind works. Limited workings as they might be. lol

Once the plans are created, I can start entering assignments for the year. That's right, for the entire year. Some of them are incredibly easy because I can use the auto increment feature. I can set up all the assignments for the year in minutes. Math is usually like this and books where you only read one chapter a day. The auto increment feature lets you zoom right through that process with ease.

Auto increment makes planning easy
Other assignments can take quite a bit longer because you have to type in everything individually. It does take some time to set up but it's well worth it in the long run. I have the time to do all this during the summer when we're not schooling or doing a lighter load. To have to do this in the school year would just be painful. By entering all of the assignments for the year now, I save myself a lot of time when I'm busy teaching.

Lessoning planning during the school year is just a few clicks to choose assignments for the week and then printing out the assignment sheet. It takes me less than ten minutes once a week. That is such a blessing for me.

The Lesson Plan feature is hands down my favorite thing about Homeschool Tracker. I heart it!
A Sample of our Core Plans for the Year
 With the lesson plan feature you can create reusable lesson plans. As in you can reuse them with subsequent children. And not have to enter all of the assignments again. I use Sonlight as the spine for our homeschool. Do you see how huge this is for me? I only have to type in the assignments for the 8 billion books per core once. Just once! And I can use them again for all my children. Okay, I only have two but still that saves hours and hours and hours of work. lol

When Kayleigh moves up to the levels that I have entered as lesson plans, all that I'm going to have to do is click on the assignments I want to use for that week and submit them to the weekly plan. How fabulous is that? Just look at that screen shot. I just have to click on the assignments I want and then print them out. Soooo easy! (And can even share lesson plan files with other HST users. And they can share theirs. You could potentially plan your year by just exploiting importing somebody else's hard work.)

Easy to Reschedule
And if we don't get to everything I have planned, rescheduling is just a couple of more clicks. The reschedule feature is my second favorite thing about HST. When I go back in HST to enter grades (just the # possible and # correct mind you, HST figures out the rest for you) I just use the reschedule tool to move items that we didn't complete. It's so simple. It's so much easier then having to erase and rewrite on a regular planner. And tidier too. I can reschedule a bunch of assignments in about 30 seconds.

Since flexibility is one of the keys to successful homeschooling, I have to tell you that having our assignments for the year entered does not restrict us in any way. If I choose skip assignments, it's as easy as not scheduling them. Into the archives they go. If I want to add a new find or a review item, it's just as simple. I can add them as regular assignments without creating a fancy-smancy lesson plan for them. Rabbit trails?? Again, just don't schedule assignments until I'm ready to use them.

Assignment Report ready to be completed

So tell me, what are your curriculum planning secrets? Particularly from you parents of highschoolers. I need to take notes because I've only got three more years til we hit there. Waaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!

And be sure to click the button at the top of the post and see my Crew Mates takes on curriculum planning are. Tomorrow we're talking school rooms...don't forget to stop by and see mine.

P.S. Are you looking for free homeschool curriculum? I'm currently giving away Learning About God from A to Z, ends 8/5, Preschool Art, ends 8/6, and From Head to Toe, ends 8/7. And more give aways  coming.


Mary said...

LOVE my HST!!!

LaDonna said...

Thank you for sharing this. I haven't heard of it before, sounds awesome. Going to check it out!

Kym Thorpe said...

HST is my secret weapon for planning too! I love that you included the screen shots so people could see what you're talking about.

Sarah @ My Joy-Filled Life said...

Thanks for sharing this! It's something I definitely need to check out!

Jesse Lovelady said...

You are a planning rock star!! I so want to be a techy computer person, but I really, really like paper and pen. I just think better with a pen in my hand! said...

Hi Stefanie! We are glad you love homeschool tracker so much! We featured this post on our facebook page for those who are getting started to see!


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