Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Some time ago now (it's been a sticky on my kitchen cabinet for a few months) I was asked the question how do I plan for a school year. Good question! This is the time of year when all that starts to come together in my head. The school year is just finishing and it's easy to assess what went well and what needs work. What the kids have shown and interest in and what I'm eager to do. I also think about what we didn't get to that I wanted to do. In NY state we are given plenty of reporting guidelines (the paperwork is fairly rigorous) and there are subject areas to hit. But with the exception of teaching NY state history and geography some time between grades 3 and 6, there is really no mandate on what exactly should be taught.

Many times the curriculum we choose will make those topical decisions for us. However, being a unit study person, it isn't as simple as all that or as tedious! As a public educator I remember quite clearly my views on unit studies. Learning by accident. And truthfully, in the world of public education it really is. It's fun and engaging, but when you have a test to take at the end of the day there better not have been too many rabbit trails! It is WAY too hard to keep a class of close to 40 kids (yes, I said 40 and that was in a rural suburban type school that I taught in)on the same page of a unit study. In the home setting though, a unit study is perfect for a gentle approach that covers a lot of ground.

We use Five in a Row as our core curriculum and have since we started. My oldest took his first standardized test last year and did extremely well (excuse the mommy brag but in this context it's important!). I'm satisfied so far with our methods.

With all that in mind, how do I plan what my kids will do for the year? Well in short I take a look at what we've done and what is left to be done in our Five in a Row manual! What will work well with trips we'll be taking? What sounds fun? What are the kids anxious to do? This last one is the reason you will see us doing units that are not FIAR. This year that was Native Americans and Explorers. I like to keep the FIAR format, but those two topics were based on history/social studies rather than on a book. I find there is less variety and the kids are asking when we are doing FIAR so it's best not to veer too often.

I make out a list of books we will "row" for the year. I usually sketch out a rough itinerary for when the books will be rowed. However, I like to leave room for flexibility because you never know what will come up along the way! For next year I know that E10 has four Beyond Five in a Row titles left to row. So those are on the docket along with at title or two from The Prairie Primer. R9 will do some of the BY rows with E10 and she will do some FIAR volume 4. I-6 will do FIAR titles he has not done and ones he did when his sister was younger and he was tagging along. J3 will be doing preschool activities and some Before FIAR titles. I'm throwing around the idea of doing Adventure Box type activities during the regular year as well- following a passion for a few weeks along with writing and math just to break things up. Still throwing around the ideas. Plus, I mentioned that I'm fiddling with our school calendar in my head as well. When it all comes together I will share the results. For now you have a glimpse at how my planning works!

Here are some planning resources for you:

I have made a few more of my own as well. Sometimes you know what you need the best and your system won't fit inside anyone else's.

Enjoy this time of year when the possibilities are endless. Happy Planning!


Tracey said...

I will be watching for your new schedule.

Donna(mom24boyz) said...

your links were very helpful...I am thinking of purchasing the five in a row planner now. thanks for writing this up

Michele said...

Great post, Heather! I always learn something new when I stop by.

I have given you an award. Stop by my blog when you get a minute! :)

Dana @ Our Sunny Side said...

Thanks Heather! You really seem to have it all together. I always look forward to checking out what you are doing next.

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing this! I'll be referring back to it, I'm sure.

Debi said...

What do you do with them at the end of each year?

Debi said...

another quick question if I am doing all three FIAR levels do I need all three planners? I am a little confused there, thanks so much.

Heather said...


We don't have any real big deal at the of a year. We just tie up loose ends (which is what we are doing now) and start our summer routine which involves the summer adventures and whatever else sounds fun.

FIAR planners- You don't have to get all three. I have them all, but I don't update them all every year. I have one current one and I use sheets from the old ones for the rest. I recommend getting the BY one and the FIAR one. You can do with out the Before one because it basically has the journal pages along with the home management sheets found in the rest. It also has the B4 book list, but the rest is the same AND the journaling pages come in the other two planners.


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