Are you still planning your homeschool year? Not sure how to make all the pieces of home education fit? Mixing GCSEs and younger children and no idea how to make it work?
It’s something we all struggle with. It’s taken me a while this year but I think I’ve got our plan for next year tied down now… at least in pencil. Of course what works for us won’t exactly translate to anyone else, but it’s still useful to see how other families plan for home education so you can steal the good bits 🙂
This is how I do it…
The long term plan
With younger children this isn’t really necessary, but by the time you’re into planning to take GCSEs as a home educator, it’s a good idea to have some idea of where you’re going, possibly over the next few years. Ours breaks down like this:
For the widest range of future options, we’re aiming for each child to have 5-6 GCSEs or IGCSEs, including Maths, English Language, at least one Science and ideally at least one essay based subject, by the end of their year 11 equivalent. At this point Plan A is that they will enroll in a sixth form to take A levels, and from checking the websites of the most likely local options, this is what they need. Entry requirements vary between colleges though and some competitive options may have higher requirements, so check this out early on.
Meanwhile, we also want an education that ticks the GCSE boxes eventually but isn’t centered on academic achievements, particularly in the younger years, and leaves plenty of time for wandering, play, self determination and exploring individual interests. It’s a tricky balance! In practice it means I don’t require anything specific until around age 8, and then keep it to a minimum with a bit of maths, reading and writing, and a short morning time, and let everything else be interest led until exam work begins to kick in at about age 12.
What this means, by year
Miss 14 (Year 10) should have already taken a GCSE in Astronomy, but thanks to Covid, this will now be in November (fingers crossed!). She’ll also be studying for and taking IGCSE Maths and IGCSE Chemistry at the end of the year. She’ll be starting on an English Language IGCSE course and taking Renaissance Literature to build skills towards English Literature, and also taking a Creative Writing course as something she’s interested in.
Miss 13 (Year 9) will be taking IGCSE Business at the end of the year, and studying for IGCSE Maths and IGCSE Human Biology. She’ll be taking a History and a French course for interest.
Mr 10 (year 6, but at the older end) will be starting a Year 7 English course, and joining in with Mr 7’s English work. He’ll be moving on to Year 7 Maths and the boys will share an elective slot to choose something they want to work more deeply on, as well as general free time.
Mr 7 (year 3) will do some English reading and writing work with me, and for the first time will have required maths work to do. He’ll also share an elective slot with his brother.
Everyone will join in for morning time, and there are various music, sports and social events to fit in, alongside the rest of life and all the learning opportunities that come with it.
Miss (currently) 14 will be Year 11, and will be taking IGCSE English Language, and IGCSE English Literature at the end of the year, alongside another exam, probably Physics.
Miss (currently) 13 will be Year 10, and taking IGCSE Maths and IGCSE Human Biology at the end of the year. She’ll be starting on IGCSE English Language and something else… possibly French, if she enjoys that this year. She’ll also be taking another History course if she has anything to do with it.
Mr (currently) 10 will be Year 7, so he’ll need to be doing something for English and something for Maths. He will probably also take a course in Science this year.
Mr (currently) 7 will be Year 4. He’ll do some English and Maths, and no doubt various other things. I don’t plan too far ahead for this sort of age!
Miss (currently) 14 will be Year 12, and off to sixth form.
Miss (currently) 13 will be Year 11, taking exams in English Language and History and something else.
Mr (currently) 10 will be Year 8, and he’ll start working on some sort of non-core GCSE subject he chooses at the time.
Miss (currently) 13 will be Year 12, starting sixth form.
Mr (currently) 10 will be Year 9, taking whichever non-core GCSE exam he choose, and starting on study for Maths and a Science.
You’ll notice there’s no need to get super specific too far ahead, and it’s well worth holding any plans extremely lightly. However a vague idea of where you’re headed can definitely be useful.
Breaking it down
The next thing I do is look at what each child is likely to be doing, and figure out how exactly we’ll approach this. Not yet in terms of lessons per week, but this is where the curriculum or approach I’ll follow gets tied down, and whether it needs input from me or whether they’ll be following a course with enough structure that they will work independently.
Astronomy I’d hoped to be done with this, but we’ll need to fit in some more revision and exam paper practice before the exams at the start of November. We’ll be using the Nigel Marshall resources from Mickledore Astronomy, and also reading The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel.
Maths We’d been planning on taking WJEC exams in Wales, so have been using the main WJEC Textbook from Hodder (which I’m not sure I’d totally recommend, but hey ho). After this year’s disruptions I’ve had a rethink and we’ll be going with Edexcel IGCSE Maths instead, but she would like to finish up the WJEC book and then we’ll move on to past papers and use the Pearson textbooks for anything that isn’t quite the same between the two specifications.
Chemistry We’d been DIYing this using a combination of resources, starting with the Pearson textbook, and adding in things such as My GCSE Science, Graham Bray’s IGCSE Science course, Echo education’s self study course, Twinkl’s Beyond resources, Crash Course Chemistry, and YouTube in general. However after this year’s exam fiasco I’m moving towards using a single external provider who has been able to secure assessed grades, just in case. So we’re moving to SouthWest Science from here on out. This will still require time slots and support from me, but a lot less preparation work.
English Language She’ll be taking weekly online classes with Yvonne Mason, as part of a 2-year course focused on IGCSE Edexcel English language. Both girls have taken different classes with Yvonne (who happens to be a local home educator) before and always enjoyed them, so I’m pretty confident this will be nice and hands off for me!
