- How old is he? What grade is he in?
- Where is he right now in his life (character, temperament, talents, challenges)?
- What are his interests? What does he do with his spare time?
- What is he serious about?
- What does he dislike or fear? Why?
- What is his learning style, judging by what seems to work for him? What did he do last year?
- Now, look at his grade level and development stage.
- Turn to whatever standards you prefer to use. I like to browse through my favorite curriculums -- Kolbe, Mother of Divine Grace, Mater Amabilis, Ambleside. There are also learning standards published by each state. To me it seems to be an advantage to look at more than one, because you can see the variety.
- If the child is younger, sometimes developmental milestone lists are helpful.
- Where is the child on track or ahead? Are there areas where he could use some extra attention?
- Make a list -- brainstorming here -- nothing set in stone, but it's useful to have it thought out and/or written down to refer to later. The list can keep expanding during the year and goals can be noted as they are reached by date. Or you could make another list for goals met.
Consider the Whole Situation
- Take the notes from #1 and look at what the child did last year.
- Take the notes from #2 and look at what is suitable for him developmentally and temperamentally.
- Look at his future -- preparation/formation/options for his later years. It is wise not to decide too early what vocational field he is going into, but consider his formation as a unique human being and the balance between developing particular talents and keeping the options open.
- Pray; ask what God wants for the child.
- Consider your family's philosophy on education. Everyone has one.
- Now, more specifically -- consider methods, activities and opportunities that are available.
- --Keep a running list during the year.
- -- Look for things that seem to light a spark.
- --Also, for things that provide a balance in the child's life.
Start a Broad Outline
- Go subject by subject and list resources
- Try to think of several possible options for each subject area.
- Highlight or note preferences based on availability, method, and so on.
- Start listing books and activities for each area.
- This can also be a running list.
- Look at booklists.
- If you get overwhelmed with the choices, trying listing a few that you already know about or have around the house.
Consider Connections and Strategies
- This does not have to be done all at once. After you've considered each child, look at the intra-family and even inter-community connections.
- Are there some areas that could be combined or overlapped between children? Are there some subjects that could be integrated or otherwise connected? Can you "kill two birds with one stone?"
- Look at your list of activities and ideas.
- At this point you could start breaking down spine texts and booklists into specific goals. I often do this but rarely actually follow my lists. What it does for me is give me a framework, an approximation of how much to cover.
- Start thinking about a daily and weekly schedule that will cover what you want to cover. I usually sit down with calendars here. I choose a few basic subjects to be covered daily -- math, Latin and catechism -- and some that come once, twice or three times a week. There are a few that can be plugged in occasionally. Look at your running list of activities and ideas. There are days and weeks where you will want to "do something completely different".
- How much to pre-plan?
I think that varies according to life circumstance and natural operating style. I like to have a simple sequence through a book for 3 or 4 "skill" subjects -- usually Math, Latin, and some Language subject. Others can be more open-ended.
When it looks overwhelming, it helps me to remember that if you just have a progression through the 3Rs -- in short daily lessons -- and live a rich life, you are already there. As for the rich life, these Priorities give me a head start.
For me, it's always more effective to remember what is unique about my own family: What is important to my husband and me? What is thrilling and absorbing? What areas are we growing in or learning about? How does our network or community look? These considerations keep me from stressing about what I can't do and concentrating on what I can or should be doing.