Before you get into the nitty gritty of scheduling particular books, you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. What is it that you want to accomplish by homeschooling? What is your goal for your student?
That may seem like an unrelated philosophical question, but your answer to it will affect your plans. For example, if your goal is to prepare your child for an advanced mathematics degree, that goal will affect the books you choose and how much time you spend on math during the week. If your goal is to nurture your child’s musical talent, that goal will show in the way you choose to schedule your terms and each day’s routine.
So right from the start, try to determine what your goals are for your homeschooled child. Your goal might be different for each child, depending on each child’s needs and special interests. Or you might want to write down a set of general goals that you want to emphasize with all the children. It’s up to you, but write down your goals first.
After you determine what is important to you, you’ll need to find out what is important to the authorities. Are there any legal requirements in your area? Are there any subjects that you are required to teach or any subjects that are required before your student can graduate? Do the research on those areas and make sure you comply with the laws in your area.
Along those same lines of planning ahead, you may also want to check out college admission guidelines (if college is one of your goals). Each college will probably have various specific requirements, but many of them will have similar general requirements — like three or four years of science, three or four years of math, two years of foreign language, or things like that. (Those of you with young children may want to wait a few years before doing this research; the guidelines might change between now and then.)
After you have figured out what’s important to you and what’s important to others, you’re ready to outline a 12-year overview. Just list all the school subjects you can think of. Since this series is about planning your Charlotte Mason education, you’ll want to be sure to include CM-specific subjects, like picture study, dictation, and nature study. Then decide which subjects you will teach in each grade. (You could get a sheet of graph paper or use your computer’s spreadsheet and put the subjects down the left column and the grade numbers across the top. Just put an X under each grade and across from each subject that you want to teach in those grades.)
If you’re following Charlotte’s big picture, you’ll postpone formal grammar lessons until Grade 3 or 4, you’ll do nature study in every grade, and you’ll start dictation around Grade 3 or 4. Do you want to do Shakespeare every year starting in Grade 4, like Charlotte did? If so, mark it down. If not, mark which years you want to include it.
Remember, the big picture is not the step in which you have to decide exactly which composers, time periods, and science topics you’re going to teach each year. The big picture is just to determine which subjects you plan to teach in which grades. That’s all.
When you’ve finished outlining the subjects for each grade, you’ll know where you’re headed and the general direction you’re going to take to get there. Next week we’ll start zooming in on some specifics as we take a look at Step 2: Your Year.
Have any of you mapped out a 12-year overview before? Did you find it easier to do it another way than the chart I tried to describe above? Please share.