English Literature This year, she’ll be taking Renaissance Literature with Dreaming Spires Home Learning. This isn’t precisely exam focused (I’d say it’s a slightly higher level than GCSE if anything) but will develop the sorts of analysis skills she’ll need and cover an interesting period of literature. And they love Dreaming Spires classes, and I like the challenge they get from them without needing anything from me, so I’d glad we can fit more in before going totally exam focused. Next year, the plan is for her to take the Home Made Education English Literature course ready for the exam.
Creative Writing She’s also going to take the Creative Writing class from Dreaming Spires – she’d hoped to do it this year but the timings didn’t work out, so it’s on the list this time. Not exam related!
It’s going to be a full-on year.
Business She’s continuing with the Home Made Education course for Edexcel IGCSE Business. This is a one-year course but we always planned for her to take it over two years – last year she attended the lessons and did some of the extension reading and watching. This year she’ll do the lessons again and answer exam questions for marking too, and I’ll be paying more attention to where she’s up to (including a time slot for her to work on it specifically).
Human Biology We’ll be using the Southwest Science course, with the Pearson textbook for backup, supported by me but following their timetable.
Maths She’s been using Absolute Maths Self-study for GCSE, and getting through it at quite a pace. All I need to do is keep an eye on progress and bring in some past papers nearer to the exam.
History She’ll be taking a course on Tudors from Dreaming Spires. The Longbows and Roses course she took this year was her favourite so I know this will go down well too. She’ll hopefully get a chance to do another course next year before probably moving on to Humanatees for the actual GCSE prep.
French We’ve never quite managed languages on our own, so this year she’s going to give French I at Dreaming Spires a try. I honestly don’t know if it will stick, but I’ll feel happier knowing she’s had a decent exposure to it in order to make up her mind if it’s something she wants to take further.
English He’ll take an online Year 7 class with Yvonne Mason. While he reads a fair amount, he’s much less keen on writing, and I think this will be a gentle introduction to more formal work before possibly considering a Dreaming Spires course next year. He’ll also do some specific work on spelling, most likely using Spellodrome, and will join in with Mr 7’s reading, discussion and copywork.
Maths He’ll be using the MyMaths 1C book, having finished up Inspire Maths Year 6 last year. From previous experience, doing all of the exercises in the book will take up a lot of time, and while this was useful for my girls who started it from having done little to no prior formal maths, he doesn’t need it. So we’ll use the homework book and just do the exercises in that.
Elective Each block the boys will choose one subject they’d like to focus on with me, and we’ll have a set time each week for it. Previously this has included things like cooking, physics, map-making, philosophy, and coding, and I’ll find resources based on what they want to do.
Morning time Everyone takes part in morning time, but it’s more focused at the boys. We’ll read poetry and Shakespeare, listen to songs, read from history books, study art, consider interesting quotes, and possibly some other things I haven’t quite tied down yet.
English He’s just got to the point of reading to himself, so I’ll be making sure there’s plenty of good material of the right level around for him to indulge in, including The Phoenix and possibly more in the Princess in Black series. More formally, we’ll be vaguely following the Dart programme from Brave Writer. Previously we’ve chosen single issues from their Arrow series and done a few a year in a very low key way, reading the book, doing some copywork, and discussing the writing a little. This year I wanted to get in on a special they were doing over the summer so I’ve got the whole program – I don’t suppose we’ll actually do everything in it though!
Maths He’ll be using the Beast Academy online system. He’s already a couple of chapters in from playing it over the summer so I’m hopeful this will make the ‘required’ aspect of maths a bit less of an issue for him.
Engineering and Science I’m trialling a Tinker Crate (referral link) for him to use in free time, as building things has always been a key interest. He’s also watched every Mystery Science episode several times over, but may well go back for more at some point.
Morning Time He’ll be taking part in Morning Time as well – with a little more requirement than he’s had previously. I’d like to get him doing some narration of our readings, but he’s been very resistant to the idea in the past, so we’ll see how that goes!
There’s plenty more in general life of course – interesting YouTube channels, days out, sports lessons, meeting friends, talking about things, playing games, climbing trees, building dens, and all the good things that don’t come wrapped up in a ‘curriculum’ box. Those things take unstructured time and an awareness of what interests each child has at a particular time, rather than a curriculum or a class.
Finding the shape of the week
Once I know what the wishlist is, the next step is to fit it into an actual week. A theoretical one, but one that only contains the hours in a day we actually have, and takes account of requirements like eating and sleeping and washing and shopping and all those other slightly annoying things that also need to fit in there. Roughly, this usually ends up working out as giving us four mornings a week of time for me to be involved in ‘school’ things with whichever selection of the children is required at one time. That might be everyone for morning time or a maths session, or just one of the girls for a science session. Online classes are usually in the afternoons and I may work with or read to the boys while the girls are in a class. Homework for classes needs to be fitted in by the girls as they can. It takes some juggling and resolving of clashes, but usually most things fit in, and there’s free time for everyone (possibly excepting me). Although I plan this on a timed sheet, the times are rough rather than hard starts. The main thing is that we get in the main subjects we were planning on in a morning and adjust if not. Then every block (around 6-8 weeks) I take stock of where we are against the bigger plan and see if anything major needs to change.
Breaking down a schedule
The penultimate step is the one I haven’t actually got to properly yet. It’s where you take the timetable or the textbook and figure out what that means you have to do each week, or decide which exact books and activities you’ll be doing in morning time – the actual nitty gritty of what will happen in a day. I aim to have this at least roughly mapped out for the next block; and mostly I succeed in figuring it out on a Sunday night for the week ahead. Or possibly for the next day. Or worst case in the morning, or as we go along. Either way it happens at some point. Probably.
And then all that’s left is to do it. And see how it went. And adjust accordingly. And remember to smile and take a wander along the way.
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